Blockbuster day in the NLL

The free agency period began with a bang today, as two of the biggest blockbuster trades we’ve seen in years both happened on the same day. In the first one, a couple of former teammates who have each played for a bunch of teams were swapped along with a goalie, and in the other the two main players were both goalies.

Deal the First

Early in the day, Teddy Jenner broke the news on twitter that a big deal was coming, and Tyson Geick confirmed that it would be announced at noon. Promptly at noon, both Jenner and the Buffalo Bandits broke the deal: the Mammoth sent Callum Crawford and Alexis Buque to the Bandits for Ryan Benesch and a conditional third round draft pick. Benesch and Crawford were both scoring stars on the Swarm for four seasons from 2010-2013; Benesch won the scoring title in 2011 with 95 points, and Crawford broke 90 in both 2010 and 2013. As good as those numbers are, both have since taken their games to another level. Each has picked up MVP votes over the past couple of years with similar numbers: Benesch grabbed 113 points with the Bandits in 2015 while Crawford picked up 115 points in his first season with the Mammoth in 2016.

Callum Crawford

Buque has been one of the top backup goalies in the league for a couple of years, and I suspected that he’d be one of the first snatched up by next year’s expansion teams. Sounds like the Bandits had other plans. Benesch and Crawford have been pretty even in the points department over the last number of years, though Crawford picks up more assists. The Bandits also announced today that they’d signed Davide DiRuscio to a contract, which leads me to believe that the Anthony Cosmo retirement announcement is imminent.

On first blush, I have to call the Bandits the winners on this one. If we call Benesch and Crawford a wash, Buque vs. a 3rd round draft pick is a no-brainer. The Bandits needed right-handed scoring and got it, though they weakened their left side to do it. But if Cosmo is indeed retiring, they’ve also shored up their goaltending for years. The Mammoth wanted to replace John Grant on the left side (though he barely played last season) and they’ve certainly done that.

Deal the Second

Aaron BoldA few hours later, Jenner broke another big trade, this one involving the Rush and the Black Wolves, and one that still has me scratching my head. The Rush sent goalie Aaron Bold, defender John Lafontaine, the 8th overall draft pick this year and a second round pick in 2018 to New England for Evan Kirk and… that’s all. Make no mistake, Evan Kirk is an excellent goaltender but this trade seems a bit perplexing. Bold and Kirk are two of the top goalies in the league, but not only would I not put the difference between them big enough to cover Lafontaine and two draft picks, but I’d have put them in the other order – if I was giving up Bold and receiving Kirk, I’d be expecting to receive another player and/or draft picks. Note that Kirk is younger than Bold, but only by two years.

Yes, Kirk won Goaltender of the year in 2016 and Bold has never won it. But Bold was a runner-up in each of the previous two years. And if you care about that sort of thing, Bold has two titles and Kirk none.

If this deal was done by anyone other than Derek Keenan, I’d say he got fleeced. But Derek Keenan doesn’t get fleeced. Usually, Derek Keenan does the fleecing.

I’m guessing there’s more to this deal than meets the eye, or it’s only part of a series of deals, the rest of which will be announced soon. Perhaps Bold requested a trade east and all the eastern GMs knew it, so Keenan had no bargaining power.

I’m not sure what the Rush hoped to accomplish with this deal. They got a little younger, but they were one of the youngest teams in the league anyway and the difference is minimal. And Lafontaine is only 27. They talked about the draft picks they got for Adam Jones being important because of the (likely) upcoming expansion drafts, and then traded two picks away for at best a wash at goaltender and they lost a defenseman too. Apparently there is more to come from the Rush, so perhaps those moves will explain their thought process.

As for the Black Wolves, they got better today and also picked up some draft picks to get better in the future. Not bad.

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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: New England 10 @ Toronto 18

The Rock hosted the New England Black Wolves on Saturday night for the right to lose to play the Georgia Swarm in the division finals. In the lowest-attended Rock home game ever, the Rock fought off the strong Black Wolves attack in the first quarter and turned a close game into a blowout.

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.

Game report: New England 10 @ Toronto 9 (OT)

Another exciting, down to the wire, overtime game, just like the last home game. But ultimately another loss, just like the last home game.

