Lacrosse is back! The 2019-2020 NLL season started last weekend and the Rock’s home opener was Saturday night. Dan Dawson and David Brock both made their debuts with the Rock, while Jordan Durston and rookie Andrew Kew made their Black Wolves debuts. This was a back-and-forth game for a while… until it wasn’t.
When I posted my Who’s In, Who’s Out article last week, loyal reader Mike suggested creating a list of all family members in the NLL as well. I thought that was a fun idea, so here you go.
I’m only listing relationships if both players are on active or practice rosters or are NLL coaches or GMs. I made a couple of exceptions for IR or holdout lists too, but if I start to get into retired players, we’d be here all day.
The majority of these I’m sure of but there are a few that I’m only mostly sure of. I tried to confirm as many as I could but if I have any wrong, or I’m missing one, please leave a comment or find me on twitter and let me know!
Jon Harnett – brother of Greg Harnett, Calgary
Quinn Powless – cousin of Johnny Powless, Toronto
Dhane Smith – cousin of Billy Dee Smith, (assistant coach) Halifax, also cousin of Tyson Bell, Calgary
Tyson Bell –
nephew cousin of Billy Dee Smith, (assistant coach) Halifax, also cousin of Dhane Smith, Buffalo, also cousin of Latrell Harris, Toronto
Zach Currier – brother of Josh Currier, Philly
Greg Harnett – brother of Jon Harnett, Buffalo
Jesse King / Marshal King – brothers
Update: Tyson Bell’s mom told me that there was an article a few years back saying that Billy Dee Smith was Tyson’s uncle, but that was incorrect – they are cousins. That article is where I originally got my information from. Thanks for the correction!
Scott Carnegie – brother of Mike Carnegie, San Diego
Justin Goodwin – brother of Brandon Goodwin, Vancouver
Will Malcom – brother of Tony Malcom, New England
Brendan Bomberry – cousin of Adam Bomberry, New England and Tyson Bomberry, New York
Jason Noble – (twin) brother of Jeremy Noble, San Diego
Kevin Orleman / Steven Orleman – brothers
Randy Staats – brother of Austin Staats, San Diego
Lyle Thompson, Miles Thompson – brothers of Jeremy Thompson, Saskatchewan. The fourth Thompson brother, Haina (aka Jerome), also played for Georgia last season.
Graeme Hossack – brother of Matt Hossack, Saskatchewan
Cody Jamieson – nephew of Curt Styres, (GM) Halifax
Brandon Robinson – brother of Justin Robinson, Saskatchewan
Billy Dee Smith (assistant coach) –
uncle cousin of Dhane Smith, Buffalo, also cousin of Tyson Bell, Calgary
Adam Bomberry – cousin of Brendan Bomberry, Georgia and Tyson Bomberry, New York
Tony Malcom – brother of Will Malcom, Colorado
Tyson Bomberry – cousin of Brendan Bomberry, Georgia and Adam Bomberry, New England
Tyson Gibson – son of Darryl Gibson, (assistant coach) New England
Gale Thorpe – son of Regy Thorpe, (GM / head coach) New York
Josh Currier – brother of Zach Currier, Calgary
Paul Dawson – brother of Dan Dawson, Toronto
Shawn Evans / Turner Evans – cousins
Mike Carnegie – brother of Scott Carnegie, Colorado
Zack Greer – brother of Bill Greer, (assistant coach) San Diego
Garrett McIntosh – brother of Ben McIntosh, Saskatchewan
Brodie Merrill – brother of Patrick Merrill, (GM / head coach) San Diego
Evan Messenger – cousin of Mike Messenger, Saskatchewan
Jeremy Noble – (twin) brother of Jason Noble, Georgia
Tor Reinholdt – brother of Reid Reinholdt, Toronto
Austin Staats – brother of Randy Staats, Georgia
Travis Cornwall / Jeff Cornwall – brothers
Ryan Dilks – brother of Jamison Dilks, Toronto
Matt Hossack – brother of Graeme Hossack, Halifax
Ryan Keenan – son of Derek Keenan, (GM / head coach) Saskatchewan
Ryan Keenan / Luke Keenan – cousins
Luke Keenan – nephew of Derek Keenan, (GM / head coach) Saskatchewan
Ben McIntosh – brother of Garrett McIntosh, San Diego
Mike Messenger – cousin of Evan Messenger, San Diego
Justin Robinson – brother of Brandon Robinson, Halifax
Brett Mydske – brother of Reid Mydske, Vancouver
Jeremy Thompson – brother of Lyle Thompson and Miles Thompson, Georgia
Dan Dawson – brother of Paul Dawson, Rochester
Jamison Dilks – brother of Ryan Dilks, Saskatchewan
Latrell Harris – cousin of Tyson Bell, Calgary
Johnny Powless – cousin of Quinn Powless, Buffalo
Reid Reinholdt – brother of Tor Reinholdt, San Diego
Brandon Goodwin – brother of Justin Goodwin, Colorado
Reid Mydske – brother of Brett Mydske, Saskatchewan
Yesterday I started with the North division, today we’ll cover the East. Where I think they will end up in the standings and who might have a breakout year.
