I’ve been looking forward to the upcoming Expansion Draft for months. We get to see two teams get created from scratch, which is every armchair GM’s dream. Trades and free agent signings and such are always exciting, so imagine eighteen of them all on the same day! As I’m sure many others have done, I’ve made my list of which players I would protect if I were an NLL GM. Some are obvious, some might be controversial, and there are probably a few “What are you thinking?” picks in there too. Let me know watcha think!
Recently, a Rush fan named Rob King tweeted an article suggestion:
An article I would love to see this summer is how/why each NLL franchise has the team name it does. What say you @NLL @StampLax @IL_Indoor @GraemePerrow @EvanSchemenauer @SmrtAsh @OffTheCrosseBar @sbdshanny @miawgordon @TysonLW ?????
— Rob King (@RKing85) April 23, 2018
Challenge accepted. There isn’t much of a story behind a few of them, but others are very interesting. I had a lot of fun researching this one, and I hope you enjoy these stories. I threw in a couple of “Did you knows” as I came across them.
It’s that time of year again! When some NLL players gear up for the playoffs while others dust off the golf clubs or join their MLL teams. It’s also time for the annual NLL award voting. I don’t have a vote in the NLL awards but I’ve submitted my picks for the real awards, which are of course those published on IL Indoor. In that series of articles, probably published next week sometime, I will have comments about who I picked to win so I won’t repeat them here. I will also mention my pre-season picks for these awards so we can either stare in amazement at my insight or laugh at my “insight”.
In my season preview articles (West and East), I picked a player for each team who I thought might have a breakout year, so I’ll also go over my “Look out for…” choices. Some panned out, while others were not as prescient as I might have hoped.
Well, that game had a different outcome than what I was expecting, in a number of ways. First off, I predicted a Toronto victory though I can’t say I was shocked that Georgia won. Secondly, the last three times these two teams met saw OT so I was expecting a closer game, which it was until Toronto stopped scoring. And third, given the first two minutes of the game, I didn’t expect it to be a defensive battle.
Two minutes into the first quarter, it was 2-1 Rock with the shot count sitting at 2-1 Rock. My dad came with me to this game and we joked that the game might end up 27-26. It settled down after that, and we only saw two more goals the rest of the quarter. A few minutes into the second, Toronto scored a couple more within a minute and while I wouldn’t say the Rock were in control, all facets of the team were doing well. Unfortunately for them, all facets of the Swarm game were also doing well. Then Georgia began to score and Toronto stopped. It would be over 32 minutes before the Rock scored again and by that time, the Swarm had scored six straight. The Rock scored two in the first two minutes, and then five in the next fifty eight.
The three goal deficit was certainly not insurmountable given that there was almost nine minutes left, but Mike Poulin was on his game and there was no way he was going to let the Rock back into it. Poulin was excellent, particularly in the second half, stopping almost everything that got to him. However a lot of shots never got to him, either because they were blocked or because they were never taken in the first place, and that was because of the D in front of him. I don’t know how many times a Rock forward, mostly Adam Jones, reared back to fire a bullet at the net only to pull up at the last second and pass instead because he couldn’t see the net at all.
Kudos must go to three parties on the Rock side as well:
- Nick Rose
- The Rock D
- The posts and crossbar
There were one or two goals on Rose that you might have expected him to stop, but for the most part, he was very good. He made a few sliding stops to prevent quickstick goals, something he’s getting very good at, and threw his arms up at least once to prevent a goal from behind the net. Toronto’s defense was very good as well; perhaps less effective than Georgia at actually blocking shots, but there were a lot of ball-dislodging stick checks and quick transition. However, the transition seemed to lead to a lot of ill-advised shots, perhaps from defenders trying to spark the struggling offense. No Rock transition players scored at all so the only effect it had was a lot of five-second possessions.
