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.

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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

Week 16 picks

5-1 last week, only missing the one game I hoped to get wrong, the Rock’s defeat of the Stealth. There are only 15 games left this year, so the worst I can finish is 47-34. Then again, I could also finish at 62-19. That might be optimistic though.

Record: 47-19 (.712)

Game
Comments
Pick
EDM @ COL If the mighty Roughnecks and Knighthawks couldn’t take the Rush down, I can’t see the Mammoth doing it. Then again, the Rush only beat the Mammoth by one last week and have already clinched everything they can clinch in the regular season. The Mammoth are at home and are still in a playoff race. But I’m still picking Edmonton. Rush
PHI @ TOR Homer pick? Perhaps but the Rock played a really good game last week, missing Garrett Billings for more than half of it. The question is whether they can adapt their offence for a full game without him. Will they ride Brandon Miller while he’s playing well, or go back to Nick Rose? Rock
VAN @ ROC Which Stealth team shows up? If it’s the one from last week, the Knighthawks should have no problem with them. If it’s not, and we end up with a good ol’ fashioned Vinc vs. Richards matchup, it’ll be a great game. Knighthawks
BUF @ MIN I imagine the Bandits are angry with their performance last weekend. Any time you get compared with a team that missed the playoffs (the 2013 Bandits), you need to step your game up and I think Troy will get that out of his team this weekend. That said, the Swarm have been playing pretty well over the last few weeks but still have managed to be on the losing end of most of them. I can see an upset here. Bandits
EDM @ CAL The Rush have had their way with the Roughnecks this season, beating them 15-8 and 15-7. Even if they lose to the Mammoth, I think the Rush will take this one. Rush43338