The saga of Garrett Billings

Garrett Billings and Stephen Leblanc both exploded into the league in 2010. Leblanc beat out Billings for the Rookie of the Year award, and each beat the other by one point over their first two seasons. But in 2012, Billings took a giant leap forward, recording 114 points and leaving Leblanc’s 65 in the dust. He finished second in league scoring in both 2012 and 2013, and third in 2014, and was an also a top MVP candidate in all of those seasons. Near the end of 2014, however, he injured his knee (in a game in Vancouver, ironically enough) and missed the rest of the season and the playoffs. Nobody knew at the time that it was the last game for Billings in a Rock uniform.

This bummed me out, since I’ve been a big Billings fan since 2010. I have a Rock shirt with his name on it, and I even used a picture of him as the icon for this blog on Facebook.

But once he was healthy again, he didn’t return to the Rock lineup. It soon became clear that he and the Rock were involved in contract negotiations that weren’t going well. I won’t go over all the details here, mainly since we don’t know them all, but during the 2015 season Billings was traded to New England for Kevin Crowley (who was later flipped back to New England for Dan Lintner). He picked up 36 points in 8 games for the Black Wolves and was later dealt to the Stealth in what ended up being a three-way deal that sent Tyler Digby to Calgary and Shawn Evans to New England.

As a Langley native, Billings playing for Vancouver sounds like a dream for both him and the team. He played in 11 games with the Stealth in 2016 and picked up 60 points, a pace that would have netted him 98 over 18 games. But something happened between Billings and the Stealth in the offseason or early 2017, and nobody knows what it was, or at least I don’t. Billings started the season on the IR but once healthy, only played in four games. He was a healthy scratch for six games and once he was added to the holdout list at the end of March, the Garrett Billings era in Vancouver came to a premature end.

Garrett Billings

It’s odd that one of the best players in the league from 2010 through 2014 is on the Stealth roster but doesn’t figure in to their plans. It’s unlikely he’ll suit up for the Stealth again and I hope he’s amenable to travelling since home games for him will be somewhere else next year. I’ve read comments that he’s actually Athan Iannucci’d himself right out of the league – clearly nobody was breaking down Doug Locker’s door last season to get him. I hope that’s not true but we’ll see what the post-season brings.

Where to?

Trade speculation is always a crapshoot but just for fun, let’s have a look at where Billings might end up if he’s traded. We’ll just think about two-team trades that only involve Billings, otherwise there are just too many possibilities.

I imagine the bridges have been burned with respect to the Rock, and with Hickey, Schreiber, Lintner, Beirnes, and Hellyer, they’re packed with righties anyway. Could he fit in on the right side with the Bandits? That would allow them to put Mark Steenhuis back on transition, though they’re not hurting in the transition department anyway so that’s not really filling a need. Rochester is a possibility, particularly considering their offensive woes this season. They have three first-round draft picks this fall and still have their first round picks in 2018 and 2019, so that’s a possibility for what heads west. Billings may not be what he once was (though his 2016 numbers indicate that he could be) but assuming he’s not still injured in some way, I think he’s still worth a first-round pick.

Georgia? Their offense is just fine, thanks. The Black Wolves have Evans, Crowley, and Kyle Buchanan on the right side so I’m not sure adding Billings to that list makes sense but replacing one of those guys might. Kevin Crowley is also from BC so that’s a possibility (could we have a second “Billings to New England for Crowley” deal?) but (a) I believe Crowley lives on the east coast now, and (b) the Stealth don’t need Billings on the right side, so they likely don’t need Crowley on the right side either. Call that a probably not.

The Rush and Mammoth are fine on the right side so the only possibility left is Calgary. They only used three righties in 2017: Dickson, Berg, and Digby. The Roughnecks missed the playoffs in 2017; could they use a guy like Billings to shake things up? Sure they could. If the Roughnecks don’t want to give up a player, they have one first round draft pick this year, plus two in each of 2018 and 2019.

