The Blazers and the Sting: It’s drafty in here

The mid-to-late 2000’s were a tumultuous time in the NLL. Teams were popping up, moving, and vanishing all over the place. This all reached “peak weird” in about 2007-2008 and if you are new to the NLL, you might not know about all of these strange goings-on. Even if you’ve been following the league since then, some of this is still hard to believe.

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2018 Expansion Draft

I’ve been looking forward to the upcoming Expansion Draft for months. We get to see two teams get created from scratch, which is every armchair GM’s dream. Trades and free agent signings and such are always exciting, so imagine eighteen of them all on the same day! As I’m sure many others have done, I’ve made my list of which players I would protect if I were an NLL GM. Some are obvious, some might be controversial, and there are probably a few “What are you thinking?” picks in there too. Let me know watcha think!

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NLL team names

Recently, a Rush fan named Rob King tweeted an article suggestion:

Challenge accepted. There isn’t much of a story behind a few of them, but others are very interesting. I had a lot of fun researching this one, and I hope you enjoy these stories. I threw in a couple of “Did you knows” as I came across them.

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2018 NLL Awards

It’s that time of year again! When some NLL players gear up for the playoffs while others dust off the golf clubs or join their MLL teams. It’s also time for the annual NLL award voting. I don’t have a vote in the NLL awards but I’ve submitted my picks for the real awards, which are of course those published on IL Indoor. In that series of articles, probably published next week sometime, I will have comments about who I picked to win so I won’t repeat them here. I will also mention my pre-season picks for these awards so we can either stare in amazement at my insight or laugh at my “insight”.

In my season preview articles (West and East), I picked a player for each team who I thought might have a breakout year, so I’ll also go over my “Look out for…” choices. Some panned out, while others were not as prescient as I might have hoped.

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Game report: Rochester 14 @ Toronto 11

After a long trip to and from tonight’s game (see the last “Not awesome” point below), I’m too tired to write a full article. So, like I’ve done in the past and as we do on the Addicted to Lacrosse podcast every week, I’ll do an “awesome / not awesome” summary instead.

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Various musings lacking statistical correlation: Week 14

Once again, it’s time for an article with a few random thoughts short things I wanted to talk about but haven’t had the chance. For various reasons, I haven’t blogged much recently and our most recent episode of Addicted to Lacrosse was cancelled due to a couple of schedule conflicts, so I’ve got a mini-backlog of stuff. I’ll make ’em quick.

Deep

We did talk about Steve Fryer’s excellent game on the last A2L but I wanted to get back to this because I think his play will have a huge impact on the Mammoth. There’s more here than just “our backup goalie played a great game, good on ya Steve”. I think confidence is a huge factor in sports. Obviously hard work and talent are critical but having confidence in yourself and in your teammates is just as important. I’ve said this before on the show, but if you see a player who’s playing with confidence, he may be a little more aggressive and take a few more risks because he knows that if they don’t work out, he and his teammates can recover. A player without confidence is just the opposite: more likely to play it safe. Sometimes you’ll see a top scorer who’s having a rough game – sometimes they can play through it but other times they have lost confidence and appear “snakebitten”. At that point, they’re more likely to pass to a teammate even if they have a clear shot. If I’m a coach (or a fan!) and it’s near the end of a close game, I want my best players out there saying “Give me the ball”, not “Yeah, you should probably give someone else the ball cause I’m having an off night”.

Steve Fryer (left)

Playing in front of Dillon Ward, arguably the best goaltender in the league, will give anyone confidence. I’m sure the team all had some confidence that Fryer could get it done if called upon. But now they know that Fryer can get it done because they’ve seen it happen, and that cannot be overstated in my opinion. Now the Mammoth hit the floor thinking “To beat us, you guys have to get by one of the best defenses in the league, then face Dillon Ward and if he’s having an off-night, you have to face Steve Fryer. Regardless of who’s back there, we got this.” That makes the Mammoth dangerous.

That said, Tyler Carlson did the same thing for the Rush back in February so unfortunately for Colorado, the Rush are equally dangerous. Speaking of dangerous…

Dangerous

A few weeks ago, I tweeted about how weird it was that Dan Dawson was a healthy scratch for the second straight week. Then he got traded because they weren’t going to play him. Who would ever have predicted that Dan Freaking Dawson would ever get traded because he was riding the pine? Even more weird is that the Knighthawks got better after the trade. Is this a case of addition by subtraction? In my opinion, yes.

