Shawn Evans: MVP? Maybe not

Shawn Evans has had an excellent 2015 NLL season. That’s unquestionable. But is he the league’s MVP? Some would argue yes, others may disagree. The Roughnecks are certainly campaigning in that direction. But you can’t just look at the points and assists records, there are other things to take into consideration. Let’s examine the pros and cons:

Pro: Outstanding offensive numbers:

  • Set a new record for points in a season with 130
  • Tied record (set the day before) for assists in a season with 83
  • 6th in league in goals (48), 1st in shorthanded goals (5)

Con: Some numbers not so great:

  • Only 4 power play goals, second-lowest among Calgary forwards
  • Only one forward (Cody Jamieson) spent more time in the penalty box
  • 0 face-off wins
  • 0 saves

Pro: Team player: led his team from 0-6 start into the playoffs

Con: Is he really a team player? He played ZERO games as backup goalie. Corbyn Tao has him beat there.

Pro: Three cute daughters, including twins born last year

Con: That was last year. Nothing this season. Plus, his wife arguably did most of the work

Pro: Already has his name on the trophy so getting the engraving spelled correctly won’t be an issue

Con: Already has his name on the trophy. NLL doesn’t like to give the MVP award to the same player more than once

Pro: First in every category among Shawns in the league.

Con: Middle of the pack among current or former NLL players named “S. Evans”, when listed alphabetically

Pro: If the other team has quick transition, can play pretty good defense

Con: Steals valuable playing minutes from Roughneck defenders

Pro: Proved that you don’t need to be big to be a great offensive player

Con: Josh Sanderson proved that years before

Pro: Good lookin’ dude.

Con: No cool braid like the Thompson boys.

 

Hmmmm… looks like the jury’s still out.

 

How do you say no to that?

(Photo credit: 120 Sports)

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NLL players and their alternate careers

We all know that NLL players frequently have other jobs outside of being a lacrosse player. A number of them are teachers or firefighters. Former Toronto Rock players Dan Ladouceur and Bob Watson are police officers. There are white-collar and blue-collar workers. There are university and college students. And there are entrepreneurs who run their own businesses.

But some of the players external jobs are a little more unusual. For example, everyone knows that legendary Bandits forward and captain John Tavares is also the captain of the the New York Islanders in the NHL. Here are a few others you may not have known about.

Buffalo’s Shawn Williams is also a safety on the Cincinnati Bengals.

Rock captain Colin Doyle is not only a part-time lacrosse goaltender but also a full-time soccer goaltender in Ireland.

2012’s Rookie of the Year Adam Jones is a very busy guy. Not only does he play with Shawn Williams on the Bengals as both a cornerback and a video game character, but he also plays center field with the Baltimore Orioles in the summer, and in whatever spare time he has left, he’s the guitar player for the band Tool.

Jones is not the only part-time musician in the NLL; Buffalo’s Anthony Cosmo is the former rhythm guitar player of the band Boston, Bob Snider is a folk musician, and both Shawn Evans and John Grant are singer-songwriters. Both Snider and Grant look older with beards.

Calgary’s Andrew McBride does a little bodybuilding on the side. See his picture on the right. Hair makes a big difference in his case as well – he looks quite different with the short hair and without the ‘stache.

Edmonton forward Mark Matthews is a glass artist while teammate Jeremy Thompson is a former football player, having played for the Green Bay Packers back in 2008.

Toronto goalies Nick Rose and Brandon Miller are also both former football players. In 2013, Rose was a kicker for the University of Texas Longhorns, while Miller is a defensive end who’s played for the Falcons and Seahawks.

Paul Dawson has a Ph.D. in food science and when not protecting the Knighthawks from opposing forwards, he’s either teaching food and nutrition at Clemson University or producing hip hop artists under the name “Hollywood Hot Sauce“.

The most famous aside from Adam Jones is likely Vancouver forward Cliff Smith, who made a name for himself as rapper and producer Method Man before chucking it all for the relative obscurity of pro lacrosse.

And the oddest of them all: When Rochester’s Jordan Hall isn’t playing lacrosse, he transforms into a building, spending his time hosting concerts in Boston.

