In which I admit my mistake

Last week on Addicted to Lacrosse, I talked a little bit about the circumstances surrounding the Ryan Dilks / Cliff Smith fight from last Saturday. I said that I was surprised that the Stealth ended up on the power play rather than the Rush, considering Matt Beers should have gotten a penalty for an illegal cross-check and Smith could even have gotten a third-man-in penalty (which is an immediate game misconduct and a game suspension). I didn’t say it in so many words but my implication was that the refs blew the call.

The video from the fourth quarter from that game was not yet available so I couldn’t go back and see what actually happened, but it’s there now, so here’s my follow-up.

In short, I was wrong.

Here’s what happened. Jeremy Thompson ran up the floor looking backwards, waiting for a pass from Ryan Dilks. He received it, turned around, and saw Matt Beers right in front of him. He dropped his shoulder a little just before they collided and Beers went flying. Thompson kept the ball and walked away slowly. Beers got up, came back over and cross-checked Thompson across the upper arm. Dilks took exception to the hit and went after Beers and while the two of them were chatting, Thompson took another couple of steps, dropped to his knees for a second, then rolled onto his back, clearly hurt. At that point, Cliff Smith got between Dilks and Beers and the two of them got into it. I can’t say for sure that any actual punches were thrown before they fell, almost on top of Thompson.

Dilks got two for roughing, and Dilks and Smith got five each for fighting.

Matt Beers

Mistake #1: Beers hit on Thompson was a totally legal cross-check. No penalty was warranted.

Mistake #2: Smith was not the third man in since Dilks and Beers were doing some pushing but not fighting. You can’t be the third man in in a fight when there’s no fight.

Would I have given Dilks an extra two for roughing? Probably not, but I can see why they did. So the end result: The refs got it right, as they usually do. And I was wrong, as I… well, let’s just leave it at I was wrong.

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.

Five players you didn’t know played somewhere else

Everyone knows that John Tavares played his entire career with the Bandits. Similarly, Blaine Manning played with nobody but the Rock, Andrew McBride with the Roughnecks, and there are a few others.

And then there are a number of other players who you might think are in the same boat because they’ve played so long with one team that you can’t think of them playing anywhere else. But they did. If you’re a long-time fan of the league, you may know all of these but I’d guess that for many of you, at least one of these will be a surprise. The first one was for me and led me to look around for more.

These are in no particular order.

Jeff Shattler

Can you imagine Shattler in any jersey other than the Roughnecks? How about Bandit orange? Shattler played a single game with the Buffalo Bandits in 2006, where he picked up one assist and three loose balls. He was then traded to the Roughnecks along with a second round draft pick for Kevin Dostie. Shattler’s now in his eleventh season with Calgary, having played over 190 games and amassed over 700 points. He also won the Transition Player of the Year and MVP awards in 2011. Dostie picked up 157 points in 53 games over four seasons in Buffalo so it’s not like the Bandits got nothing back, but I’m going to call Calgary the winner on that one.

Incidentally, that second round pick that Calgary also picked up? They used it to draft Jamie Lincoln, who never played for Calgary but did see time with the Mammoth, Stealth, and Black Wolves.

Jeff Shattler

Mark Steenhuis

Steenhuis has been a Bandit his whole life, right? Wrong. He actually played a full season with the Columbus Landsharks in 2002, picking up 30 points in 12 games. He’s since played 233 games as a Bandit.

Bob Watson

Watson actually played for two different teams before the Rock, but one was the Ontario Raiders (who turned into the Rock after one season in Hamilton) so that doesn’t really count. But Whipper also played 268 minutes for the Baltimore Thunder in 1996, where he had a very un-Whipper-like 17.24 GAA. He took 1997 off entirely and returned to the NLL with the Raiders in 1998 and then played 13 seasons with the Rock, where he only had two seasons with a GAA above 12 (and one of them was 12.04). Oh, and two Goaltender of the Year awards, two NLL Championship Game MVP awards, six championships, and a Hall of Fame induction.

