Yesterday I went over the Eastern division teams and what changes they may need before next season. Today, we’re looking to the West.
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.
On a night where the Toronto Rock celebrated Colin Doyle’s contributions to the team and honoured him by raising his jersey to the rafters of the ACC, it would have been fitting for the Rock to win the game by scoring a beautiful late clutch goal since that’s something that Doyle was known for. But they didn’t. The Roughnecks probably wouldn’t have played along and nobody on the Rock wanted to take the chance that Calgary would score the clutch goal and win. Losing on Colin Doyle night wasn’t an option, so the Rock just decide to score a bunch of goals and take the clutch-ness out of it entirely.
The ceremony to honour Doyle was well done. It wasn’t a quick “let’s get this over with” thing, but it didn’t drag on for ages either. Jamie Dawick spoke briefly about what Doyle has meant to the Rock, even long before Dawick himself arrived. Then they showed a video of some of Doyle’s best moments, a bunch of shots of him holding the Champion’s Cup, a listing of his accomplishments, and some interviews with current and former teammates and coaches. The man himself stepped up and talked for a few minutes, and was just as classy and well-spoken as you’d expect from Doyle. He thanked a bunch of people including Dawick, former Rock owners Bill and Brad Watters, all of his teammates and coaches (collectively), the Rock trainers and doctors, the fans, and his family. He also singled out a few people who are no longer with us: Terry Sanderson, Chris Hall, and Les Bartley.
If you weren’t at the ACC or watching on the live stream, head over to nlltv.com and check out the video. During his speech, one of Doyle’s daughters (cute-as-a-button 6-year-old London) noticed that she was on the Jumbotron while daddy was talking, and started to ham it up a little, dancing around, bowing and curtseying. She stole everyone’s attention away before Doyle noticed and said “Don’t encourage her!” but how could you not?
Former Maple Leaf captain Wendel Clark was also there, and helped carry the banner out before it was raised. I thought it was a little strange that he didn’t speak at all but I’m sure it was a case of “they didn’t come to see me, they came to see him“. These classy Toronto team captains stick together.
On to the game:
- Latrell Harris, Billy Hostrawser, Sandy Chapman, Challen Rogers. These guys were everywhere and did a great job of getting in the way of the Calgary offense.
- I feel like I should apologize to Billy Hostrawser. I’ve been hard on him in previous years for taking dumb penalties, and even implied that his only reason for being on the floor was to fight. But he’s turned into a damn fine defender.
- Another seven points from Tom Schreiber, who even made a couple of great defensive plays as well. Turns out the MLL MVP is a pretty good lacrosse player.
- Refereeing. I rarely call out refs because they have a very difficult and thankless job. But the whistles were out in full force in this one. If you looked at someone the wrong way, you were in the box. There was a slashing call on McArdle in the first which was not a slash. Hostrawser was called for an illegal body check that looked totally legal to me. Scott Carnegie was given a major for an illegal body check that may have been a minor but I don’t think it was a major. Carnegie also got called for tripping which was a total accident. Gamble, checking from behind. Bell, slashing. Reinholdt, slashing. It just didn’t stop. Then in the middle of the fourth, a Calgary player gave a Rock player a blatant cross check across the back just after he’d passed the ball. No call. The mind, she is boggled.
- Latrell Harris got another breakaway but couldn’t bury it. I think he’s 1 for at least 5 on such breakaways this year. But his defense is good enough that it’s not a big deal.
- The Rock only allowed a single goal in the first half. Then they allowed NINE in the second half. Luckily the Rock offense didn’t take any time off so it wasn’t a big problem but allowing nine goals in a half is a bit concerning.
Only one other game note:
The Rock’s seventh goal was challenged because it appeared that the goal went in after the shot clock expired. The review was inconclusive. It seemed to me at the time that the order of events was:
- Rock player shoots, hits defender
- McArdle picks up ball, shoots
- Shot clock whistle sounds
- Ball enters net
- Ref signals good goal
I can’t say for sure that that’s what happened, but that’s how it looked to me. I looked over the replay on nlltv.com but the shot clock was not shown on the screen and I couldn’t hear the shot clock whistle at all, so that doesn’t clear anything up. The ref who reviewed the goal checked all of the replay views and none of them showed the shot clock either so he had no way to confirm Calgary’s suspicions. It should be technically possible to embed the shot clock and game clock time in the video itself so that either all shots from all angles have the clock displayed on the screen, or there’s some other way to determine the time from the video. This is not a small project though.
As my wife said following the game, it wasn’t as much of a blowout as it could have been, but it wasn’t really a close game either. We all know that Calgary has the offensive ability to make up 4 or 5 goals in no time flat, and in the second half they proved they could score a bunch to make it close, but on this night the Rock offense was just a little bit better.
