The Orange Crew, Nick, Cayla, and the Roughnecks

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been watching a different historical NLL game every Saturday evening and live-tweeting it. I started with the 2000 final in Toronto, where Kaleb Toth scored with a second left to give the Rock their second championship. Then it was the 2013 Championship when the Knighthawks beat the Washington Stealth in Langley (before they moved there), and last weekend it was a Detroit / Philadelphia game from 1994 which got called after three quarters because of insane fights. I had a lot of fun watching these replays and I got some comments from people on twitter who appreciated it as well. I even had a few people watching along with me.

The NLL had replayed some historical games on Facebook and BR Live over the past couple of weeks, and on Saturday they decided to re-run game 2 of last year’s Championship final between Calgary and Buffalo. A group of fans in Calgary called the Orange Crew decided to set up a zoom meeting to get a bunch of people together to watch the game. They asked me to be a part of it and I thought it would be fun. I was right.

We started about 8:45pm (my time) with a few of the Orange Crew, me, and a few other fans. I gave a bit of an overview of the 2019 season and how Calgary and Buffalo got to the finals, as well as a quick summary of Game 1.

By the time the game started, it was well after 9:00 but we had a number of others join the call including some special guests: NLL commissioner Nick Sakiewicz, Roughnecks reporter Cayla Spiess and Roughnecks players Dane Dobbie, Tyler Richards, and Zach Currier. Curtis Dickson joined in a little while later sporting an impressive fu manchu, and eventually Rhys Duch also joined, coincidentally (or not?) with just a few minutes left in the fourth quarter, not long before he scored the OT winner. There were about 16-18 people on the call for most of the game.

Curtis Dickson

The game itself was fine, but the call ended up as basically a two-plus hour interview of Sakiewicz and the Roughnecks players, who couldn’t have been more accommodating. They answered questions in great detail, and we got a lot of background and some fun stories as well. The commish talked about streaming and TV deals and the NLL’s relationship with the MLL and PLL (they talk all the time and confirmed that if there ever was an agreement among NLL staff that they don’t mention the MLL, that’s long gone now). He also talked about his transition from being an MLS owner to the NLL commissioner and his first experience watching box lacrosse and how impressed he was with the game, the players, and the experience.

Cayla had some great stories of being between the benches, getting spit on, and interviews that didn’t go the way she planned. All of the players were forthcoming and willing to answer questions. Some of the questions were tossed around a little – Dane would answer some of it and then ask Zach or Curtis to give their viewpoints as well. After the game ended and the call was basically over, Curtis and Dane even asked if there were more questions, and said they were willing to stay on until they’d answered them all – this was after over two hours of doing just that.

Dane Dobbie was the most vocal. I don’t know about the Orange Crew but I had never met nor talked to Dobbie before, but he talked to me and everyone else on the call like we’d been buds for years. If you’ve ever watched him play, his passion for the game is obvious but it even came through in how he talks about it. He talked about his respect for guys like Curt Malawsky, Shawn Evans, and longtime NLL coach Bob McMahon, and how he was glad that Dan MacRae handed McMahon the NLL Cup as soon as he got it. He answered my question about how well Rhys Duch has fit in with the Roughnecks, he talked about his workout routine (“I’ve never lifted weights, I run, that’s about it”), and he talked about the weird situation a few weeks back where Calgary had a goal disallowed because the net had been moved; if the net had been in place, the shot wouldn’t have gone in so the goal didn’t count. He admitted that he and Dickson overreacted at the time but once they had the rule explained in detail, they understood and accepted it. We even got a cameo from his adorable little daughter just before she toddled off to bed.

Best line: With just a minute to go in a tied fourth quarter, Cayla mentioned that even though she knew the outcome, she was still excited and a little stressed watching such a close game. Rhys Duch: “Don’t worry guys. I got this.”

Thanks to the Orange Crew for setting up this call and for including me in it. It was a lot of fun even if we didn’t actually watch most of the game. Thanks also to Nick, Cayla, Dane, Zach, Tyler, Curtis, and Rhys for joining in, spending a couple of hours with us answering questions, and being the accessible and down-to-earth people that the NLL is proud to showcase.

Family connections in the NLL

When I posted my Who’s In, Who’s Out article last week, loyal reader Mike suggested creating a list of all family members in the NLL as well. I thought that was a fun idea, so here you go.

I’m only listing relationships if both players are on active or practice rosters or are NLL coaches or GMs. I made a couple of exceptions for IR or holdout lists too, but if I start to get into retired players, we’d be here all day.

The majority of these I’m sure of but there are a few that I’m only mostly sure of. I tried to confirm as many as I could but if I have any wrong, or I’m missing one, please leave a comment or find me on twitter and let me know!

Buffalo

Jon Harnett – brother of Greg Harnett, Calgary
Quinn Powless – cousin of Johnny Powless, Toronto
Dhane Smith – cousin of Billy Dee Smith, (assistant coach) Halifax, also cousin of Tyson Bell, Calgary

Calgary

Tyson Bell – nephew cousin of Billy Dee Smith, (assistant coach) Halifax, also cousin of Dhane Smith, Buffalo, also cousin of Latrell Harris, Toronto
Zach Currier – brother of Josh Currier, Philly
Greg Harnett – brother of Jon Harnett, Buffalo
Jesse King / Marshal King – brothers
Update: Tyson Bell’s mom told me that there was an article a few years back saying that Billy Dee Smith was Tyson’s uncle, but that was incorrect – they are cousins. That article is where I originally got my information from. Thanks for the correction!