There are always factors involved in trades that we don’t know about. But if I had to guess, I’d say the Roughnecks sounds like the most likely target. Interesting that he and Digby, who were once traded for each other, would end up as teammates in that scenario.

It’s unfortunate that things didn’t work out in Vancouver, but I hope Billings returns to the NLL in 2018 as effective as ever. Maybe I’m biased as a Billings fan as well as a Rock fan who watched him make significant contributions over the years, including helping to bring the 2011 Championship to Toronto, but similar to Cody Jamieson, I think the league is better with Garrett Billings in it.

Trades revisited: an exercise in hindsight

There was a conversation on the IL Indoor message boards recently about Chris Corbeil and how he was traded to the Rush from the Buffalo Bandits. A Bandits fan was unhappy that Corbeil is now the captain of the reigning champs, while the Bandits got draft picks in return. I looked it up and found that the Bandits didn’t get quite as screwed as it might seem. That was fun so I thought I’d look up a few other trades from a few years ago. Now that we know which players played well, which were busts, and which players were drafted with the picks that were exchanged, we can see how they ended up working out.

I just randomly picked a bunch of trades that involved draft picks. This was not planned, but all but one of these trades involved the Edmonton Rush.

Chris Corbeil for picks

September 9, 2011: The Bandits sent Chris Corbeil to the Rush for a 2nd round pick in 2011 and a 1st round pick in 2012.

Chris Corbeil, hopefully in MovemberFour years after this trade, Corbeil is one of the premiere defenders in the league and as stated above, the captain of the defending champions. Did the Bandits get fleeced? Not at all, as it turned out. The second round pick in 2011 turned out to be Jeremy Thompson, but the Bandits traded the first round pick (3rd overall) to Minnesota who used it to draft Kiel Matisz. In return, the Bandits got Brendan Doran, Shawn Williams, the 5th overall pick, and two later picks. The Bandits drafted Dhane Smith and Carter Bender and traded the other pick to the Rock for Glen Bryan and Jamie Rooney. Doran never played for the Bandits and Bender scored 3 points in 3 games. But Bryan, Rooney, and Williams each played two seasons in Buffalo and Dhane Smith is one of the Bandits top offensive weapons.

Thompson played in 14 games for the Bandits in 2012, scored 9 points, won 46% of 140 face-offs, and was traded to the Rush a year later (see below).

Winner: Corbeil vs. Dhane Smith, two years of Williams, Bryan, and Rooney plus a year of Jeremy Thompson? Calling it for Buffalo.

Jeff Cornwall for picks

February 10, 2012: The Bandits sent Jeff Cornwall to the Rush for a 2nd round pick in 2012 and a 2nd round pick in 2014.

The second round pick that the Bandits got in 2012 was Jordan Critch, who scored five points in five games in 2013 and hasn’t played in the NLL since. The 2014 pick got complicated. In July 2013, the Bandits traded that pick, a second round pick in 2013, and Carter Bender to Colorado for Rory Smith and a 4th rounder in 2015 (Tim Edwards). Colorado ended up trading the pick to Calgary for Jackson Decker, and Calgary drafted Tyson Roe.

The end result for the Bandits: they gave up Jeff Cornwall for 5 games from Critch, a season of Rory Smith, and Tim Edwards. Rory Smith was later sent to the Stealth along with Eric Penney for Nick Weiss and even more draft picks, but that’s as far as I think I want to go with this one.

Winner: Hard to determine since the picks got pretty complicated but I’d go with Edmonton.

Anthony Cosmo for picks

February 16, 2012: The Swarm sent Anthony Cosmo to the Bandits for 1st round picks in 2013 and 2014.

Anthony Cosmo was picked up by the Swarm in the Boston Blazers dispersal draft despite the fact that he told them he wouldn’t play for them. He was true to his word and didn’t play, but they held onto him for part of the 2012 season until the Bandits came calling. The Swarm love those first round draft picks and Buffalo offered some, so Cosmo was sent east. In 2013, their pick from Buffalo turned into the first overall pick, which became Logan Schuss. In 2014, it was #5, Shane MacDonald. Schuss scored 104 points for the Swarm in a year and a half before being traded to Vancouver for Johnny Powless, while MacDonald scored 13 points in 11 games last season and has since been traded to New England for Drew Petkoff.

