Various musings lacking statistical correlation

Today I’m going to take a page from Evan Schemenauer’s book blog. There are a number of issues relating to the NLL that I have yet to write about, so rather than post an article with a single focus, I’ll combine them all in a “random thoughts” article the way Evan does. Incidentally, if you aren’t reading Evan’s blog regularly, you really should. Now only does he have some great insights into the game itself but he frequently discusses the business aspect of the league as well. In addition to the NLL, he follows and writes about MLL, WLA, MSL, and junior lacrosse as well, which I generally don’t. And check out his story about when he helped create a lacrosse tournament in Bermuda – it’s quite long but really interesting. If you only read one lacrosse blog, read this one. But if you read two lacrosse blogs, the other one should be Evan’s.

I’m covering a number of stories here, some new and some not so new, so I’ll go in chronological order, oldest first.

John Grant retires

John Grant

Not exactly a shocker. In fact, the only way this story could really have been surprising is if it didn’t happen. The writing has been on the wall most of the season, since Grant only played in the Mammoth’s first two games, and there were very few injury updates throughout the season. I heard an interview with Steve Govett this past season where he was listing all the players he had on IR and when they might be back. He didn’t even mention Grant until the very end, almost as an afterthought. Grant announced his retirement from MSL almost a year ago and from the MLL back in April, and in both cases his reasons were that his body just couldn’t do it anymore. Given that, it was pretty much impossible that he’d return for another season in the NLL.

I can’t say I was ever a real fan of Junior’s. He’s unquestionably one of the most skilled lacrosse players in history, and I saw many games where it seemed that he could just score at will – no goalie could stop him when he was really on his game. But earlier in his career, it was sometimes possible to force him off of his game. Basically, if you pissed him off early and often enough, he’d retaliate or get flustered and that was it for him. Try that with John Tavares and he’d just score on you as revenge but Grant would take the odd dumb penalty or just lose his scoring ability to some extent. This happened less often as he matured. But Grant was either too arrogant or too aloof (or both) for my liking. While I acknowledged his skill, I didn’t really like him.

Once he got to Colorado, he started doing promotional videos for the Mammoth, and my tune changed a little. He had a bunch where he was shooting on a lacrosse net from crazy distances – the top level of the Pepsi Center, a cool rock formation in Colorado, and others; they brought to mind the “nothin’ but net” commercial with Michael Jordan and Larry Bird from back in the 90’s if you’re old enough to remember that. Another was one (couldn’t find it online) where he gave a tour of his apartment in Denver, complete with his lacrosse gear out on the balcony and his kitchen cupboard full of Kraft peanut butter “imported from Canada”. I have to say he seemed pretty likeable in those spots.

Then my opinion completely changed when I heard an interview he did with Teddy Jenner right after his retirement. He basically said that his whole life, he just wanted to play lacrosse and wasn’t interested in the spotlight at all. But he realized that given his talent, the spotlight was inevitable so he made the best of it. He came across in the interview as a down-to-earth guy, nor arrogant in the slightest, who just loves lacrosse. He also said that one of the advantages of retiring is that he can spend more time coaching kids, and how can you not like that? That interview made me want to apologize to him for not liking him in the past.

Even if you don’t like him for whatever reason, you cannot deny the skill. Like I said above, when he was on his game, nobody could dominate a game like Junior, and his behind the back (or one-hand behind-the-back underhand) shots are legendary. Mr. Grant, it was an honour to be able to watch you over the past seventeen years and I wish you all the best in your coaching career, be it with your high school team, the MLL, or possibly in the future, the NLL.

Adam Jones comes to the Rock

I honestly didn’t see this one coming though in retrospect, I should have. Jones is a teacher in Owen Sound, Ontario, a 2½ hour drive from Toronto (in good traffic/weather). Jones missed a number of Friday night games with the Mammoth and Rush because the travel was just too difficult. In the four years since the league went to 18-game seasons, Jones has yet to play in all 18 games. Playing half of his games in Toronto (and a bunch more in Buffalo and Rochester) means fewer travel hassles so fewer missed games and less stress on days where he does travel.

I wonder if some Rock fans might have bristled at the thought of giving up two first round picks for Jones, considering he’s only eclipsed 76 points once in his career. But for Jones, it’s not how many points, it’s when. Since 2014, only four players (Dickson, Dhane Smith, Shawn Evans, Dobbie) have more hat-tricks than Jones, and only Dickson has more four-goal or five-goal games. He’s tied with Dickson for the most six-goal games. Jones will have some 1-goal 2-assist nights but the first time the Rock win because he scored six goals in the third quarter, two first round picks may not seem quite as high a price.

San Diego: The new kid in town

The worst-kept secret in the NLL is finally confirmed: a multi-gazillionaire named Joseph Tsai has purchased an NLL expansion franchise that will play in San Diego beginning in the 2018-2019 season. This story was first broken back in July by Marisa Ingemi (my former “boss” at In Lacrosse We Trust – I wrote there for a couple of months in 2011). Tsai has hired former Mammoth president and GM Steve Govett to be the President (and GM?) of the new team. This is the biggest news to hit the NLL since… well, in a long time, and this is the first expansion team in the NLL since the Boston Blazers in 2009.