The twelve days of Christmas – NLL style

On the twelfth day of Christmas, George Daniel gave to me:

Twelve behind-the-back passes
Eleven goals against
Ten minute misconduct
Nine home games
Eight second rule
Seven big defenders
Six goals for socks
Five for fighting
Four air Gait’s
Three loose balls
Two guys named Dawson
And a seven-year CBA!

Merry Christmas to all from NLL Chatter!

Christmas

Let the trash-talking begin

I love me some trash talk. But it’s even better when it’s this early in the pre-season since I’m getting pumped about the upcoming season, so it’s good to see the players are too. Usually when you see trash talk, it’s game-related, but since the players are all friends off the floor, it doesn’t have to be. We even see some between teammates.

Here’s one twitter exchange between Buffalo Bandits David Brock and Kurtis Wagar:

BrockTweetWagarTweet

And another that began with Shawn Evans wishing his former Knighthawks teammate John Grant a happy birthday. Grant’s response was funny, but Curtis Dickson’s was even better:

EvansTweet

GrantTweet

DicksonTweet

The secret clauses of the new CBA

As we all know by now, the NLL and PLPA have reached an agreement on a new CBA. A number of parts of the agreement have been released by the league, but not all.

The document itself is not available to the public (I asked), but I managed to get my hands on a copy. Here are some of the parts of the document that were not included in the NLL’s press release.

  • Rosters are cut from 23 to 20 players. Teams will dress 18 players instead of 20 per game. In addition, pizzas ordered for the team will contain no more than three toppings, or two toppings plus extra cheese. The equipment manager will go and pick up the pizzas to avoid delivery charges.
  • The requirement for each team to have at least five players from their home state or province has been dropped, at the request of the Minnesota Swarm and Colorado Mammoth.
  • League expansion will be considered, but prospective owners are warned that the league will not consider expanding to a city that has more than six or seven previous failed NLL teams.
  • Conference finals and Champions Cup finals will be decided by a two-game series with a 10-minute “mini-game” if the games are split. Wait, that’s not a joke, that’s actually in there.
  • Ontario-based players who want to finish their career with the Toronto Rock must fill out a form available from the Commissioner explaining in 500 words or less why they would be a good fit for the Rock. They must then apply in person at the TRAC where they will meet with both Jamie Dawick and Terry Sanderson for interviews. Wristband policy is in effect.
  • GMs who make trades that include nothing but draft picks where all of the picks are third round or later will be assessed a two-minute Waste of Freaking Time penalty.
  • Players over 30 (down from 32) with enough NLL experience can opt for free-agency. Except if a team designates them a Franchise Player, in which case they can’t. Except if they are over 34 and reject the Franchise Player designation, in which case they can. Except if the team designates them a Special Franchise Player, in which case they can’t. The next CBA will contain the ability for the player to reject the Special Franchise Player designation.
  • The regular season is extended by two games, and the playoffs will consist of as many as five games for the Championship winner, up from three. This should have the desired effect of extending the NLL season a little further into the MLL season. [This entry has a handwritten note next to it which says “make sure that last sentence is removed before this document is released to anyone”]

Behind the scenes at the 2013 NLL Entry Draft

Just like last year, I attended the 2013 Entry Draft in Toronto, and like last year I managed to record the draft as it really happened, not what was broadcast after the fact. Here’s the transcript of what they don’t want you to hear:


George Daniel: Good evening and welcome to the 2013 National Lacrosse League entry draft, held here at the beautiful Toronto Rock Athletic Centre in Oakville. Thanks to Jamie Dawick and the whole Toronto Rock crew for hosting this event and yesterday’s combine. And thanks also for all the Toronto Rock branded swag you provided. However as the commissioner, I’m not really supposed to wear stuff with one team’s logo, so I’ll have to return the T-shirts and polo shirts and hats and lanyards and sweat pants and shorts and socks and jackets and toques and mitts and scarves and the parka.

Draft 2013Jamie Dawick: But you can keep the boxers, since nobody will know you’re wearing them!

Daniel: Good point! All right, let’s move on to the first pick. John, you’re up.

John Arlotta: Thanks George. With the first pick, the Minnesota Swarm pick…. Mark Matthews!

Daniel: That ain’t funny, man.