Winner: Cosmo vs. Schuss + Powless. Another tough call but I have to give this one to the Bandits.

Cousins for Williams

July 25, 2011: The Rush sent Ryan Cousins, Andy Secore, and Alex Kedoh Hill to Rochester for Shawn Williams, Aaron Bold, and a 2nd round pick in 2012.

Shawn WilliamsThe second round pick that the Rush received was traded to the Stealth along with Athan Iannucci for Paul Rabil and a first rounder. The Stealth drafted Justin Pychel with that pick, while the Rush picked Mark Matthews. The Rush later traded Rabil to the Knighthawks for Jarrett Davis. The Knighthawks sent Rabil (and others including Jordan Hall) to the Wings for Paul and Dan Dawson.

Cousins played 10 games for the Knighthawks before retiring. Secore never played again, while Hill played 5 games with the Knighthawks before being sent to the Bandits. Shawn Williams played one season in Edmonton before being sent to Buffalo via Minnesota. Aaron Bold, I believe, is still with the Rush.

Winner: From this trade, the Rush ended up with Aaron Bold and a season of Shawn Williams. Add in the Iannucci deal (below) and the draft pick turned into Mark Matthews. I’d call Edmonton the clear winners here.

Thompson for Wilson

November 14, 2012: The Bandits just love sending players to the Rush. This time, it’s Jeremy Thompson for Aaron Wilson and a 2nd round pick in 2013.

The second round pick was Nick Diachenko, who never played for the Bandits but was picked up as a free agent by the Rock. Thompson is one of the best transition players in the game. Aaron Wilson scored 59 points in a year and a half with the Bandits before being sent to the Knighthawks. He only played 4 games last year and retired in the off-season.

Winner: Rush again but the Bandits did OK here.

Merrill for Nooch

August 9, 2011: The Rush sent Brodie Merrill, Mike McLellan, Dean Hill, the 41st overall pick in 2011, and a 4th round in 2013 to the Wings for Athan Iannucci, Alex Turner, Brodie MacDonald, and 1st round picks in 2012, 2013, and 2014.

Athan Iannucci

This was one of the biggest blockbuster trades of the last decade. Merrill had already been named Defender of the Year once and Transition Player of the Year twice, while Iannucci set the single-season goal-scoring record. Not only does his record of 71 still stand, only four people have come within 20 goals of that number in the 7 seasons since.

The picks involved: The 2011 pick ended up in Buffalo (not sure how it got there), who drafted Dwight Bero. The Wings got goalie Don Alton in 2013. Edmonton’s 2012 first rounder went to Buffalo (for Chris Corbeil – see above) and then Minnesota (for the Dhane Smith pick and Shawn Williams – see above) who turned it into Kiel Matisz. The 2013 first rounder was Robert Church. The 2014 pick was sent to the Swarm with Brodie MacDonald for Tyler Carlson, the first overall pick in 2014 (Ben McIntosh) and a second-rounder in 2015 (Dan Taylor).

Merrill had three very good seasons with the Wings before being traded to the Rock. McLellan scored 7 points in 11 games with the Wings in 2013 and hasn’t played in the NLL since. Dean Hill never played with the Wings, but played 40+ games with the Stealth, Mammoth, and Swarm before retiring this past off-season. Alton played one minute in one game, got scored on, and retired with a career GAA of 60.00.

Edmonton’s picks turned into Corbeil, Church, and Tyler Carlson, all of whom are still on the Rush. Alex Turner scored 25 points in two seasons before being traded to the Swarm for a draft pick (later traded to Calgary for Matthew Dinsdale). After scoring 71 in 2008, Nooch never again got within forty goals of that record. He blew out his knee after the 2008 season and hasn’t been the same player since, never scoring more than 29 goals in any season. He refused to report to the Rush and was traded to the Stealth for Paul Rabil and a first rounder, which turned into Mark Matthews.

