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.
Let’s see… entertaining game? Check. Home team played pretty well but lost? Check. In front of not very many fans? Check. Did I move to Vancouver without knowing it?
- I liked the Rock’s green St. Paddy’s Day jerseys. Not sure about the gold helmets.
- The Mammoth offense in general was great and scored a bunch of beautiful goals. Callum Crawford in particular scored a couple of nice ones. He tried at least two “face the other way, jump, spin, and shoot while still in the air” shots, and one of them worked.
- Early in the game, Eli McLaughlin found himself with the ball right on the edge of the crease. He faked low, waited for Rose to drop, and tossed it over him. Smart play. Then late in the second quarter, Stephen Keogh did almost the same thing, but from a little further out. He faked the underhand shot (pictured below but from a different game), causing Rose to drop again, then scored over Rose’s shoulder.
- Later on, Keogh picked up the ball in the Rock zone and was immediately triple-teamed by Rock defenders. A few seconds later, a fourth Rock defender joined the fray, but Keogh kept the ball for at least ten seconds. He even managed to get a half-decent shot off but missed the net. It looked like he was killing a penalty but he wasn’t. Given the amount of work he put in, I almost wanted him to score. I heard other Rock fans applauding him too as he returned to the bench.
- Kieran McArdle scratched again. I thought he’s played well enough recently to stay in the lineup, so perhaps he had work commitments or something.
- Only 8597 at this game. Only ten Rock home games ever have had lower attendance, and three of those have been this season.
- The Mammoth defense did a great job containing Tom Schreiber. He had nothing to shoot at all night. I put this under “not awesome” because I’m a Rock fan, but if I were a Mammoth fan, I’d have put it under “awesome”.
Other game notes
- The Rock brought out a pipe band to help celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, a day where we celebrate Ireland. What song do they play as the enter the arena? Scotland the Brave.
- There’s a big gap between the Watson and Doyle banners at the ACC. Just enough room for a third that says Veltman.
- In the fourth quarter, I tweeted the Mammoth, asking if they wouldn’t mind not scoring because the Rock were trying to tie the game. They responded by hitting the post twice on empty nets. Thanks for trying!
- Callum Crawford is becoming one of my favourite players because he’s so dynamic. He’s a great passer but can also shoot from anywhere – inside, outside, in close, from distance, even from above the goalie when he does his signature “leap in the air and then bounce it five hole from twelve feet up” move. I’m also a big Stephen Keogh fan. And Joey Cupido. And Ilija Gajic. And Dillon Ward. And Alex Buque. And… Hold on… am I becoming a Mammoth fan?
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.
The NLL is back! Actually, I’m a week late with that since almost every team played at least one pre-season game last weekend, but this is the first one I was able to see. Saturday night’s tilt at the TRAC involved the Mammoth taking on the Rock, and it was interesting to see a couple of different coaching decisions on who plays.
For the Rock, pretty much everyone in the lineup played the whole game. There were a couple of people who I think only played the second half, like Kyle Aquin and Brodie Tutton, and one or two who I didn’t see at all, like Reid Reinholdt and Damon Edwards (who I was looking forward to seeing again), but I think most who played at all played the whole thing. Starting goaltender Nick Rose played the first three quarters while Steve Fryer played the fourth. Brandon Miller wasn’t even listed on the roster. There were a couple of major Rock retirement announcements this summer, but I don’t think I missed any…
The Mammoth had a slightly different approach, as Zack Greer, Ilija Gajic, and Callum Crawford didn’t play at all (though I saw Crawford at the rink), and John Grant only played the first half. Starting goaltender Dillon Ward was also in the building but didn’t play at all; Zak Boychuk and Alexis Buque split the goaltending duties.
It was an entertaining game – back and forth in the first half and then the Rock pulled away and the Mammoth never really got back into it. But as we all know, it’s the preseason so coaches care less about whether they win or lose the game and more about what they see from their players. The game was intense enough to look like a regular season game. There were no fights and few penalties, but the players were playing hard.
