Top 5 surprises of 2015

We’re about halfway through the 2015 season, and many of the unusual things that always happen at the beginning of the season have sorted themselves out. Nobody’s winless. Nobody’s undefeated. Nobody’s on pace for 180 points. But as always, there are a few things left over that have not sorted themselves out. Here are the top 5 surprises at the mid-way point of the 2015 season:

 

5. John Tavares’s scoring drought

Due to injuries, John Tavares has only played 7 of the Bandits’ 13 games so far this season, but that’s not the surprising part. What’s surprising is that he only has 17 points. Tavares has averaged 5.8 points per game over 23 seasons and is not only less than half that this year, his 2.4 points per game is a drop of 3/4 of a point per game from last year.

4. Johnny Powless’s scoring drought

When Johnny Powless was brought in to Vancouver, they billed him as the Next Big Thing, the offensive superstar-to-be that was going to help them win Championship after Championship. Of course they didn’t explicitly say those things, but the implications were clear. After 10 games, Powless only has 7 goals and has only scored more than one in a game once. Not only is he nowhere near the league leaders in points, but he’s third on the team, tied with Corey Small who’s played three fewer games in a Stealth jersey. He does have 31 assists, good for 2nd on the team and 14th in the league. This is not to say Powless has been a bust in Vancouver, but if you were expecting him to light up the nets and become half of the one-two scoring punch with Rhys Duch, that’s not what’s happened.

3. Toronto not missing Billings or Doyle

Nobody would deny that Garrett Billings was one of the league’s top players over the last few years, or that Colin Doyle has been one of the best ever. So a team with a .500 record who loses those two players and replaces them both with one guy from the Vancouver Stealth scrap heap will suffer, right? Actually, just the opposite.

Doyle & BillingsI’m certainly not arguing that the Toronto Rock is a better team because they are without Billings and Doyle. But it’s safe to say that they’ve dealt with the losses rather well. The emergence of Brett Hickey has been a somewhat unexpected windfall – I say “somewhat” because Hickey has been in the top 10 in WLA scoring for the past two years, and finished 4th in scoring last year. It’s not as if nobody expected him to do well in the NLL, but Hickey’s on pace for 45 goals and 66 points. I’m sure many people are not surprised by those numbers but I was. Pleasantly.

Rob Hellyer had a breakout season in 2014 and hasn’t just continued that strong play, he’s exceeded it. Hellyer is averaging 6.62 points per game, third in the league behind Shawn Evans and Mark Matthews, and a full two points per game higher than last year. Stephen Leblanc and Kasey Beirnes are each averaging a half-point per game higher than last year, Kevin Ross is only 2 points behind Beirnes and has played 13 games compared to last year’s 2, and of course Josh Sanderson is having an outstanding year as well, on pace to be his best since 2010.

Rob Hellyer got injured this past weekend and there’s been no word on his status, but talk immediately started about the possibility of Garrett Billings returning to the team. I also heard a rumour today that Colin Doyle may be back before the year is out. But if none of those things happen and Hellyer is back by next weekend, it seems unthinkable that Billings and Doyle could sit out an entire season and not be missed.

2. Who’s not playing

You could make up a team with all the players not playing in the NLL this year for various reasons and it’d be a damn good one. The aforementioned Billings and Doyle are obviously two of the biggest names, but there are lots of others. We’ll start with Matt Beers, Kyle Sorensen, Tim Henderson, Alex Gajic, and Kyle Belton – and that’s just the Stealth. We also have Mike Grimes, Curtis Knight, Garrett Thul, Jamie Rooney, Scott Jones, Cam Flint, Jimmy Purves, Matt Roik, and half of last year’s Philadelphia Wings.

Lewis Ratcliff retired after 4 games, and Athan Iannucci was released after being benched for a few. Shawn Williams was signed by the Rock and then cut before the season began, but I happen to know that he’s been working out and keeping in shape, hoping for a phone call.

An impressive list. And that’s not even including the big-name players who retired after last year, including Ryan Ward, Tracey Kelusky, and Scott Ranger.