Colorado

Scott Carnegie – brother of Mike Carnegie, San Diego
Justin Goodwin – brother of Brandon Goodwin, Vancouver
Will Malcom – brother of Tony Malcom, New England

Georgia

Brendan Bomberry – cousin of Adam Bomberry, New England and Tyson Bomberry, New York
Jason Noble – (twin) brother of Jeremy Noble, San Diego
Kevin Orleman / Steven Orleman – brothers
Randy Staats – brother of Austin Staats, San Diego
Lyle Thompson, Miles Thompson – brothers of Jeremy Thompson, Saskatchewan. The fourth Thompson brother, Haina (aka Jerome), also played for Georgia last season.

Lyle, Miles, and Haina Thompson (photo credit: Corey Knapp)

Halifax

Graeme Hossack – brother of Matt Hossack, Saskatchewan
Cody Jamieson – nephew of Curt Styres, (GM) Halifax
Brandon Robinson – brother of Justin Robinson, Saskatchewan
Billy Dee Smith (assistant coach) – uncle cousin of Dhane Smith, Buffalo, also cousin of Tyson Bell, Calgary

New England

Adam Bomberry – cousin of Brendan Bomberry, Georgia and Tyson Bomberry, New York
Tony Malcom – brother of Will Malcom, Colorado

New York

Tyson Bomberry –  cousin of Brendan Bomberry, Georgia and Adam Bomberry, New England
Tyson Gibson – son of Darryl Gibson, (assistant coach) New England
Gale Thorpe – son of Regy Thorpe, (GM / head coach) New York

Philadelphia

Josh Currier – brother of Zach Currier, Calgary

Rochester

Paul Dawson – brother of Dan Dawson, Toronto
Shawn Evans / Turner Evans – cousins

San Diego

Mike Carnegie – brother of Scott Carnegie, Colorado
Zack Greer – brother of Bill Greer, (assistant coach) San Diego
Garrett McIntosh – brother of Ben McIntosh, Saskatchewan
Brodie Merrill – brother of Patrick Merrill, (GM / head coach) San Diego
Evan Messenger – cousin of Mike Messenger, Saskatchewan
Jeremy Noble – (twin) brother of Jason Noble, Georgia
Tor Reinholdt – brother of Reid Reinholdt, Toronto
Austin Staats – brother of Randy Staats, Georgia

Saskatchewan

Travis Cornwall / Jeff Cornwall – brothers
Ryan Dilks – brother of Jamison Dilks, Toronto
Matt Hossack – brother of Graeme Hossack, Halifax
Ryan Keenan – son of Derek Keenan, (GM / head coach) Saskatchewan
Ryan Keenan / Luke Keenan – cousins
Luke Keenan – nephew of Derek Keenan, (GM / head coach) Saskatchewan
Ben McIntosh – brother of Garrett McIntosh, San Diego
Mike Messenger – cousin of Evan Messenger, San Diego
Justin Robinson – brother of Brandon Robinson, Halifax
Brett Mydske – brother of Reid Mydske, Vancouver
Jeremy Thompson – brother of Lyle Thompson and Miles Thompson, Georgia

Toronto

Dan Dawson – brother of Paul Dawson, Rochester
Jamison Dilks – brother of Ryan Dilks, Saskatchewan
Latrell Harris – cousin of Tyson Bell, Calgary
Johnny Powless – cousin of Quinn Powless, Buffalo
Reid Reinholdt – brother of Tor Reinholdt, San Diego

Vancouver

Brandon Goodwin – brother of Justin Goodwin, Colorado
Reid Mydske – brother of Brett Mydske, Saskatchewan

2020 NLL West preview

I’ve done the North and East, so today we’ll preview the West division.

RoughnecksCalgary Roughnecks

Considering they’re the reigning NLL champs, it’s not surprising that the Roughnecks didn’t make many roster changes. Captain Dan MacRae was taken in the expansion draft by New York, Riley Loewen signed with the Warriors, and Reece Callies and Rhys Duch are both injured. That’s it. In their place are Marshal King (Jesse’s brother), Haiden Dickson (no relation to Curtis), Liam LeClair (brother of former Roughneck Kellen LeClair), and Ryan Martel (not related to anyone in the NLL so far as I know). Martel played 15 games over the last two seasons for Calgary but is still only 21, and the other three are rookies.

When you win it all one year and change very little, you’re generally among the favourites the next year. To be the best, you have to beat the best, right? No reason to believe the Roughnecks won’t be in the hunt again this season.

Look out for

It would surprise precisely nobody if Jesse King had a monster year so I’ll go out on a limb and say… Jesse King.

Prediction

First in the west.


MammothColorado Mammoth

Colorado lost a few big names in the offseason – Cory Vitarelli, Jeremy Noble, Brad Self, and Ian Llord are all gone. Noble had a terrible season, and the other three played six games each with the Mammoth, so the losses aren’t really that devastating. But other than Tyler Carlson, brought in to replace backup goalie Steve Fryer, all the new guys are really new guys – NLL newbs.

The defense and transition is much the same, which is good news since only the Bandits gave up fewer goals than the Mammoth last year. Dillon Ward is back though as I said, Tyler Carlson will be backing him up instead of Steve Fryer. Ward will still take the majority of starts but Carlson is a veteran backup so the Mammoth aren’t in trouble if Ward falters. Offense was the Mammoth’s weak point last year – only one team gave up fewer goals, but only one team (the Warriors) scored fewer as well. With all the turnover in the offense, I hope the rookies play well or this could be a long season.

Look out for

That Killen kid impressed a lot of people last year, with 49 points in 15 games. With Noble, Keogh, and Adams all gone, Killen will be asked to take on a bigger role on the right side this season. He could be really good.