Winner: Edmonton by a landslide.


The end result from all this analysis: Derek Keenan (who was the Edmonton GM for all of these deals) is pretty good at his job.

Shoutout to John Hoffman (@Corporal763) for his awesome site swarmitup.com, which contains unbelievable detail about every NLL draft.

NLL Trades: one big, two bigger

After the huge trades we saw at the trade deadline last year involving names like Billings, Suitor, Powless, and Schuss, you’d think the NLL might be all blockbuster’ed out for a while. It lasted about half a year before we started seeing some more “holy crap” trades. But it all seems like one big trade involving almost half the teams in the league. I almost started to lose track of who went where, so I’ll break it down.

Billings went from Toronto to New England for Kevin Crowley but then Crowley was sent back to New England for Dan Lintner while Billings was sent to Vancouver for Tyler Digby who was then traded to Calgary for Shawn Evans. And a bunch of draft picks changed hands as well.

Got it?

OK. At the trade deadline last season, Garrett Billings was sent to New England for Kevin Crowley. As posited by me and totally unconfirmed and uncorroborated, this deal included a gentleman’s agreement that Crowley would be sent back to New England at the end of the season. This happened in early October, as Crowley was traded to the Black Wolves for draft pick Dan Lintner and a second round pick in 2016. This wasn’t quite a Holy Crap trade, but it was significant.

But the combination of Crowley and Billings on the same roster was not to be. Holy Crap Trade #1 happened two weeks later, sending Billings to Vancouver in exchange for Tyler Digby and a second round pick in 2017. This is where Billings’ part of the story ends. He’s now playing in his home town of Langley, and western goalies are very worried about the impact he’ll have on guys like Rhys Duch and Corey Small. But we weren’t done yet. A day later, Holy Crap Trade #2 happened.

Tyler Digby

Tyler Digby, it was said, wanted to be in the East because he recently moved to Pennsylvania. But the ink on his trade to New England was barely dry before he was traded again. Digby went to the Calgary Roughnecks for who else but the reigning league MVP, Shawn Freaking Evans, who wanted to play closer to his home in Peterborough. New England’s first round draft picks in 2018 and 2019 now also belong to Calgary, and Calgary’s third round pick in 2018 goes to New England. This marks only the second time in league history that the current MVP was traded, the first being Gary Gait who was sent from Philadelphia to Baltimore in 1998. But as surprising as the Evans trade was, the Gait trade blows it away. At that point, Gait had won three straight MVP awards and after the trade, he won the next two as well.

Did you sense the trend here? Billings is back home. Evans is closer to home. Crowley lives in Philadelphia, so he’s also closer to home. Digby wanted to be, but it didn’t work out. And the reason Gait was traded in 1998? To be closer to his home in Baltimore.

The trades themselves might have been surprising, but if the reasoning behind them surprises you, you’re obviously new here. Welcome to the NLL.

In a nutshell

I’ll break down my impressions of each team’s outlook once the rosters are announced in December, but here’s the end result for now:

Toronto is down Kevin Crowley and up Dan Lintner and a second.

New England is down Billings and two first rounders (in 3 years), and up Shawn Freaking Evans and a third.

Vancouver is down Tyler Digby and up Garrett Billings

Calgary is down Shawn Freaking Evans, and up Tyler Digby and two firsts.

The Crowley Trade Episode II: Attack of the Black Wolves

An odd trade occurred on Saturday that I suspect began back in March. The Toronto Rock sent Kevin Crowley back from whence he came, the New England Black Wolves, in exchange for Dan Lintner and New England’s second round pick next year. Crowley, of course, was acquired at the trade deadline last season in exchange for holdout Garrett Billings. Lintner was New England’s first round pick at the draft two weeks ago, 8th overall.

Jamie Dawick is quoted in the press release: “…we’re not far off with this deal from what was also on the table at the trade deadline in March.   We needed a player last year so the 2016 first round draft pick didn’t make sense at the time.” So they agreed in principle to trade Billings for a first and a second, but the Rock needed a player right away so they changed it to Crowley. Now they’ve basically reversed it to what they agreed on originally.