For the second straight night, I lost count of how many times the Swarm forwards hit posts or the crossbar. If the net was an inch wider or higher, this would have been a much higher scoring game – probably on both sides, since the Rock hit a few as well. What that means of course is that there were a bunch of shots that Nick Rose will get credit for saving even though they actually beat him. But I think the bigger problem for the Swarm is that they were putting those shots in last year and just missing them this year.
The biggest missed opportunity for the Rock was the power play. They had six power plays, scoring on none of them. In the third, they had a 5-on-4 for 45 seconds, then 5-on-3 for a minute and a half, and then 5-4 again for about three and a half minutes. They had a bunch of shots but the Poulin Wall held.
I’m a big fan of Brock Sorensen and I think he’s had a good season but he had a frustrating night. First, he had an early breakaway but while running (lumbering?) up the floor, it really looked like it took every ounce of strength he had just to continue running, and he wasn’t running that fast. It looked like he was in pain but he kept going. Then he took two penalties at the same time early in the fourth – as Pat Gregoire said on the broadcast, the holding one was fine, preventing a scoring chance, but the illegal crosscheck was unnecessary. Once he got into the penalty box, he smacked his stick against the glass in anger, which could have been another penalty (unsportsmanlike conduct – there’s a rule that specifically addresses hitting the glass with your stick in the penalty box) but the ref either didn’t see it or chose to ignore it.
Then right at the end of the fourth, Bryan Cole and Phil Caputo each took roughing penalties and while those were being announced, Ethan O’Connor was heading from the Swarm bench out onto the floor and out of nowhere, Sorensen cross-checked him to the ground. There was no obvious reason for the hit, and O’Connor stayed down on the ground for a while until he ran the ten feet to the bench and heaved his pregame meal over the boards. That’s not a good sign. The game was mostly over by that point so Sorensen’s five minute penalty didn’t matter but I wouldn’t be surprised if the league reviews that one. Sorensen may have to sit another game and think about what he did.
Other game notes:
- I saw a fan wearing a Bandits jersey – a bit weird at a Rock/Swarm game. But then I saw that it said “Orleman” on the back. Must have been a fan or family member of the Swarm’s backup goalie.
- Jordan Hall was given a game misconduct for a
nasty crosscheckillegal bodycheck to the head of Damon Edwards. If that seemed out of character, it was: it was the first game misconduct in Hall’s career. He hadn’t even had a major penalty since 2012. Update: I watched the replay and I got the penalty wrong – it was an illegal bodycheck, not crosscheck. The word “nasty” is probably not accurate either. Hall led with his shoulder, which is totally legal, but hit Edwards in the face which may be why he got the penalty. I don’t think it was worth a game misconduct though.
- Did anyone notice that when the ball was lodged in Poulin’s equipment during the fourth quarter, the clock continued to run? A good 30 seconds was lost because of that. I didn’t see it but my friend Steve noticed. Oddly though, I was unable to find it on the replay. Perhaps it was in the third quarter.
- At one point in the second quarter, Lyle Thompson must have played about five consecutive shifts. Played offense, then got caught on defense, then back to offense, another quick transition meant another defensive shift, then another on offense before he finally made it to the bench. Luckily for the Swarm he’s a very good defensive player, but I’m sure he was gassed after that.
I’ve left out the summary of offseason roster moves since that’s in my Who’s In, Who’s Out article. Here, we’ll cover where I think they will end up in the standings, who might have a breakout year, and as always, a haiku for each team. We’ll start with the East, then cover the West tomorrow.
Look out for
Obviously first-overall draft pick Josh Byrne will get a lot of floor time but if I had to pick someone else, I might go with Alex Buque. There is some debate over whether he’s ready to be an everyday starter but I think so.
Their big problem last year was defense. Improving the goaltending is a start but the Bandits didn’t actually improve the defense – in fact it doesn’t look like they even tried. With the losses of Billy Dee Smith, Andrew Watt, David Brock, and Alex Kedoh Hill, who’s going to prevent Buque from seeing 65 shots a game? Priolo and de Snoo are great but they can only do so much.
