2018 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. Toronto
  2. Georgia
  3. New England
  4. Rochester
  5. Buffalo

West

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

Individual Awards

MVP

Winner: Lyle Thompson
Short list: Mark Matthews, Curtis Dickson
Dark horse: Rob Hellyer

Goaltender of the Year

Winner: Nick Rose
Short list: Dillon Ward
Dark horse: Tye Belanger

Graeme HossackDefensive Player of the Year

Winner: Graeme Hossack
Short list: Kyle Rubisch, Steve Priolo
Dark horse: Mitch de Snoo

Transition Player of the Year

Winner: Justin Salt
Short list: Latrell Harris, Mike Messenger
Dark horse: Jeff Cornwall

Rookie of the Year

Winner: Josh Byrne
Short list: Zach Currier, Austin Shanks
Dark horse: Drew Belgrave

Les Bartley Award

This one is always a crapshoot. The Bartley award is frequently decided by the question “which team played better than we expected them to”, which by definition is impossible to predict. If a team is  stacked and plays well, then the coach isn’t always considered which is unfair. This is why Derek Keenan only has three of these awards and not six or seven.

Winner: Matt Sawyer
Short list: Derek Keenan, Jamie Batley
Dark horse: Pat Coyle

GM of the Year

This one is also tough because trades and signings that happen during the regular season could change the landscape completely, and they’re impossible to predict as well.

Winner: Rich Lisk
Short list: Jamie Dawick, Doug Locker unless the Stealth tank
Dark horse: Curt Styres or Steve Dietrich if the Knighthawks or Bandits finish in the top two in the East

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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

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.

2016 NLL Awards

As we do every year, the IL Indoor staff have each submitted our choices for a number of annual awards. On Addicted to Lacrosse a couple of weeks ago, the three of us went over our choices for those awards as well. Here are the picks I announced on A2L:

  • MVP: Shawn Evans, New England
  • Rookie of the Year: Randy Staats, Georgia
  • Transition Player of the Year: Alex Kedoh Hill, Buffalo
  • Defender of the Year: Chris Corbeil, Saskatchewan
  • Goalie of the Year: Nick Rose, Toronto

Not all of the IL Indoor winners have been posted yet, so I’ll just include the ones here that have. My choice is listed first, followed by the winner in brackets.

Goaltender of the Year hasn’t been announced yet but I’ll say here that when doing my IL Indoor picks, I changed my mind and voted for Dillon Ward (sorry Nick). I’m now… well, not exactly regretting that decision since Ward did have a great season but if I were to submit my picks now, I think I’d stick with Rosey (sorry Dillon).

But there are a couple of other awards that weren’t included in either list, so I wanted to cover them here.

Tom Borrelli Award (Media Person of the Year)

Teddy Jenner. I mean no disrespect to the recent winners of this award, all of whom are deserving, but I’ve had Teddy as my Borrelli pick for several years now. Given how much he does for lacrosse every year, I’m kind of surprised he hasn’t won this. He is an all-around sports guy for sure (from hockey to basketball to Teddy Jennerrugby – huddy huddy, whatever that means), but clearly lacrosse is his passion. He does colour for various TV broadcasts, he’s been doing his Off the Crossebar podcast for several years, he writes for IL Indoor (and his 30 Second Shot Clock articles this past season were awesome – insightful thoughts from his many-times concussed head), he had a lacrosse radio show (also called Off the Crossebar) in Vancouver for a couple of years, he was the on-floor host of the Stealth when they were in Washington, and he’s active on twitter. Did I miss anything? Probably.

He clearly knows the NLL but he’s just as knowledgeable (if not more) about the WLA, MSL, MLL, NCAA, as well as senior, intermediate, and junior A, B, C, and any other letters there are. He knows the game as well as anyone and loves to talk about it, and we love to hear him talk about it.