1. Calgary in dead last

I think the most surprising thing about the 2015 season, hands down, is the Calgary Roughnecks. They began the season 0-6 thanks in part to a brutal start by Mike Poulin, who had a GAA over 17 after three games and lost the starting goaltender’s job. It’s not as if the team was completely terrible; they lost two in OT and another by a single goal. All the time, Shawn Evans was at or near the top in scoring but neither Dane Dobbie nor Jeff Shattler exceeded 5 points in a game until their 7th or 8th game.

RoughnecksThey seem to have pulled it together since then, having won 3 of their last 5 including a 20-9 blowout of the early-peaking New England Black Wolves. Poulin has pulled his GAA down to 13.75 after a few good starts. But the team is still 3-8 so they’d have to almost run the table just to end up at .500.

No team who’s started the season 0-6 has ever made the playoffs in the NLL. But given the Stealth’s inconsistency so far and the fact that they only have to finish higher than one team in the West, it’s still not out of the question for the Roughnecks.

Week 1 picks

Here we go again! Just like I’ve done over the past couple of years, I’m posting my picks for each and every game this season. Last season I did great with my picks, ending up with a 58-23 record, or 71.6%. The previous years weren’t nearly as good. I finished the 2013 season at 33-39, or 45.8%, and the 2012 season at 31-41, or 43.1%. My percentages are getting better though, and if I jump 25.8 percentage points like I did last year, I’ll be at 97.4% which means I’ll get 2 picks wrong all season. I’m all for optimism and everything, but I’m going say that’s unlikely. Honestly, I’ll be happy if I’m over .500.

Record: 0-0 (.000)

Game
Comments
Pick
BUF @ NE I picked the Black Wolves to finish last in the East, but I kind of hope I’m wrong and they have a great season. It would be better for new fans to have a successful team – I mean, look at how the Washington Stealth’s attendance increased when they were successful! OK, bad example.

New England has a bunch of good players but no great players. With the right team chemistry, this can still bring success but it’s too much of a crapshoot so I have to pick against them at least until we get more familiar with the team.

Bandits
EDM @ BUF After the season Edmonton had in 2014, how can you pick against them? Rush
TOR @ ROC The Rock are my team and I hate picking against them, but I have to go with the three-time champs here. Once I see how the Rock offense is handling the loss of Doyle and Billings I may change my mind but for now, their offense is a bit of a question mark. Knighthawks
COL @ MIN The Mammoth have been a mystery for years. Grant, Iannucci, Jones, and Westervelt could all end up in the top 10 scoring-wise, or the team could finish 6-12. That said, I think they’re a better team than last year which is something I can’t honestly say about the Swarm. Mammoth
VAN @ CAL Vancouver got better on the offense and transition but not on defense. Calgary changed very little from the 12-6 team they had last year, so I have to go with the Roughnecks. Roughnecks

2015 NLL Predictions

My predictions for the final regular season standings as well as the major annual awards.

Final Standings

East

  1. Rochester
  2. Buffalo
  3. Toronto
  4. Minnesota
  5. New England

West

  1. Calgary
  2. Edmonton
  3. Colorado
  4. Vancouver

Individual Awards

MVP

Dan Dawson

Winner: Dan Dawson
Short list: Cody Jamieson, Ryan Benesch

Goaltender of the Year

Winner: Aaron Bold
Short list: Matt Vinc, Mike Poulin

Defensive Player of the Year

Winner: Kyle Rubisch
Short list: Chris Corbeil, Brock Sorensen

Transition Player of the Year

Winner: Jeremy Thompson
Short list: Geoff Snider, Karsen Leung, Jordan Hall

Rookie of the Year

Winner: Miles Thompson
Short list: Ben McIntosh, Chris Attwood

Les Bartley Award

Winner: Curt Malawsky
Short list: Mike Hasen, Troy Cordingley if Buffalo’s longest losing streak is 4 games or less. If the Rock can lose Doyle and Billings and still finish second or higher in the east, John Lovell should be considered as well.

GM of the Year

Winner: Terry Sanderson. This would obviously be posthumous but if the Rock does well this year, I can see it happening.
Short list: Curt Styres, Steve Govett if the Mammoth don’t tank, Chris Seinko if the Black Wolves are third or better and above .500 in the East.