Prediction

Fourth in the west.


SealsLogoSan Diego Seals

Lots of turnover in the Seals camp as well. Gone are Dan Dawson, Turner Evans, Garrett Billings, Joe Walters, Paul Dawson, Kyle Hartzell, Tyler Carlson, and Adrian Sorichetti. Austin Staats and Casey Jackson begin the season on the IR. Sounds terrible, right? It may not be so bad. Joining the Seals are Wes Berg, Jeremy Noble, Zack Greer, Mike Carnegie, and Evan Messenger, so all is not lost in SoCal. They still have Kyle Buchanan, Connor Kearnan, and Connor Fields and while Fields only played in two games last year due to injuries, he finished fourth in points and second in goals in the PLL over the summer. Could he be the next field-star-becomes-box-star à la Tom Schreiber? That may be optimistic but I think we can count on him for a lot more than the five points he contributed last year. Assuming Greer can shake off the rust after his year of retirement and Noble turns back into the real Jeremy Noble and not the guy who couldn’t score last year, the Seals may still have a pretty good offense, made even better when Jackson and Staats return.

Frank Scigliano holds down the fort in net again, though his backup is Nick Damude, who has no NLL experience. The defense and transition corps consists of a pretty good mix of vets and rookies but one of the vets is lacrosse legend Brodie Merrill, and if you’re a rookie defender, there aren’t many guys you want to learn from more than Brodie.

Last year, I said that if everything works out for the Seals, they could be a very good team. Well, everything worked out and they were a very good team. I’m not sure this year’s Seals are better than last year’s but if everything works out, they won’t be far off.

Look out for

Wes Berg will be itching to prove that he is worth the money Calgary didn’t want to pay him, so I see a big year for him.

Prediction

Third in the west.


RushSaskatchewan Rush

Good news for the Rush: Ryan Dilks and Jeff Cornwall are back! (Well, Cornwall isn’t quite but will be soon.) Bad news: they lost Nik Bilic, Brett Mydske, and Curtis Knight. Good news: they’re such a deep team that they’ll still be great. Bad news: So will Calgary.

Losing Curtis Knight will hurt the Rush, both more than you might think – because he was an important piece of their offense – and less then you might think – because they’re so deep. 2018 5th overall draft pick Connor Robinson will see more playing time, and guys like Ryan Keenan and Marty Dinsdale will get some more minutes to make up for the loss of Knight.

The Rush defense has been their strong point for years and while losing Mydske will hurt, getting Dilks back will make up for that. Jeff Cornwall will likely score more than Bilic would have but Bilic was a fan favourite known for his grit and toughness (and, yes, fights) more than his goal-scoring.

Look out for

Marty Dinsdale has been one of those “under the radar” sort of guys for years, but the weird thing is how everyone talks about the fact that nobody talks about him. Dinsdale will take over some of Curtis Knight’s role and we might see his point totals increase.

Prediction

Second in the west.


PrintVancouver Warriors

No blockbuster trades for the Warriors this off-season, but they did make a couple of significant moves. Signing Nik Bilic is huge. He brings “sandpaper” (as Teddy Jenner put it) to the team, and he’s a veteran who’s won Championships, and you can never have too many of those. And the Warriors don’t have many of those. Another vet defender who wasn’t there last year is Chris O’Dougherty, another guy who brings grit and toughness to the Vancouver back end.

The front end isn’t hugely different, with Riley Loewen taking over for Tony Malcom. Keegan Bal stepped up his game big-time last season, so he’ll be expected to continue his strong play, and Mitch Jones is also coming off of his best season. Other than those two and Malcom, only Logan Schuss and Jordan McBride had more than twenty points last year. The Warriors scored the fewest goals of any team in 2019, so some more scoring up front and in transition wouldn’t be unwelcome.

Eric Penney and Aaron Bold split time between the pipes last year, and both are back again this year. Will Penney finally take his spot as the #1 starter, a position the Warriors (and Stealth before them) seem to have been saving for him for years, or will he continue to fight Bold for that spot? The team is probably fine either way – competition between the two isn’t a bad thing, but if Penney plays well enough to grab that spot for himself, so much the better.

Look out for

Similar to Curtis Knight stepping out from behind the Rush’s top three, Riley Loewen is expected to be one of the top scorers instead of playing behind them.

Prediction

Fifth in the west.

2019-2020 NLL Predictions

Here are my predictions for the final regular season standings as well as the major annual awards. The “Dark Horse” predictions are my “not as likely but could happen” picks.

Final Standings

I’ve also included my picks for overall standings in parens after the team name.

North

  1. Toronto Rock (4)
  2. Buffalo Bandits (7)
  3. Halifax Thunderbirds (9)
  4. Rochester Knighthawks (10)

East

  1. Georgia Swarm (1)
  2. New England Black Wolves (6)
  3. Philadelphia Wings (11)
  4. New York Riptide (13)

West

  1. Calgary Roughnecks (2)
  2. Saskatchewan Rush (3)
  3. San Diego Seals (5)
  4. Colorado Mammoth (8)
  5. Vancouver Warriors (12)

Individual Awards

MVP

The picture came from a Google link to an article from the Saskatoon StarPhoenix but the actual article doesn't have the picture, so I have no way to give photo credit.Winner: Mark Matthews
Short list: Callum Crawford, Cody Jamieson
Dark horse: Zach Currier

Goaltender of the Year

Winner: Christian Del Bianco
Short list: Dillon Ward, Mike Poulin, Matt Vinc
Dark horse: Frank Scigliano

Defensive Player of the Year

Winner: Kyle Rubisch
Short list: Graeme Hossack, Steve Priolo
Dark horse: Brad Kri

Transition Player of the Year

Winner: Zach Currier
Short list: Challen Rogers, Joey Cupido
Dark horse: Kiel Matisz

Rookie of the Year

Winner: Andrew Kew
Short list: Ryland Rees

Same disclaimer as previous years: I don’t follow MSL or WLA in enough detail to really have a good idea. Just going by what I’ve heard on podcasts and read on IL Indoor and Twitter and such.