Take a team that finished second in the division last year, add Joel White and Jordan Hall, and give their goalie a ton of confidence with a Mann Cup, Mann Cup MVP award, and a WILC Championship over the summer and what do you get? The top team in the east, that’s what. Lyle and Miles, Randy, and Shayne already made an impressive top-four, possibly the best in the league, and adding Hall and two former transition guys in Zed Williams and Bryan Cole rounds out an amazing offense. Their D is mostly the same as last year and transition has been improved as well with the addition of White and Kason Tarbell, who impressed at the WILC’s.
Look out for
Zed Williams has flown under the radar for a while as a scoring threat but no longer.
First in the east.
New England has added a few players to their offense that could make a significant difference. Andrew Kew was expected to be the #1 draft choice and while New York seems quite happy with Tyson Gibson, I think the Wolves are equally happy that Kew fell to third. Losing Tyler Digby’s size and strength will hurt but the additions of Jordan Durston and Tony Malcom will offset that. Durston, in particular, is good at digging out loose balls and creating space up the middle, and giving guys like Stephan Leblanc and Callum Crawford extra chances or more space is not good for opposing goalies. After an excellent 2018, Joe Resetarits picked up 34 extra points in 2018 over 2017, but dropped 33 in 2019. One of those two years was probably an anomaly, so perhaps a full season with the Black Wolves will tell us which.
Defense consists of three seasoned veterans in Manney, LaFontaine, and newcomer Creighton Reid along with a bunch of guys under 25. The goalies are young too – Doug Jamieson will be in his second season as a starter, but he’s only 24 and backup Ethan Woods is a rookie.
Look out for
Jordan Durston won’t score 100 points, but he could climb back to the 60-70 point range that he hit in 2018 with the Bandits.
Second in the east.
Last season we talked about the Seals as “not looking like an expansion team”, and they finished above .500 and hosted a playoff game. The Rochester Knighthawks, in my opinion, may not have quite that level of success but they look pretty good too. The Riptide look a little more like your typical expansion team – some vets here and there but lots of unproven players with a year or two of experience and a bunch of rookies. That’s not to say they’re definitely going to suck. Guys like McArdle and Digby know how to find the back of the net, and Tyson Gibson was selected first overall for a reason.
Ranagan, MacRae, Suitor and Manley are all solid veteran D guys, but I have concerns about Alex Buque as the starting goalie. He had that job in both Buffalo and New England and lost it in both cases. He’s obviously a year older and more experienced now so maybe this is his shot – and maybe on a team with no expectations, he’ll get consistent starts and minutes which can only help.
Like I said, I’m not saying they will definitely be bad, but there are too many question marks for me.
Look out for
Tyler Digby had a resurgence in New England last year. He has the most NLL experience of any forward and so is likely to become the de facto leader of the offense.
Fourth in the east.
The Wings have made a lot of changes this year. Both goalies are out, and guys like Dylan Evans, Jordan Hall, and Vaughn Harris are also gone. But the Wings will get Brett Hickey back after missing most of last year, and have also added Cory Vitarelli and Kevin Buchanan to their offense. Along with Kevin Crowley, Blaze Riorden, and Josh Currier, that’s a pretty decent offense. Matt Rambo was a Rookie of the Year candidate last year and then was the scoring leader, league MVP, and Championship game MVP over the summer in the PLL – if he can inject some of the intensity and raw skill he showed in the PLL into the Wings, look out.
The new faces on offense will allow Kiel Matisz to stick with transition, not that having him play offense was a problem.
All three goalies from last season are gone, replaced by Zach Higgins and the un-retired Brandon Miller. I expect Higgins to get most of the minutes with Miller as backup and part-time unofficial goalie coach. Higgins was a starter for the 2015 Swarm but has been a backup ever since. The defense in front of Higgins or Miller is quite young and inexperienced with the exception of Matisz and 13-year veteran Ian Llord. When Llord played his first NLL game, Wings rookie Alex Pace was eight years old.