Pure speculation on my part, but it sounds to me like this was a two-stage trade from the start. Instead of the two draft picks, you give us Crowley for the rest of the season, then we’ll trade him back to you for the two draft picks once the season’s done. Perhaps the talking at the draft was that rather than the 2016 first, we’ll take Lintner since we wanted him anyway.

New England kind of won the trade last season, just based on numbers. By the time the deal was done the Rock only had four games left, while New England had eight. The Black Wolves got twice as many games from Billings than the Rock got from Crowley, and Billings averaged 4.5 points per game to Crowley’s 3.0. Then again, the Rock did have Crowley for five playoff games while New England missed the playoffs entirely, so that evens things out some.

Kevin CrowleySo the deal ends up being Billings to New England for a 1st round pick (Lintner), a 2nd round pick (in 2016), and the use of Kevin Crowley for half a season. Is this fair value for someone who averaged 105 points over the previous three seasons? On the surface, no. But if you factor in Billings’ surgery last year, it’s possible the Black Wolves are not getting  the same Garrett Billings who put up those big numbers. If he returns to his previous level of dominance and puts up the big numbers, then good for him and the Black Wolves win the trade. But it’s also possible that Lintner pulls a Brett Hickey and comes out of nowhere to score 50 goals. Honestly, that seems less likely, but who knows? He was picked in the first round because that is a possibility.

For now, I’d have to say that the Black Wolves are the winners here, but unless Billings returns to his pre-injury form and Lintner is a bust, I wouldn’t say the Rock got fleeced either. As with most trades, we won’t really know who won it until a long time after.

Trade deadline 2015

Now that is what a trade deadline is all about.

Wow, that was fun. Every team in the league made a trade on Tuesday, some bigger than others. But you could argue that the trades made on deadline day included the best player on three different teams, as well as two captains. Below is a summary of the deals we saw on Monday and Tuesday:

Andrew Suitor for Joel White

To Minnesota: Joel White and a second round pick in 2016
To New England: Andrew Suitor

It’s rare for the current captain of a team to be traded. It’s even more rare for captains of two teams to be swapped. This trade confused a lot of people considering how important Suitor was to the Swarm. He was their captain, their leader in every way but scoring, the “heart and soul” of the team, and the phrase “fan favourite” doesn’t begin to cover it. But they traded him anyway which pissed off a lot of Swarm fans, judging by the comments on their Facebook post announcing the trade. In return they get another solid transition guy in Joel White, who has similar scoring numbers to Suitor but far fewer penalty minutes (Suitor has 20, White has just 2) and a lot more loose balls (117 to Suitor’s 60). Suitor is just over two months older than White so age wasn’t a concern for the Swarm, but I imagine White has a smaller salary than Suitor, which is.

Considering how much anger and questioning of the sanity of the Arlottas we’ve seen regarding this trade, you’d think that they got nothing back. Joel White is kind of on the losing end here. The Swarm are getting more loose balls and less time in the box, and though White is perhaps less of a vocal leader than Suitor, he’s still has leadership skills or the Black Wolves wouldn’t have made him the captain. Meanwhile the Wolves get a passionate guy who’ll run through walls for his teammates and is willing to fight if necessary, just in case Bill O’Brien doesn’t feel like it.

Honestly, I’m not sure of the overall advantage of this trade for the Swarm. White might put up slightly better numbers, but if you’re going to anger most of your fan base and lose season ticket holders, is it worth it?