2015 preview: West division

A brief look at each Western Division team, how they’ve changed from last year, and how I think they’ll do this year. For each team, I’ve picked one player that will have a breakout year and as I always do, I’ve included a haiku.


Roughnecks  Calgary Roughnecks

 

Roster Changes

Nobody has fewer roster changes than the Roughnecks. Scott Ranger has retired and Tor Reinholdt is now on the practice roster. Back are former Roughnecks Scott Carnegie and Jeff Moleski. Former MVP Shawn Evans is currently on the injured list but will apparently be ready when the season begins.

Look out for

It’s likely that Matthew Dinsdale will get a lot more playing time this season, effectively replacing Ranger on the right side. We can probably expect more than the 17 points that he picked up last year. But I think my pick for breakout season would be Karsen Leung. Leung was not one of the final three Rookie of the Year nominees, but a lot of people thought he should at least have been mentioned. Leung is an effective offensive transition player who always looks comfortable on the floor.

Prediction

First in west.

Haiku

Ranger retired
But can Dinsdale replace him?
Hey, Moleski’s back!


Mammoth  Colorado Mammoth

 

Roster Changes

Gone are Joel Dalgarno, Tye Belanger, and Mike McNamara (and Casey Powell, though he only played 5 games anyway). In are Tyler Codron, Ian Hawksbee, Alex Turner, and rookies Robert Hope and Eli McLaughlin. If Dillon Ward falters, the Mammoth backup is Alex Buque, another rookie, so that might be a bit of a concern.

Look out for

Dillon Ward will be the best Mammoth goalie since Gee Nash. Can he lead the Mammoth back to the Championship like Nash did? Not sure I’d go that far, but I predict that if they don’t make it there, it won’t be because of Ward.

Prediction

Third in west.

Haiku

Grant leads the offense
They still have three coaches, and
Hope for the future


Rush  Edmonton Rush

 

Roster Changes

Not many. Ben McIntosh and Corey Small replace Alex Turner and Curtis Knight on offense, and Tyler Carlson replaces Brodie MacDonald as Aaron Bold’s backup. Knight is injured but I don’t know for how long. As I said in my listing of roster changes, the hard part will be deciding what to do when Knight is ready to return.

Derek Keenan will also be missing the season but the Rush have not announced who will be acting head coach this year. Maybe they’ll pull a Mammoth and go with a committee of coaches.

Look out for

Corey Small was injured all of last season, so he’ll be itching to get back onto an NLL floor. And we thought the Rush were good last year.

Prediction

Second in west.

Haiku

Corey Small returns
Last year: tough act to follow
Carlson backs up Bold


Stealth  Vancouver Stealth

 

Roster Changes

Chris Hall retired in June before passing away just before Christmas so this will be a difficult and emotional season for the Stealth. Dan Perreault takes over the coaching duties with a significantly modified roster. Johnny Powless is a big addition to the offense, but they’re down Alex Gajic and Bretts Bucktooth and Hickey. The transition and defense are very different from last season, missing Grimes, Beers, Moleski, and Sorensen. This might sound like a disaster but new faces Tylers Burton and Hass, Joel McCready, and Rory Smith will help. That said, it does seem that they have lots of transition and less pure D.

Look out for

Joel McCready. “The other guy” in the Powless trade will step up for the Stealth and become a solid if unspectacular part of the offense. He won’t replace Rhys Duch as the offensive leader or anything, but he’ll be more of a reliable Kasey Beirnes kind of guy who’ll have 3 or 4 points in each game and 7 or 8 every now and again.

I’ll be the one to say it. I’m not sure Johnny Powless will be the superstar the Stealth are banking on. He’s an exciting player to watch and certainly has skill, and yes he’s won three championships, but he’s been fourth in team scoring in each of his three seasons, scoring 50, 41, and 53 points. That’s while playing with Dan Dawson and Cody Jamieson (total: 199 points last year). Vancouver’s top two scorers last year were Rhys Duch and Tyler Digby (total: 138 points). Does this change give him the freedom to become one of those top two players, or will he end up in the 50-60 point range again and remain in the second tier? My gut (which has certainly been known to be wrong) tells me it’s the latter.