Full disclosure: I’ve never actually met the man in person but we’ve been Twitter-buds for a few years. Then again, Teddy’s Twitter-buds with everyone. He interviewed me on his radio show once, and I interviewed him for this blog a few years ago.

Honourable mention: Paul Tutka. Given his year-long twitter rant about how to improve the NLL (which came down to “change everything but the game itself, and even change some of that”), it’s unlikely that the league will honour him again, but three-time Borrelli winner Tutka is still one of the most knowledgeable lacrosse writers around. He wrote a preview of the 2016 Champion’s Cup series which is about as in-depth as any article you will ever see. I read stuff like that and think “WTF am *I* doing writing about lacrosse? I don’t have a hope of covering things to that level of detail.” The old adage about “he’s forgotten more about lacrosse than I’ll ever know” has never been more apt.

But I’ve decided that I cater to a different audience. I’m going for the “I want to read articles written by someone who doesn’t know anywhere near as much about lacrosse as Paul Tutka” demographic. And I’m killing it, thankyouverymuch.

I guess more full disclosure: The Money Ballers column that I’ve been writing on IL Indoor for the past five seasons was created and written by Tutka for the previous five seasons. Again, though, I’ve never met him personally.

Executive of the Year

Lee Genier, Saskatchewan Rush. The lowest attended game in Saskatoon this year was their second game, when they had 8,624 come out. Again, that’s the lowest attendance this year. The Edmonton Rush only had three regular season games higher than that in the previous six seasons. They went from 7th in the league in average home attendance to 3rd in one year. Saskatchewan averaged 11,737 per game, an average higher than every Edmonton Rush season – in fact the Edmonton team only had four games higher than that ever. One of those four was a Championship game and another was $1 ticket night.

Lee GenierWe certainly can’t give all the credit for the success of the team in Saskatchewan to Mr. Genier, the President of the Rush, but there’s no question that he’s been instrumental. The Rush didn’t have the crazy theme nights they had in Edmonton, when they put Twitter handles on their jerseys and brought in wrestlers and GSP (who, it turns out, is not me despite those being my initials) and the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders and other celebrities. Not that these were bad ideas, but if you’re filling your arena based solely on the lacrosse team, those extras just aren’t necessary.

They even held a rally on a Friday afternoon (not a game day) and got a thousand people out. Can you see that happening in Edmonton?

Now, Edmonton averaged over 10,000 per game in their first two seasons, and then it started to drop off until it was down in the mid-6,000’s by 2015. Could that happen here too? Sure it could. But the first season of the Saskatchewan Rush has been an unqualified success, regardless of how the team does in the finals.

Honestly, I have no way to know if Mr. Genier himself is the architect of the plan that brought in the big crowds. Maybe the award should go to owner Bruce Urban, or the entire Rush marketing team, or someone else. But Genier is one of the more public NLL team Presidents, popping up on social media and doing radio and TV interviews and such. The way that Saskatoon has embraced the Rush is partially due to lacrosse being an exciting sport and partially due to their team being the defending champs and one with a very good chance of repeating. But getting the word out to the public and getting the local businesses and politicians involved takes significant work and Genier and his team have done an outstanding job.

Sportsmanship Award

I have no particular opinion on this award, but I will fearlessly predict the three finalists for the 2016 NLL Sportsmanship award:

  • Eli McLaughlin, Colorado
  • Corey Small, Vancouver
  • Travis Cornwall, Vancouver

If they don’t want to put two Stealth players on the list, the third would be John LaFontaine from Saskatchewan.

It’s not really much of a prediction, it’s just the non-goaltenders with the most games and lowest penalty minutes. None of these guys picked up a single penalty in 2016. McLaughlin and Small played 18 games, Cornwall 15, and LaFontaine 13.

2016 Pre-season predictions revisited

We’re just past the mid-season point, so I’m going to look over my pre-season predictions for the standings and major awards and see how things are progressing. I don’t think I got any of my major award picks right (except for a “maybe” in ROY), but a few of my “dark horse” picks were surprisingly accurate.

