Game report: Buffalo 13 @ Toronto 20

That’s more like it.

When the Rock hosted the Bandits on Saturday night, nobody knew what to expect. Would we see a repeat of each team’s first game of the season when Toronto’s offense didn’t show up and Buffalo played great? Would Buque rebound from his tough outing against the Knighthawks last week? Would the Rock transition show the improvements that they hoped for with the additions of Challen Rogers and Sheldon Burns? The answers were no, no, and yes.

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2018 Preview: East division

I’ve left out the summary of offseason roster moves since that’s in my Who’s In, Who’s Out article. Here, we’ll cover where I think they will end up in the standings, who might have a breakout year, and as always, a haiku for each team. We’ll start with the East, then cover the West tomorrow.

BanditsBuffalo Bandits

Look out for

Obviously first-overall draft pick Josh Byrne will get a lot of floor time but if I had to pick someone else, I might go with Alex Buque. There is some debate over whether he’s ready to be an everyday starter but I think so.

Prediction

Their big problem last year was defense. Improving the goaltending is a start but the Bandits didn’t actually improve the defense – in fact it doesn’t look like they even tried. With the losses of Billy Dee Smith, Andrew Watt, David Brock, and Alex Kedoh Hill, who’s going to prevent Buque from seeing 65 shots a game? Priolo and de Snoo are great but they can only do so much.

Fifth in the east.

Haiku

Cosmo has retired
Crawford replaces Benesch
It’s Showtime, baby!


SwarmGeorgia Swarm

Look out for

Johnny Powless. Only 50 points for Powless last season, but he only played in 10 games. That would give him 90 points over 18 games. Lefty Jordan Hall will be replaced by lefty Jesse King but Jerome Thompson will be playing more transition and defense this season, which will probably result in more touches for Powless.

Prediction

The offense is still top notch, but with all the top-name T/D players who are out, their defense could be shaky. They might win a number of 17-16 nailbiters.

Second in the east.

Haiku

Reigning champions
Lots of defenders are out
Jesse King is back


BlackWolvesNew England Black Wolves

Look out for

Reilly O’Connor. Of the lefties on last year’s Black Wolves squad, Culp, Saunders, and Veltman are gone, leaving O’Connor, Kevin Buchanan, and rookie JP Kealey. O’Connor looked strong in the preseason game against the Rock.

Prediction

Those who aren’t fans of Aaron Bold say that the reason for his success in Edmonton / Saskatchewan was the great defense in front of him. Well, now we’ll see if they’re right. That’s not to say that New England’s defense is lousy, but it’s not at the same level as Bold has been used to.

Third in the east.

Haiku

Aaron Bold in net
Evans, Crowley score up front
No Bill O’Brien


KnighthawksRochester Knighthawks

Look out for

It might seem weird but I’m going to say Dan Dawson. Dawson had his worst season in ages in 2017 but looked great at the Heritage Cup. I think he’ll rebound this year. We may not see 100+ points but he’ll look more like the old Dan Dawson than the 2017 model.

Prediction

After one of the lowest-scoring seasons in NLL history (9.72 goals per game, the 11th lowest average ever), the Knighthawks used their second-overall draft pick to grab… a defenseman who specializes in face-offs. I mean no disrespect to Jake Withers but I don’t think that’s what the Knighthawks needed. They did also draft Austin Shanks and Eric Fannell, both forwards, and it’s possible that Cody Jamieson will return sometime this season, but there’s been no word on that.

Fourth in the east.

Haiku

Billy Dee comes in
But he will not help them score
And still no Jammer


RockToronto Rock

Look out for

I’m really tempted to put Rob Hellyer here but that’s too obvious. I’m going to go with Drew Belgrave. I don’t know if he’ll be a Rookie of the Year candidate but I liked how he looked in the pre-season.

Prediction

Hellyer, Hickey, Jones, Schreiber, Leblanc. Out of curiosity, what’s the record for most 100-point players on the same team in one year? I’m glad you asked! It’s the 2005 Toronto Rock, who had three (Doyle, Manning, Sanderson). How coincidental. If this year’s Rock can stay healthy, this could be one of the most potent offenses ever. I’m looking forward to the first Rock/Swarm game, which could end up 38-37 in OT.

