2018 Preview: East division

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.

BanditsBuffalo Bandits

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.

Prediction

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.

Haiku

Cosmo has retired
Crawford replaces Benesch
It’s Showtime, baby!


SwarmGeorgia Swarm

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.

Prediction

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.

Haiku

Reigning champions
Lots of defenders are out
Jesse King is back


BlackWolvesNew England Black Wolves

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.

Prediction

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.

Haiku

Aaron Bold in net
Evans, Crowley score up front
No Bill O’Brien


KnighthawksRochester Knighthawks

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.

Prediction

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.

Haiku

Billy Dee comes in
But he will not help them score
And still no Jammer


RockToronto Rock

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.

Prediction

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.

Haiku

The front line is strong
Hellyer, Jones will score a bunch
Good team gets better

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2018 NLL: Who’s in, who’s out

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

BanditsBuffalo Bandits

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
IR:
PUP: Dallas Bridle
Holdout:
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.”


SwarmGeorgia Swarm

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
IR:
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.


BlackWolvesNew England Black Wolves

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
PUP:
Holdout:
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.


KnighthawksRochester Knighthawks

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
Holdout:
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.


RockToronto Rock

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
Holdout:
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.


RoughnecksCalgary Roughnecks

In: Zach Currier, Anthony Kalinich, Tyler Pace
Out: Mike Carnegie, Scott Carnegie, Jeff Shattler, Bob Snider
IR: Kellen LeClair
PUP: Mike Carnegie
Holdout:
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.


MammothColorado Mammoth

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, Bryce Sweeting
IR: Brent Adams
PUP: Dan Coates, Zack Greer, Cam Holding, Bryce Sweeting
Holdout:
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?)


RushSaskatchewan Rush

In: Evan Kirk, Jeff Shattler
Out: Aaron Bold, Adam Jones, John Lafontaine
IR:
PUP: Nic Bilic
Holdout:
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.


StealthVancouver Stealth

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
PUP:
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.

Deconstructing the 2008 Minnesota Swarm

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.

Continue reading

Looking forward to 2018: East Division

The 2017 NLL season is now over. Many of the players and some of the coaches have moved on to summer ball or the MLL (or both). The GMs may take a little time off but not much – they’ll be checking out MSL and WLA games all summer as well as watching a lot of game film to figure out what their team needs to change, if anything.

Just to help out those GMs*, here’s my postseason review for each NLL team. We’ll start in the East and get to the West tomorrow.

* <sarcasm>Because guys like Derek Keenan and Steve Dietrich need my help, you know.</sarcasm> Continue reading

Game report: Georgia 11 @ Toronto 8

It started off so promising.

The Rock and Swarm played each other twice this season. Each team was 1-1 and both games went to OT, so we knew the teams were pretty evenly matched. So when the Rock didn’t allow a goal to the strongest offense in the league until six minutes into the second quarter, it seemed like the Rock’s ability to handle the Swarm offense was going to continue. They only scored one goal themselves in the first quarter, but when they took a 4-1 lead in the second quarter, it still looked pretty good. And then the wheels kind of slowly fell off.

Continue reading

Could happen… 2017 edition

Round about this time of year, people think they have a decent idea of how the standings will end up, more or less. So far this season, Saskatchewan has clinched a playoff berth, but nobody else has. We think the Rush and Swarm will probably be at the top in their divisions, but it’s not guaranteed. Calgary and Rochester are currently at the bottom but both are only a half game back of the team in front of them. There’s enough time left for some really crazy things to happen, and every year I find it fun to look over the possibilities if the lower-ranked teams start winning and the teams at the top start losing. If everything falls into place, could we have a Calgary-Rochester final? Could the Swarm miss the playoffs? Let’s look at some scenarios that are unlikely but still possible:

Calgary finishes 2nd in the west

Calgary wins out, Saskatchewan loses to Vancouver, New England, and Toronto, and Colorado loses out. Then the Rush win the west at 10-8, Calgary is second at 9-9, and Colorado and Vancouver tie at 8-10. Vancouver would win the tiebreaker in that scenario with a 3-1 record against the Mammoth, so Colorado is out.
Calgary wins out, Vancouver beats Colorado, and Colorado loses one more game. Then the Roughnecks are 9-9 and the Mammoth are at best 9-9, but Calgary holds the tiebreaker.