Standings

In the East I had Rochester, Toronto, Buffalo, Georgia, and New England in that order. Clearly New England is doing better than I thought and Toronto is not, but if you swap them and also swap Rochester and Buffalo, I nailed it.

In the West, I had Saskatchewan, Vancouver, Colorado, and Calgary. Obviously I greatly overestimated Vancouver’s success this season. Move them to the bottom and I’m right again.

MVP

Prediction:  Mark Matthews, who’s always a good choice for this award and is having a good season with 66 points in 11 games. But Dhane Smith is on pace to outscore Matthews by almost fifty points and beat the single-season scoring record by 25. Smith is the clear winner here.

Goaltender of the Year

Prediction: Aaron Bold. Again, always a good choice and is having a good season but right now, I’d have to give this to my dark horse choice, Nick Rose, closely followed by Mike Poulin.

Defensive Player of the Year

Prediction: Sid Smith but I’m going to have to go with Chris Corbeil on this one. I watched the Rush defense against the Rock at the ACC recently and they not only prevented looks and shots very well, but they were also really good at knocking the ball out of a forward’s stick and then scooping up the resulting loosie. I thought Corbeil was particularly good at this. He can also score in transition (6 goals so far) and on one transition chance going the other way in the Rush/Rock game, he caught up to Jesse Gamble, which I didn’t think was even possible.

Kedoh says no!Transition Player of the Year

Prediction: Karsen Leung. Leung’s numbers aren’t where they were last year and he didn’t score until his 8th game, so I’m going to go with another dark horse prediction, Alex Kedoh HIll. Hill has 25 points and 73 LBs and is a major part of the Bandits’ super-fast transition game.

Rookie of the Year

Prediction: Wes Berg. No idea if I got this right or not. In terms of points, Berg, Randy Staats, and Jesse King are all within 3 points of each other. But Swarm transition player Chad Tutton is also having a great rookie season, with an impressive 11 goals and is playing solid defense. Graeme Hossack in Rochester is also playing some great D. This might be a cop-out, but I’m going to say there’s no clear winner at this point so we’ll have to see what the second half of the season holds.

Les Bartley Award

Prediction: Dan Perreault. Um, yeah. Not only is Perreault not the coach of the year, he’s not even employed in the NLL right now. I did have Glenn Clark as my dark horse pick, and the way the Black Wolves are playing, he might be my mid-season choice.

GM of the Year

Prediction: Doug Locker. Um, yeah. I still think Locker did a pretty good job in the off-season, picking up Billings, Moleski, Hawksbee, and Travis Cornwall, and the Schuss-for-Powless deal last year was great for both teams. I don’t think it’s his fault that the team isn’t playing well but that said, I can’t give the GM of the Year award to a guy who created a sub-.500 team. John Arlotta also made some significant changes to the Swarm and in three or four years this might be a really good team but similarly, since they’re currently 4-8, we can’t say that now. Plus we’ve thought “this team could be really good in a couple of years” about the Swarm for ten years now and they just never seem to get there.

I may have to go back to the Black Wolves, as GM Chris Seinko did a great job to trade for Shawn Evans, reacquire Kevin Crowley, and also bring in guys like Dan Ball, Derek Suddons, and Sheldon Burns, all of whom are contributing on this surprising team.