First in the east.

Haiku

The front line is strong
Hellyer, Jones will score a bunch
Good team gets better

2018 NLL: Who’s in, who’s out

Here it is: a complete summary of all the roster changes for each team, all in one place.

Note that these are the changes as of the final roster from last season, so a player might be listed as “In” even if he played for that team during 2017. And a player who’s injured but still part of that team will be listed as “out”.

Last updated: December 7, 2017

BanditsBuffalo Bandits

In: Reid Acton, Alex Buque, Josh Byrne, Callum Crawford, Jordan Durston, Chase Fraser, Ethan Schott, Ryan Wagner
Out: Ryan Benesch, Anthony Cosmo, Tim Edwards, Alex Kedoh Hill, Anthony Malcom, Blaze Riorden, Billy Dee Smith, Andrew Watt, Adam Will
IR:
PUP: Dallas Bridle
Holdout:
Practice Roster: Gowah Abrams, Vaughan Harris, Liam Patten, Zac Reid

Tons of new faces for the Bandits including three rookies. Callum Crawford strengthens the Bandits’ right side while his former Swarm teammate Ryan Benesch is replaced on the left side by Jordan Durston. Alex Buque replaces newly retired Anthony Cosmo and will probably get the nod as the everyday starter.

According to Steve Bermel just moments ago (I was literally seconds away from clicking the “publish” button on this article when I saw his tweet), Alex Kedoh Hill is an RFA because the Bandits offered him a contract but he didn’t sign it. “If any team makes him an offer, the Bandits have 72 hours to match it.”


SwarmGeorgia Swarm

In: Frank Brown, Warren Hill, Jesse King, Kevin Orleman, Zed Williams
Out: Mitch Belisle, Liam Byrnes, Jordan Hall, Brodie MacDonald, Ethan O’Connor, Chad Tutton, Joel White
IR:
PUP: Chad Tutton
Holdout: Jordan Hall, Mason Jones, Ethan O’Connor, Joel White
Practice Roster: Liam Byrnes, Isaiah Davis-Allen, Lauchlin Elder, Brayden Hill

More changes to the Swarm roster than they might have liked. Hall and White are out for non-lacrosse-job-related reasons, Belisle retired, MacDonald was traded, and Tutton is injured. Jordan Hall was acquired last year when the Swarm found out that Jesse King would miss the season, but this year the Swarm were going to have a “problem” fitting King into the lineup. Problem solved – King ironically replaces Hall who’s going to miss the season. The Swarm have made the odd move of keeping three goaltenders on the roster.


BlackWolvesNew England Black Wolves

In: Aaron Bold, Adam Bomberry, David Brock, Mark Cockerton, JP Kealey, John Lafontaine, Colton Watkinson
Out: Brett Bucktooth, Chad Culp, Ryan Hotaling, Evan Kirk, Brooker Muir, Bill O’Brien, Zac Reid
IR: Ryan Hotaling
PUP:
Holdout:
Practice Roster: Nick Chaykowsky, Anthony Joaquim, Nick Mariano, Rance Vigneux

The biggest move is obviously at goaltender, where Aaron Bold replaces Evan Kirk. David Brock becomes the latest ex-Bandit to join the Black Wolves. Bucktooth and Culp retired, and the release of Bill O’Brien was a bit of a surprise, seeing as he was one of the faces of the franchise in recent years. All four guys on the practice roster will be featured in the NLL Pronunciation Guide when they make the NLL.


KnighthawksRochester Knighthawks

In: Eric Fannell, Austin Shanks, Eric Shewel, Billy Dee Smith, Jake Withers
Out: Jordan Dance, Jarrett Davis, Dylan Evans, Marty Hill, Luke Laskiewicz, Quinn Powless, Andrew Suitor, Sean Young
IR: Cody Jamieson
PUP: Dylan Evans
Holdout:
Practice Roster: Greg Longboat, Adam Perroni, Quinn Powless, Mike Triolo

A bunch of rookies and a 35-year-old vet join the Knighthawks, while most of the “Out” list are guys who only played one year with Rochester. Jarrett Davis is both in that club (played 2017 in Roch and Saskatchewan the year before that) and not in that club (played two years in Roch in 2011-2012).