Look out for
Brett Hickey, I’m sure, has been itching to get back on the floor since he was injured in the third game last year. I expect him to put up some serious numbers this year.
Third in the east.
Here are my predictions for the final regular season standings as well as the major annual awards. The “Dark Horse” predictions are my “not as likely but could happen” picks.
I’ve also included my picks for overall standings in parens after the team name.
- Toronto Rock (4)
- Buffalo Bandits (7)
- Halifax Thunderbirds (9)
- Rochester Knighthawks (10)
- Georgia Swarm (1)
- New England Black Wolves (6)
- Philadelphia Wings (11)
- New York Riptide (13)
- Calgary Roughnecks (2)
- Saskatchewan Rush (3)
- San Diego Seals (5)
- Colorado Mammoth (8)
- Vancouver Warriors (12)
Goaltender of the Year
Winner: Christian Del Bianco
Short list: Dillon Ward, Mike Poulin, Matt Vinc
Dark horse: Frank Scigliano
Defensive Player of the Year
Winner: Kyle Rubisch
Short list: Graeme Hossack, Steve Priolo
Dark horse: Brad Kri
Transition Player of the Year
Winner: Zach Currier
Short list: Challen Rogers, Joey Cupido
Dark horse: Kiel Matisz
Rookie of the Year
Winner: Andrew Kew
Short list: Ryland Rees
Same disclaimer as previous years: I don’t follow MSL or WLA in enough detail to really have a good idea. Just going by what I’ve heard on podcasts and read on IL Indoor and Twitter and such.
Les Bartley Award
Winner: Ed Comeau
Short list: Derek Keenan, Pat Coyle
Dark horse: Mike Hasen
GM of the Year
Winner: Patrick Merrill
Short list: Rich Lisk, Dan Richardson if the Warriors finish above .500
Dark horse: Dan Carey
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 2019. And a player who’s injured but still part of that team will be listed as “out”. Not all teams have announced who’s on their IR, PUP, or holdout lists.
Teams and players are each listed in alphabetical order. This article will be updated as things change up until about a week into the season.
In: Doug Buchan, Steve Dietrich (coach) Marcus Minichiello, Brent Noseworthy, Quinn Powless
Out: Jordan Durston, Shawn Evans, Zach Higgins, Rich Kilgour (coach) Thomas Hoggarth, Ethan O’Connor
PUP: Thomas Hoggarth, Ethan O’Connor
Practice Roster: Okaeme Chukwuemeka, Devlin Shanahan
In: Haiden Dickson, Marshall King, Liam LeClair, Ryan Martel
Out: Reece Callies, Rhys Duch, Riley Loewen, Dan MacRae
IR: Reece Callies
PUP: Rhys Duch
Practice Roster: Travis Getz, Landon Kells, Nick Scott, Sean Tyrrell
In: Tyler Carlson, Brett Craig,
Carter Dickson, Warren Jeffrey, Dylan Kinnear, Will Malcom, Dylan Molloy, Josh Sullivan
Out: Steve Fryer, Julian Garritano, Steven Lee, Ian Llord, Jeremy Noble, Brad Self, Cory Vitarelli,
Chris Wardle, Jeff Wittig
Chris Wardle, Jeff Wittig
Practice Roster: Carter Dickson, Ilija Gajic,
Justin Goodwin, Jake McNabb, Erik Turner
In: Jordan Hall, Ryan McSpadyen, Kason Tarbell, Joel White
Out: Holden Cattoni, Tyler Ferreira, Haina Thompson, Joel Tinney, Craig Wende
IR: Zach Miller
PUP: Jordan Gillis, Justin Lemcke
Practice Roster: TJ Comizio, Steven Orleman, Sergio Perkovic
In: Cory Becker, Scott Campbell, Pete Dubenski, Eric Fannell, Stephen Keogh, Clarke Petterson, Trevor Smyth, Nonkon Thompson
Out: Angus Goodleaf, Oran Horn, Mike Manley, Darryl Robertson, Brandon Robinson, Dawson Theede, Mike Triolo, Luke Van Schepen
IR: Luke Van Schepen
Practice Roster: Johnny Jimerson, Chet Koneczny, Brandon Robinson, Clay Scanlon
In: Jordan Durston, Andrew Kew, John LaFontaine, Ty Logan, Tony Malcom, Joe Nardella, Creighton Reid, Ethan Woods