Prediction

Fourth in west.

Haiku

Powless has arrived
Defense is decimated
But lots of Tylers

NLL 2015: Who’s in, who’s out

All the comings and going of each team in one handy place. I’ll do my actual team analysis and predictions and stuff later, but here are the changes from the final roster last year to the rosters just announced.

Buffalo Bandits

In: David Diruscio, Brandon Goodwin, Alex Kedoh Hill, Jerome Thompson, Nick Weiss, Mitch Wilde
Out: Glen Bryan, Jamie Rooney, Rory Smith, Kurtis Wagar, Shawn Williams, Aaron Wilson
IR: Jamie Rooney
PUP:
Holdout:
Practice Roster: Matthew Bennett, Jordan Dance, Tyler Ferreira, Corey Fowler

A couple of last-minute cuts before the deadline were the most surprising changes, as Glen Bryan and Aaron Wilson were left off the roster. Wilson immediately signed with the Knighthawks. Jerome, also known as Hiana, is the older (I believe) brother of former Bandit Jeremy as well as Minnesota’s Miles.

Minnesota Swarm

In: Mitch Belisle, Sam Bradman, Nick Cotter, Dean Hill, Brodie MacDonald, Shane MacDonald, Ethan O’Connor, Corbyn Tao, Miles Thompson
Out: Tyler Carlson, Cam Flint, Jeff Gilbert, Josh Gillam, Tyler Hass, Mike Hobbins, Scott Jones, Logan Schuss, Brock Sorensen
IR:
PUP: Matt Gibson, Josh Gillam
Holdout: Logan Schuss
Practice Roster: Ian Crawford, Marcus Holman, Joe Maracle, Patrick Miles

Lots of changes for the Swam, the biggest of which is losing Logan Schuss for the season. But Miles Thompson was not drafted third overall for no reason, and the Swarm have been pushing his presence on the team quite a bit (particularly with the cool t-shirts with “Thompson” and a pony tail on the back). Ethan O’Connor impressed with the Rock last year, and Brodie MacDonald is really tall. Mike Grimes was acquired in a trade with Vancouver but will also miss the season. Maybe he and Schuss can get together and watch the games online over a few beers… except for the fact that they will be living over 3000 kilometers apart.

New England Black Wolves

In: Tye Belanger, Kevin Buchanan, Brett Bucktooth, Mark Cockerton, Michael Diehl, Craig England, Jesse Fehr, Ryan Hotaling, Jamie Lincoln, Mike McNamara, New England fans?, Bill O’Brien, Quinn Powless
Out: Don Alton, CJ Costabile, Jordan Hall, Tracey Kelusky, Brodie Merrill, Philadelphia fans, John Ranagan, Kyle Sweeney, Garrett Thul, Ryan Ward, Chad Wiedmaier
IR:
PUP:
Holdout:
Practice Roster: Brent Adams, Sheldon Burns, Matt Crough, Josh Johnson

Twelve new players from the final Wings roster. Twelve. Out of twenty. High turnover was par for the course for the Wings, but this is crazy. Add to that a new location and new fans (and a bunch of pissed off former Wings fans) and nobody really has any idea what this team can do. Ryan Ward, Jordan Hall, Brodie Merrill, and Garrett Thul are some pretty big losses, but many of the new faces are familiar names in the NLL; guys like Buchanan, Bucktooth, Fehr, and Hotaling have all been around for a few years. Kevin and Kyle Buchanan are not related but are both good players, and having them both will confuse announcers and bloggers alike.

Rochester Knighthawks

In: Chris Attwood, Jamie Batson, Jordan Hall, Zac Reid, Aaron Wilson
Out: Mac Allen, Tyler Burton, Stephen Keogh, Joel McCready, Johnny Powless, Brad Self
IR:
PUP: Stephen Keogh, Brad Self
Holdout:
Practice Roster: Mitch Dumont, Joel Matthews, Justin Pychel, Zach Williams

Stephen Keogh

More changes to the defending 3-time champs that one might expect. Johnny Powless was traded and Stephen Keogh (pictured above) is injured to start the year, but in are Chris Attwood, who has been lighting up CLax for a couple of years, and former Bandit Aaron Wilson so even without Powless and Keogh, the Knighthawks should be OK offensively. Hall and Reid are the only transition players listed, as Brad Self also starts the year on the PUP list and Burton and McCready are out west.