2016 NLL Predictions

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

West

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

Individual Awards

MVP

Mark MatthewsWinner: Mark Matthews
Short list: Garrett Billings, Ryan Benesch
Dark horse:  Brett Hickey

Goaltender of the Year

Winner: Aaron Bold
Short list: Matt Vinc, Dillon Ward
Dark horse:  Nick Rose

Defensive Player of the Year

Winner: Sid Smith
Short list: Kyle Rubisch, Robert Hope
Dark horse:  Ryan Dilks

Transition Player of the Year

Winner: Karsen Leung
Short list: Joey Cupido, Jordan MacIntosh
Dark horse:  Alex Kedoh Hill

Rookie of the Year

Winner: Wes Berg
Short list: Randy Staats, Lyle Thompson, Jesse King
Dark horse:  Reilly O’Connor

Les Bartley Award

Winner: Dan Perreault
Short list: Mike Hasen
Dark horse:  Glenn Clark

GM of the Year

Winner: Doug Locker
Short list: I’m not sure whether I’d nominate the Swarm GM (whoever that is) if they do well, since I think I could have drafted just as well with that many first round picks in a draft that deep.
Dark horse:  Jamie Dawick

2016 Preview: West division

A short summary of each team’s offseason moves, where I think they will end up in the standings, who might have a breakout year, and as always, a haiku for each team. I covered the East yesterday, today it’s the West.

RoughnecksCalgary Roughnecks

Roster Changes

Lost Evans, McBride, Pollock, Snider, Moleski, and Veltman and replaced them with Tyler Digby, a bunch of rookies, and a third goaltender. And they only have one person on their practice roster. If the rooks step up big, they could be OK but given their struggles last season with those big-name guys, this could be a scary season for the Roughnecks.

Then again, a few years ago the Roughnecks lost both Tracey Kelusky and Josh Sanderson in the off season and replaced them with Daryl Veltman and a rookie named Curtis Dickson. Everyone thought it would be a disaster but they went on to win the West with the best record in the league.

Look out for

Wes Berg. My pick for ROY. You can’t replace Shawn Evans, but Berg will certainly give it a shot.

Prediction

Fourth in the west.

Haiku

Tyler Digby’s here
Two Carnegies, two Harnetts
Only one de Snoo


MammothColorado Mammoth

Roster Changes

The Mammoth are down Drew Westervelt and Alex Turner (91 points) but Callum Crawford (on pace for 80 last year) should make up for most of that. They also have Ilija Gajic returning; ironically they signed him as a free agent right after cutting Bob Snider, the guy they traded Gajic for. They also released Dan Ball and Ian Hawksbee and lost Cam Flint and Tyler Codron to injury. John Gallant, the only remaining original Mammoth, didn’t play much last season so his retirement won’t have a huge impact. They did sign Greg Downing from the Swarm and added a group of rookies.

Look out for

Ilija Gajic. He and Joey Cupido will make a pretty awesome transition team.

Prediction

Third in the west

Haiku

No more Westervelt
But added Callum Crawford
And Ilija is back


RushSaskatchewan Rush

Roster Changes

Same team as last year, plus Curtis Knight. The west is theirs to lose. Not much more to say than that.

Look out for

Ben McIntosh was third on the team in scoring last year but I can see him leaping over Robert Church into second. Not sure he’ll surpass Mark Matthews though.

Prediction

First in the west

Haiku

Curtis Knight is back
Great O, great D, best goalie
Can the Rush repeat?


StealthVancouver Stealth

Roster Changes

Lost Digby but added Billings. Added Beers, Moleski, Cornwall, and Hawksbee. Lost Hass and Rory Smith but only temporarily. So far, the most improved team in the league. But they also lost Tyler Richards. Eric Penney has played 346 minutes in his career with a GAA of almost 15. Chris Levis hasn’t played an NLL game since January 25, 2013 – almost three years. If the goaltending doesn’t pan out, they may need to score 16 goals a game to have any chance of success.

The Stealth had 5 guys named Tyler on their team last season, but they’re starting 2016 with only one. Can they survive?

Look out for

Garrett Billings. Hardly an out-on-a-limb prediction, but 2015 was very un-Billings-like. With extra recovery and practice time plus playing in his home town with Duch, Schuss, Small, and McCready I think Billings will be back to his Toronto Rock level of dominance.

Prediction

Second in the west.

Haiku

Billings has come home
Stealth have rebuilt the defense
But Richards is gone