Out: David Brock, Kevin Buchanan, Alex Buque, Joel Coyle, Tyler Digby, Greg Downing, Ryan Fournier, Andrew Suitor
PUP: Greg Downing
Practice Roster: Bailey Brown, Mike Byrne, Tristan Rai, Joel Tinney
PUP: Ryan Brown, Angus Goodleaf, Matt Kavanagh, Jack Rowlett
Holdout: Brier Jonathan, Dawson Theede, Kurtis Woodland
Protected: Myles Jones
Practice Roster: Jake Fox, Scott Johnston, Adam Osika, John Wagner
In: Kevin Buchanan, Nick Finlay, Brett Hickey, Zach Higgins, Anthony Joaquim, Ian Llord, Brandon Miller, Alex Pace, Liam Patten, Cory Vitarelli, Nate Wade, Ryan Wagner
Out: Gowah Abrams, Matthew Bennett, Frank Brown, Doug Buchan, Dylan Evans, Justin Guterding, Jordan Hall, Vaughn Harris, Chet Koneczny, Adam Osika, Eric Shewell
Practice Roster: Matt Mariner, Kyle Marr, Austin Pifani, Daryl Waud
IR: Tyler Biles
PUP: Frank Brown, Travis Burton, Zac Reid
Practice Roster: Julian Garritano, Adam Perroni, Dustyn Pratt
In: Wes Berg, Graydon Bradley, Mike Carnegie, Nick Damude, Garrett Epple, Mark Glicini, Eli Gobrecht, Zack Greer, Evan Messenger, Jeremy Noble, Matt Sykes
Out: Garrett Billings, Tyler Carlson, Dan Dawson, Paul Dawson, Turner Evans, Kyle Hartzell, Casey Jackson, Connor Kelly, Brendan Ranford, Adrian Sorichetti, Joe Walters
IR: Casey Jackson, Johnny Pearson, Austin Staats
“Inactive Roster”: Oliver Bolsterli, Zach Bryant, Austin Divitcos, Devyn Mayea
Practice Roster: Jules Heningburg, Dylan Riley, Mikie Schlosser, Ethan Schott
In: Ryan Dilks, Holden Garlent, Ryan McLean, Austin Murphy, Justin Robinson
Out: Nik Bilic, Scott Campbell, Nick Finlay, Curtis Knight, Brett Mydske
Holdout: Jeff Cornwall
Draft list: Luke Keenan
Practice Roster: Cameron Dunkerley, Zach Gould, Tanner Thomson
In: David Brock, Dan Dawson, Scott Dominey, Damon Edwards, Josh Jubenville, Zach Manns
Out: Phil Caputo, Dan Lintner, Kieran McArdle, Creighton Reid, Brock Sorensen, Jay Thorimbert
IR: Aaron Forster
PUP: Brock Sorensen
Practice Roster: Jamison Dilks, Mitch Gustavsen, Troy Holowchuk, Alec Simons
In: Nik Bilic, Sam Clare, Derek Lloyd, Riley Loewen, Mike Mallory, Chris O’Dougherty, Patrick O’Meara, James Rahe, Justin Salt, Bob Snider
Out: Jean-Luc Chetner, Zac Christianson, Brody Eastwood, Tony Malcom, Reid Mydske, Zack Porter, Jarrett Toll, Dallas Wade, Nate Wade
IR: Andrew Gallant, Joel McCready, Zack Porter, Mason Pynn
Practice Roster: Keegan Bell, Lyndon Bunio, Reid Mydske, Tyson Roe
The Calgary Roughnecks signed Dane Dobbie to a multi-year contract last week. Considering Dobbie had a career year in 2019 and was deservedly named both season MVP and Championship MVP, it’s hard to argue against this, regardless of the term or money he was asking for. But when the NLL tweeted about it, they used a goat icon and I had to roll my eyes.
GOAT stands for Greatest Of All Time and it’s become a term that, in my opinion, is thrown around far too easily in the sports world. By definition, there can be only one GOAT in each sport. There may be controversy as to who it is, but there aren’t lots of them. I don’t think it’s a hot take to say that Dane Dobbie is not the greatest player in NLL history (despite his teammates saying he is). The hot take might be: he’s not even in the top ten. But that’s an article for another time.
Of course you can add your own qualifiers, and a player may be the GOAT of a certain subset of players. As Jake Elliott pointed out, the NLL probably meant that Dobbie is the Roughnecks GOAT, not the GOAT. That’s totally fair and Jake is quite likely right.