Les Bartley Award

Winner: Ed Comeau
Short list: Derek Keenan, Pat Coyle
Dark horse: Mike Hasen

GM of the Year

Winner: Patrick Merrill
Short list: Rich Lisk, Dan Richardson if the Warriors finish above .500
Dark horse: Dan Carey

2019-2020 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 2019. And a player who’s injured but still part of that team will be listed as “out”. Not all teams have announced who’s on their IR, PUP, or holdout lists.

Teams and players are each listed in alphabetical order. This article will be updated as things change up until about a week into the season.

BanditsBuffalo Bandits

In: Doug Buchan, Steve Dietrich (coach) Marcus Minichiello, Brent Noseworthy, Quinn Powless
Out: Jordan Durston, Shawn Evans, Zach Higgins, Rich Kilgour (coach) Thomas Hoggarth, Ethan O’Connor
IR: None
PUP: Thomas Hoggarth, Ethan O’Connor
Holdout: None
Practice Roster: Okaeme Chukwuemeka, Devlin Shanahan


RoughnecksCalgary Roughnecks

In: Haiden Dickson, Marshall King, Liam LeClair, Ryan Martel
Out: Reece Callies, Rhys Duch, Riley Loewen, Dan MacRae
IR: Reece Callies
PUP: Rhys Duch
Holdout: None
Practice Roster: Travis Getz, Landon Kells, Nick Scott, Sean Tyrrell


MammothColorado Mammoth

In: Tyler Carlson, Brett Craig, Carter Dickson, Warren Jeffrey, Dylan Kinnear, Will Malcom, Dylan Molloy, Josh Sullivan
Out: Steve Fryer, Julian Garritano, Steven Lee, Ian Llord, Jeremy Noble, Brad Self, Cory Vitarelli, Chris Wardle, Jeff Wittig
IR: None
PUP: Chris Wardle, Jeff Wittig
Holdout: None
Practice Roster: Carter Dickson, Ilija Gajic, Justin Goodwin, Jake McNabb, Erik Turner


SwarmGeorgia Swarm

In: Jordan Hall, Ryan McSpadyen, Kason Tarbell, Joel White
Out: Holden Cattoni, Tyler Ferreira, Haina Thompson, Joel Tinney, Craig Wende
IR: Zach Miller
PUP: Jordan Gillis, Justin Lemcke
Holdout: None
Practice Roster: TJ Comizio, Steven Orleman, Sergio Perkovic


Thunderbirds-smallHalifax Thunderbirds

In: Cory Becker, Scott Campbell, Pete Dubenski, Eric Fannell, Stephen Keogh, Clarke Petterson, Trevor Smyth, Nonkon Thompson
Out: Angus Goodleaf, Oran Horn, Mike Manley, Darryl Robertson, Brandon Robinson, Dawson Theede, Mike Triolo, Luke Van Schepen
IR: Luke Van Schepen
PUP: None
Holdout: None
Practice Roster: Johnny Jimerson, Chet Koneczny, Brandon Robinson, Clay Scanlon


BlackWolvesNew England Black Wolves

In: Jordan Durston, Andrew Kew, John LaFontaine, Ty Logan, Tony Malcom, Joe Nardella, Creighton Reid, Ethan Woods
Out: David Brock, Kevin Buchanan, Alex Buque, Joel Coyle, Tyler Digby, Greg Downing, Ryan Fournier, Andrew Suitor
IR: None
PUP: Greg Downing
Holdout: None
Practice Roster: Bailey Brown, Mike Byrne, Tristan Rai, Joel Tinney


Riptide-smallNew York Riptide

In: Everybody
Out: Nobody
IR: None
PUP: Ryan Brown, Angus Goodleaf, Matt Kavanagh, Jack Rowlett
Holdout: Brier Jonathan, Dawson Theede, Kurtis Woodland
Protected: Myles Jones
Practice Roster: Jake Fox, Scott Johnston, Adam Osika, John Wagner


WingsPhiladelphia Wings

In: Kevin Buchanan, Nick Finlay, Brett Hickey, Zach Higgins, Anthony Joaquim, Ian Llord, Brandon Miller, Alex Pace, Liam Patten, Cory Vitarelli, Nate Wade, Ryan Wagner
Out: Gowah Abrams, Matthew Bennett, Frank Brown, Doug Buchan, Dylan Evans, Justin Guterding, Jordan Hall, Vaughn Harris, Chet Koneczny, Adam Osika, Eric Shewell
IR: None
PUP: None
Holdout: None
Practice Roster: Matt Mariner, Kyle Marr, Austin Pifani, Daryl Waud


Knighthawks-smallRochester Knighthawks

In: Everybody
Out: Nobody
IR: Tyler Biles
PUP: Frank Brown, Travis Burton, Zac Reid
Holdout: None
Practice Roster: Julian Garritano, Adam Perroni, Dustyn Pratt