Notably absent is Cody Jamieson, who will start the year on the IR. All the team has said is that Jamieson has “been making great strides to get back in the lineup”. But given what happened last year (he came back from being injured in the playoffs the year before, played five minutes, tweaked his knee again, and missed the rest of the season), I imagine they’ll play it pretty safe this time around.


RockToronto Rock

In: Phil Caputo, Rob Hellyer, Adam Jones, Brandon Slade, Brock Sorensen
Out: Kasey Beirnes, Turner Evans, Jesse Gamble, Jeff Gilbert, Challen Rogers
IR: Turner Evans, Challen Rogers
PUP: Dan Craig
Holdout:
Practice Roster: Drew Belgrave, Riley Hutchcraft, Adam Jay, Darryl Robertson
Protected: Paul Rabil

Caputo was on the team for parts of last season but as an offensive player. With the return of Hellyer and the addition of Jones, his skills aren’t really needed up front so he’s now a defender and will probably play some transition as well. Gamble will miss the year for work and Beirnes and Gilbert retired. Rob Marshall retired as well but he missed almost all of last year. As a Rock fan, I’m looking forward to the potentially devastating front line of Hellyer / Hickey / Jones / Leblanc / Schreiber / Lintner.


RoughnecksCalgary Roughnecks

In: Zach Currier, Anthony Kalinich, Tyler Pace
Out: Mike Carnegie, Scott Carnegie, Jeff Shattler, Bob Snider
IR: Kellen LeClair
PUP: Mike Carnegie
Holdout:
Practice Roster: Steph Charbonneau, Ryan Martel, Bob Snider

The “In” list is all rookies, but there are some big names on that “Out” list. Wes Berg hasn’t signed a contract yet, so you’d hope he won’t be out for long. Shattler was signed by the rival Rush, Mike Carnegie is injured, Scott Carnegie was cut (!!) and Bob Snider is on the practice roster.

Update: Wes Berg was signed.


MammothColorado Mammoth

In: Ryan Benesch, Scott Carnegie, Brody Eastwood, Steve Fryer, Rowan Kelly, Ryan Lee, Quinn MacKay, Nick Ossello
Out: Brent Adams, Alex Buque, Dan Coates, Callum Crawford, Ilija Gajic, Cam Holding, Bryce Sweeting
IR: Brent Adams
PUP: Dan Coates, Zack Greer, Cam Holding, Bryce Sweeting
Holdout:
Practice Roster: Tim Edwards, Rowan Kelly, Jarrod Neumann, Nick Ossello

2018 will be the first season without Ilija Gajic in the league since 2009. Benny takes over for Crawford while Fryer assumes the backup goalie role left by Buque. The losses of Holding and Coates will not help the defense but they still have Hope. (See what I did there?)


RushSaskatchewan Rush

In: Evan Kirk, Jeff Shattler
Out: Aaron Bold, Adam Jones, John Lafontaine
IR:
PUP: Nic Bilic
Holdout:
Practice Roster: Nick Finlay, Johnny Pearson, Tor Reinholdt, Adam Shute

As usual, not many changes for the Rush but the changes they did make are pretty significant. Bold is out, Kirk is in, while Adam Jones is in Toronto, replaced by Jeff Shattler. John Lafontaine is in New England and will likely be replaced by Nic Bilic when he returns from injury.


StealthVancouver Stealth

In: Ryan Fournier, Brandon Goodwin, Brodie MacDonald, Tony Malcom, Andrew Suitor
Out: Cory Conway, Jordan Durston, Jon Harnett, Curtis Hodgson, Thomas Hoggarth, Tyler Richards, Ryan Wagner
IR: Jon Harnett, Thomas Hoggarth, Casey Jackson
PUP:
Holdout: Tyler Garrison, Jarrett Toll
Practice Roster: Patrick O’Meara, Eric Penney, Tyson Roe, Cody Teichroeb

The Cory Conway experiment lasted about half a year. No mention was made of Garrett Billings at all this pre-season so that experiment is also over (but we knew that at the end of last season). Hodgson retired, Richards was released, and Durston and Wagner are now Bandits. Brodie MacDonald beat out Eric Penney and Zach Higgins for the backup goalie job, but that was not a surprise either. The Stealth traded for MacDonald a month ago, and you don’t trade for someone to let them compete for a job. Andrew Suitor was likely a nice surprise for the Stealth – they picked him up two days before rosters were due to be submitted to the league. A nice surprise, that is, for everyone except the defenseman who was cut to make room for Suitor.