That’s not to say that Dawson couldn’t get it done on the floor. He may not be what he once was, but even if he’s 3/4 of what he once was, 75% of former Dan Dawson is still damn good. And it’s not to say that he isn’t a good locker room guy, in fact I’ve never heard anything but the exact opposite about Dawson. By all accounts, he’s a great leader, a great locker room guy, a great teammate, and a pretty decent lacrosse player as well. But his style of play wasn’t fitting with the new-look Knighthawks and they decided not to adapt their style to fit Dawson in. Cody Jamieson is looking like the old Cody Jamieson again and Cory Vitarelli is Cory Vitarelli, but everything else is different. Joe Resetarits is having an outstanding season, and 24-year-old players Jackson, Shanks, Currier, Fannell, and Withers are all having great seasons as well. With that many young players playing this well (and Jamieson’s only 30 and Resetarits 28), there was no real need for Dawson so why not get a couple of draft picks for him?

But once again, it’s a confidence thing. If you’re a 24-year-old lacrosse player from Ontario, you grew up watching Dan Dawson in the NLL (and likely in the summer as well), so playing with him on the Knighthawks is an honour and a privilege. But when your coach tells you “you guys are good enough that we don’t need Dan Dawson“, imagine what that does to your confidence.

The East is so tight that it’s hard to predict, but even if the Knighthawks don’t progress far into the playoffs this season, their offense is young and talented enough that they are set for a few years to come.

Definition

OK, I said I’d be quick and thus far I haven’t been. Here’s a quick one.

I’ve talked many times in the past about the bad video quality coming out of Rochester. Well, I am happy to give credit where it’s due. The Twitter game of the week from Rochester this past weekend was beautiful. The video was high definition and not jaggy (yes, that is a real computer graphics term) at all, you could read the names on the jerseys, and the ball didn’t look like a big white square being thrown around. The video quality was better than that coming from Colorado the same night, and Colorado is generally pretty good. I don’t know if that’s a permanent upgrade to the arena’s hardware or a temporary thing just for the Twitter game, but I really hope it’s the former. It would be nice to be able to add Rochester to the list of NLL arenas with great video quality.

Devastating

Maybe “devastating” is too strong a word to describe the impact of Tom Schreiber’s injury on the Rock offense, but not by much. Plus I needed a d-word for the heading.

As others have pointed out, the Rock averaged 15 goals per game with Schreiber this season while without him, they’re averaging just nine. He may or may not be returning soon but with the trade deadline looming next week, Jamie Dawick may decide to play it safe and make a move. One of the most popular rumours seems to be bringing Dan Dawson in from Saskatchewan, which makes some sense since Dawson is an Ontario boy – in fact he’s from Oakville, where the Rock train. (Note that he’s from Oakville. I don’t know where he currently lives.) This could be good for the Rock, in that they’d get a solid righty forward to take Schreiber’s place while he’s out. It does make the Rock a little right-heavy when Schreiber returns, but Dawson is also good enough and versatile enough that they could change his role a little. It probably means that Phil Caputo would return to defense and Dan Lintner, already a healthy scratch for half the Rock’s games so far, would never be seen in a Rock uniform again. It could also be good for Saskatchewan, in that the Rock are kind of desperate so Dawson may fetch a higher price than the two draft picks they gave up for him just two weeks ago. Maybe they’d receive Dan Lintner as well which would probably be good for Lintner’s career since he might actually see the floor.

Also potentially in play is another Ontario boy, Corey Small. The Stealth forward has already announced that he’ll be returning to Ontario to play in the MSL this coming summer, after several years with the Victoria Shamrocks of the WLA. Even if Small hasn’t requested a trade from the Stealth, he probably wouldn’t say no to one given his family situation. He’s a lefty so replacing Schreiber with Small would require a few more changes to the system, but I’m sure the Rock coaching staff would welcome that extra work.

The question is what goes back the other way in either of these cases? The Rush don’t need anything, and they already own Toronto’s first round pick this year and next in the Adam Jones deal. The Rock do have a second and fourth in this year’s draft, which is what Dawson was worth two weeks ago.

Small was worth two first round picks when he arrived in Vancouver three years ago, but would he still fetch that much? After an MVP-candidate season last year, quite possibly. But the Rock have to hope not unless the Stealth are happy with 2020 and 2021 first round picks. Those won’t help the Stealth if they’re trying to rebuild now. The Stealth might be interested in young BC boys like Challen Rogers or Reid Reinholdt. Is Small worth Reinholdt plus a second round pick? As a Rock fan, I’d be OK with that but what do I know? I’m no GM. Doug Locker might be thinking Rogers and Reinholdt for Small. Personally, I think giving up Rogers would be too much, but does Dawick need offense enough to overpay?

Dammit Graeme, shut up

So much for making ’em quick. That might be my longest article of the season.