Toronto Rock

In: Brandon Benn, Jamie Dawick (GM), Jeff Gilbert, Brett Hickey, Brodie Merrill, Brock Sorensen
Out: Garrett Billings, Colin Doyle, Bill Greer, Mike Lum-Walker, Ethan O’Connor, Jimmy Purves, Terry Sanderson (GM)
IR:
PUP: Colin Doyle
Holdout:
Practice Roster: Steve Fryer, Jordan Robertson, Hayden Smith, Mark White
Protected: Garrett Billings

Nobody was hit harder by the injury bug than the Rock. Garrett Billings will miss at least a month or two, and Colin Doyle is out for the year. In their place are Brett Hickey (9 games and 10 points in his career) and rookie Brandon Benn. Ouch. Not saying they’re going to fail spectacularly, but even if they play as well as we can possibly expect, they’re not Doyle and Billings. On the other hand, the defense is much bigger than last season, as the team brought the 6’4″ Jeff Gilbert back and acquired the 6’4″ Brodie Merrill and the 6’6″ Brock Sorensen. And as I asked someone on Twitter the other day, who doesn’t love a big back end?

Calgary Roughnecks

In: Scott Carnegie, Jeff Moleski
Out: Shawn Evans, Scott Ranger, Tor Reinholdt
IR:
PUP: Shawn Evans
Holdout:
Practice Roster: Connor Goodwin, Patric O’Meara, Tor Reinholdt, Tyson Roe

Almost no changes for the Roughnecks, but one of them is pretty big. Scott Ranger retired during the off-season, and with no other changes to the offense, it would appear that Matthew Dinsdale will be getting a lot more playing time this year. Shawn Evans is on the PUP list, but apparently will be ready for opening day. Scott Carnegie re-joins the Roughnecks after a year off and veteran Jeff Moleski is also back after four seasons in Washington / Vancouver. Both of those changes will help strengthen an already solid defense.

Colorado Mammoth

In: Alex Buque, Tyler Codron, Jackson Decker, Ian Hawksbee, Robert Hope, Eli McLaughlin, Alex Turner
Out: Tye Belanger, Colton Clark, Joel Dalgarno, Chet Koneczny, Cameron Mann, Mike McNamara, John Orsen, Casey Powell
IR:
PUP: Eric Law
Holdout:
Practice Roster: Colton Porter, Mike Woods

For me, the biggest surprise for the Mammoth was the release of Joel Dalgarno. He’s no John Grant but chipped in a decent 42 points last season. Alex Turner joins from Edmonton (by way of Minnesota who actually traded for him and then released him days later), and rookies Jackson Tyler and Eli McLaughlin will also be on the Mammoth front lines. I imagine Casey Powell has retired from the NLL; he’s not on the roster, the holdout list, the PUP list, or any other Mammoth list I could find. He only played 5 games last season so it’s not a devastating loss. Tyler Codron and Ian Hawksbee both return to the NLL after missing two seasons (Hawksbee played one game in 2013), and Robert “don’t call me Bob” Hope is a highly-touted defender.

Edmonton Rush

In: Tyler Carlson, Ben McIntosh, Corey Small
Out: Curtis Knight, Brodie MacDonald, Alex Turner
IR:
PUP: Curtis Knight, Jarrett Toll
Holdout:
Practice Roster: Mitch Banister, Mac MacGrotty, Tyler Melnyk, Adam Shute

As you might expect from a team that went 16-2, not a lot of roster changes. Curtis Knight was injured during the off-season and Alex Turner was traded, but Corey Small is returning after missing all of last year, and Ben McIntosh was the first overall draft pick, so that could be a wash. The tough part will be deciding who to drop when Knight returns. The only other change is a swap of backup goalies: Tyler Carlson is in from Minnesota while Brodie MacDonald joins the Swarm.

