2023 NLL West preview

Yesterday I started with the East division, today we’ll cover the West. Where I think each team will end up in the standings and who might have a breakout year.

RoughnecksCalgary Roughnecks

Obviously Curtis Dickson is the biggest loss for the Roughnecks. They have brought in Brett Hickey who’s had a couple of 40+ goal seasons, but both of them were 5+ years ago. He didn’t have great success in Philadelphia and wasn’t a great fit in San Diego, but with the right chemistry he could rebound and be a solid #2 for the Roughnecks behind Jesse King. The addition of Jeff Cornwall solidifies the Calgary defense, which struggled in the first half of last season but had a much better second half.

Look out for

I’ve heard a number of people talking about Haiden Dickson as a breakout player for the Roughnecks this year and I can’t disagree. He had moments last season where I wondered if this might be the year we started referring to Curtis as “the other Dickson” on the Roughnecks instead of Haiden. Obviously with Curtis gone that won’t matter, but Haiden is a very exciting young player.

Prediction

Fifth in the west.


MammothColorado Mammoth

A few offensive guys are out to start the season: Ryan Lee and Chris Wardle are both injured and Tyson Gibson is on the holdout list. But the Mammoth won the Championship last year with Lee missing most of the playoffs and Eli McLaughlin out for games 2 and 3 of the finals, so being down a couple of offensive guys is NBD, right? Yet another loss to retirement (see Georgia for the rest) is 13-year veteran defender Scott Carnegie. But assuming the injured players return soon, this is basically the same Mammoth team from last year, which is good news for Colorado fans.

Look out for

Rookie Brett McIntyre had no points in two games in the 2022 regular season but had 7 goals and 9 assists in 6 playoff games. Clearly his scoreless streak in the regular season will end but will he continue his almost-3-points-per-game pace?

Prediction

Second in the west.


LasVegas8Las Vegas Desert Dogs

It’s hard to look at just a roster and get a good feel for how good an expansion team is going to be. Will they be the next San Diego Seals (10-8, made the playoffs) or the next Ottawa Rebel (1-13, didn’t)? It’s hard to tell, but that said, look at the players on this team: Rob Hellyer, Reid Reinholdt, Jacob Ruest, Charlie Bertrand, Zack Greer, Marshal King up front. John Wagner, Tyson Roe, Garrett McIntosh, Travis Cornwall, Brandon Clelland on the D. Their biggest question is goaltending. Joel Watson split time with Rylan Hartley in Rochester last year and had a respectable 11.61 GAA and a 77.5% save percentage for a 4-14 team. Is he ready to be the sole starting goalie on an NLL team? His backup, Landon Kells, has ten minutes of playing time in his NLL career, but that’s to be expected when you’re backing up a horse like Christian del Bianco.

I don’t see 12+ wins in their inaugural season but this team will be much closer to the Seals than the Rebel.

Look out for

Marshall King didn’t get a lot of playing time in Calgary, only seeing action in seven games over two seasons. If he can be an everyday player, he could do some damage.

Prediction

Seventh in the west.


Panther CityPanther City LC

It’s not often a team can lose Randy Staats and have it make no difference to their team. Of course, that’s because he was injured all of last season and never played a game for Panther City. But they did lose Travis Cornwall, Connor Sellars, and Jeremy Thompson, all of whom did play for PCLC last year, so their defense is down a few men. But they brought in defenders Tyler Burton, Brooker Muir, and Nate Wade, all of whom have some NLL experience (in Burton’s case, 11 years worth). Also joining Panther City are forwards Tony Malcom and Evan Messenger along with Jonathan Donville, 2021’s first-overall draft pick, who is already being talked about as a Rookie of the Year candidate. Just like so many other teams, goaltending may be a concern. Nick Damude had a very good year in his first season as a full-time starter, but his backup is Cam Wengreniuk who has no NLL experience. If Damude falters, the improved offense may not be enough.

Look out for

It’s hard to predict a breakout year for Patrick Dodds since he’s already had one, with 84 points in 17 games last year. But adding Donville and Malcom to the offense, Dodds could see his assist total jump even more.

Prediction

Sixth in the west.


SealsSan Diego Seals

No changes for San Diego. Nothing to see here.