But that got me thinking: what about the other teams? Who is their GOAT? Some are obvious – Buffalo comes to mind – while others are more contentious.
One question we have to answer first is what do we mean by this? Is it the best player to ever wear that uniform, or is it the best player to ever have an impact in that uniform? For example, you could argue that the second Dan Dawson takes the floor as a member of the Toronto Rock this coming season, before he’s even touched the ball, he’s among the top three players ever to wear the Rock jersey. But is that meaningful?
For this article, I’m going to say that it’s not good enough to simply have worn a team’s jersey, you have to have played there for a significant amount of time. However I’m not going to define “significant” with specific guidelines (e.g. you have to have played x games or x seasons or have won some sort of major award). Just going with my gut here.
I’m going to skip the expansion Knighthawks 2.0 and Riptide for obvious reasons and also the Wings 2.0 and Seals since they have only played a single season.
Buffalo – Tough one, but I’m going to go with someone who many consider to be the GOAT of the league, if not the entire sport of box lacrosse. Of course it’s John Tavares.
Calgary – My “tough one” for the Bandits was obviously in jest but this really is a tough one. If you go with the “just wearing the jersey” rule, I’d put Josh Sanderson and Shawn Evans at the top of that list. Sanderson played two full seasons and part of a third and while they were outstanding seasons and included a championship, he’s more associated with the Rock. Evans is a tougher call because he played four seasons including two with 110+ points and one MVP trophy. The guy who started this whole conversation, Dane Dobbie, has played 12 seasons (all with Calgary), won two Championships, and is the incumbent MVP. Jeff Shattler was an MVP and played eleven great seasons in Calgary so he has to be considered. Kaleb Toth was never an MVP but was the quintessential Roughneck for years. What about Tracey Kelusky? Higher point averages than Shattler or Toth, and team captain for their 2009 title.
Given his longevity, I’m going with Dobbie.
Colorado – Is it John Grant or Gary Gait? Gait only played three years with the Mammoth while Grant played seven (well, six plus two games in the seventh). Interestingly, their points-per-game numbers are almost identical: Grant averaged 5.632 points per game over 98 games while Gait averaged 5.625 in 48 games. If Gait had played 98 games with the Mammoth like Grant did, he’d have 551 points. Grant has 552. Both won an MVP award with the Mammoth and neither won a Championship (Gait did as a coach), so basically, they were the same guy. Grant played twice as long in Colorado as Gait did so I’m going with Grant.
Georgia (including Minnesota) – If you just consider the four seasons in Georgia, I think the obvious choice would be Lyle Thompson. But if you include the Minnesota years, Callum Crawford and Ryan Benesch jump into the mix. They each had slightly higher points-per-game numbers than Thompson, but even at their peak, I don’t think either of them were as good overall as Thompson is.
Halifax – (as the Rochester Knighthawks) John Grant is the obvious choice because he’s one of the best players in the history of the league. But Matt Vinc has to be considered here. Grant won one Championship and an MVP award in his ten seasons with the Knighthawks. Vinc won three titles and about a hundred Goaltender of the Year awards. Grant’s dominance with the Knighthawks cannot be overlooked (he had an eight-year stretch with seven 90+ point seasons and only played five games in the eighth) but Vinc is probably the best goaltender of the last decade and definitely top three all-time. I honestly cannot decide so I’m taking the easy way out and calling it a tie.
New England* – Again Shawn Evans jumps out. He only played 2½ years in New England but averaged over six points per game in the two full seasons. Another candidate would be Kevin Crowley, who played most of four seasons with the Black Wolves. He wasn’t quite as dominant with the numbers but Crowley is great off-ball and defensively as well so his numbers don’t show how good he is. I’m going to go with Evans here.
Saskatchewan (including Edmonton) – Mark Matthews was my first thought but Kyle Rubisch is probably the better choice. Matthews has been a top-10 offensive player for his entire career (top 5 for most of it) but there was a four year period where Rubisch was hands down the best defensive player in the league, and he remains in the top three now.
Toronto – I’m going with Colin Doyle not only because he was an outstanding player (#4 in career scoring) but a great captain as well. Like Matt Vinc in Rochester, Bob Watson also needs to be considered. Josh Sanderson is right up there too, and Jim Veltman and Brodie Merrill were also great players and great captains.