Blockbuster day in the NLL

The free agency period began with a bang today, as two of the biggest blockbuster trades we’ve seen in years both happened on the same day. In the first one, a couple of former teammates who have each played for a bunch of teams were swapped along with a goalie, and in the other the two main players were both goalies.

Deal the First

Early in the day, Teddy Jenner broke the news on twitter that a big deal was coming, and Tyson Geick confirmed that it would be announced at noon. Promptly at noon, both Jenner and the Buffalo Bandits broke the deal: the Mammoth sent Callum Crawford and Alexis Buque to the Bandits for Ryan Benesch and a conditional third round draft pick. Benesch and Crawford were both scoring stars on the Swarm for four seasons from 2010-2013; Benesch won the scoring title in 2011 with 95 points, and Crawford broke 90 in both 2010 and 2013. As good as those numbers are, both have since taken their games to another level. Each has picked up MVP votes over the past couple of years with similar numbers: Benesch grabbed 113 points with the Bandits in 2015 while Crawford picked up 115 points in his first season with the Mammoth in 2016.

Callum Crawford

Buque has been one of the top backup goalies in the league for a couple of years, and I suspected that he’d be one of the first snatched up by next year’s expansion teams. Sounds like the Bandits had other plans. Benesch and Crawford have been pretty even in the points department over the last number of years, though Crawford picks up more assists. The Bandits also announced today that they’d signed Davide DiRuscio to a contract, which leads me to believe that the Anthony Cosmo retirement announcement is imminent.

On first blush, I have to call the Bandits the winners on this one. If we call Benesch and Crawford a wash, Buque vs. a 3rd round draft pick is a no-brainer. The Bandits needed right-handed scoring and got it, though they weakened their left side to do it. But if Cosmo is indeed retiring, they’ve also shored up their goaltending for years. The Mammoth wanted to replace John Grant on the left side (though he barely played last season) and they’ve certainly done that.

Deal the Second

Aaron BoldA few hours later, Jenner broke another big trade, this one involving the Rush and the Black Wolves, and one that still has me scratching my head. The Rush sent goalie Aaron Bold, defender John Lafontaine, the 8th overall draft pick this year and a second round pick in 2018 to New England for Evan Kirk and… that’s all. Make no mistake, Evan Kirk is an excellent goaltender but this trade seems a bit perplexing. Bold and Kirk are two of the top goalies in the league, but not only would I not put the difference between them big enough to cover Lafontaine and two draft picks, but I’d have put them in the other order – if I was giving up Bold and receiving Kirk, I’d be expecting to receive another player and/or draft picks. Note that Kirk is younger than Bold, but only by two years.

Yes, Kirk won Goaltender of the year in 2016 and Bold has never won it. But Bold was a runner-up in each of the previous two years. And if you care about that sort of thing, Bold has two titles and Kirk none.

If this deal was done by anyone other than Derek Keenan, I’d say he got fleeced. But Derek Keenan doesn’t get fleeced. Usually, Derek Keenan does the fleecing.

I’m guessing there’s more to this deal than meets the eye, or it’s only part of a series of deals, the rest of which will be announced soon. Perhaps Bold requested a trade east and all the eastern GMs knew it, so Keenan had no bargaining power.

I’m not sure what the Rush hoped to accomplish with this deal. They got a little younger, but they were one of the youngest teams in the league anyway and the difference is minimal. And Lafontaine is only 27. They talked about the draft picks they got for Adam Jones being important because of the (likely) upcoming expansion drafts, and then traded two picks away for at best a wash at goaltender and they lost a defenseman too. Apparently there is more to come from the Rush, so perhaps those moves will explain their thought process.

As for the Black Wolves, they got better today and also picked up some draft picks to get better in the future. Not bad.