 

Logan SchussLogan Schuss for Johnny Powless

To Vancouver: Logan Schuss
To Minnesota: Johnny Powless

While the Suitor deal raised a few eyebrows, the Swarm’s other major deal works out very well for them. Schuss had job commitments in BC that kept him out of a couple of games (though fewer than he originally expected), so this way he’s much more likely to be able to play. Both Schuss and Powless are young lefties (Schuss is 24, Powless 22). Powless just wasn’t fitting into the Stealth offense, as shown by his 7 goals in 11 games. As said in an article in the Vancouver Province, Powless had as many 0-goal games in his 11 with the Stealth (7) as he did in three full seasons with the Knighthawks. Powless wanted out of Rochester because he didn’t want to be playing behind Cody Jamieson and Dan Dawson all the time, only to be playing behind Rhys Duch, Tyler Digby, and Corey Small in Vancouver. In Minnesota, I think he’ll be alongside Callum Crawford, Miles Thompson, and Shayne Jackson rather than behind them, so this could work out very well for them.

 

Cam Flint

To Colorado: Cam Flint
To Minnesota: Second and third round picks in 2016

Not much to say about this one – Flint had 2 points in 11 games with the Swarm last season but has yet to play this year. Two draft picks for a player with that little NLL experience tells you how highly the Mammoth thinks of Flint, who went to the University of Denver.

 

Matthew Dinsdale

To Edmonton: Matthew Dinsdale
To Calgary: Third round pick, 2016

After Scott Ranger retired in the off-season, I remember some talk that Dinsdale was likely going to get Ranger’s spot and thus lots more playing time. I honestly don’t know if the playing time increased, but while Calgary scored 38 goals in their first three games, Dinsdale was held pointless in all three. After that, his playing time dropped and by the time this trade happened, he’d only played in 6 games and only pulled in 6 points. This is consistent with his numbers over the previous two years (24 points in 27 games). With the addition of Sean Pollock onto the Roughnecks roster, Dinsdale’s playing time wasn’t likely to increase. Maybe a change of scenery (onto a team much more likely to make the playoffs) will do him good.

 

Joe Resetarits for Jamie Batson

To Rochester: Joe Resetarits and a third round pick in 2016
To Buffalo: Jamie Batson, second round pick in 2016, and second round pick in 2017

Resetarits had a pretty good year in 2014, with 42 points in 17 games, but his production has dropped a little this year. His 21 points in 10 games is 6th on the Bandits but would be 7th on the Knighthawks. But playing behind Jammer, Dawson, Point, Walters, Hall, Vitarelli, and Keogh, it’s not clear how much playing time will be left for Resetarits. Batson is a defender with 0 career points in 8 games, but has only played in 2 games this year.

 

Garrett Billings for Kevin Crowley

To New England: Garrett Billings
To Toronto: Kevin Crowley

This was the biggest deal of the day and as a Rock fan, I have to admit I was a little underwhelmed at first. Billings was the MVP runner-up in each of the last 3 seasons and the only player in NLL history to score 100+ points three years in a row. Crowley has been good, sometimes great, for Philly and New England, but he’s averaged around 75% of what Billings has done. I’d say Crowley’s a great player but not an elite one like Billings, so a one-for-one trade doesn’t seem to make sense. But first, we knew that Billings was going to be traded, and likely not for what he was worth. And second, Billings is coming off of knee surgery, and may or may not still be the elite player he was. If he is, then yes, New England wins this one. Going strictly by numbers, even if Billings is only 80% of what he was, New England still wins.

Crowley the GiantBut I wonder if Crowley being the #1 pick overall caused some people (myself included) to expect too much of him. He was expected to be the guy both in Philadelphia and in New England. To his credit, he’s been the top or second scorer on his team every year of his career, but hasn’t been the 90-100 point guy that I kind of expected. But in Toronto, he doesn’t need to be the guy. He can just be one of the guys. And since the guys include Hellyer, Hickey, Sanderson, and Leblanc (and hopefully Doyle next year), that’s not bad company to be around. While I’m sure he learned a lot from veteran Dan Dawson in their one year together in Philly, now he has the opportunity to learn from Sanderson and Doyle and who knows – maybe in a couple of years, he will be the guy on the Rock, but if Hellyer and Hickey keep playing the way they have been, he may not need to be.