Vancouver (including the entire franchise history) – I wondered about Lewis Ratcliff, Gary Rosyski, Colin Doyle, and even Josh Sanderson from the Albany Attack days. But in the end, it’s got to be Rhys Duch. Duch averaged about 5.4 points per game over ten seasons with the San Jose, Washington, and Vancouver Stealths. He led the team in goals, assists, and points in four straight seasons and was either first or second in those categories in three more. He was the face of the Stealth for a decade which is why it was so surprising that they unceremoniously released him before last season. Hey, can someone remind me who scored the OT goal that gave Calgary the 2019 Championship? I forget.
* Maybe others don’t have this problem, but I find it hard to think of the Black Wolves as a continuation of the old Philadelphia Wings. As a result, I didn’t consider Wings players for the Black Wolves GOAT, even though I did consider previous teams in the Vancouver and Georgia franchises. But the Wings were around for 28 years, so they shouldn’t be just tossed aside. For the Wings, I’d have to choose between Tom Marechek (12 years, four Championships, 773 points) and Dallas Eliuk (again, top 3 goalie of all time). Gary Gait only played five seasons in Philly but was named MVP in three of them (in a row), so he’s got to be up there too. I’m going to go with Eliuk.
Winter is coming.
And this is good, because winter is NLL season! The 2019-2020 NLL season begins on November 29, which is only eleven weeks from now. In fact by the time you read this, it will be less than eleven weeks from now. The league released the schedule for the upcoming season this week, just ahead of next week’s entry draft. Of course the timing is done by design since now that the summer championships (President’s Cup, Minto, Mann, etc.) are done, there ain’t much happening in the box lacrosse world right now.
I imagine the last few weeks have been a nightmare for NLL GMs, and the next couple won’t be much better. The second expansion draft in two years is coming up in a couple of weeks so each GM had to go through their roster and choose eleven players to protect, knowing they could lose anyone not on that list. Then you need to call more than half of your players and tell them they’re not protected. Then you will lose two of them and need to adjust your team afterwards. Luckily they have five months or so before the season starts to do that. Just like last year’s draft, some GMs will have some big holes to fill after the draft, others might barely notice the difference.
This is the time when we look back over the season and pick the players who were the best of 2019. It’s also fun to see how close my
random guesses predictions from the beginning of the season were. Every year, I pick a player for each team who I think will have an exceptional year, so let’s take a look at my “Look out for…” picks from the East and West previews as well.
- Dane Dobbie
- Matt Vinc
- Callum Crawford
- Mark Matthews
- Dan Dawson
I don’t always like picking the guy with the highest point total as the MVP. It seems too easy and since I’m known to be a stats guy, it looks like I just went with the big numbers and ignored everything else. But this year, Dane Dobbie epitomized “most valuable” in every way. Not only did he lead the league in points (and finished second in goals, assists, and power-play goals), but he blew away his previous career high by 25 points. Most importantly, he carried the Roughnecks at the beginning of the season when Curtis Dickson, Wes Berg, and Jesse King were all out.
Goaltender of the Year
Original pick: Dillon Ward
- Matt Vinc
- Mike Poulin
- Frank Scigliano
- Christian Del Bianco
- Dillon Ward
Vinc led the league in GAA and save percentage among starters. He kept his opponents to single-digits seven times – and three of those were five or fewer. But most importantly he turned the Bandits struggling defense from last year into the stingiest in the league. Of course, he didn’t do it by himself but his play and the confidence he inspires in the rest of the defenders was obviously a huge part of that transformation.
Transition Player of the Year
Original pick: Challen Rogers
- Challen Rogers
- Steve Priolo
- Kiel Matisz
- Zach Currier
- Tyler Pace
Rogers plays excellent defense, is almost always the first guy up the floor in transition, and took many shifts on offense. He played on the man-up and man-down, and when watching the Rock play, it seems that he’s just always on the floor. He does it all, does it all well, and always looks like he’s having fun while doing it.
Defensive Player of the Year
Original pick: Graeme Hossack
- Graeme Hossack
- Kyle Rubisch
- Brad Kri
- David Brock
- Mike Messenger
Hossack and Rubisch are both masters of the stick check. They don’t just make it difficult for offensive players to get to or even see the net, leaving them with a bad shot or no shot at all, though they’re great at that too. These guys prefer to simply strip them of the ball and toss it to one of their teammates in transition. It’s clean, it’s quick, it gives your team a chance to score, and if you watch these guys do it, you might think it’s easy. It’s not.
