In 2004, the NLL renamed its Head Coach of the Year Award to The Les Bartley Award. It’s still called that, but the name isn’t really used all that often. Case in point: the video produced by the NLL announcing this year’s award nominees and winner didn’t include the words “Les Bartley” at all, nor does the page on NLL.com that includes the video.
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
It started off so promising.
The Rock and Swarm played each other twice this season. Each team was 1-1 and both games went to OT, so we knew the teams were pretty evenly matched. So when the Rock didn’t allow a goal to the strongest offense in the league until six minutes into the second quarter, it seemed like the Rock’s ability to handle the Swarm offense was going to continue. They only scored one goal themselves in the first quarter, but when they took a 4-1 lead in the second quarter, it still looked pretty good. And then the wheels kind of slowly fell off.
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.
We’ve all seen it before: the team that isn’t playing well starts getting frustrated and angry, and that leads to unnecessary penalties. That means they’re playing a man down for long stretches of time, and that doesn’t usually lead to anything good, so they get even more frustrated and angry, and so on. I don’t know what other people mean when they talk about “Banditball”, but that’s what that term means to me: the physical and undisciplined lacrosse that the Bandits became known for in the 2000’s. They generally don’t play that way anymore so the term is probably misleading and unfair now, but every now and again they revert back. But on this night, it seemed to serve them well.
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.
You gotta listen when the Big Dog barks.
For those of you who watched Toronto Rock games back in the early or mid 2000’s, you undoubtedly remember Dan “Big Dog” Ladouceur. At 6’6″, Laddy was hard to miss – even more so if you were a opposing player. Ladouceur was an anchor of one of the best defenses the league has ever seen, a group which included Terry Bullen, Pat Coyle, Glenn Clark, Ian Rubel, and Darryl Gibson in front of Hall-of-Fame goaltender Bob Watson. Ladouceur was a prototypical “stay-at-home” defender with a long reach, a heavy stick, and solid fists. He rarely found himself on the far side of the centre line, scoring 6 goals in his 11-year 150-game career. But he did score a big one in the 2002 Championship game, one of five Championships he won with the Rock.
These days, Laddy’s role in the NLL is a little different: as the Georgia Swarm offensive coach, his job is to train the Swarm forwards how to get around guys like him. This is a position at which he seems to be excelling, considering the Swarm at 8-3 and leading the league in goals scored, despite having played one fewer game than half the league.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Dan Ladouceur (well, via email – I assume he was sitting down) and talk about his early days with the Rock as well as his new role with the Swarm.
Many thanks to Dan for taking the time to talk to me.
GP: Hi Dan… thanks a lot for doing this.
DL: Hey Graeme, no problems. Happy to help out and share…
GP: Let’s start with your playing days with the Toronto Rock. In your early days, who were the players you learned the most from?
DL: Obviously one of the most influential guys I played with was Jimmy Veltman. He had a quiet style of leadership but was so fiercely competitive, you couldn’t help but follow him anywhere and want to learn and know what made that guy tick. Other guys like Glenn Clark, Pat Coyle, Terry Bullen – Those guys all taught me about being effective defensively, and I like to think I took a little bit of each of their style and came into my own. And other guys like Colin Doyle and Kim Squire, they reminded me that the game was fun, and to enjoy the experience.
GP: Conversely, in your later days, who were the players that you enjoyed teaching – the ones that learned the most?
DL: I really enjoyed my time rooming and chumming with Scott Campbell when he came to TO. He is a great guy and great player. The young Rob Marshall was great to be around as well. I think he is and always has been a great guy and great teammate.
GP: You won five championships with the Rock. Does any one of them stand out as different from the others – more memorable or special in some way?
DL: In 2000 I won a Champions Cup and a Mann Cup in the same year. That year was pretty special. The win in Rochester  was amazing as well. Having never won there before and going in to take a championship is something movies are made of. The home town fans and family that made the road trip was amazing to see and feel.