Derek Keenan: Well, it’s a little funny.

Arlotta: OK, sorry. Couldn’t resist. I think everyone knows this already, but we’ll take Logan Schuss.

Daniel: Great. Once again, the Minnesota Swarm is on the clock. I have a feeling I’ll be saying that a lot this evening.

Arlotta: With the second pick, we’ll take Jason Noble. Hey, did you know he has a twin brother who’ll be available next year? We should totally try and get him too. How cool would that be – twin brothers on the same team? That’s probably an NLL first.

Daniel: I don’t know… I have this vague memory of these twin brothers… Ah, never mind. I don’t think they were any good anyway. Steve, you’re next.

Steve Dietrich: OK. Anyone named Smith available? I have a collection.

Daniel: <looks at piece of paper in his hand> IL Indoor says no. And I meant Govett, not you. You don’t have a pick until halfway through the second round.

Dietrich: Oh right. I was just askin’.

Steve Govett: We have that Belanger guy in net but we need a solid backup. We’ll take Dillon Ward.

Bob Hamley: What about Dan Lewis? He didn’t do too badly last year and he’s young.

Govett: Who?

Daniel: The next pick belongs to the Edmonton Rush. Derek?

Arlotta: Wait, Derek! We want that pick too! We’ll give you our next pick and… um… Ryan Benesch! Oh, wait. <grabs piece of paper, looks at it for a second> Nik Bilic!

Joe Sullivan: Wait, don’t –

Keenan: Done!

Arlotta: Woo! Another first round pick!

Sullivan: John, we didn’t gain any picks. We just moved up one position. And we lost a good player to do it.

Arlotta: But… first round!

Sullivan: Never mind. George, we’ll take Cam Flint.

Daniel: Right. Derek, it’s your turn, unless Mr. Arlotta…

Arlotta: <looks at Joe Sullivan>

Sullivan: <shakes head>

Arlotta: <head drooping> No.

Keenan: Well, we’re pretty weak with lefty offensive players, so maybe we’ll… Oh wait, no we’re not because we have Mark Freakin’ Matthews! So we’ll take a strong righty like Robert Church. Hey George, you may as well just give us the Championship Trophy now. It’ll save time.

Curt Styres: Now wait just a second there.

Daniel: Come on Derek, you know it doesn’t work like that anymore. Remember those years we gave it to Calgary before the playoffs and had to take it back? Let’s play the season first.

Keenan: Whatever.

Daniel: Speaking of Calgary, Mike, it’s your turn.

Mike Board: Thanks for bringing that up George. You made Curt cry. It’s OK Curt, he didn’t mean it. How about if I get Tor Reinholdt for you? Would that make you feel better?

Curt Malawsky: <silently nods>

Board: All right then, we’ll take Tor Reinholdt.

Daniel: Sorry Curt, I did promise I wouldn’t bring that up again, didn’t I? Let’s just put that behind us and move on. Back to John.

Arlotta: Another first round pick! This is so exciting. Joe, pick someone.

Sullivan: All right, we’ve got offense with Schuss, defense with Noble, and transition with Flint. Back to offense, so we’ll take Scott Jones.

Daniel: OK, we’re over to the Vancouver Raven- sorry Doug. I keep doing that. It’s the Washing- sorry again. I’ll get this right. The Vancouver Stealth.

Doug Locker: No problem George, took me a few days to get over it. With the 8th pick, the Washing- um, I mean the Vancouver Stealth will take Cody Bremner. George, you can edit that out in post anyway, right?

Daniel: Yes, nobody is listening to this part. When we go live I’ll fix it up. Terry, you have the last pick of the first round.

Terry Sanderson: Hey, that guy at the back there that looks kind of like a cross beween Dion Phaneuf and Paul Rabil? We’ll take him. Great lacrosse player plus Toronto hockey captain? How can you go wrong?

Dion+Paul=EthanBruce Urban: Paul who? Never heard of him.

Derek Keenan: Yes you have, remember last year when we did that deal with Vancou- I mean Washington?

Urban: NEVER HEARD OF HIM.

Daniel: OK, what’s your name, son?

Ethan O’Connor: I’m Ethan O’Connor, sir. But why is everyone getting confused on the location of the Stealth?