SealsLogoSan Diego Seals

In: Wes Berg, Graydon Bradley, Mike Carnegie, Nick Damude, Garrett Epple, Mark Glicini, Eli Gobrecht, Zack Greer, Evan Messenger, Jeremy Noble, Matt Sykes
Out: Garrett Billings, Tyler Carlson, Dan Dawson, Paul Dawson, Turner Evans, Kyle Hartzell, Casey Jackson, Connor Kelly, Brendan Ranford, Adrian Sorichetti, Joe Walters
IR: Casey Jackson, Johnny Pearson, Austin Staats
PUP: None
Holdout: None
“Inactive Roster”: Oliver Bolsterli, Zach Bryant, Austin Divitcos, Devyn Mayea
Practice Roster: Jules Heningburg, Dylan Riley, Mikie Schlosser, Ethan Schott


RushSaskatchewan Rush

In: Ryan Dilks, Holden Garlent, Ryan McLean, Austin Murphy, Justin Robinson
Out: Nik Bilic, Scott Campbell, Nick Finlay, Curtis Knight, Brett Mydske
IR: None
PUP: None
Holdout: Jeff Cornwall
Draft list: Luke Keenan
Practice Roster: Cameron Dunkerley, Zach Gould, Tanner Thomson


RockToronto Rock

In: David Brock, Dan Dawson, Scott Dominey, Damon Edwards, Josh Jubenville, Zach Manns
Out: Phil Caputo, Dan Lintner, Kieran McArdle, Creighton Reid, Brock Sorensen, Jay Thorimbert
IR: Aaron Forster
PUP: Brock Sorensen
Holdout: None
Practice Roster: Jamison Dilks, Mitch Gustavsen, Troy Holowchuk, Alec Simons


WarriorsVancouver Warriors

In: Nik Bilic, Sam Clare, Derek Lloyd, Riley Loewen, Mike Mallory, Chris O’Dougherty, Patrick O’Meara, James Rahe, Justin Salt, Bob Snider
Out: Jean-Luc Chetner, Zac Christianson, Brody Eastwood, Tony Malcom, Reid Mydske, Zack Porter, Jarrett Toll, Dallas Wade, Nate Wade
IR: Andrew Gallant, Joel McCready, Zack Porter, Mason Pynn
PUP: None
Holdout: None
Practice Roster: Keegan Bell, Lyndon Bunio, Reid Mydske, Tyson Roe


The GOAT

The Calgary Roughnecks signed Dane Dobbie to a multi-year contract last week. Considering Dobbie had a career year in 2019 and was deservedly named both season MVP and Championship MVP, it’s hard to argue against this, regardless of the term or money he was asking for. But when the NLL tweeted about it, they used a goat icon and I had to roll my eyes.

GOAT stands for Greatest Of All Time and it’s become a term that, in my opinion, is thrown around far too easily in the sports world. By definition, there can be only one GOAT in each sport. There may be controversy as to who it is, but there aren’t lots of them. I don’t think it’s a hot take to say that Dane Dobbie is not the greatest player in NLL history (despite his teammates saying he is). The hot take might be: he’s not even in the top ten. But that’s an article for another time.

Of course you can add your own qualifiers, and a player may be the GOAT of a certain subset of players. As Jake Elliott pointed out, the NLL probably meant that Dobbie is the Roughnecks GOAT, not the GOAT. That’s totally fair and Jake is quite likely right.

But that got me thinking: what about the other teams? Who is their GOAT? Some are obvious – Buffalo comes to mind – while others are more contentious.

One question we have to answer first is what do we mean by this? Is it the best player to ever wear that uniform, or is it the best player to ever have an impact in that uniform? For example, you could argue that the second Dan Dawson takes the floor as a member of the Toronto Rock this coming season, before he’s even touched the ball, he’s among the top three players ever to wear the Rock jersey. But is that meaningful?

For this article, I’m going to say that it’s not good enough to simply have worn a team’s jersey, you have to have played there for a significant amount of time. However I’m not going to define “significant” with specific guidelines (e.g. you have to have played x games or x seasons or have won some sort of major award). Just going with my gut here.

I’m going to skip the expansion Knighthawks 2.0 and Riptide for obvious reasons and also the Wings 2.0 and Seals since they have only played a single season.

Buffalo – Tough one, but I’m going to go with someone who many consider to be the GOAT of the league, if not the entire sport of box lacrosse. Of course it’s John Tavares.

Dane Dobbie (Photo credit: Greg Southam)Calgary – My “tough one” for the Bandits was obviously in jest but this really is a tough one. If you go with the “just wearing the jersey” rule, I’d put Josh Sanderson and Shawn Evans at the top of that list. Sanderson played two full seasons and part of a third and while they were outstanding seasons and included a championship, he’s more associated with the Rock. Evans is a tougher call because he played four seasons including two with 110+ points and one MVP trophy. The guy who started this whole conversation, Dane Dobbie, has played 12 seasons (all with Calgary), won two Championships, and is the incumbent MVP. Jeff Shattler was an MVP and played eleven great seasons in Calgary so he has to be considered. Kaleb Toth was never an MVP but was the quintessential Roughneck for years. What about Tracey Kelusky? Higher point averages than Shattler or Toth, and team captain for their 2009 title.

Given his longevity, I’m going with Dobbie.

Colorado – Is it John Grant or Gary Gait? Gait only played three years with the Mammoth while Grant played seven (well, six plus two games in the seventh). Interestingly, their points-per-game numbers are almost identical: Grant averaged 5.632 points per game over 98 games while Gait averaged 5.625 in 48 games. If Gait had played 98 games with the Mammoth like Grant did, he’d have 551 points. Grant has 552. Both won an MVP award with the Mammoth and neither won a Championship (Gait did as a coach), so basically, they were the same guy. Grant played twice as long in Colorado as Gait did so I’m going with Grant.