2002 was great. To be able to chip in, all of us on the back door, and help bring that home was amazing. Also very big learning experiencing for me as far as preparation from a coaching point of view goes. One goal that game was directly related to Ed Comeau and how prepared he always is.
GP: At one time, I heard a rumour that the Rock were not allowed to trade you because of your job as a Durham police officer. Was there any truth to that?
DL: It was never an arrangement I made or condition of a contract. They could have moved me if they wanted. Playing in another city would have been challenging logistic wise, especially in the early years when I was not very high in seniority in the policing world. I’m sure I could and would have made it work, but just been grinding like so many other players in this league with work and travel schedules that would cripple normal people. I’m thankful I did not have to deal with those challenges.
GP: While you were playing, did you ever think about coaching sometime in the future, or did you not really consider that until your playing days were over?
DL: I never really thought of it much to be honest. I mean, you know great coaches when you come across them in your career. Les, T, Keenan, Clarky all great coaches and all have totally different styles. I just never thought I would or could do the things that those guys did.
GP: Now moving on to your role with the Georgia Swarm. How did your job with the Swarm come about – did you call them or did they call you?
DL: Eddie [head coach Ed Comeau] called me in the summer time to talk lacrosse. We had some great conversations, catching up as we went. I was not out pounding the pavement or cold calling places. I was still processing my time in Toronto and my work life keeps me engaged a lot of the time, so it was not like I was experiencing a Lacrosse void. I knew I wanted to coach more, to implement what I learned from John Lovell and my experience in Toronto, but when Eddie called, I was not in the process of chasing anything.
GP: What did you first think of the idea of being an offensive coach, having been a defensive guy for your whole NLL career?
DL: The way Eddie laid it out to me, his thinking, his expectations and our approach as a group, I had zero doubts about my ability to meet his expectations. I acknowledge that I cant tell Lyle or Miles or Randy or Shane how to put the ball in the net, but I can offer some experienced observations on how they are being defended, tendencies, weakness and areas to exploit. Seemed like a very progressive approach to be honest and I was excited to be part of that and work with Eddie and Sean [Ferris, Swarm assistant coach].
GP: Lyle, Miles, and Jerome Thompson have been playing lacrosse together their whole lives, but they’re still pretty young and none has been in the league longer than two years. Do they need much coaching, or do you just stand back and let them do their thing?
DL: Those guys truly “feel the game” They are attentive to the little bit of structure and principals we have in place and do their roles so well within those parameters, but there is also no scripting or controlling that creativity. None of that O door need coaching per se… They need reminders, reinforcement and feedback. It is a very unique group I get to work with, and as my first experience, I could not be more happy or proud.
GP: Which Swarm players have you been the most impressed with this season – those who are consistently playing above the level you expected from them? What about non-Swarm players?
DL: Lyle Thompson – what can ya say. He came back for year 2 with his feet running.
Mike Poulin – I played with Mike and I am so excited about the player he is now and the leadership he brings to this group. He wants to win and is willing to do the little things to get there and let others follow his example.
Tom Schreiber and Kieran McArdle – Not that they are American. That they are so dangerous in their rookie seasons… So many talented US players just need a chance and they could have an impact as well.
Josh Currier – Watched him in Jr out of Peterborough. Kid is gonna be good for a long time.
Ben McIntosh – Guy is coming into his own and its a dangerous thing.
GP: And we’ll finish up with some fun ones. Who was the toughest guy you had to defend against?
DL: John Grant was always a handful. I liked the challenge of playing against him. And he would talk to you on the floor as well. Let you know that last slash hurt and that he owed you one or just make a funny comment. He is so strong and creative and competitive.
GP: I know you had limited scoring opportunities as a defender, but who was the toughest goalie to score on?
DL: lol. Bob Watson!!! Had lots of opportunities, but Bobby always had my number!!!!
GP: What was your favourite arena to play in as the visiting team?
DL: Philly was a great place to play in back in the day. Great passionate crowds. Calgary and Colorado were great as well. I hated playing in Rochester.