Well, OK, there were a few. Adding Kevin Crowley and Curtis Dickson to the highest-scoring team in the West is obviously huge. They did lose Jeremy Noble and Zack Greer as well as Brett Hickey, and while Noble was their 4th highest scorer with 70 points, Greer and Hickey combined for about 50 points. So their offense is clearly improved, but what about everything else? Brandon Clelland and Tor Reinholdt are both in Vegas, so they lost two defenders and their chief face-off guy. But returning to the NLL after a five-year absence is Jesse Gamble, who was one of the fastest transition guys in the league in the mid-teens. Like, Joey Cupido fast. Gamble is 34 now, so is he still that fast? No idea, but just like I said about Callum Crawford, even if he’s lost half a step, that’s still pretty good.

Look out for

It would be great for the Seals to get a full season out of Casey Jackson, which hasn’t happened since 2019 due to injuries. But with Dickson, Dobbie, Crowley, Austin Staats, Wes Berg, and Tre Leclaire, how often Jackson going to get the ball?

Prediction

First in the west.


RushSaskatchewan Rush

The Rush missed the playoffs for the first time since they moved to Saskatchewan, so there were some significant changes made. Adam Shute had pretty decent numbers last season but still went 4-6 and was replaced by Eric Penney, who had slightly better numbers and went 4-3. Shute was let go and the Rush picked up Alex Buque, who had an up-and-down year in Vancouver. Former Rush Marty Dinsdale was brought back from the Warriors, and everyone seems very excited about rookie Austin Madronic. But for years, the Rush’s strength has been defense and this season, they’ve lost Chris Corbeil, Jeff Cornwall, and Jordi Jones-Smith. The loss of Corbeil is obviously huge, but Cornwall and Jones-Smith were also significant pieces of the Rush D over the last couple of years. They still have Kyle Rubisch, Ryan Dilks, and Mike Messenger, three of the best in the game, but they’ll have to break in a few rookies and get them used to their system.

Look out for

Austin Madronic, whose name I heard a number of times in the Rush’s pre-season game against Toronto a couple of weeks ago. Plus I just like saying “Madronic”. It’s a cool name.

Prediction

Third in the west.


WarriorsVancouver Warriors

The Warriors made probably the biggest changes in the offseason. First off, they brought in new head coach Troy Cordingley, who has done nothing but win in the NLL. Two Championships with the Bandits as a player, one with the Roughnecks as a coach, and one with the Rock as a coach. He’s demanding and will get the best out of his players or die trying. Second, they brought in Shawn Evans, who had a sub-par year with the Knighthawks and Thunderbirds last year, but played very well during the Mann Cup in September and brings with him a work ethic like nobody else. And third, Mitch Jones is returning from the injury that kept him out of the lineup most of last season. Those three things mean the Warriors will be better this year than last.

On the down side, they lost a number of defenders: Derek Lloyd, Ryan Martel, Garrett McIntosh, and Taylor Stuart. They brought in Anthony Kalinich from Calgary but the rest of the additions are rookies. Tyrell Hamer-Jackson was lost to injury partway through last season and is still on the IR. If they can get him back, that will be a big boost.

Look out for

Adam Charalambides had a very good rookie season (47 points), but I think with the improvements in the Warriors offense, he could take a step up into the 60’s or even 70’s.

Prediction

Fourth in the west.

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2023: 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 2022. 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 so take “None” with a grain of salt. Also most teams don’t have (or didn’t announce) a “Protected” list, but a few did.

And since a number of you have asked, no I don’t know exactly what the different lists mean or the criteria to be on one. I think the PUP list means you got injured playing lacrosse while the IR list means you got injured doing something else. Or possibly it’s the other way around. I’m not sure why it would matter how someone got injured (Anthony Cosmo once made one of these lists because he injured himself shovelling snow), it really only matters that they can’t play. Continue reading

NLL Schedule 2023

The 2023 NLL schedule has been announced. I’m sure there are fans of every team screaming about how unfair it is to their team in particular, because there always are. But honestly, it’s really pretty good for most teams. Only one team plays back-to-back games twice, and one of those is a weekend with two home games. Going for weeks without playing is always a problem but it’s fairly even – ten of the fifteen teams go at least 21 days without a game, but nobody goes more than 22 days.

There is one part of the schedule I’m not crazy about, so we’ll lead with that.