Georgia (including Minnesota) – If you just consider the four seasons in Georgia, I think the obvious choice would be Lyle Thompson. But if you include the Minnesota years, Callum Crawford and Ryan Benesch jump into the mix. They each had slightly higher points-per-game numbers than Thompson, but even at their peak, I don’t think either of them were as good overall as Thompson is.

Halifax – (as the Rochester Knighthawks) John Grant is the obvious choice because he’s one of the best players in the history of the league. But Matt Vinc has to be considered here. Grant won one Championship and an MVP award in his ten seasons with the Knighthawks. Vinc won three titles and about a hundred Goaltender of the Year awards. Grant’s dominance with the Knighthawks cannot be overlooked (he had an eight-year stretch with seven 90+ point seasons and only played five games in the eighth) but Vinc is probably the best goaltender of the last decade and definitely top three all-time. I honestly cannot decide so I’m taking the easy way out and calling it a tie.

New England* – Again Shawn Evans jumps out. He only played 2½ years in New England but averaged over six points per game in the two full seasons. Another candidate would be Kevin Crowley, who played most of four seasons with the Black Wolves. He wasn’t quite as dominant with the numbers but Crowley is great off-ball and defensively as well so his numbers don’t show how good he is. I’m going to go with Evans here.

Saskatchewan (including Edmonton) – Mark Matthews was my first thought but Kyle Rubisch is probably the better choice. Matthews has been a top-10 offensive player for his entire career (top 5 for most of it) but there was a four year period where Rubisch was hands down the best defensive player in the league, and he remains in the top three now.

Toronto – I’m going with Colin Doyle not only because he was an outstanding player (#4 in career scoring) but a great captain as well. Like Matt Vinc in Rochester, Bob Watson also needs to be considered. Josh Sanderson is right up there too, and Jim Veltman and Brodie Merrill were also great players and great captains.

Vancouver (including the entire franchise history) – I wondered about Lewis Ratcliff, Gary Rosyski, Colin Doyle, and even Josh Sanderson from the Albany Attack days. But in the end, it’s got to be Rhys Duch. Duch averaged about 5.4 points per game over ten seasons with the San Jose, Washington, and Vancouver Stealths. He led the team in goals, assists, and points in four straight seasons and was either first or second in those categories in three more. He was the face of the Stealth for a decade which is why it was so surprising that they unceremoniously released him before last season. Hey, can someone remind me who scored the OT goal that gave Calgary the 2019 Championship? I forget.

* Maybe others don’t have this problem, but I find it hard to think of the Black Wolves as a continuation of the old Philadelphia Wings. As a result, I didn’t consider Wings players for the Black Wolves GOAT, even though I did consider previous teams in the Vancouver and Georgia franchises. But the Wings were around for 28 years, so they shouldn’t be just tossed aside. For the Wings, I’d have to choose between Tom Marechek (12 years, four Championships, 773 points) and Dallas Eliuk (again, top 3 goalie of all time). Gary Gait only played five seasons in Philly but was named MVP in three of them (in a row), so he’s got to be up there too. I’m going to go with Eliuk.

Examining the 2019-2020 NLL schedule

Winter is coming.

And this is good, because winter is NLL season! The 2019-2020 NLL season begins on November 29, which is only eleven weeks from now. In fact by the time you read this, it will be less than eleven weeks from now. The league released the schedule for the upcoming season this week, just ahead of next week’s entry draft. Of course the timing is done by design since now that the summer championships (President’s Cup, Minto, Mann, etc.) are done, there ain’t much happening in the box lacrosse world right now.

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2019 Expansion draft

I imagine the last few weeks have been a nightmare for NLL GMs, and the next couple won’t be much better. The second expansion draft in two years is coming up in a couple of weeks so each GM had to go through their roster and choose eleven players to protect, knowing they could lose anyone not on that list. Then you need to call more than half of your players and tell them they’re not protected. Then you will lose two of them and need to adjust your team afterwards. Luckily they have five months or so before the season starts to do that. Just like last year’s draft, some GMs will have some big holes to fill after the draft, others might barely notice the difference.

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Various musings lacking statistical correlation

I guess it’s been a while since I’ve written anything here. I’ve been writing weekly for IL Indoor and one article for Lacrosse Flash, podcasting every week, and active on twitter, so I guess my thoughts have been dispersed enough in other venues that I didn’t think to write about them here. That ends now.

Congrats

First off, congratulations to the 2019 NLL Champion Calgary Roughnecks. Their season didn’t start they way they wanted it to, with Curtis Dickson and Wes Berg holding out and Jesse King injuring his knee during the preseason. But Dane Dobbie grabbed the team by the lapels and said “Let’s go out and win this f**king thing”, or words to that effect. A month later they had Dickson back and while Berg never returned at all (and likely never will; any bargaining power he might have had vanished as soon as Duch’s shot hit the back of the net), King was able to return for the last two games of the regular season, just as the team was peaking.

Getting hot heading into the playoffs is never a bad thing, and that momentum led the Roughnecks all the way to the title. They weren’t most people’s favourites to win the west, and in fact they finished third. But at the same time, given the strength of the team and particularly Dobbie and Christian Del Bianco, nobody’s really surprised.

Curtis Dickson

I’m sure it doesn’t mean much but I offer my congratulations to the Bandits as well on their amazing season. After missing the playoffs two straight years, the Bandits were many people’s favourites to win the East, myself included. Obviously the biggest addition was Matt Vinc, who had an outstanding season and will probably win his eleventy millionth Goalie of the Year award, but the additions of Corey Small, the emergence of Thomas Hoggarth as a serious scoring threat, and a crop of amazing rookies in Ian MacKay, Chris Cloutier, and Matt Gilray were also instrumental in the Bandits’ success.