Rookie of the Year
- Austin Staats
- Steph Charbonneau
- Kyle Killen
- Trevor Baptiste
- Ian MacKay
Before he got injured, Staats was on pace for 78 points which was 17 short of the rookie record (held by his big brother). Other rookies have scored more goals and picked up more loosies, but few have had the overall impact that Austin Staats had this season. His goal-scoring, energy, and obvious love for the game was the talk of the league all season. In a non-traditional lacrosse market, having a young, exciting, dynamic player like Staats had to be a huge help in trying to build their brand and fanbase. Hopefully he is fully recovered from his ACL surgery by next season because his career will be an amazing one to watch.
- Casey Jackson
- Matt Hossack
- Bryan Cole
- Greg Downing
- Keegan Bal
When you think of the Seals offense, you think Staats, Dawson, Billings, Buchanan, but Casey Jackson doesn’t jump to mind. But Jackson led the Seals in goals and after playing all of four games in his career before this season, fit in very nicely among the rookie phenom and veteran scorers.
Comeback Player of the Year
- Garrett Billings
- Jordan McBride
- Tyler Digby
- Dan Coates
- Cam Holding
Billings missed all of 2018 and only played four games in 2017. Between work commitments and injuries, it seemed that his NLL career might be over. But Billings matched the points total from his 2010 rookie season and looked a lot like the old Billings, which was likely a little scary for Seals opponents. He certainly scored some beautiful goals but as we’ve come to expect, in every game he played he had more assists than goals, sometimes many more.
Les Bartley Award
Original pick: Pat Coyle
- Patrick Merrill
- Matt Sawyer
- John Tavares/Rich Kilgour
As a GM, Merrill put together a great bunch of players. As a coach, he turned them into a great team. Of course having vets like Dawson, Billings, and Buchanan on his team really helped too, but clearly the Seals players bought (and dove) in early in the season and that teamwork was obvious all year.
GM of the Year
Original pick: Steve Dietrich
- Patrick Merrill
- Steve Dietrich
- John Arlotta
When you look at an expansion team’s roster, you usually hope that the team might be pretty good in a couple of years. The Seals looked very good from the beginning and didn’t disappoint. Even after the season started, Merrill wasn’t done. He brought in Paul Dawson to give the defense even more toughness and leadership. He took chances on Garrett Billings and Kyle Hartzell and they paid off. When he lost Austin Staats, he brought in Joe Walters. He put together a great mix of leaders who could still produce on the floor and a solid young group that can be the core of this team for years.
East: My picks were Buffalo, Georgia, Toronto, New England, Rochester, Philadelphia. In that order. Nailed it.
West: My picks were Saskatchewan, Calgary, Colorado, San Diego, Vancouver. Move San Diego to second and I nailed the west too, but I really only got two right: first and last.
Look out for…
I got some of the above picks right, and missed on others. But of the eleven below, I’d say I nailed five (Duch, Buchanan, Staats, Digby, Lintner) and got four more pretty close. Only two were really wrong.
Calgary: Rhys Duch. Calling that a win. He didn’t get back into the 90’s in points, but then he wasn’t expected to be the guy on the Roughnecks like he was on the Stealth. He helped set up the guy (Dobbie) and the other guy (Dickson) and had a great year.
Colorado: Tim Edwards. 53.5% at the dot this year, fourth among face-off guys. Not a bad season at all.
San Diego: Kyle Buchanan. 67 points, 28 goals, a veteran presence and lots of hustle – exactly as expected from Buchanan.
Saskatchewan: Travis Cornwall. We all thought he was brought in to basically replace his brother Jeff on the transition but he played more of a defensive role for the Rush. As such, the numbers don’t tell us much but the fact that Cornwall played all 18 games for the first time in his career tells you what the Rush coaching staff thought of his play.
Vancouver: Colton and Zack Porter. More defenders so the numbers don’t tell you much but these guys were tough on opposing forwards. Not big guys (each is 5’8″) but tenacious. The Warriors players voted Zack as their rookie of the year.
Buffalo: Shawn Evans. 94 points, which is excellent for most but only very good for Evans. Like Duch, he had to get used to not being the guy on the Bandits offense but his presence helped make them one of the strongest in the league.
Georgia: Randy Staats. 96 points makes this the best year of his career, narrowly eclipsing his 95 in his rookie year.
New England: Tyler Digby. 72 points in 17 games, almost back to his 74 in 18 back in 2015. In fact, he had a higher points-per-game average so I’d call that a career year.