Everyone knows that John Tavares played his entire career with the Bandits. Similarly, Blaine Manning played with nobody but the Rock, Andrew McBride with the Roughnecks, and there are a few others.
And then there are a number of other players who you might think are in the same boat because they’ve played so long with one team that you can’t think of them playing anywhere else. But they did. If you’re a long-time fan of the league, you may know all of these but I’d guess that for many of you, at least one of these will be a surprise. The first one was for me and led me to look around for more.
These are in no particular order.
Can you imagine Shattler in any jersey other than the Roughnecks? How about Bandit orange? Shattler played a single game with the Buffalo Bandits in 2006, where he picked up one assist and three loose balls. He was then traded to the Roughnecks along with a second round draft pick for Kevin Dostie. Shattler’s now in his eleventh season with Calgary, having played over 190 games and amassed over 700 points. He also won the Transition Player of the Year and MVP awards in 2011. Dostie picked up 157 points in 53 games over four seasons in Buffalo so it’s not like the Bandits got nothing back, but I’m going to call Calgary the winner on that one.
Incidentally, that second round pick that Calgary also picked up? They used it to draft Jamie Lincoln, who never played for Calgary but did see time with the Mammoth, Stealth, and Black Wolves.
Steenhuis has been a Bandit his whole life, right? Wrong. He actually played a full season with the Columbus Landsharks in 2002, picking up 30 points in 12 games. He’s since played 233 games as a Bandit.
Watson actually played for two different teams before the Rock, but one was the Ontario Raiders (who turned into the Rock after one season in Hamilton) so that doesn’t really count. But Whipper also played 268 minutes for the Baltimore Thunder in 1996, where he had a very un-Whipper-like 17.24 GAA. He took 1997 off entirely and returned to the NLL with the Raiders in 1998 and then played 13 seasons with the Rock, where he only had two seasons with a GAA above 12 (and one of them was 12.04). Oh, and two Goaltender of the Year awards, two NLL Championship Game MVP awards, six championships, and a Hall of Fame induction.
Quinlan became the face of the Edmonton Rush from 2006-2013, playing over 125 games, many of them as captain. He then became an assistant coach with the team, where he remains. Many Rush fans can’t imagine the team without Jimmy Quinlan. But Quinlan picked up 10 points in 8 games, and a Championship ring, with the Toronto Rock in 2005.
Ranger was drafted by the San Jose Stealth and actually played parts of two seasons (11 points in 9 games in 2004 and 2005) there before heading to Calgary where he picked up more than 450 points in 137 regular season and playoff games over 8 years.
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.
- New England
Winner: Mark Matthews
Short list: Shawn Evans, Dhane Smith
Dark horse: Adam Jones
Goaltender of the Year
Winner: Aaron Bold
Short list: Dillon Ward, Nick Rose
Dark horse: Frank Scigliano
Winner: Robert Hope
Short list: Ryan Dilks, Kyle Rubisch, Graeme Hossack
Dark horse: Mitch de Snoo
Transition Player of the Year
Winner: Karsen Leung
Short list: Alex Kedoh Hill, Chad Tutton, Chris Corbeil
Dark horse: Challen Rogers
Rookie of the Year
Winner: Ryan Keenan
Short list: Challen Rogers, Mike Messenger
Dark horse: Kieran McArdle
Les Bartley Award
Winner: Troy Cordingley
Short list: Derek Keenan (though you could put his name here every year)
Dark horse: Jamie Batley
GM of the Year
Winner: If the Rock are above .500 and make the playoffs, Jamie Dawick. Otherwise, Steve Dietrich
Short list: Derek Keenan (though you could put his name here every year)
Dark horse: Curt Styres or Doug Locker
This was a tough one since the Rock, Knighthawks, Swarm, and Stealth made a lot of moves but I’m not terribly confident in them. Most other teams didn’t make many at all.
Here’s a complete list of all the roster changes for each team.
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 2016.
In: Craig Point, Brad Self
Out: Chad Culp, Tyler Ferreira, Jay Thorimbert
IR: Bryce Brochu, Craig England, Adam Will
Practice Roster: Tim Edwards, Justin Martin, Kevin Orleman, Blaze Riorden
The Bandits have the fewest changes of any team in the league. They went to the finals last season, so that makes sense. Added to the lineup are veterans Craig Point and Brad Self, while Culp and face-off specialist Thorimbert head to New England and Tyler Ferreira to the rival Knighthawks.