Awesome

  • Latrell Harris had another strong game. That guy impresses me more and more every game. The PA guy on Friday night called him “Kid Rock 2.0”, which I kind of like. (Kim Squire, who also wore #93, was known as Kid Rock in the early 2000’s).
  • Joel Coyle took two penalties in the first quarter, but stayed in the penalty box a total of 22 seconds because the Rock scored on the PP right away in both cases.
  • After Brett Hickey’s goal to put the Rock ahead early in the fourth, he gave spirited, almost violent, high fives to everyone on his way back to the bench. I love to see that level of intensity. But Hickey’s a strong guy – I’d hate to see some Rock player miss a few weeks because a Brett Hickey goal celebration dislocated his shoulder.
  • New England defense and Evan Kirk. Most Rock possessions lasted either 5 seconds because someone would shoot right away or 29 seconds because they’d shoot just before the shot clock expired. The Black Wolves D just wouldn’t let them get any good looks at the net. And when they did, Kirk was there to stop them.

Jay Thorimbert

Not awesome

  • Nick Rose. He wasn’t terrible – only allowing 10 goals in 60+ minutes ain’t bad – but he didn’t seem to be seeing the ball terribly well. I think two of the first three shots he faced beat him, but one rolled wide by a few inches and he turned around in time to stop the other one. Another time he dropped to his knees thinking the shot was going low but it went high, and luckily hit his shoulder and stayed out. A few other times were similar but he wasn’t so lucky and they went in. Once or twice we saw him sliding to his right when the shot went in to his left. That said, a couple of Kevin Buchanan’s goals were just lasers into a corner, and there’s nothing Rose could do about those.
  • Black Wolves shooters. I can’t count the number of times they shot and missed the net entirely. Sometimes it was because they were stick-checked while shooting, but not always. Sometimes, a lot of times actually, they just missed.
  • Only 8477 at this game. I really hope there are a ton of people at the next home game, where they’ll be raising Colin Doyle’s jersey to the rafters. Doyle deserves that.
  • Speaking of former Rock captains deserving to be honoured, it’s time for Jim Veltman’s #32 to be raised as well. I know Veltman and Jamie Dawick had issues (mainly financial, I believe) after Veltman retired, but that was years ago. Move on and do the right thing.
  • The people behind us who laughed at Brett Bucktooth’s name when it was announced after a penalty. Disrespectful.
  • Speaking of disrespectful, people who boo the refs when they make a correct call if it goes against the Rock. I don’t like it any more than you do, but the Rock goal in OT should not have counted. Disallowing the goal was the right call and the video replay made that clear, so booing the refs makes no sense.

Other game notes

  • My friend Mike pointed out that there were no moving picks called the entire game. But there were a lot of possession changes (on both sides) due to players running through the crease.
  • I wasn’t sure whether this was awesome or not. Phil Caputo and Sheldon Burns had a short but intense fight and immediately were sent to the penalty box. Burns got to his box first and while Caputo was walking by, Burns reached out for a fist bump, which Caputo gave him. I like the fact that lacrosse players will fight each other during the game and then show respect by buying each other a beer at the bar afterwards, but showing that respect ten seconds afterwards? Isn’t that a little too soon? Maybe, maybe not. I think I’m leaning towards awesome.

2017 NLL Predictions

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.

Final Standings

East

  1. New England
  2. Buffalo
  3. Georgia
  4. Toronto
  5. Rochester

West

  1. Saskatchewan
  2. Colorado
  3. Calgary
  4. Vancouver

Individual Awards

MVP

Winner: Mark Matthews
Short list: Shawn Evans, Dhane Smith
Dark horse:  Adam Jones

Goaltender of the Year

Winner: Aaron Bold
Short list: Dillon Ward, Nick Rose
Dark horse: Frank Scigliano

Robert HopeDefensive Player of the Year

Winner: Robert Hope
Short list: Ryan Dilks, Kyle Rubisch, Graeme Hossack
Dark horse:  Mitch de Snoo

Transition Player of the Year

Winner: Karsen Leung
Short list: Alex Kedoh Hill, Chad Tutton, Chris Corbeil
Dark horse:  Challen Rogers

Rookie of the Year

Winner: Ryan Keenan
Short list: Challen Rogers, Mike Messenger
Dark horse:  Kieran McArdle

Les Bartley Award

Winner: Troy Cordingley
Short list: Derek Keenan (though you could put his name here every year)
Dark horse: Jamie Batley

GM of the Year

Winner: If the Rock are above .500 and make the playoffs, Jamie Dawick. Otherwise, Steve Dietrich
Short list: Derek Keenan (though you could put his name here every year)
Dark horse: Curt Styres or Doug Locker

This was a tough one since the Rock, Knighthawks, Swarm, and Stealth made a lot of moves but I’m not terribly confident in them. Most other teams didn’t make many at all.