Sorry Mammoth fans, but I did pay a little more attention to the Rock, as I tend to do. Toronto’s offense looked good, even without Josh, Colin, and Rob Hellyer. It was great to Brett Hickey back in form, and Kasey Beirnes continues to be one of the hardest-working forwards in the game. Stephen Leblanc played, but I didn’t really notice him all that much. That may be unfair though, since I was mainly concentrating on the new guys, Mikey MacDonald, Tom Schreiber and Kieran McArdle. MacDonald had a cup of coffee with the Black Wolves last year, only picking up one assist in two games, but has had a great preseason with the Rock. Not sure he’ll be another Brett Hickey, scoring 50 goals out of nowhere, but should be a welcome addition to the front end.
Schreiber looked good, a big bull-in-a-china-shop kind of guy. He wasn’t worried about going around defenders or finding an open lane, he’d just push through and make an open lane for himself. He was working hard but that said, he couldn’t hit the net. He must have had 10-12 shots but most missed the net entirely and I don’t think he scored any.
I was really impressed with McArdle. He scored a couple, at least two on passes from Schreiber, but had a mittful of assists as well. He really looked comfortable in the offensive end and made some really dynamic plays, impressive for someone so new to the box game. (Not that field lacrosse players don’t make dynamic plays, but they’re different.) At one point in the second, he took a shot which missed the net, grabbed the rebound and shot again, and then grabbed that rebound and shot again. Three shots in about five seconds.
Another new face I was watching was draft pick Challen Rogers. Rogers is a big, solid defender but also has some speed up the floor on transition. I liked what I saw from Rogers, which was a lot since he was everywhere and seemed to get a lot of floor time. With Rogers, Gamble, Edwards, and Brodie Merrill (who, at 35, still has some serious speed), Toronto’s transition could match up against anybody’s.
For the Mammoth, I did notice Greg Downing a lot, and Jeremy Noble played a lot as well. Noble made an outstanding interception of a Nick Rose outlet pass, jumping and stretching his 5’9″ frame as far as it would go. Don’t remember if it led to a goal, but was a great play nonetheless. John Grant only played the first half, but scored three including a patented over-the shoulder shot. There are times every now and again when Grant seems to be able to simply score at will, or almost force plays to happen the way he wants them to. There was a 3-4 minute span in the second quarter where he seemed in total control. He’s the oldest player in the league, three years older than the next oldest and ten years older than his next oldest teammate, but after all this time, he’s still John Grant.
- At one point Challen Rogers was defending John Grant, and Grant spun away from him and scored. Rogers looked frustrated for losing him but as I tweeted to him at the time, don’t worry about it. He beats everybody.
- Jordan Magnusson seemed to get a lot of floor time, and I thought he played hard and looked pretty good. Latrell Harris made some good plays but at other times looked lost, as if he wasn’t sure who to defend or what to do.
- Dan Lintner’s second goal was a beautiful reverse backhand sort of thing. Lintner also looked good though now that I think about it, I don’t remember seeing him in the second half.
- Nick Rose must have been working on outlet passes in the offseason. He’s really becoming a master. He’s no Bob Watson yet, but was pretty accurate on passes to teammates up near centre.
- You know how you see players chewing on their mouth guards while on the bench or between plays? Rogers was chewing on his during play. Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of the thing in the first place?
- Alexis Buque played really well in the second half, making a few outstanding saves. He didn’t look like someone trying to make the team as a backup goalie, he looked like he wanted that starter’s job.
I tried a “liveblog” last weekend and it was kinda fun, so I’ll try it again. I guess it’s similar to twitter in that I basically enter my thoughts as I have them, but this gets recorded all together.
This will be a little different though since I can’t actually watch the game. I’m at my parents’ cottage for the weekend and not only do they not get TSN2, their internet connection is maxed out for the month so I can’t watch the game online without serious overage charges. I set my phone up as a hotspot so I can get internet but I’m almost over on my phone’s data plan as well so I can’t stream the game that way either.
So I’m “watching” the game through twitter and Pointstreak. This might make the liveblog a little different since there are sometimes long pauses between updates. I also didn’t start until halftime so this will only be the second half.
- The Georgia / New England game yesterday (which I also didn’t see) was close throughout and ended in OT. Could we see another OT game tonight? That would be pretty awesome, at least for those watching it. And not bad for those of us who write weekly Money Ballers columns.