MVP

Until a couple of years ago, I wasn’t a big fan of Dane Dobbie. There was no question that he was a great lacrosse player, but I thought he was a bit of a hothead and a little too arrogant for my taste. Not really a team guy.

DEAD. WRONG.

After paying a little more attention, I started to see some of the unselfish plays he would make and it became obvious that his main goal was not to pad his numbers but to help his team win. I had always appreciated the heart and effort he gave game in and game out. The celebrations that I interpreted as “I scored another goal, I’m so awesome” started to look more like “we scored another goal”. Imagine my surprise when I realized I was a Dobbie fan.

Then came the 2019 season. As good as Dobbie was before, he got better. He managed to tack on an extra 25 points to his best season total. He played with more heart and intensity and carried the Roughnecks through their challenges in the early part of the season. And it wasn’t just until Curtis Dickson returned; Dobbie kept up that intensity the rest of the season and throughout the playoffs. And if that wasn’t enough, in a post-Championship interview, the Finals MVP basically deflected all the credit to his teammates and coaches. Yes, he plays with passion but he’s clearly not a hothead, not arrogant in the least, and there’s no bigger team guy in the NLL. Congratulations to Dane Dobbie on an MVP-worthy season and post-season, and a Championship.

Awards

This afternoon, the NLL announced the nominees for the annual awards. Not a lot of surprises but I found it interesting that some categories are near or perfect clones of last year while others are entirely different. None of the players nominated for MVP in 2018 (Matthews, Church, Crowley) were nominated in 2019. Similarly, none of last year’s Les Bartley award nominees were nominated this year. On the other hand, the Transition Player of the Year list contains two players (Zach Currier and Challen Rogers) who were nominated last year, which means that at least one of the two will lose it two years in a row. Defender of the Year also has two (Graeme Hossack and Kyle Rubisch – Hossack won last year), and the third is Steve Priolo who’s been nominated in five of the last six years. The 2019 Goaltender of the Year nominees are Vinc, Del Bianco, and Ward: exactly the same as last year.

I’ve worked with two of the three nominees for the Tom Borrelli award: Bob Chavez is my editor at IL Indoor and has been amazingly supportive of my lacrosse writing for eight years. I wrote an article for Tyson Geick’s Lacrosse Flash website this past season, and may be doing more there in the future. They are both deserving but since Chavez has won it before, my vote (though I don’t have one) would go to Tyson. I know very little about Barstool Jordie but I find it difficult to believe that his impact as a member of the NLL media was as big as Teddy Jenner, Jake Elliott, Evan Schemenauer, Stephen Stamp, Pat Gregoire, and others. I’m not a fan of Barstool Sports in general, so I’m pretty sure I saw “Barstool” in his name and thought “Oh, those guys” and ignored him throughout the season. Maybe he’s done an excellent job and I’ve just missed it all.

Expansion

The second expansion draft in as many years is a little over a month away, and I’m excited about it. I’m hoping that they do it in one of two ways: either say in advance “Here are the players that the two GMs decided to choose” or conduct an actual live draft. Last year it seemed that they actually did the former but announced it as if it were the latter. It was obvious that the picks had been made in advance, and the whole thing was over in about ten minutes. It doesn’t need to be a whole three-hour event with Stephen Stamp and Andy McNamara doing analysis after each and every pick, though I’m sure those guys would be happy to do it, but don’t just zip through the picks like a new episode of Game of Thrones is about to start.

Last year, I posted an article where I predicted who would be chosen from each team. However I did that before the teams announced who they were protecting, so my guesses were mainly wrong. This year, I’ll wait until the protected lists are out.

2019 NLL Awards

This is the time when we look back over the season and pick the players who were the best of 2019. It’s also fun to see how close my random guesses predictions from the beginning of the season were. Every year, I pick a player for each team who I think will have an exceptional year, so let’s take a look at my “Look out for…” picks from the East and West previews as well.

MVP

Dane Dobbie (Photo credit: Greg Southam)Original pick: Tom Schreiber

  1. Dane Dobbie
  2. Matt Vinc
  3. Callum Crawford
  4. Mark Matthews
  5. Dan Dawson

I don’t always like picking the guy with the highest point total as the MVP. It seems too easy and since I’m known to be a stats guy, it looks like I just went with the big numbers and ignored everything else. But this year, Dane Dobbie epitomized “most valuable” in every way. Not only did he lead the league in points (and finished second in goals, assists, and power-play goals), but he blew away his previous career high by 25 points. Most importantly, he carried the Roughnecks at the beginning of the season when Curtis Dickson, Wes Berg, and Jesse King were all out.

Goaltender of the Year

Original pick: Dillon Ward

  1. Matt Vinc
  2. Mike Poulin
  3. Frank Scigliano
  4. Christian Del Bianco
  5. Dillon Ward

Vinc led the league in GAA and save percentage among starters. He kept his opponents to single-digits seven times – and three of those were five or fewer. But most importantly he turned the Bandits struggling defense from last year into the stingiest in the league. Of course, he didn’t do it by himself but his play and the confidence he inspires in the rest of the defenders was obviously a huge part of that transformation.

Transition Player of the Year

Original pick: Challen Rogers

  1. Challen Rogers
  2. Steve Priolo
  3. Kiel Matisz
  4. Zach Currier
  5. Tyler Pace

Rogers plays excellent defense, is almost always the first guy up the floor in transition, and took many shifts on offense. He played on the man-up and man-down, and when watching the Rock play, it seems that he’s just always on the floor. He does it all, does it all well, and always looks like he’s having fun while doing it.