Vancouver Stealth

In: Tyler Burton, Brandon Clelland, Tyler Hass, Bradley Kri, Joel McCready, Mitch McMichael, Eric Penney, Dan Perreault (coach), Johnny Powless, Rory Smith, Caleb Wiles
Out: Matt Beers, Cody Bremner, Brett Bucktooth, Alex Gajic, Mike Grimes, Chris Hall (coach), Brett Hickey, Jeff Moleski, Matt Roik, Kyle Sorensen, Nick Weiss
IR:
PUP:
Holdout:
Practice Roster: Kyle Belton, Conrad Chapman, Cody Hadegorn, Matt Delmonico

Lots of changes for the last-place Stealth. The biggest is Johnny Powless, who they have been pushing as their team superstar. Wonder how Rhys Duch feels about that. Joel McCready wasn’t just a throw-in in that deal though; he, Tyler Hass, and Tyler Burton (giving Vancouver 5 of the 7 Tylers in the league) combine with Ilija Gajic and Tyler Garrison for a pretty strong transition core. Rory Smith adds grit to their defense, and Eric Penney supplants Matt Roik as Tyler Richards’ backup.

Division Finals picks

Once again, I didn’t write up my picks before game time. Oops. That pesky job got in the way.

If you were to tell me after I made my picks last week that I’d go 1-1, I’d have assumed I got the Edmonton game right and got my Buffalo prediction wrong, since that was the one I was less confident about. Of course, I nailed that one and got Edmonton / Calgary wrong. I guess I’m expecting a couple of mini-games this weekend.

Final regular season record: 58-23 (.716)
Record: 2-2 (.500)

Game
Comments
Pick
CAL @ EDM I think it would really be a shame if Edmonton didn’t win the Championship after the season they’ve had. But I doubt Calgary shares that feeling, and as we’ve seen twice in the past few weeks, the Roughnecks have the ability to beat the Rush. But I haven’t bet against the Rush at all this year, and I’m not starting now.
Note that I announced this pick on Monday’s Addicted to Lacrosse show. The fact that the score is 9-2 Edmonton early in the second quarter as I write this is not related.
Rush
BUF @ ROC Rochester’s offense seemed disoriented or something last weekend while Buffalo’s defense was very strong. I can see the latter continuing this weekend but not the former. The Knighthawks will come out strong and make sure they get to their third straight Championship game/series. Game 2 might be a serious blowout. Knighthawks

Division finals game 1 picks

I usually “announce” my weekly picks on the Addicted to Lacrosse show on Monday nights, but not this week. I had network problems during the show and wasn’t able to re-connect in time, so I never had a chance. I’m quite unsure about my picks this week though, so perhaps that’s for the best.

Final regular season record: 58-23 (.716)
Record: 1-1 (.500)

Game
Comments
Pick
EDM @ CAL The age-old question: which will prevail – a strong offense or a strong defense? This season, the answer is clearly the latter as Edmonton’s D has stifled everyone. The Rush have dominated the Roughnecks this season, though Calgary is one of only two teams to have beaten them. But I’m sticking with the Rush. rush
ROC @ BUF I just have a gut feeling about this game. The Bandits came off of an 8 game losing streak to beat the Rock, and they looked pretty good doing it. I think that renewed confidence along with 19000+ very loud people in Buffalo will push the Bandits to play well again and sneak by the Knighthawks. Not sure that I’m picking the Bandits to win the series though. bandits

Pre-season predictions revisited

As I always do at the end of the season, it’s time to look at my predictions from the beginning of the season and see how far off I was. Since the actual award winners won’t be announced until the end of August (?!?!) I obviously can’t include those, but I’ll include who I think should win.

Final Standings

East

Prediction Actual
Rochester Rochester
Toronto Toronto
Buffalo Buffalo
Minnesota Philadelphia
Philadelphia Minnesota

3 correct out of 5. Philly did a little better than I expected and Minnesota did far worse.