Looking forward to 2018: East Division

The 2017 NLL season is now over. Many of the players and some of the coaches have moved on to summer ball or the MLL (or both). The GMs may take a little time off but not much – they’ll be checking out MSL and WLA games all summer as well as watching a lot of game film to figure out what their team needs to change, if anything.

Just to help out those GMs*, here’s my postseason review for each NLL team. We’ll start in the East and get to the West tomorrow.

* <sarcasm>Because guys like Derek Keenan and Steve Dietrich need my help, you know.</sarcasm> Continue reading

Game report: Buffalo 13 @ Toronto 8

We’ve all seen it before: the team that isn’t playing well starts getting frustrated and angry, and that leads to unnecessary penalties. That means they’re playing a man down for long stretches of time, and that doesn’t usually lead to anything good, so they get even more frustrated and angry, and so on. I don’t know what other people mean when they talk about “Banditball”, but that’s what that term means to me: the physical and undisciplined lacrosse that the Bandits became known for in the 2000’s. They generally don’t play that way anymore so the term is probably misleading and unfair now, but every now and again they revert back. But on this night, it seemed to serve them well.

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Could happen… 2017 edition

Round about this time of year, people think they have a decent idea of how the standings will end up, more or less. So far this season, Saskatchewan has clinched a playoff berth, but nobody else has. We think the Rush and Swarm will probably be at the top in their divisions, but it’s not guaranteed. Calgary and Rochester are currently at the bottom but both are only a half game back of the team in front of them. There’s enough time left for some really crazy things to happen, and every year I find it fun to look over the possibilities if the lower-ranked teams start winning and the teams at the top start losing. If everything falls into place, could we have a Calgary-Rochester final? Could the Swarm miss the playoffs? Let’s look at some scenarios that are unlikely but still possible:

Calgary finishes 2nd in the west

Calgary wins out, Saskatchewan loses to Vancouver, New England, and Toronto, and Colorado loses out. Then the Rush win the west at 10-8, Calgary is second at 9-9, and Colorado and Vancouver tie at 8-10. Vancouver would win the tiebreaker in that scenario with a 3-1 record against the Mammoth, so Colorado is out.
Calgary wins out, Vancouver beats Colorado, and Colorado loses one more game. Then the Roughnecks are 9-9 and the Mammoth are at best 9-9, but Calgary holds the tiebreaker.

Vancouver wins the west

Update: Can’t happen anymore.
Vancouver wins out, Saskatchewan loses at least three more, and Colorado loses to Rochester. Then the Stealth are at 10-8, the Rush and Mammoth are at 9-9, and the Roughnecks are at best 8-10.

All five teams in the east finish 9-9

Update: Can’t happen anymore.
New England beats Georgia and Saskatchewan and loses to Vancouver. Buffalo beats Calgary, Toronto, and Georgia twice. Rochester beats Colorado, New England, and Georgia twice. Toronto loses to Saskatchewan and beats Buffalo. Then all the eastern teams are 9-9 and we have the nastiest tie-breaker ever.

Rochester wins the east

Update: Can’t happen anymore.
Rochester wins out. Toronto and Georgia lose out. Buffalo loses to Calgary. New England loses to Saskatchewan and Vancouver. Then Rochester, Georgia, and Buffalo are 9-9 while Toronto and New England are 8-10. Rochester has a 4-2 record against Buffalo and Georgia and wins the east while Buffalo finishes second and Georgia third.

Buffalo wins the east

Update: Can’t happen anymore.
Buffalo wins out. Toronto and Georgia lose out. New England loses to Saskatchewan and Vancouver. Rochester beats New England and loses to Colorado. Then the Bandits are 10-8, Georgia is 9-9, and the rest are tied at 8-10. New England wins the tiebreaker and makes the playoffs.

Georgia misses the playoffs

Update: Georgia has now clinched a playoff spot.
Georgia loses out. Toronto beats Saskatchewan and Buffalo. New England beats Saskatchewan and Rochester. Buffalo beats Calgary and Toronto. Then Toronto and New England have 10 wins while Buffalo and Georgia are both 9-9. Buffalo would win the tie-breaker here and the Swarm are out.