Vancouver wins the west

Update: Can’t happen anymore.
Vancouver wins out, Saskatchewan loses at least three more, and Colorado loses to Rochester. Then the Stealth are at 10-8, the Rush and Mammoth are at 9-9, and the Roughnecks are at best 8-10.

All five teams in the east finish 9-9

Update: Can’t happen anymore.
New England beats Georgia and Saskatchewan and loses to Vancouver. Buffalo beats Calgary, Toronto, and Georgia twice. Rochester beats Colorado, New England, and Georgia twice. Toronto loses to Saskatchewan and beats Buffalo. Then all the eastern teams are 9-9 and we have the nastiest tie-breaker ever.

Rochester wins the east

Update: Can’t happen anymore.
Rochester wins out. Toronto and Georgia lose out. Buffalo loses to Calgary. New England loses to Saskatchewan and Vancouver. Then Rochester, Georgia, and Buffalo are 9-9 while Toronto and New England are 8-10. Rochester has a 4-2 record against Buffalo and Georgia and wins the east while Buffalo finishes second and Georgia third.

Buffalo wins the east

Update: Can’t happen anymore.
Buffalo wins out. Toronto and Georgia lose out. New England loses to Saskatchewan and Vancouver. Rochester beats New England and loses to Colorado. Then the Bandits are 10-8, Georgia is 9-9, and the rest are tied at 8-10. New England wins the tiebreaker and makes the playoffs.

Georgia misses the playoffs

Update: Georgia has now clinched a playoff spot.
Georgia loses out. Toronto beats Saskatchewan and Buffalo. New England beats Saskatchewan and Rochester. Buffalo beats Calgary and Toronto. Then Toronto and New England have 10 wins while Buffalo and Georgia are both 9-9. Buffalo would win the tie-breaker here and the Swarm are out.

Interview: Dan Ladouceur

You gotta listen when the Big Dog barks.

For those of you who watched Toronto Rock games back in the early or mid 2000’s, you undoubtedly remember Dan “Big Dog” Ladouceur. At 6’6″, Laddy was hard to miss – even more so if you were a opposing player. Ladouceur was an anchor of one of the best defenses the league has ever seen, a group which included Terry Bullen, Pat Coyle, Glenn Clark, Ian Rubel, and Darryl Gibson in front of Hall-of-Fame goaltender Bob Watson. Ladouceur was a prototypical “stay-at-home” defender with a long reach, a heavy stick, and solid fists. He rarely found himself on the far side of the centre line, scoring 6 goals in his 11-year 150-game career. But he did score a big one in the 2002 Championship game, one of five Championships he won with the Rock.

Dan LadouceurThese days, Laddy’s role in the NLL is a little different: as the Georgia Swarm offensive coach, his job is to train the Swarm forwards how to get around guys like him. This is a position at which he seems to be excelling, considering the Swarm at 8-3 and leading the league in goals scored, despite having played one fewer game than half the league.

I had the opportunity to sit down with Dan Ladouceur (well, via email – I assume he was sitting down) and talk about his early days with the Rock as well as his new role with the Swarm.

Many thanks to Dan for taking the time to talk to me.


GP: Hi Dan… thanks a lot for doing this.

DL: Hey Graeme, no problems.  Happy to help out and share…

GP: Let’s start with your playing days with the Toronto Rock. In your early days, who were the players you learned the most from?

DL: Obviously one of the most influential guys  I played with was Jimmy Veltman.  He had a quiet style of leadership but was so fiercely competitive, you couldn’t help but follow him anywhere and want to learn and know what made that guy tick.  Other guys like Glenn Clark, Pat Coyle, Terry Bullen – Those guys all taught me about being effective defensively, and I like to think I took a little bit of each of their style and came into my own.  And other guys like Colin Doyle and Kim Squire, they reminded me that the game was fun, and to enjoy the experience.

GP: Conversely, in your later days, who were the players that you enjoyed teaching – the ones that learned the most?

DL: I really enjoyed my time rooming and chumming with Scott Campbell when he came to TO.  He is a great guy and great player.  The young Rob Marshall was great to be around as well.  I think he is and always has been a great guy and great teammate.

GP: You won five championships with the Rock. Does any one of them stand out as different from the others – more memorable or special in some way?