West

Prediction Actual
Calgary Edmonton
Vancouver Calgary
Edmonton Colorado
Colorado Vancouver

0 correct out of 5. Obviously Edmonton was much better than I thought and Vancouver much worse.

Individual Awards

MVP

Prediction: Garrett Billings. Short list: Cody Jamieson, Mark Matthews

My Choice: Cody Jamieson. On episode 17 of Addicted to Lacrosse, I picked Billings as MVP, but I’m rethinking that decision now. The Rock went 3-0 down the stretch without Billings, so it’s hard to argue that he’s more valuable to the team than anyone else is to their team. That said, nobody stands out as having been head and shoulders above anyone else. I’m going with Jamieson because he’s not only the top scorer on the team and in the league, but because he’s been the face and de facto leader of the Knighthawks since coming into the league.

 

Goaltender of the Year

Prediction: Matt Vinc. Short list: Tyler Richards, Aaron Bold

My Choice: Aaron Bold. Lowest-ever GAA, 15 wins, 3rd best save % in the league. Made almost 200 fewer saves than Anthony Cosmo, but faced almost 240 fewer shots. That’s how good Edmonton’s defense was this year.

 

Defensive Player of the Year

Prediction: Kyle Rubisch. Short list: Mike Grimes, Rory Smith

My Choice: Kyle Rubisch. You could also make arguments for Rubisch’s teammates Brett Mydske and Chris Corbeil.

 

Transition Player of the Year

Prediction: Geoff Snider. Short list: Jesse Gamble, Brad Self

My Choice: Jeremy Thompson. I’ve talked about Thompson many times before. There’s seemingly nothing he can’t do – he can score, play defense, take faceoffs, fight, and run like the wind. And he has a cool tattoo on his back and ponytail and he’s a movie star. You could make an argument for Corbeil here too.

 

Rookie of the Year

Prediction: Robert Church. Short list: Logan Schuss, Jason Noble, Cody Bremner, Karsen Leung

My Choice: Tough one. Church, Schuss, Tyler Digby, Dillon Ward, and Leung have all had very good rookie seasons, but I think I’m going to go with Schuss with Dillon Ward as a strong #2. Ward gave the Mammoth the reliable goaltender they haven’t had since the Gee Nash days.

 

Les Bartley (Coach of the Year)

Prediction: Chris Hall. Short list: Troy Cordingley, Derek Keenan

My Choice: Derek Keenan. Half-way through the season I was wondering how to pick between Keenan and Cordingley but the last half of the season made that decision a little easier.

 

GM of the Year

Prediction: Steve Dietrich. Short list: Doug Locker

My Choice: Derek Keenan, partially because of the players he picked up at the draft (Church, Loewen, Sorichetti all played big roles this year), and partially because of the moves he’s made over the last couple of years. Keenan has turned the worst team in the league to one of the best the league has ever seen.

 

Just realized that other than MVP, every one of my choices was for Edmonton.

 

“Watch Out For…”

In each of my team previews, I added a “Watch out for” section for a player that I thought would have a great year. I was even right on a couple.

Rochester: Joe Walters. I said he “could emerge as their #3 scorer”. Ended up as #5 but his 41 points eclipsed his 33 from last year.

Philadelphia: Kevin Crowley. 71 points in his first season, 72 in his second, 75 this year. The Wings don’t really have a team leader, and I though maybe Crowley would make an effort to pick up the unofficial title, like Jamieson has done with the Knighthawks, but he didn’t even lead his team in scoring.

Buffalo: Ryan Benesch. Not one of Benny’s best seasons but not much different from the numbers he was putting up in Minnesota. Of course, you’d expect a 12.5% increase in points since there were 12.5% more games, but that didn’t seem to be true for most players.

Toronto: Kyle Belton. Sort of right. He had a good season and was traded for Brandon Miller.

Minnesota: Kiel Matisz. Totally missed this one. Matisz fell from 63 points in his rookie season to only 36 in 2014. Goals dropped by 7 but assists dropped by 20. Maybe he was used more as a transition guy than offense and so his numbers dropped, or maybe it was just that the Swarm couldn’t score so there were fewer assists to be had.