Assuming he’s not hobbled by the surgery, Billings is an exciting player to watch and I envy the New England fans who are able to see him at every home game now. He’s known for his playmaking ability and passing (he has twice as many career assists as goals), but he can score with the best of them including lasers from way out, cross-crease dives, and behind-the-back John Grant-style beauties.

Would I prefer to have Billings back on the Rock? Yes, I have to admit that I would. But I’ve known for weeks that that would be unlikely, so I prepared myself for the likelihood that he’d be gone. Given the alternatives (the Rock lose him for nothing or scratch him for the rest of the season), I originally thought that adding Crowley would be better than nothing, but not much more than that. But I’ve warmed to the idea and similar to the Schuss-Powless deal, I think this could be good for both teams as well.

Gavin Prout – the Knighthawk?

Gavin Prout spent two seasons in New York and then six in Colorado, the last five as captain of the Mammoth, averaging 84 points per season. So it was a bit of a shock in Colorado, and throughout the NLL world, when he was traded in 2009 to the Edmonton Rush. He played with the Rush for the 2010 season and about half of 2011 before being traded back to the Mammoth. But something that many people, myself included until recently, don’t remember about Prout being traded from the Mammoth to the Rush was that it never happened.

What could have beenProut, along with Andrew Potter, was traded from the Mammoth to the Rochester Knighthawks in 2009 for Ilija Gajic (some draft picks were involved as well). Potter had been sent to the Mammoth from the Knighthawks the previous year in the deal that brought Gary Gait out of retirement. Interesting that a guy that played all of five games in his NLL career was involved in two such significant trades. Anyway, two weeks later, the Knighthawks sent Prout and Dean Hill to the Rush for a first round draft pick. But the fact that Prout was a Knighthawk for a couple of off-season weeks is usually forgotten.

A number of other players also spend time on teams for which they never played. Here are just a few:

After the Boston Blazers folded, Anthony Cosmo and Josh Sanderson were both selected in the dispersal draft by the Minnesota Swarm. Before the first round of the draft had even ended, Sanderson had been traded to the Rock, while Cosmo sat out half of the next season before being traded to the Bandits.

Shawn Williams is another player who, like Sanderson, can measure the amount of time he spent on the Minnesota roster with a stopwatch. In July 2012, Williams was traded from the Rush to the Swarm for two second-round draft picks. The same day, he was sent off with Brendan Doran as well as the #5 overall pick in the 2012 draft and two other 2012 draft picks to Buffalo for the #3 overall pick. That seems to me like an expensive way to move up two positions – and in fact, it really only moved the Swarm up one position since they went from having picks #2, 4, and 5 to having picks #2, 3, and 4.

Paul Rabil might be the only player to have joined two separate organizations consecutively and never play for either of them. But this story begins six months before Rabil got involved. In the summer of 2011, the Wings traded Athan Iannucci, Alex Turner, Brodie MacDonald, and three first round draft picks to the Rush for Brodie Merrill, Dean Hill, Mike McLellan, and a couple of later draft picks. Nooch never signed with the Rush, and a month into the 2012 season, he was traded to the Stealth for Paul Rabil. Rabil also refused to sign with the Rush and sat out the rest of the 2012 season.

Almost a year after the original Iannucci trade, the Rush sent Rabil to the Knighthawks for Jarrett Davis, but Rabil never reported to Rochester either. Only a couple of weeks before the 2013 season began, he was sent to Philadelphia along with Jordan Hall, Joel White, and Robbie Campbell in exchange for Dan Dawson, Paul Dawson, and a first round draft pick. Rabil is now happy in Philadelphia, and I’m pretty sure the Knighthawks were OK with what they got out of the deal.

But not every player was traded to a team they never played for. Here are some players who were drafted by teams they never played for:

  • Ilija Gajic, Rochester, 2009
  • Joel Dalgarno, Toronto, 2009
  • Craig Point, Boston, 2007
  • Ryan Benesch, San Jose, 2006
  • Blaine Manning, Calgary, 2001
  • Geoff Snider, Vancouver, 2001 (he opted to return to university and was drafted again by the Wings in 2006)
  • Tom Marechek, Buffalo, 1992
  • John Tavares, Detroit, 1991 (and not until the third round!)