Fifth in the east.
Cosmo has retired
Crawford replaces Benesch
It’s Showtime, baby!
Look out for
Johnny Powless. Only 50 points for Powless last season, but he only played in 10 games. That would give him 90 points over 18 games. Lefty Jordan Hall will be replaced by lefty Jesse King but Jerome Thompson will be playing more transition and defense this season, which will probably result in more touches for Powless.
The offense is still top notch, but with all the top-name T/D players who are out, their defense could be shaky. They might win a number of 17-16 nailbiters.
Second in the east.
Lots of defenders are out
Jesse King is back
Look out for
Reilly O’Connor. Of the lefties on last year’s Black Wolves squad, Culp, Saunders, and Veltman are gone, leaving O’Connor, Kevin Buchanan, and rookie JP Kealey. O’Connor looked strong in the preseason game against the Rock.
Those who aren’t fans of Aaron Bold say that the reason for his success in Edmonton / Saskatchewan was the great defense in front of him. Well, now we’ll see if they’re right. That’s not to say that New England’s defense is lousy, but it’s not at the same level as Bold has been used to.
Third in the east.
Aaron Bold in net
Evans, Crowley score up front
No Bill O’Brien
Look out for
It might seem weird but I’m going to say Dan Dawson. Dawson had his worst season in ages in 2017 but looked great at the Heritage Cup. I think he’ll rebound this year. We may not see 100+ points but he’ll look more like the old Dan Dawson than the 2017 model.
After one of the lowest-scoring seasons in NLL history (9.72 goals per game, the 11th lowest average ever), the Knighthawks used their second-overall draft pick to grab… a defenseman who specializes in face-offs. I mean no disrespect to Jake Withers but I don’t think that’s what the Knighthawks needed. They did also draft Austin Shanks and Eric Fannell, both forwards, and it’s possible that Cody Jamieson will return sometime this season, but there’s been no word on that.
Fourth in the east.
Billy Dee comes in
But he will not help them score
And still no Jammer
Look out for
I’m really tempted to put Rob Hellyer here but that’s too obvious. I’m going to go with Drew Belgrave. I don’t know if he’ll be a Rookie of the Year candidate but I liked how he looked in the pre-season.
Hellyer, Hickey, Jones, Schreiber, Leblanc. Out of curiosity, what’s the record for most 100-point players on the same team in one year? I’m glad you asked! It’s the 2005 Toronto Rock, who had three (Doyle, Manning, Sanderson). How coincidental. If this year’s Rock can stay healthy, this could be one of the most potent offenses ever. I’m looking forward to the first Rock/Swarm game, which could end up 38-37 in OT.
First in the east.
The front line is strong
Hellyer, Jones will score a bunch
Good team gets better
Here it is: a complete summary of all the roster changes for each team, all in one place.
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 2017. And a player who’s injured but still part of that team will be listed as “out”.
Last updated: December 7, 2017
In: Reid Acton, Alex Buque, Josh Byrne, Callum Crawford, Jordan Durston, Chase Fraser, Ethan Schott, Ryan Wagner
Out: Ryan Benesch, Anthony Cosmo, Tim Edwards, Alex Kedoh Hill, Anthony Malcom, Blaze Riorden, Billy Dee Smith, Andrew Watt, Adam Will
PUP: Dallas Bridle
Practice Roster: Gowah Abrams, Vaughan Harris, Liam Patten, Zac Reid
Tons of new faces for the Bandits including three rookies. Callum Crawford strengthens the Bandits’ right side while his former Swarm teammate Ryan Benesch is replaced on the left side by Jordan Durston. Alex Buque replaces newly retired Anthony Cosmo and will probably get the nod as the everyday starter.