Philadelphia: Brett Hickey. Would have been a career year for Hickey, I’m sure, if he didn’t get injured after only three games.
Rochester: Pat Saunders. Only played four games.
Toronto: Dan Lintner. Played in all eighteen games and set career highs in goals, assists, points, loose balls, and CTOs.
I love doing this every year. There are only a few weeks left in the season, so it’s time to look at the possible-but-unlikely playoff scenarios. In most cases below, I’ve listed a single way that the specified outcome can happen, but there may be more than one.
Just for clarification, “win out” means a team wins all of the rest of their games (also known as “runs the table”), while “lose out” means that a team loses all the rest of their games (also known as “defecating in one’s sleeping apparatus”).
Swarm and Bandits tie for first
Swarm win out, and the Bandits win out except they lose to Toronto. Then Georgia and Buffalo finish tied for first and tied 1-1 in the season series as well. The Swarm would end up with a 10-3 division record while the Bandits would be 9-4, so the Swarm finish first.
Rock win the east
Rock win out. Bandits lose any one game and Georgia loses any two. Then the Rock are 13-5, the Bandits are at best 13-5 (and Toronto owns the tiebreaker), and the Swarm are at best 12-6.
Black Wolves win the east
Black Wolves win out. Bandits lose out, Georgia loses three and Toronto loses one. Then the Bandits and Black Wolves are both 12-6, 1-1 against each other, and 8-5 in their division. The tiebreaker in this case is head-to-head goal differential. The Bandits beat the Black Wolves 15-5 in January, so the only way the Black Wolves win the division is if all those things listed above happen and they beat the Bandits by more than ten goals on April 20.
Four-way tie at 12-6 in the east
New England wins out, Buffalo loses out, Georgia wins one and loses the other two, and Toronto wins out except for a loss to New England. Then those four are all 12-6. Georgia wins the first tiebreaker, New England wins the second, and Toronto wins the third, leaving Buffalo in fourth.
Three-way tie at 8-10 in the east
Toronto loses out, Philly wins out, and New England beats Toronto but loses all the rest of their games. Then those three are tied for third at 8-10 while the Bandits and Swarm finish first and second in some order. New England wins the three-way tiebreaker and finishes third, and Toronto wins the tiebreaker against Philadelphia and takes fourth. The Wings and Knighthawks are out.
Rush finish last in the west
If the Rush lose out (including one to Vancouver) and the Warriors win two of their other three games, the Rush are last. Let me say that again: at the end of March, it’s still possible for the Saskatchewan Rush to finish last in their division. I think the Rush clinched a playoff berth in February last year.
Warriors win the west
OK, this one is complicated. Vancouver wins out. Rush lose to Philly and twice to Colorado but beat San Diego and Calgary. San Diego loses out. Calgary beats San Diego and Philly but loses to Georgia and Saskatchewan. Colorado loses to Vancouver, San Diego, and Rochester but beat Saskatchewan twice. In that case, the Warriors win the west at 9-9, while the other four teams are all 8-10. That completes the proposed scenario but we still need to find out what happens, so we need to break the four-way tie.
The first tiebreaker is each team’s record against the other teams involved in the tiebreaker, but that doesn’t help here. Colorado and Saskatchewan would be 5-4 while San Diego and Calgary would be 4-5. The second tiebreaker is each team’s record within the division, in which case Saskatchewan wins at 9-3. Thus the Rush finish second, and we go to a three-way tiebreaker.
Again, the first is not helpful as each team is 3-3 against the other two. Back to the division record where the Seals are 8-4 and so they come third. The final tiebreaker is won by Colorado with a 2-1 record over the Roughnecks. Colorado finishes fourth and Calgary is out.
Seals finish first in the league
If San Diego wins out, that would put them at 14-4 and give them a win over Buffalo, which means the best Buffalo could do is also 14-4. With that win, San Diego would own the tiebreaker, so all San Diego has to do to finish first overall is to win out. No other conditions need to be met.
Four way tie for first in the west
San Diego loses out except they beat Georgia. The Rush beat Vancouver, San Diego, and Calgary but lose to Colorado twice and Philadelphia. Calgary beats San Diego and Philly and loses to Georgia and Saskatchewan. Colorado beats Saskatchewan twice and San Diego but loses to Rochester. Then all four are 9-9 while the Warriors are at best 7-11. Interestingly, the tiebreaker scenario listed above (under “Warriors win the west”) works out exactly the same way, so we have Rush, Seals, Mammoth, Roughnecks, and Warriors.