Daniel: Welcome to the NLL, Ethan.


This should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway. This is entirely fictional and tongue-in-cheek. I am not implying in any way that George Daniel, John Arlotta, Steve Govett, or any of the other NLL executives are anything less than intelligent professionals with far more lacrosse knowledge than I could ever hope to have. It’s just funnier if we pretend they’re not.

Welcome to the NLL 2023 season!

Welcome back! We’re back for the 12th year of NLL Chatter, as we get ready for the 2023 NLL season. We’ve had a busy off-season with some trades, free agent signings, and for the first time in six years, league expansion so there’s lots to talk about. Let’s get to it!

Expansion

The NLL is now the biggest it’s ever been, with the 13th and 14th teams joining for this season. For the first time since 1999, the NLL will have a team in Baltimore, as the Lightning join the Eastern division. Too bad the old Baltimore Thunder name wasn’t still available, as the Mammoth still own that, but Lightning is a pretty good homage to the old Baltimore team. In the West, the Victoria Islanders join their British Columbia cousins in Vancouver. The league announced that only two of the expansion bids would get a team this year, and the Baltimore bid was pretty much a lock, but I thought the Winnipeg one had a better shot than Victoria. The announcement that the Islanders were joining was a little surprising, but we must assume that Commissioner Jenner had good reasons for that decision.

As I said, this is the first league expansion since 2017 when the Vancouver Rough Riders and Chicago Beagles joined, just a year after the Detroit Hammerheads gave the league an even ten teams. Considering the issues the league had in the 90’s and early 2000’s with teams folding and moving all over the place, it’s amazing that the nine teams from the 2012 season (that’s all there was at the time!) are still around, though I think the Stealth might have been gone if Rhys Duch hadn’t married Dakota Fanning in 2014, thus bringing lacrosse into the national spotlight and sending the Stealth attendance through the roof.

Personnel changes

Obviously every team had some changes with the expansion draft, and there were a couple of trades as well. The most surprising was the trading of Garrett Billings from Toronto to Vancouver, so he can play closer to his hometown of Langley. Giving up seven-time MVP Billings was huge for the Rock, though receiving veterans Kiel Matisz and Johnny Powless, prospect Cam Sanderson (son of Toronto GM Josh), and two first round draft picks is a pretty good return for the only 200-point player in NLL history.

Dan Dawson joins his eleventh NLL team by signing with the Washington Stealth. At 41, Dawson can still put the numbers up, and by joining the defending Champion Stealth, he sets himself up pretty well for finally winning that first Championship. Of course, that’s what he thought when he joined the 2013 Knighthawks, the 2020 Bandits, and the 2021 Roughnecks.

In Buffalo, nothing new under the sun as John Tavares returns for his 32nd season as a Bandit, and 21st playing for head coach Darris Kilgour. Ever since Tavares had his knees, hips, ankles, elbows, and shoulders replaced with titanium joints, he’s been unstoppable, even over a 24-game season. And to think we called him “ageless” ten years ago!

Only one coaching change, as Kevin Finneran steps down as Wings coach after their first time missing the playoffs in over a decade. Another former Wing player, Brodie Merrill, takes over the reins. Merrill will try to bring the Wings back to their glory years when they won all those Championships in the 1990’s and from 2014-2018.

Predictions

In the East, I have to go with the Knighthawks in first yet again. We’ll see if Matt Vinc can break his own record of three shutouts in a season. After that, we have the Rock, Bandits, Wings, and expansion Baltimore Lightning.

The Central division will be interesting, as the Swarm try to extend their seven-year streak of finishing first, while the Mammoth, newly retooled by GM and head coach John Grant, attempt to improve on their three consecutive second place finishes. Detroit should do OK if Dane Dobbie’s switch to goaltender goes as smoothly as last year, and Chicago will probably suck again since Nick Rose’s switch to forward didn’t work out quite as well.

Defending champs Washington have to be the favourite in the West, closely followed by Edmonton and Calgary (featuring the first player-GM-head coach in NLL history, Andrew McBride), with Vancouver and Victoria duking it out for last.

This is going to be one crazy season! But it’s the NLL and it’s late October, so bring it on!