2017 NLL: Who’s in, who’s out

Here’s a complete list of all the roster changes for each team.

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 2016.

BanditsBuffalo Bandits

In: Craig Point, Brad Self
Out: Chad Culp, Tyler Ferreira, Jay Thorimbert
IR: Bryce Brochu, Craig England, Adam Will
PUP:
Holdout:
Practice Roster: Tim Edwards, Justin Martin, Kevin Orleman, Blaze Riorden

The Bandits have the fewest changes of any team in the league. They went to the finals last season, so that makes sense. Added to the lineup are veterans Craig Point and Brad Self, while Culp and face-off specialist Thorimbert head to New England and Tyler Ferreira to the rival Knighthawks.


SwarmGeorgia Swarm

In: Liam Byrnes, Bryan Cole, Jordan Hall, Mike Poulin, John Ranagan, Connor Sellars, Leo Stouros, Sean Young
Out: Reid Acton, David Earl, Zack Higgins, Jesse King, Jordan MacIntosh, Drew Petkoff, Johnny Powless, Joel White
IR: Jesse King, Jordan MacIntosh, Johnny Powless
PUP:
Holdout: Laughlin Elder
Practice Roster: Brayden Hill, Warren Hill, Drew Petkoff, Adam Shute

A few big names start the season on the injured list for the Swarm. Newcomer Jordan Hall should help boost the offense and Mike Poulin gives the Swarm a solid #1 goalie, something they haven’t really had since… well, a long time ago in a state far, far away. Defender John Ranagan joins from New England and five rookies also made the team.


BlackWolvesNew England Black Wolves

In: Chad Culp, Doug Jamieson, Seth Oakes, Reilly O’Connor, Scott Self, Matt Spanger, Jay Thorimbert
Out: Dan Ball, Tye Belanger, Phil Caputo, Jordan Hall, Stephen Hoar, Mike McNamara, John Ranagan
IR: Derek Searle
PUP:
Holdout:
Practice Roster: Dan Ball, Connor Brown, Joel Coyle, Mitch McMichael

A couple of fairly significant changes for the Black Wolves. The versatile Jordan Hall is now in Georgia, while Jay Thorimbert and Chad Culp bring their veteran smarts from Buffalo. Reilly O’Connor also arrives from Calgary, and Scott Self helps to shore up an already-strong back end. Hopefully Evan Kirk has another strong year, since backing him up with be rookie Doug Jamieson instead of Tye Belanger. Then again, Evan Kirk’s rookie year was rather impressive so the fact that Jamieson is a rookie may not matter.


KnighthawksRochester Knighthawks

In: Josh Currier, Jarrett Davis, Tyler Ferreira, Kyle Jackson, Luc Magnan, Joel Matthews, Quinn Powless, Wayne Van Every
Out: Adam Bomberry, Cody Jamieson, Mike Kirk, Mike Manley, Craig Point, Derek Searle, Brad Self, Scott Self, John Sullivan, Ty Thompson, Cory Vitarelli, Joe Walters
IR: Andrew Suitor, Cory Vitarelli
PUP: Adam Bomberry, Cody Jamieson
Holdout:
Practice Roster: Luke Laszkiewicz, Dan Lomas, John Rae

Lots of changes for the Knighthawks, some of them temporary. Joe Walters is out for the year after committing to the MLL. Also out is Craig Point, who only played four games last year but amassed 18 points, good for the third highest points-per-game average on the team. Jamieson, Bomberry, and Vitarelli will hopefully be returning to the lineup before long, and the oft-injured Andrew Suitor would be a welcome addition as well but also starts the year on the IR. In the meantime, Jarrett Davis returns from out west and Quinn Powless hopes to play a full season. NLL sophomores Luc Magnan and Tyler Ferreira help to strengthen a defense that is missing both Self brothers, John Sullivan, and the retired Mike Kirk.


RockToronto Rock

In: Connor Buczek, Damon Edwards, Steve Fryer, Latrell Harris, Brett Hickey, Mikey MacDonald, Kieran McArdle, Challen Rogers, Tom Schreiber, Matt Sawyer (head coach)
Out: Kyle Aquin, Jamie Batson, Colin Boucher, Colin Doyle, Rob Hellyer, John Lovell (head coach), Luc Magnan, Rob Marshall, Brandon Miller, Kevin Ross, Josh Sanderson
IR: Rob Marshall, Patrick Merrill, Brandon Miller, Brock Sorensen
PUP: Rob Hellyer
Holdout:
Practice Roster: Jordan Magnusson, Reid Reinholdt, Brodie Tutton
Protected: Paul Rabil

Where to start?