According to Steve Bermel just moments ago (I was literally seconds away from clicking the “publish” button on this article when I saw his tweet), Alex Kedoh Hill is an RFA because the Bandits offered him a contract but he didn’t sign it. “If any team makes him an offer, the Bandits have 72 hours to match it.”
In: Frank Brown, Warren Hill, Jesse King, Kevin Orleman, Zed Williams
Out: Mitch Belisle, Liam Byrnes, Jordan Hall, Brodie MacDonald, Ethan O’Connor, Chad Tutton, Joel White
PUP: Chad Tutton
Holdout: Jordan Hall, Mason Jones, Ethan O’Connor, Joel White
Practice Roster: Liam Byrnes, Isaiah Davis-Allen, Lauchlin Elder, Brayden Hill
More changes to the Swarm roster than they might have liked. Hall and White are out for non-lacrosse-job-related reasons, Belisle retired, MacDonald was traded, and Tutton is injured. Jordan Hall was acquired last year when the Swarm found out that Jesse King would miss the season, but this year the Swarm were going to have a “problem” fitting King into the lineup. Problem solved – King ironically replaces Hall who’s going to miss the season. The Swarm have made the odd move of keeping three goaltenders on the roster.
In: Aaron Bold, Adam Bomberry, David Brock, Mark Cockerton, JP Kealey, John Lafontaine, Colton Watkinson
Out: Brett Bucktooth, Chad Culp, Ryan Hotaling, Evan Kirk, Brooker Muir, Bill O’Brien, Zac Reid
IR: Ryan Hotaling
Practice Roster: Nick Chaykowsky, Anthony Joaquim, Nick Mariano, Rance Vigneux
The biggest move is obviously at goaltender, where Aaron Bold replaces Evan Kirk. David Brock becomes the latest ex-Bandit to join the Black Wolves. Bucktooth and Culp retired, and the release of Bill O’Brien was a bit of a surprise, seeing as he was one of the faces of the franchise in recent years. All four guys on the practice roster will be featured in the NLL Pronunciation Guide when they make the NLL.
In: Eric Fannell, Austin Shanks, Eric Shewel, Billy Dee Smith, Jake Withers
Out: Jordan Dance, Jarrett Davis, Dylan Evans, Marty Hill, Luke Laskiewicz, Quinn Powless, Andrew Suitor, Sean Young
IR: Cody Jamieson
PUP: Dylan Evans
Practice Roster: Greg Longboat, Adam Perroni, Quinn Powless, Mike Triolo
A bunch of rookies and a 35-year-old vet join the Knighthawks, while most of the “Out” list are guys who only played one year with Rochester. Jarrett Davis is both in that club (played 2017 in Roch and Saskatchewan the year before that) and not in that club (played two years in Roch in 2011-2012).
Notably absent is Cody Jamieson, who will start the year on the IR. All the team has said is that Jamieson has “been making great strides to get back in the lineup”. But given what happened last year (he came back from being injured in the playoffs the year before, played five minutes, tweaked his knee again, and missed the rest of the season), I imagine they’ll play it pretty safe this time around.
In: Phil Caputo, Rob Hellyer, Adam Jones, Brandon Slade, Brock Sorensen
Out: Kasey Beirnes, Turner Evans, Jesse Gamble, Jeff Gilbert, Challen Rogers
IR: Turner Evans, Challen Rogers
PUP: Dan Craig
Practice Roster: Drew Belgrave, Riley Hutchcraft, Adam Jay, Darryl Robertson
Protected: Paul Rabil
Caputo was on the team for parts of last season but as an offensive player. With the return of Hellyer and the addition of Jones, his skills aren’t really needed up front so he’s now a defender and will probably play some transition as well. Gamble will miss the year for work and Beirnes and Gilbert retired. Rob Marshall retired as well but he missed almost all of last year. As a Rock fan, I’m looking forward to the potentially devastating front line of Hellyer / Hickey / Jones / Leblanc / Schreiber / Lintner.