In: Liam Byrnes, Bryan Cole, Jordan Hall, Mike Poulin, John Ranagan, Connor Sellars, Leo Stouros, Sean Young
Out: Reid Acton, David Earl, Zack Higgins, Jesse King, Jordan MacIntosh, Drew Petkoff, Johnny Powless, Joel White
IR: Jesse King, Jordan MacIntosh, Johnny Powless
Holdout: Laughlin Elder
Practice Roster: Brayden Hill, Warren Hill, Drew Petkoff, Adam Shute
A few big names start the season on the injured list for the Swarm. Newcomer Jordan Hall should help boost the offense and Mike Poulin gives the Swarm a solid #1 goalie, something they haven’t really had since… well, a long time ago in a state far, far away. Defender John Ranagan joins from New England and five rookies also made the team.
In: Chad Culp, Doug Jamieson, Seth Oakes, Reilly O’Connor, Scott Self, Matt Spanger, Jay Thorimbert
Out: Dan Ball, Tye Belanger, Phil Caputo, Jordan Hall, Stephen Hoar, Mike McNamara, John Ranagan
IR: Derek Searle
Practice Roster: Dan Ball, Connor Brown, Joel Coyle, Mitch McMichael
A couple of fairly significant changes for the Black Wolves. The versatile Jordan Hall is now in Georgia, while Jay Thorimbert and Chad Culp bring their veteran smarts from Buffalo. Reilly O’Connor also arrives from Calgary, and Scott Self helps to shore up an already-strong back end. Hopefully Evan Kirk has another strong year, since backing him up with be rookie Doug Jamieson instead of Tye Belanger. Then again, Evan Kirk’s rookie year was rather impressive so the fact that Jamieson is a rookie may not matter.
In: Josh Currier, Jarrett Davis, Tyler Ferreira, Kyle Jackson, Luc Magnan, Joel Matthews, Quinn Powless, Wayne Van Every
Out: Adam Bomberry, Cody Jamieson, Mike Kirk, Mike Manley, Craig Point, Derek Searle, Brad Self, Scott Self, John Sullivan, Ty Thompson, Cory Vitarelli, Joe Walters
IR: Andrew Suitor, Cory Vitarelli
PUP: Adam Bomberry, Cody Jamieson
Practice Roster: Luke Laszkiewicz, Dan Lomas, John Rae
Lots of changes for the Knighthawks, some of them temporary. Joe Walters is out for the year after committing to the MLL. Also out is Craig Point, who only played four games last year but amassed 18 points, good for the third highest points-per-game average on the team. Jamieson, Bomberry, and Vitarelli will hopefully be returning to the lineup before long, and the oft-injured Andrew Suitor would be a welcome addition as well but also starts the year on the IR. In the meantime, Jarrett Davis returns from out west and Quinn Powless hopes to play a full season. NLL sophomores Luc Magnan and Tyler Ferreira help to strengthen a defense that is missing both Self brothers, John Sullivan, and the retired Mike Kirk.
In: Connor Buczek, Damon Edwards, Steve Fryer, Latrell Harris, Brett Hickey, Mikey MacDonald, Kieran McArdle, Challen Rogers, Tom Schreiber, Matt Sawyer (head coach)
Out: Kyle Aquin, Jamie Batson, Colin Boucher, Colin Doyle, Rob Hellyer, John Lovell (head coach), Luc Magnan, Rob Marshall, Brandon Miller, Kevin Ross, Josh Sanderson
IR: Rob Marshall, Patrick Merrill, Brandon Miller, Brock Sorensen
PUP: Rob Hellyer
Practice Roster: Jordan Magnusson, Reid Reinholdt, Brodie Tutton
Protected: Paul Rabil
Where to start?
When you lose two of the top four offensive stars of all time in the same off-season, who do you replace them with? How about Americans who have never played a box lacrosse game in their lives? Doesn’t sound like a great plan but having watched Kieran McArdle and Tom Schreiber in the pre-season, it may not be that bad. But losing Doyle and Sanderson isn’t even the biggest loss for the Rock, points-wise. Rob Hellyer scored 27 points more than Doyle and Sanderson combined in 2016, but will miss all of 2017. Brett Hickey returns from an injury that cost him the last six games of 2016, so that will certainly help, and Mikey MacDonald has looked really good in the pre-season as well.
Challen Rogers will join the returning Damon Edwards, Brodie Merrill, and Jesse Gamble to form one of the best transition units in the league. Another question is in net where Steve Fryer, with all of 60 minutes in his NLL career, replaces Brandon Miller who’s recovering from hip surgery.
Oh, and the Rock are the only team to make a coaching change this season. Seems like there isn’t much about the Rock that didn’t change.