Jimmy Quinlan

Quinlan became the face of the Edmonton Rush from 2006-2013, playing over 125 games, many of them as captain. He then became an assistant coach with the team, where he remains. Many Rush fans can’t imagine the team without Jimmy Quinlan. But Quinlan picked up 10 points in 8 games, and a Championship ring, with the Toronto Rock in 2005.

Scott Ranger

Ranger was drafted by the San Jose Stealth and actually played parts of two seasons (11 points in 9 games in 2004 and 2005) there before heading to Calgary where he picked up more than 450 points in 137 regular season and playoff games over 8 years.

Game report: Saskatchewan 11 @ Toronto 13

The weird 2017 season continues. As Bob Chavez pointed out on IL Indoor, last year’s Champions Cup finalists are a combined 0-4 while the teams that missed the playoffs are 5-2. One thing that has continued from last season is the injury bug plaguing the Toronto Rock. Stephen Leblanc has missed both games so far and then Brett Hickey was injured during practice and is now on the IR. But rather than make their absence the story of the game, the Rock’s new guys stepped up to make sure that didn’t happen. And since there are a lot of Rock new guys, this was significant.

One question was directed at the Rock by many fans throughout this game: Who are these guys? Ten players in the lineup weren’t on the team last year (eight (!!) first-year players, Damon Edwards, and Steve Fryer who was on the practice roster), while five of last year’s top six offensive players (Doyle, Sanderson, Hickey, Hellyer, Leblanc) weren’t there. Every Rock goal except one unassisted goal from Brad Kri involved at least one player who was not on the team last year. Kieran McArdle and Tom Schreiber continue their strong rookie campaigns; neither one looks like they had never played box lacrosse a couple of months ago.

Damon Edwards (not on Saturday)But even bigger additions to the Rock are the transition guys. Brodie Merrill is having a bit of a resurgence at the age of 35. Damon Edwards (dumb penalty in the third quarter notwithstanding) is looking great in his return from missing all of last year, Jesse Gamble is Jesse Gamble (which is a very good thing), and I’m liking the addition of Challen Rogers more and more every game. I said after the first Rock game that if the Rock score ten transition goals a game, it doesn’t matter much how their actual offensive players do, and that seemed true after this one as well.

The same “Who are these guys?” question was directed at the Rush during the first half, though it was less literal. The guy wearing the Bold jersey wasn’t making stops that the real Aaron Bold generally would, the best defense in the league (and one of the best ever) was allowing all kinds of shots on the aforementioned Bold, and the offense couldn’t score to save their life. The Rush we were all expecting showed up in the second half. Mark Matthews looked as dominant as ever, and Robert Church also had a great game. I honestly didn’t notice Adam Jones or Ryan Keenan much but Mike Messenger scored a beautiful diving cross-crease goal. This reappearance of the real Rush almost had them pulling off the comeback that Rock fans knew was possible. For one eighteen minute span, the Rush outscored the Rock 8-1, turning a 10-2 blowout into an 11-10 nailbiter. Fortunately for the Rock, that’s as close as it got.

As a Rock fan I’m glad the Rush never tied it up although I have to say as a guy who writes a weekly column on clutch goals, it wouldn’t have been so bad.

Considering the Rock missed the playoffs last year, lost Doyle and Sanderson to retirement, and lost Hellyer, Leblanc, Sorensen, PMerrill, Marshall, and Miller to injury (and Hickey for game 2), it’s hard to believe they’re 2-0 and looking as strong as they are. I’m sure they’ll fall back to earth soon – nobody is expecting 18-0 – but I for one am going to enjoy this ride as long as it lasts.