In: Zach Currier, Anthony Kalinich, Tyler Pace
Out: Mike Carnegie, Scott Carnegie, Jeff Shattler, Bob Snider
IR: Kellen LeClair
PUP: Mike Carnegie
Practice Roster: Steph Charbonneau, Ryan Martel, Bob Snider
The “In” list is all rookies, but there are some big names on that “Out” list.
Wes Berg hasn’t signed a contract yet, so you’d hope he won’t be out for long. Shattler was signed by the rival Rush, Mike Carnegie is injured, Scott Carnegie was cut (!!) and Bob Snider is on the practice roster.
Update: Wes Berg was signed.
In: Ryan Benesch, Scott Carnegie, Brody Eastwood, Steve Fryer,
Rowan Kelly, Ryan Lee, Quinn MacKay, Nick Ossello
Out: Brent Adams, Alex Buque, Dan Coates, Callum Crawford, Ilija Gajic, Cam Holding,
IR: Brent Adams
PUP: Dan Coates, Zack Greer, Cam Holding, Bryce Sweeting
Practice Roster: Tim Edwards, Rowan Kelly, Jarrod Neumann, Nick Ossello
2018 will be the first season without Ilija Gajic in the league since 2009. Benny takes over for Crawford while Fryer assumes the backup goalie role left by Buque. The losses of Holding and Coates will not help the defense but they still have Hope. (See what I did there?)
In: Evan Kirk, Jeff Shattler
Out: Aaron Bold, Adam Jones, John Lafontaine
PUP: Nic Bilic
Practice Roster: Nick Finlay, Johnny Pearson, Tor Reinholdt, Adam Shute
As usual, not many changes for the Rush but the changes they did make are pretty significant. Bold is out, Kirk is in, while Adam Jones is in Toronto, replaced by Jeff Shattler. John Lafontaine is in New England and will likely be replaced by Nic Bilic when he returns from injury.
In: Ryan Fournier, Brandon Goodwin, Brodie MacDonald, Tony Malcom, Andrew Suitor
Out: Cory Conway, Jordan Durston, Jon Harnett, Curtis Hodgson, Thomas Hoggarth, Tyler Richards, Ryan Wagner
IR: Jon Harnett, Thomas Hoggarth, Casey Jackson
Holdout: Tyler Garrison, Jarrett Toll
Practice Roster: Patrick O’Meara, Eric Penney, Tyson Roe, Cody Teichroeb
The Cory Conway experiment lasted about half a year. No mention was made of Garrett Billings at all this pre-season so that experiment is also over (but we knew that at the end of last season). Hodgson retired, Richards was released, and Durston and Wagner are now Bandits. Brodie MacDonald beat out Eric Penney and Zach Higgins for the backup goalie job, but that was not a surprise either. The Stealth traded for MacDonald a month ago, and you don’t trade for someone to let them compete for a job. Andrew Suitor was likely a nice surprise for the Stealth – they picked him up two days before rosters were due to be submitted to the league. A nice surprise, that is, for everyone except the defenseman who was cut to make room for Suitor.
While searching for facts for @NLLFactOfTheDay, I stumbled upon a couple of crazy games by the Swarm in 2008. That made me look over the 2008 season for the Swarm in a little more detail, and I found some more fun little tidbits. The 2008 season was long enough ago that there are lots of familiar names involved in these games but not always on the teams you might expect. But it was also recent enough that I remember some of these things happening.
So here’s a summary of the 2008 Swarm season. If you like this idea, maybe I’ll deconstruct some other memorable seasons, perhaps the 2007 Knighthawks or 2005 Rock. But like the ’08 Swarm, it doesn’t have to be Championship teams; it might also be fun to look at the 1-15 2006 Rush. Send in your suggestions! But note that I only have detailed information going back to 2005. Before that I can only talk about wins/losses, final scores, attendance, and season scoring stats.