Defensive Player of the Year

Original pick: Graeme Hossack

  1. Graeme Hossack
  2. Kyle Rubisch
  3. Brad Kri
  4. David Brock
  5. Mike Messenger

Hossack and Rubisch are both masters of the stick check. They don’t just make it difficult for offensive players to get to or even see the net, leaving them with a bad shot or no shot at all, though they’re great at that too. These guys prefer to simply strip them of the ball and toss it to one of their teammates in transition. It’s clean, it’s quick, it gives your team a chance to score, and if you watch these guys do it, you might think it’s easy. It’s not.

Rookie of the Year

Austin StaatsOriginal pick: Austin Staats

  1. Austin Staats
  2. Steph Charbonneau
  3. Kyle Killen
  4. Trevor Baptiste
  5. Ian MacKay

Before he got injured, Staats was on pace for 78 points which was 17 short of the rookie record (held by his big brother). Other rookies have scored more goals and picked up more loosies, but few have had the overall impact that Austin Staats had this season. His goal-scoring, energy, and obvious love for the game was the talk of the league all season. In a non-traditional lacrosse market, having a young, exciting, dynamic player like Staats had to be a huge help in trying to build their brand and fanbase. Hopefully he is fully recovered from his ACL surgery by next season because his career will be an amazing one to watch.

Unsung Hero

  1. Casey Jackson
  2. Matt Hossack
  3. Bryan Cole
  4. Greg Downing
  5. Keegan Bal

When you think of the Seals offense, you think Staats, Dawson, Billings, Buchanan, but Casey Jackson doesn’t jump to mind. But Jackson led the Seals in goals and after playing all of four games in his career before this season, fit in very nicely among the rookie phenom and veteran scorers.

Comeback Player of the Year

  1. Garrett Billings
  2. Jordan McBride
  3. Tyler Digby
  4. Dan Coates
  5. Cam Holding

Billings missed all of 2018 and only played four games in 2017. Between work commitments and injuries, it seemed that his NLL career might be over. But Billings matched the points total from his 2010 rookie season and looked a lot like the old Billings, which was likely a little scary for Seals opponents. He certainly scored some beautiful goals but as we’ve come to expect, in every game he played he had more assists than goals, sometimes many more.

Les Bartley Award

Original pick: Pat Coyle

  1. Patrick Merrill
  2. Matt Sawyer
  3. John Tavares/Rich Kilgour

As a GM, Merrill put together a great bunch of players. As a coach, he turned them into a great team. Of course having vets like Dawson, Billings, and Buchanan on his team really helped too, but clearly the Seals players bought (and dove) in early in the season and that teamwork was obvious all year.

GM of the Year

Original pick: Steve Dietrich

  1. Patrick Merrill
  2. Steve Dietrich
  3. John Arlotta

When you look at an expansion team’s roster, you usually hope that the team might be pretty good in a couple of years. The Seals looked very good from the beginning and didn’t disappoint. Even after the season started, Merrill wasn’t done. He brought in Paul Dawson to give the defense even more toughness and leadership. He took chances on Garrett Billings and Kyle Hartzell and they paid off. When he lost Austin Staats, he brought in Joe Walters. He put together a great mix of leaders who could still produce on the floor and a solid young group that can be the core of this team for years.

Final standings

East: My picks were Buffalo, Georgia, Toronto, New England, Rochester, Philadelphia. In that order. Nailed it.

West: My picks were Saskatchewan, Calgary, Colorado, San Diego, Vancouver. Move San Diego to second and I nailed the west too, but I really only got two right: first and last.

Look out for…

I got some of the above picks right, and missed on others. But of the eleven below, I’d say I nailed five (Duch, Buchanan, Staats, Digby, Lintner) and got four more pretty close. Only two were really wrong.

Calgary: Rhys Duch. Calling that a win. He didn’t get back into the 90’s in points, but then he wasn’t expected to be the guy on the Roughnecks like he was on the Stealth. He helped set up the guy (Dobbie) and the other guy (Dickson) and had a great year.

Colorado: Tim Edwards. 53.5% at the dot this year, fourth among face-off guys. Not a bad season at all.

San Diego: Kyle Buchanan. 67 points, 28 goals, a veteran presence and lots of hustle – exactly as expected from Buchanan.

Saskatchewan: Travis Cornwall. We all thought he was brought in to basically replace his brother Jeff on the transition but he played more of a defensive role for the Rush. As such, the numbers don’t tell us much but the fact that Cornwall played all 18 games for the first time in his career tells you what the Rush coaching staff thought of his play.

Vancouver: Colton and Zack Porter. More defenders so the numbers don’t tell you much but these guys were tough on opposing forwards. Not big guys (each is 5’8″) but tenacious. The Warriors players voted Zack as their rookie of the year.

Buffalo: Shawn Evans. 94 points, which is excellent for most but only very good for Evans. Like Duch, he had to get used to not being the guy on the Bandits offense but his presence helped make them one of the strongest in the league.

Georgia: Randy Staats. 96 points makes this the best year of his career, narrowly eclipsing his 95 in his rookie year.

New England: Tyler Digby. 72 points in 17 games, almost back to his 74 in 18 back in 2015. In fact, he had a higher points-per-game average so I’d call that a career year.

Philadelphia: Brett Hickey. Would have been a career year for Hickey, I’m sure, if he didn’t get injured after only three games.

Rochester: Pat Saunders. Only played four games.

Toronto: Dan Lintner. Played in all eighteen games and set career highs in goals, assists, points, loose balls, and CTOs.