NLL fans have talked many times in the past about trying to get high-profile billionaires like Mark Cuban or Paul Allen to buy into the league, instantly raising its profile and, quite honestly, its legitimacy. As far as I know Mr. Tsai’s name never came up in those conversations but it could have – Tsai (who has Canadian citizenship, according to Wikipedia) played collegiate lacrosse at Yale, and is apparently quite a big lacrosse fan.

San Diego

This is huge news. Yes, the NLL has played in SoCal before, with the Anaheim Storm in 2004-2005. But their team was terrible, finishing a combined 6-26 over those two seasons. That certainly didn’t help the attendance, which hovered around 4500 per game. I know zilch about the ownership group of the Storm but suffice it to say that losing money hand over fist was likely a problem for them. The fact that Tsai is a billionaire doesn’t mean he’ll be happy to lose money forever, but it does mean that it won’t be a problem if the team doesn’t make a profit right away.

Tsai is the co-founder and executive vice chairman of the Alibaba Group, a huge Chinese company that runs various online stores and is one of the most profitable companies in the world. According to WIkipedia, Alibaba’s sales in 2016 added up to almost half a trillion US dollars, more than all online sales from all US companies combined. I think we’re safe in assuming that Mr. Tsai knows a thing or two about prudent investments and how to run a successful company. A proven businessman like Tsai investing in the NLL should give other potential investors some serious confidence in the stability and profitability of the league. It’s unlikely that he’s just pulled $5 million out of his couch cushions on a whim; he’s done research on the league and made the decision to invest in it.

Steve Govett had been with the Colorado Mammoth since they were the Washington Power. No fly-by-night “let’s throw $5 million at this thing and see what happens” kind of owner would likely be able to pull him away from there. I don’t imagine Govett would leave the Mammoth for anything less than an absolutely committed owner. The team doesn’t have a name or logo yet and the total number of employees is probably still in single digits, but Tsai already has a right-hand man who knows the league, the game, and the players as well as anyone. Assuming Govett will also be acting as GM, the San Diego Whatevers may not have the less-than-auspicious start that the Storm had. They could be a pretty good team within a couple of years.

Expansion rumours

The rumours started months ago when a Philadelphia reporter named John Barchard tweeted some NLL expansion plans that he credited to “Sources”. He talked about Baltimore, Long Island, and Montreal for 2018, then Philly, DC, Edmonton, and Miami for 2019, and San Francisco for 2020. There were eight other cities with “mild interest”, but San Diego was not among them. It turned out this was mostly his or someone else’s speculation, not actual plans.

The rumours I’ve heard more recently (yesterday) included teams in Philly, Halifax, Miami, and Edmonton. While both Philadelphia and Edmonton have failed in the NLL in the past, I think they could be successful with the right ownership. Both teams had success on the floor and at the gate, though in the case of Edmonton they mostly didn’t happen at the same time.

I’m not sold on Halifax. Sure, there are no other major pro sports teams within several hundred kilometers so they may be starving for pro sports out on the east coast, so that might be good for community support and thus attendance. However it means at least a two hour flight from pretty much anywhere NLL players live (and 5½ from Vancouver, and 8½ from San Diego via Toronto) for all players on both teams, unless the team convinces some players to move there. The arena in Halifax holds 10,000 so they better be filling it every night to pay for the extra travel costs.

I don’t know much about Miami but I know that both the Panthers (NHL) and Marlins (MLB) have struggled with attendance. The Florida Launch are based in Boca Raton, just north of Miami, so in a parallel universe where the NLL and MLL work together for mutual benefit, that may be a good place to start in terms of advertising and building up a fan base. In this universe, however, I’m not sure it will matter.

MLL data breach

This only tangentially affects the NLL itself but does affect a bunch of NLL players. The MLL announced that there was a data breach last week, where information on (I believe) every current and former MLL player, as well as others who registered in the player pool even if they never played, was accidentally made available on the internet. The information included innocuous things like height, weight, occupation, and date of birth, but also included Social Security numbers which, when combined with some of the innocuous stuff, could easily be used for identity theft. The players are livid and rightly so. There have been no confirmed reports of identity theft as of now, but that’s hardly the point.

The big question that many people are asking is “how could this happen?” But I’d like the details – logistically, how did this happen? The players are asking why the file was not encrypted or password-protected, which is an excellent question. But my question is why was it there at all?

The fact that the Excel spreadsheet containing the personal data was available on the internet means that it must have been copied to the machine running the league’s web site, whether that’s their own machine or one run by a hosting company (like GoDaddy, for example). Why would anyone copy the file there? You don’t copy a data file to a web server unless you want to serve it to the web.

I don’t know what happened, but here’s a likely scenario. I imagine that like many companies, the MLL has internal web sites (an “intranet”) as well as the public site. The internal ones are used by MLL employees and are only available from within the MLL corporate network. It’s possible (though not likely) that both sites are run from the same machine, in which case a badly written web page or email could easily link to the wrong file, or the file could accidentally be copied into the wrong directory. What’s more likely is that someone wanted to make the file available on the intranet (not the internet) but copied the file to the wrong server.