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2022 Off-season summary, Part II

A few days ago, I posted my summary of the off-season moves, beginning with the new commissioner and CBA, last year’s award winners, and the new Las Vegas team finally beginning to fill out their roster. Today we’re going to get into the player changes we’ll see on the floor this winter. Rather than evaluate each transaction separately, let’s look at each team and what changes they’ve made so far. This will be similar to the “Who’s in, who’s out” article I do every year summarizing each team’s roster changes, but is obviously incomplete and subject to change. Continue reading

2022 Off-season summary, Part I

Man, you take one little summer off from writing about lacrosse and what happens? THINGS. Things happen. Lots of things.

We have new winners for NLL awards, we have a new team that has players now, we have a new commissioner, we have a new CBA, we have trades, we have free agent signings, we have retirements, and we have coaching changes. And we still have over three months until the season actually begins!

There have been enough off-season changes that I’ve broken this article into two parts. Let’s get started.

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The Best of 2022

A number of player single-season records were broken this season, and a few players and teams came close. Here is a list of the new player records (in bold), and teams and players that are now in the top ten in some category. Categories I looked at were:

  • For non-goalies, goals, assists, points, loose balls, face-offs (wins, attempts, percentage), CTOs, goals/game, assists/game, and points/game.
  • For goalies, GAA, saves, minutes, wins, and save %. Yes, someone entered the top 10 in losses in a season but let’s focus on the positive.
  • Teams: wins, total goals, goals allowed, and goal differential.

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NLL Week 21

The playoff picture becomes a little clearer each week, but we’re not done yet. Halifax clinched their spot and Saskatchewan, Panther City, and New York were eliminated, so we now have the strange situation of Georgia, Philadelphia, and Albany fighting for the last spot in both the East and West divisions. We have Georgia and Philly playing each other next weekend while New York plays Albany. Here are the possibilities:

  1. Albany loses, Georgia wins: Georgia is 10-8 and takes the east spot, Albany and Philly are both 8-10 so Albany takes the west spot because they are 2-0 against the Wings.
  2. Albany loses, Philly wins: Philly and Georgia are both 9-9, Philly takes the east spot because they’re 3-0 against Georgia, Georgia takes the west spot. Albany is 8-10.
  3. Albany wins, Georgia wins: Georgia is 10-8 and takes the east spot, Albany is 9-9 and takes the west. Philly is 8-10.
  4. Albany wins, Philly wins: All three are 9-9. The first tiebreaker is their head-to-head winning percentage, but I’m not sure that helps. Albany is 3-2 against the other two, Georgia is 2-4, and Philly is also 3-2. Does that mean Albany and Philly make it through to the next tiebreaker and Georgia is out? Or does it mean we don’t consider this tiebreaker because it didn’t provide a clear winner? I honestly don’t know. The next tiebreaker is their division standings. In this scenario, Georgia would be 8-8 within their division, Philly 7-9 and Albany 6-9.
    1. If Georgia is eliminated because of the first tiebreaker, Philly takes the East, Albany takes the west, and Georgia is out.
    2. If the first tiebreaker gets thrown out, Georgia takes the East spot, Philly takes the west, and Albany is out.

However, if case 4b applies, then Georgia has already clinched a playoff spot since they make the playoffs in every case here. Neither the league nor the Swarm have announced that, so case 4a is likely the real one.

Confusion

So for each team, the outcomes are:

  • Georgia: Win and you’re in. Lose and you’re in if Albany loses.
  • Philly: Win and you’re in. Lose and you’re out.
  • Albany: Win and you’re in. Lose and you’re in if Georgia wins.

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NLL Week 20

The playoff picture in the West is almost complete, as Calgary has clinched their spot while Vancouver is out. Only one spot remains in the West, but the battle in the East will take that down to the wire. Right now, the Thunderbirds and Swarm would join the Bandits and Rock in the playoffs, and the FireWolves would take the fourth spot in the West. But Halifax, Georgia, Albany, and Philly are still close enough that any of them may or may not make it, and if Panther City wins their last two games, they could take that fourth position in the West as well.

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Could happen…

Every year around this time, I put together a list of the most unlikely final standings possibilities that could still happen.

This year, the eight spots in the playoffs will be made up of

  • The top four teams in the East
  • The top three teams in the West
  • Either the 5th place East team or the 4th place West team, whichever has the better record

If teams are tied, the the first tiebreaker is their head-to-head record, then their division record, then record against common opponents. Multi-way tiebreakers are similar but more complicated.

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NLL Week 17

There were a bunch of great games this past weekend. The Bandits solidified their stranglehold on first place in the East and the middle of the pack in both divisions got even more muddy. The Bandits may have clinched their playoff spot, but the rest of the spots are still up for grabs.

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