Edmonton: Curtis Knight. Nailed this one. Jumped from 46 to 72 points, second on the Rush and there were a number of times that I felt he was more the quarterback of their offense than Matthews was.

Colorado: Sean Pollock. 51 points, exactly the same as last year. Not a superstar but definitely one of the important parts of the Mammoth offense.

Calgary: Curtis Dickson. He had 3.88 points per game last year, and bumped that to an even 4. Nominal increase but not the big jump I thought we might see. Still a pure goal-scorer; Dickson has never had more assists than goals in a season.

Vancouver: Lewis Ratcliff. Yeah, not so much. After a mid-season benching, Ratcliff came back with a vengeance, picking up 6 and 8 points in his next two games. But then he averaged just over 2 points over the last 5. His 55 points were the lowest of his career since his debut season with the Roughnecks in 2003.

Week 18 picks

Can you believe it’s already the last week of the regular season? The Rush won’t have a perfect season and they’ve already set the NLL record for wins in a season with 15, but while everyone’s been focused on the Rush, Rochester has quietly picked up 13 wins themselves. At the other end of the spectrum, Minnesota has 13 losses with one game left, while Vancouver has 12 losses and 2 games left. Both teams could hit 14 losses, though that wouldn’t be the record. Both the 2004 Anaheim Storm and the 2006 Edmonton Rush went 1-15. Not pointing any fingers here, but Cam Bergman and Teddy Jenner were members of both of those teams.

Record: 53-23 (.697)

Game
Comments
Pick
VAN @ EDM If Vancouver plays like they can play, they could give Edmonton some trouble. But if they play like they have been playing most of this season, it won’t even be close. Rush4
ROC @ BUF Buffalo is bound to end their losing streak at some point, and they are playing for home floor advantage in the first round, but the Knighthawks are just too strong. Knighthawks5
COL @ PHI Philly is out and so has nothing to play for but pride. I’m sure they’d like to put on a good show for their fans but the playoff-bound Mammoth are getting ready to take on the Roughnecks. Mammoth4
TOR @ MIN The Rock have a 3 game-winning streak going, and both Brandon Miller and Nick Rose have played very well in the last few games. The Swarm have only beaten two teams this year and the Rock ain’t one of them. It’s hard to pick the upset in this case. Rock5
CAL @ VAN Sorry Stealth fans, I think you’re going 0-2 this weekend. If that happens, it’ll be the Stealth’s second 5-game losing streak of the season. Roughnecks

Week 17 picks

I went 3-2 last week, missing Colorado going where no team had gone before, and Minnesota’s upset of Buffalo (though I did say “I can see an upset here”). I have broken the magical barrier of 50 correct picks out of 71, and now I’m going for 60 out of 81. I’m still ahead of everyone in the IL Indoor crew, though Bob Chavez is only one game behind me. The worst I can finish is 50-31, almost twenty games above .500. Trust me, nobody is more stunned by that than I am. Well, maybe one person.

Record: 50-21 (.712)

Game
Comments
Pick
BUF @ TOR Might be a homer pick again, but the Rock played well without Billings last weekend, and the thought of jumping over the Bandits for second place (not that this one win would do that) is probably quite alluring. Then again, the Bandits are desperate to avoid another six-game losing streak. Rock
BUF @ ROC If this was the Bandits from the first half of the season, this would be a tough call. But the Bandits from the second half of the season are quite a different team. Read an article saying that the Bandits have been hit by a “flu bug” so that won’t help them either. Knighthawks
COL @ MIN Colorado is in the playoffs if they win or if Vancouver loses, but I imagine the Mammoth want to get in themselves. Minnesota has nothing to play for since they’re already out, so they might be in “let the young kids get some playing time” mode. Mammoth
CAL @ EDM Edmonton’s had their way with Calgary this year (winning all 3 games by a combined score of 45-26). The Rush face the Stealth next week so I see them going 17-1. Rush
PHI @ VAN The Stealth have a chance at the playoffs but it’s pretty faint. But if they don’t play their hearts out trying to make the most of that chance, then they don’t deserve to be in the playoffs anyway. Stealth