DL: In 2000 I won a Champions Cup and a Mann Cup in the same year.  That year was pretty special.  The win in Rochester [2003] was amazing as well.  Having never won there before and going in to take a championship is something movies are made of. The home town fans and family that made the road trip was amazing to see and feel.

2002 was great.  To be able to chip in, all of us on the back door, and help bring that home was amazing.  Also very big learning experiencing for me as far as preparation from a coaching point of view goes.  One goal that game was directly related to Ed Comeau and how prepared he always is.

GP: At one time, I heard a rumour that the Rock were not allowed to trade you because of your job as a Durham police officer. Was there any truth to that?

DL: It was never an arrangement I made or condition of a contract.  They could have moved me if they wanted. Playing in another city would have been challenging logistic wise, especially in the early years when I was not very high in seniority in the policing world.  I’m sure I could and would have made it work, but just been grinding like so many other players in this league with work and travel schedules that would cripple normal people.  I’m thankful I did not have to deal with those challenges.

GP: While you were playing, did you ever think about coaching sometime in the future, or did you not really consider that until your playing days were over?

DL: I never really thought of it much to be honest.  I mean, you know great coaches when you come across them in your career.  Les, T, Keenan, Clarky all great coaches and all have totally different styles.  I just never thought I would or could do the things that those guys did.

Casey Powell giving Ladouceur a totally legal check

GP: Now moving on to your role with the Georgia Swarm. How did your job with the Swarm come about – did you call them or did they call you?

DL: Eddie [head coach Ed Comeau] called me in the summer time to talk lacrosse.  We had some great conversations, catching up as we went.  I was not out pounding the pavement or cold calling places.  I was still processing my time in Toronto and my work life keeps me engaged a lot of the time, so it was not like I was experiencing a Lacrosse void.  I knew I wanted to coach more, to implement what I learned from John Lovell and my experience in Toronto, but when Eddie called, I was not in the process of chasing anything.

GP: What did you first think of the idea of being an offensive coach, having been a defensive guy for your whole NLL career?

DL: The way Eddie laid it out to me, his thinking, his expectations and our approach as a group, I had zero doubts about my ability to meet his expectations.  I acknowledge that I cant tell Lyle or Miles or Randy or Shane how to put the ball in the net, but I can offer some experienced observations on how they are being defended, tendencies, weakness and areas to exploit.  Seemed like a very progressive approach to be honest and I was excited to be part of that and work with Eddie and Sean [Ferris, Swarm assistant coach].

GP: Lyle, Miles, and Jerome Thompson have been playing lacrosse together their whole lives, but they’re still pretty young and none has been in the league longer than two years. Do they need much coaching, or do you just stand back and let them do their thing?

DL: Those guys truly “feel the game”  They are attentive to the little bit of structure and principals we have in place and do their roles so well within those parameters, but there is also no scripting or controlling that creativity.  None of that O door need coaching per se…  They need reminders, reinforcement and feedback.  It is a very unique group I get to work with, and as my first experience, I could not be more happy or proud.

GP: Which Swarm players have you been the most impressed with this season – those who are consistently playing above the level you expected from them? What about non-Swarm players?

DL: Lyle Thompson – what can ya say.  He came back for year 2 with his feet running.

Mike Poulin – I played with Mike and I am so excited about the player he is now and the leadership he brings to this group.  He wants to win and is willing to do the little things to get there and let others follow his example.

Tom Schreiber and Kieran McArdle – Not that they are American.   That they are so dangerous in their rookie seasons…  So many talented US players just need a chance and they could have an impact as well.

Josh Currier – Watched him in Jr out of Peterborough.  Kid is gonna be good for a long time.

Ben McIntosh – Guy is coming into his own and its a dangerous thing.

GP: And we’ll finish up with some fun ones. Who was the toughest guy you had to defend against?

DL: John Grant was always a handful.  I liked the challenge of playing against him.  And he would talk to you on the floor as well.  Let you know that last slash hurt and that he owed you one or just make a funny comment.  He is so strong and creative and competitive.

GP: I know you had limited scoring opportunities as a defender, but who was the toughest goalie to score on?

DL: lol.  Bob Watson!!!  Had lots of opportunities, but Bobby always had my number!!!!

GP: What was your favourite arena to play in as the visiting team?

DL: Philly was a great place to play in back in the day.  Great passionate crowds.  Calgary and Colorado were great as well.  I hated playing in Rochester.