I’m sure there are plenty of others. Leave a comment if I missed any!

The Benesch trade: could both teams lose?

As you’ve heard by now, the Buffalo Bandits have acquired sniper Ryan Benesch and transition man Andrew Watt from the Swarm for two first round draft picks (2015, 2016) and a third round pick in 2017. This looks to be a great deal for the Bandits, who lose nobody from their roster while picking up two solid players including Benesch, a former rookie of the year and league scoring leader. It could also be great for the Swarm, who just love their first round draft picks. But it could also be a disaster for both.

The Swarm had four first round draft picks in 2012, and they have four more in 2013, including one of Buffalo’s (from the Cosmo deal). Now they have Buffalo’s first round picks for 2014 (Cosmo again), 2015, and 2016 as well as their own. This, plus Philadelphia’s 2015 pick from the Kevin Ross trade, gives them at least eleven first round picks over the next four drafts.

This is a bit of a strange deal for the Swarm, on the assumption that Benesch didn’t ask for a trade. As I said, they certainly love acquiring first round picks, but I’m not sure it makes sense to give up someone who’s a star now for draft picks. I get that first round picks are important and can change a franchise entirely (right Edmonton Rush and Pittsburgh Penguins? Or the 2013 Swarm for that matter), but the best-case scenario for the Swarm is that they are able to draft someone as good as Benesch. If Benny was 34 and one of those “still pretty good but on the downside of his career” players, it might make sense, but he’s only 28 and could easily be at or near the top of the league in scoring for the next five years or more. Even if the first of the draft picks they got results in the next Mark Matthews, they still have 2 full seasons of no Benesch and no Watt before then.

Ryan BeneschThey do have four first-round picks this year, and if they want to get them all on the roster, then four players from last year have to go. They’ll likely want Andrew Suitor back in the lineup, so that’s one more. But I don’t think Benesch and Watt were at the top of John Arlotta’s “list of players who can be dumped in favour of rookies”. In addition, this trade has made the Bandits better, so it’s unlikely that the Bandits’ first round picks will be all that high anyway.

Meanwhile the Bandits have no first round picks for the next four years. It’s now safe to say that the Cosmo deal was a bust, in that Cosmo has only shown glimpses of the former Goaltender of the Year the Bandits hoped they were getting. Indeed, 2012 and 2013 were the worst seasons of Cosmo’s career in terms of both GAA and save percentage. The Bandits have not yet given up anything for Cosmo – this year’s draft will be the first of the two first-round picks they gave up. But unless Cosmo recovers in a big way next season, the next two drafts might be tough to swallow for Bandits fans.

If the Benesch deal doesn’t work out for whatever reason, the two drafts after those might be just as tough. There would be nothing worse for Bandits fans to head into a draft knowing you have no first round pick this year or next because of a trade for a player that hasn’t played for you for two years, but if Benesch is traded again, that could be the case. But Steve Dietrich knows this. With this trade, the Bandits are going all in with Benesch as their offensive leader for the next half-decade. Obviously losing John Tavares will hurt, whether he retires now or after another season, but with Benesch as the new offensive go-to guy, the Bandits can handle it. That’s something they’ve never really been able to say before. Not saying Benesch is on a par with Tavares, arguably the best NLL player ever, but if you’re looking to replace a strong lefty scoring threat, you could do far worse.

I have no reason to believe that Benesch won’t be successful in Buffalo. If he does take over John Tavares’ spot as the offensive leader of the team, the trade may work out very well for the Bandits. And if the Swarm’s 2013 draft picks work out as well as their 2012 ones did (Matisz, Jackson, Sorensen, Crepinsek), they may be able to survive the loss of Benesch and Watt pretty well.

All trades take time to determine who the real winners were, in some cases a few years. If it takes that long to decide the winner of this deal, it’s likely the Bandits came out on top. But if Dietrich’s bet on Benesch doesn’t work out, things could be pretty bleak in Buffalo for a long time.