MLL's Chief Security Officer

But as someone who has worked for a database software company for twenty years (my job title even includes “security expert” though that’s kind of a stretch), I can tell you that any database or file that includes personal information (especially Social Security numbers) really should be encrypted and protected. If I’m an MLL employee and I don’t absolutely need to have the SSNs, there should be no way for me to get them. The people who do need to have that information must be trained on proper handling of sensitive information. If you must copy the file somewhere, you make damn sure that you’re copying it to the right place and that it’s removed from that place once it’s no longer needed.

With this breach, the league has opened themselves up to lawsuits from anyone whose data was leaked. Since that’s all of their players, this could be very bad. In the worst case, the lawsuits bankrupt the league and it folds entirely. That’s probably unlikely but even if the league does survive, it will take a very long time to regain any measure of trust from the players. It may also have long-term ramifications in the form of players who decide not to join the MLL because of this incident. The league may have lost out on a future Tom Schreiber because he’s worried about the security of his personal information.

It’s also possible that players may decide to divorce themselves from the MLL entirely, which could be good news for the NLL. Could we see the return of former NLL players like Joe Walters and Paul Rabil if they are unhappy with the MLL?

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Blockbuster day in the NLL

The free agency period began with a bang today, as two of the biggest blockbuster trades we’ve seen in years both happened on the same day. In the first one, a couple of former teammates who have each played for a bunch of teams were swapped along with a goalie, and in the other the two main players were both goalies.

Deal the First

Early in the day, Teddy Jenner broke the news on twitter that a big deal was coming, and Tyson Geick confirmed that it would be announced at noon. Promptly at noon, both Jenner and the Buffalo Bandits broke the deal: the Mammoth sent Callum Crawford and Alexis Buque to the Bandits for Ryan Benesch and a conditional third round draft pick. Benesch and Crawford were both scoring stars on the Swarm for four seasons from 2010-2013; Benesch won the scoring title in 2011 with 95 points, and Crawford broke 90 in both 2010 and 2013. As good as those numbers are, both have since taken their games to another level. Each has picked up MVP votes over the past couple of years with similar numbers: Benesch grabbed 113 points with the Bandits in 2015 while Crawford picked up 115 points in his first season with the Mammoth in 2016.

Callum Crawford

Buque has been one of the top backup goalies in the league for a couple of years, and I suspected that he’d be one of the first snatched up by next year’s expansion teams. Sounds like the Bandits had other plans. Benesch and Crawford have been pretty even in the points department over the last number of years, though Crawford picks up more assists. The Bandits also announced today that they’d signed Davide DiRuscio to a contract, which leads me to believe that the Anthony Cosmo retirement announcement is imminent.

On first blush, I have to call the Bandits the winners on this one. If we call Benesch and Crawford a wash, Buque vs. a 3rd round draft pick is a no-brainer. The Bandits needed right-handed scoring and got it, though they weakened their left side to do it. But if Cosmo is indeed retiring, they’ve also shored up their goaltending for years. The Mammoth wanted to replace John Grant on the left side (though he barely played last season) and they’ve certainly done that.

Deal the Second

Aaron BoldA few hours later, Jenner broke another big trade, this one involving the Rush and the Black Wolves, and one that still has me scratching my head. The Rush sent goalie Aaron Bold, defender John Lafontaine, the 8th overall draft pick this year and a second round pick in 2018 to New England for Evan Kirk and… that’s all. Make no mistake, Evan Kirk is an excellent goaltender but this trade seems a bit perplexing. Bold and Kirk are two of the top goalies in the league, but not only would I not put the difference between them big enough to cover Lafontaine and two draft picks, but I’d have put them in the other order – if I was giving up Bold and receiving Kirk, I’d be expecting to receive another player and/or draft picks. Note that Kirk is younger than Bold, but only by two years.

Yes, Kirk won Goaltender of the year in 2016 and Bold has never won it. But Bold was a runner-up in each of the previous two years. And if you care about that sort of thing, Bold has two titles and Kirk none.

If this deal was done by anyone other than Derek Keenan, I’d say he got fleeced. But Derek Keenan doesn’t get fleeced. Usually, Derek Keenan does the fleecing.

I’m guessing there’s more to this deal than meets the eye, or it’s only part of a series of deals, the rest of which will be announced soon. Perhaps Bold requested a trade east and all the eastern GMs knew it, so Keenan had no bargaining power.

I’m not sure what the Rush hoped to accomplish with this deal. They got a little younger, but they were one of the youngest teams in the league anyway and the difference is minimal. And Lafontaine is only 27. They talked about the draft picks they got for Adam Jones being important because of the (likely) upcoming expansion drafts, and then traded two picks away for at best a wash at goaltender and they lost a defenseman too. Apparently there is more to come from the Rush, so perhaps those moves will explain their thought process.

As for the Black Wolves, they got better today and also picked up some draft picks to get better in the future. Not bad.

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.