When you lose two of the top four offensive stars of all time in the same off-season, who do you replace them with? How about Americans who have never played a box lacrosse game in their lives? Doesn’t sound like a great plan but having watched Kieran McArdle and Tom Schreiber in the pre-season, it may not be that bad. But losing Doyle and Sanderson isn’t even the biggest loss for the Rock, points-wise. Rob Hellyer scored 27 points more than Doyle and Sanderson combined in 2016, but will miss all of 2017. Brett Hickey returns from an injury that cost him the last six games of 2016, so that will certainly help, and Mikey MacDonald has looked really good in the pre-season as well.

Challen Rogers will join the returning Damon Edwards, Brodie Merrill, and Jesse Gamble to form one of the best transition units in the league. Another question is in net where Steve Fryer, with all of 60 minutes in his NLL career, replaces Brandon Miller who’s recovering from hip surgery.

Oh, and the Rock are the only team to make a coaching change this season. Seems like there isn’t much about the Rock that didn’t change.


RoughnecksCalgary Roughnecks

In: Holden Cattoni, Chad Cummings, Christian Del Bianco, Riley Loewen
Out: Garrett McIntosh, Pete McFetridge, Riley O’Connor, Mike Poulin
IR:
PUP: Vaughn Harris
Holdout:
Practice Roster: Garrett McIntosh, Keegan Rittinger, Bob Snider

Just a couple of changes for the Roughnecks. Riley Loewen joins from the Rush replacing Riley O’Connor, who was traded due to league rules that prohibit two Rileys on the same team. Peter McFetridge is now in Vancouver and veteran goalie Mike Poulin signed with the Swarm. Frank Scigliano and second-year-player-but-still-a-teenager Christian Del Bianco will likely split the goaltending duties.


MammothColorado Mammoth

In: Greg Downing, Zack Greer, Jacob Ruest, Taylor Stuart
Out: Jackson Decker, Adam Jones, Mike Mallory, Mike Woods
IR:
PUP: 
Holdout:
Practice Roster: Brent Adams, Zach Herreweyers, Mike Mallory, Nick Ossello

One big change for the Mammoth: Adam Jones was sent to the Rush for constant scoring threat Zack Greer. Losing Jones hurts but who has Greer score the most points against in his career? The Mammoth. They’ll be glad to have him on their side for a change.


RushSaskatchewan Rush

In: Matthew Dinsdale, Adam Jones, Ryan Keenan, Mike Messenger
Out: Jarett Davis, Zack Greer, John Lintz, Riley Loewen
IR:
PUP: 
Holdout:
Practice Roster: Matt Hossack, Matt MacGrottty

The best get better? Possibly. Adam Jones scored two fewer points than Zack Greer last season, but played two fewer games because of work commitments. Hopefully playing in Canada will eliminate those missed games. Ryan Keenan was the first overall draft pick for a reason, and it sounds like the Rush players are very excited about his presence. Highly-touted rookie Mike Messenger replaces John Lintz in the Rush defense.


StealthVancouver Stealth

In: Keegan Bal, Tye Belanger, Brendan Fowler, John Lintz, Pete McFetridge, Tommy McKee, Ryan Wagner
Out: Garrett Billings, Mitch McMichael, Jeff Moleski, Eric Penney, Cliff Smith, Rory Smith, Jarrett Toll
IR: Garrett Billings, Cory Conway, James Rahe, Jarrett Toll
PUP:
Holdout:
Practice Roster: Brandon Clelland, Justin Goodwin, Evan Messenger, Eric Penney

Having Billings and Conway on the IR to start the year won’t help, but from Teddy Jenner’s interview with Conway a week or two ago, it sounded like his debut in the Stealth lineup wouldn’t be delayed for long. McMichael was traded east, Moleski retired, and Cliff Smith will miss at least part of the season due to work commitments as he attempts to start a career in law enforcement. The revolving door of Stealth goaltenders continues as Tye Belanger gets the nod as Tyler Richards’s backup.

Grabbing a solid veteran defender from a division rival isn’t easy but Doug Locker did it twice this off-season. John Lintz and Pete McFetridge will make a big difference in the Stealth back end.