In: Holden Cattoni, Chad Cummings, Christian Del Bianco, Riley Loewen
Out: Garrett McIntosh, Pete McFetridge, Riley O’Connor, Mike Poulin
PUP: Vaughn Harris
Practice Roster: Garrett McIntosh, Keegan Rittinger, Bob Snider
Just a couple of changes for the Roughnecks. Riley Loewen joins from the Rush replacing Riley O’Connor, who was traded due to league rules that prohibit two Rileys on the same team. Peter McFetridge is now in Vancouver and veteran goalie Mike Poulin signed with the Swarm. Frank Scigliano and second-year-player-but-still-a-teenager Christian Del Bianco will likely split the goaltending duties.
In: Greg Downing, Zack Greer, Jacob Ruest, Taylor Stuart
Out: Jackson Decker, Adam Jones, Mike Mallory, Mike Woods
Practice Roster: Brent Adams, Zach Herreweyers, Mike Mallory, Nick Ossello
One big change for the Mammoth: Adam Jones was sent to the Rush for constant scoring threat Zack Greer. Losing Jones hurts but who has Greer score the most points against in his career? The Mammoth. They’ll be glad to have him on their side for a change.
In: Matthew Dinsdale, Adam Jones, Ryan Keenan, Mike Messenger
Out: Jarett Davis, Zack Greer, John Lintz, Riley Loewen
Practice Roster: Matt Hossack, Matt MacGrottty
The best get better? Possibly. Adam Jones scored two fewer points than Zack Greer last season, but played two fewer games because of work commitments. Hopefully playing in Canada will eliminate those missed games. Ryan Keenan was the first overall draft pick for a reason, and it sounds like the Rush players are very excited about his presence. Highly-touted rookie Mike Messenger replaces John Lintz in the Rush defense.
In: Keegan Bal, Tye Belanger, Brendan Fowler, John Lintz, Pete McFetridge, Tommy McKee, Ryan Wagner
Out: Garrett Billings, Mitch McMichael, Jeff Moleski, Eric Penney, Cliff Smith, Rory Smith, Jarrett Toll
IR: Garrett Billings, Cory Conway, James Rahe, Jarrett Toll
Practice Roster: Brandon Clelland, Justin Goodwin, Evan Messenger, Eric Penney
Having Billings and Conway on the IR to start the year won’t help, but from Teddy Jenner’s interview with Conway a week or two ago, it sounded like his debut in the Stealth lineup wouldn’t be delayed for long. McMichael was traded east, Moleski retired, and Cliff Smith will miss at least part of the season due to work commitments as he attempts to start a career in law enforcement. The revolving door of Stealth goaltenders continues as Tye Belanger gets the nod as Tyler Richards’s backup.
Grabbing a solid veteran defender from a division rival isn’t easy but Doug Locker did it twice this off-season. John Lintz and Pete McFetridge will make a big difference in the Stealth back end.
Yesterday I shared some of my memories of Josh Sanderson, but I had more to say so I broke it into two articles.
Sanderson was given the nickname “Shooter” and as has been noted many times, it’s a little misleading. Make no mistake, Josh can score with the best of them – only five players have scored more NLL goals. But he’s more associated with assists than goals. He’s set the record for assists in a season several times. Only John Tavares has more in his career, and only Garrett Billings has a higher assists/game average than Sanderson.
Sanderson was best known as a “playmaker”, the quarterback of the offense. He’d watch the floor and see where the defense was setting up, who was covering who, where the goalie and defenders (and his own teammates) were weak or strong, and come up with a game plan on how to score, adjusting the plan in real time as things developed. Sometimes he’d score himself, but even more often he’d pass to someone else who’d score. Sometimes he wouldn’t end up with credit on the goal at all but was nonetheless instrumental in making it happen. He wasn’t the biggest or the fastest guy on the floor – in fact at 5’7″, he was one of the smallest. But none of that mattered, because he might have been the smartest.
Josh had played for his father Terry in Albany, Calgary, and twice in Toronto but nobody accused Terry of nepotism for acquiring him. Josh was one of the best offensive players in the game his entire career, so any GM who traded for him was getting a great player, son or not.
Congratulations to Josh Sanderson on an outstanding playing career. He was a goal-scorer, an assist master, an expert playmaker, a captain and alternate captain, a two-time NLL champ, and a Championship game MVP. He’s also a no-doubt future Hall of Famer. In various seasons he led the Rock, Roughnecks, Attack, and Stealth in scoring, and had the best Movember moustache this side of Andrew McBride.
And given that he’s the GM of the MSL’s Oakville Rock, it may not be a big stretch to say we might see Josh Sanderson back in the NLL in a different capacity before too long.