Other game notes:

  • My thoughts are with Rock PA announcer Bruce Barker as he recovers from a stroke. I don’t know who the guy was doing the PA but he did a pretty good job with one exception – when replacing someone who’s been doing a job like this for years, don’t try to be him. He used a number of Barker catch-phrases that he probably shouldn’t have, IMHO.
  • In previous years, the team was always announced in numerical order but Colin Doyle was always last and prominently announced as the captain. (“Your captain, my captain, our captain”). Brodie Merrill was listed in numerical order and his captaincy was mentioned almost in passing. One wonders if Merrill himself asked for this lack of special treatment.
  • Connor Buczek was included the player announcements although he’s on the practice roster. He wasn’t at the game. Brodie Tutton, also on the practice roster, was not listed.
  • Ryan Dilks was ejected for instigating a fight with Kieran McArdle after McArdle crashed into Aaron Bold. I’m one of the most outspoken anti-fight people around, but I didn’t think Dilks deserved to be tossed for that. Five each would have been fine with me. Of course as a Rock fan, removing the reigning Defender of the Year from the game in the 2nd quarter was also just fine.
  • Nice of the Rock to recognize Josh Sanderson, though doing it between quarters rather halfway through a TV timeout would have allowed for a longer ovation.
  • Not a single challenge was issued by either coach.

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.

The 2016 NLL draft: the rich get richer

The draft order for the 2016 NLL entry draft was released on Friday. The defending champion Saskatchewan Rush have three first round picks, including two of the top three. Talk about the rich getting richer.

You might think the Vancouver Stealth or Toronto Rock might have the first overall pick since they finished last in their divisions. Normally, you’d be right but the Stealth traded that pick for Corey Small. The Rock do pick second overall and the Stealth pick first in the second round.

You might also think that so many first round picks would be a great thing for any team but there’s a bit of a problem. In order to have room for the new guys, the Rush will have to drop some players from the existing lineup. Given that they won the last two Championships, there isn’t a lot of deadwood around to get rid of. Make no mistake, this is a much better problem to have than, say, finishing last and having no first round picks at all. But it’s going to be a lot of work for Derek Keenan and his staff trying to figure out what to do with all of these great players. From a Rush perspective, it might be nice if they could defer those top picks to a future year. Of course, there’s no mechanism to do that.

So maybe they could try to trade this year’s first overall pick to someone else for next year’s first overall pick. But they can’t guarantee that; the best they could do is trade their pick for someone else’s first round pick, which can be quite different than the first overall pick. What they might be able to do is find a team who might want a first round pick now and offer them the 9th overall pick in exchange for that team’s first round pick in the 2017 or 2018 draft. Since this is the last pick in the first round, the Rush might have to throw in another, a second or third rounder maybe, to sweeten the deal a little. Obviously a team would have to have a first round pick for 2017 or 2018 available to trade, which immediately removes the Stealth from the picture.

Chad Tutton, drafted 5th overall in 2015, with Ed Comeau and Andy Arlotta

In Major League Baseball, the players drafted generally don’t even make it to the majors for several years. In the NHL and NBA, drafted players get to the big leagues much faster. Guys like LeBron James and John Tavares (no not that one, the other one) can have an immediate impact on their teams as rookies, but mostly it takes a year or two before the impacts are really felt.

And then there’s the NLL.

In the 2016 season, every player drafted in the first round of the previous draft not only played but had a significant impact on his team. Randy Staats led his team in scoring, Jesse King and Wesley Berg finished third on their teams, and Chad Tutton and Graeme Hossack are already considered among the top transition players and defenders in the league. Of the twelve players drafted in the second round, only two didn’t play in a game and some second rounders like Anthony Malcom, Mitch de Snoo, and Jordan Durston played almost every game.

But the 2015 draft was one of the deepest ever so it’s not surprising that 19 of the top 20 players made it to the show right away. If the 2016 draft isn’t quite as deep, Keenan may not have a problem drafting someone and trading him for a future first round pick.

We all know that Derek Keenan is one of the best GMs in the league so I’m anxiously awaiting his undoubtedly clever solution to this “problem”.