- Raptors won tonight! Up 2 games to 1 over the Heat. I will freely admit that I’m on the Raptors bandwagon now that they’re in the playoffs. I’ve watched more Raptors games on TV (and listened on the radio) more times in their 10 playoff games this years than in the entire regular season.
- Game on yet? Nope.
- The PVR is on but the TV is off. I think my mom is recording something.
- Looks like the game is starting again.
- Cam Holding got a holding penalty. I made a joke about this on @NLLFactOfTheDay a couple of years ago.
- Shorthanded goal for Calgary! Curtis Dickson. I should do an article about the players in the league who are the most fun to watch. He’s near the top of that list. Tyler Richards would likely be there too. Not only is he a great goaltender who makes some outstanding acrobatic saves, but when he gets ticked off he’s very entertaining.
- I need a snack. There are some peanuts in the kitchen, maybe I’ll have those.
- It’s Mother’s Day tomorrow. Must remember to pick up a hanging basket for my wife on the way home tomorrow. I always get her a fuchsia for Mother’s Day.
- Seems to have been a long time since the last update.
- The Roughnecks just tweeted that they are on a power play. I refreshed the Pointstreak page to find that the Roughnecks took three penalties at the same time a couple of minutes later and avoided giving up a penalty shot because the Mammoth took one too.
- Adam Jones scored on the PP. Tie game again!
- And then Dickson scores again. Roughnecks lead
- Is that a bug on the wall over there? Oh no, it’s a screw where a picture used to hang. Maybe we’ll get my folks another picture to hang there for their anniversary in July.
- End of the third, 7-6 for the Roughnecks. Low scoring close game. Probably amazing to watch, but following along on Twitter is fine. Just fine.
- I love the banter we’ve seen recently between the team accounts on Twitter. Even the Knighthawks got into it despite the fact that they’re out of the playoffs.
- Jeremy Noble scores for the Mammoth, and we’re tied again.
- Jones again and the Mammoth have the lead!
- Haven’t heard John Grant’s name much. Checked Pointstreak – he has TWELVE shots and no goals. Noble has four goals on only seven shots.
- Dickson again for Calgary. He’s the only Roughneck who’s scored in this half. Tied again.
- My four-year-old niece has finally stopped calling me “Aunty Graeme”. It was cute for a while but kinda got old. My sister thought it was pretty darn funny though.
- Digby scores for Calgary but it’s being challenged. Andrew McBride tweeted that it’s inconclusive and the call on the floor stands but I don’t know if that’s his opinion or the actual call.
- Good goal. Then Cupido scores right away and it’s tied at 9.
- Before I finished typing that, Jones scored again to give Colorado the lead.
- No updates for a while. Those peanuts were pretty good. Might have a few more. #protein
- Oh wait, hashtags aren’t used in a blog.
- McBride just tweeted that it’s “Been a well refereed game so far!” I think I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen anyone talk positively about refs during a game.
- I think it’s raining again.
- Only a handful of minutes left. No updates. <whistles>
- <more whistling>
- Under a minute left now… Calgary needs a last minute goal. If only they had a clutch goal scorer on their team.
- Guess who. Dickson scores with 25 seconds left to tie it up. I swear I wrote that bit about “if only they had a clutch goal scorer” before the goal was scored.
- This is fine. <sigh>
- OT goal-scorer predictions: Gotta go with Rosey and say Jones for Colorado and Dickson for Calgary. Though part of me thinks John Grant will step up and finish it like we’ve seen so many times before…
- John Grant has twice as many OT goals (9) since 2005 as anyone else (Duch, Evans, Tavares, Pollock have 4 each).
- F5 F5 F5 <more whistling> F5 F5 F5
- So if I’m reading this correctly, the Roughnecks won.
- Dane Dobbie with the winner and the Roughnecks are off to face the Rush. The Mammoth are now 1-8 all-time against the Roughnecks in the playoffs, but 0-7 in their last 7 meetings. The Roughnecks have knocked the Mammoth out of the playoffs in each of the last four years.
So that’s it for the first round. I didn’t get to see either game, but on the upside, I’m 2-0 in my picks so far. I also found that the new NLLTV.com thing does seem to let you watch games on replay, so maybe when I get home tomorrow I’ll watch the 4th quarter and OT of both games. Sure I’ll know the outcome but from the sounds of things, it’ll be pretty exciting anyway.