Game report: Rochester 9 @ Toronto 17

After a rough 0-2 start, the Rock’s wining streak continued on Friday night with a 17-9 win over the Rochester Knighthawks. Or if you’re a Knighthawks fan, after a strong 2-0 start, the Knighthawks lost their second straight game on Friday night, a 17-9 loss to the Toronto Rock.

The Knighthawks did not look like the same team that demolished the Bandits a few weeks back. Their offense was haphazard – they actually looked a bit like the Rock in their first couple of games. That said, they were up against the Rock defense, who had a great game. A couple of the Rochester goals were scored from inside (I specifically remember Dawson’s goal – he basically ran straight up the middle almost untouched) but for the most part, they were all outside shots because they just couldn’t get to the inside.

Picture from Rock website, no credit availableAs good as the Rock’s offense and defense was, their transition game was on fire. It seemed that almost every time a Knighthawks possession ended, there was a Rock transition scoring opportunity – a two-on-one or partial breakaway. Burns, Rogers, Merrill, Caputo, Edwards, Sorensen, Harris, even Hostrawser were flying up the floor all night long.

Nick Rose played well in general, stopping most of the shots he should have stopped. He also stopped at least one shot he had no earthly business stopping at all, robbing the Knighthawks of a wide-open almost empty-net goal with an acrobatic stick save. Rochester scored on a very similar play later in the game, but we gave Rosey a pass on that one since you can’t expect that kind of miraculous save twice in one game.

Matt Vinc was not strong in the Rochester net and was pulled after only thirteen minutes. Note that he had already faced 17 shots by that point, but didn’t seem to be seeing the ball well. Angus Goodleaf came in and did a pretty decent job, finishing with a respectable save percentage of 77.8%, but the Rock offense took enough shots that saving 77.8% of them still led to 11 goals.

I know it’s only been a couple of games but trading Stephan Leblanc for Sheldon Burns is starting to look like a brilliant move. Burns is all over the floor, scoring goals and intercepting passes, and seems as much a quarterback of the transition as Brodie Merrill. As I’ve said before (I think), it’s not like Leblanc was a drain on the offense and getting rid of him has helped them. Their improvement over the first two games was just a matter of timing. They’ve simply adjusted after the addition of Hellyer and Jones and offensive coach Blaine Manning has them playing like a well-oiled machine. Guys like Reinholdt, McArdle, and Craig are contributing not only with goals but in getting inside and setting picks; Reinholdt did a particularly nice job with a pick that allowed Schreiber a wide-open look at the net for one of his four goals. The fact that they’re not missing Leblanc (or Lintner, see below) is not a statement on those players or their abilities, it’s a testament to the players they have.

Other game notes:

  • Dan Lintner was a healthy scratch for the third straight game. I feel bad for him – with the Rock’s offense scoring 61 goals in the last three games, the team is not likely to want to make any personnel changes unless they have to. You don’t mess with what’s working. But hopefully that doesn’t mean Lintner sits for significant time. I like what he brings to the team and IMHO he’s too good a player to sit that long.
  • Knighthawks rookie Austin Shanks played his first NLL game and played well, scoring two goals. I picked Shanks as one of my rookie of the year finalists and I stand by that (assuming he gets more playing time), though Zach Currier is making the strongest case for this award thus far.
  • Kyle Jackson scored a beauty, grabbing a rebound directly in front of the net and immediately flipping it behind his back into the goal. The Knighthawks tweeted that it was a “vicious BTB” and vicious was a pretty good word for it.
  • At one point, the ball went under a section of the carpet while three or four players were fighting for the loosie. The ref decided to hold another face-off, meaning that this is a rare case where the total number of face-offs in the game was NOT equal to four plus the total number of goals. This is only the fourth such game this season. Two of them featured a goal at 14:59 of a quarter, so presumably no face-off was held afterwards. This will be the first entry for my new Twitter account, @NLLObscureAndUselessFactOfTheDay.
  • Early in the game, a ref got hit in the shoulder by a ricochet after a shot; it knocked him flying but he got up and continued. Later, a ref was taken down by a collision with a Knighthawks player. Don’t know if it was the same ref but if so, he might have been the first one in the ice bath after the game.
  • Only 7101 people at this game, the lowest regular-season attendance (and second-lowest ever) in Rock history. However, the weather outside was frightful. It was 10-12 degrees and pouring rain in the morning, then the temperature dropped near zero by 2pm and everything froze, then an inch of snow fell before dinner time. By game time, it was ‑10. Those are in Celsius; if you’re a Fahrenheit person, the temperature dropped from 50 to 14 degrees in eight hours.