Offseason Report #3: Trade frenzy

Just nine days after the NLL and the NLLPA agreed to a deal that will allow the 2013 season to go forward with the same CBA as 2012, there have been all kinds of moves involving every team in the league. The Bandits named Steve Dietrich their new GM, the Stealth re-signed head coach Chris Hall and signed a five-year lease with Comcast Arena, the Roughnecks and Mammoth announced a pre-season game in Langley BC,  the Rush re-signed GM and coach Derek Keenan, and there were no less than five trades involving seven teams in only two days.

The first trade was the Rock sending holdout Aaron Pascas to the Roughnecks for a third round draft pick. This is one of those deals that looks worse than it is – in an ideal world, Pascas is worth more than a 3rd round pick. But he’s a BC boy who has already missed an entire season due to work commitments, and so perhaps the Rock decided that getting a pick was better than the nothing they may get if he can’t play in 2013 either. The Roughnecks get a scorer for the left side who is young and yet has won a Championship. If Pascas has scheduling issues with his job as a firefighter, it’s more likely that he’ll be able to make games in Calgary than in Toronto, so it’s a good deal for him as well.

Jarrett DavisA few hours after the Pascas deal, the Swarm sent forward Kevin Ross to Philadelphia for a first round pick way off in 2015. Swarm owner John Arlotta said that Ross will “get the chance to play closer to home”. Home for Ross is London Ontario, which is nine hours from Philadelphia and fourteen from St. Paul. (Note that I am Canadian, and in Canada we measure distances not in miles or kilometres, but in driving time.) Cutting down your commute from 14 hours to 9 is not much of an advantage, really. Perhaps the flights from southern Ontario to Philly are shorter than to Minnesota, though I can’t imagine it’s much of a difference there either. Anyway, Philly is pretty happy with the trade, especially when you consider that Ross scored 9 points against them in one game and 5 in another last season. Swarm fans were less thrilled since they lose Ross’s 59 points and get nothing in return for over three years.

A day later, three trades rocked the NLL, as the Edmonton Rush finally made the trade that everyone has been waiting for since February, sending Paul Rabil to Rochester for Jarrett Davis. The Rush finally have something to show for Brodie Merrill – but the whole Merrill / Iannucci / Rabil drama has been done to death so I won’t give all the details again. Davis is a very good player even if he’s no Merrill or Rabil, so at first blush it would seem that the Knighthawks clearly win this trade. Adding someone of Rabil’s calibre makes the reigning Champions a far better team, and that’s not something that Rock, Bandits, or Wings fans want to hear. But then again, Davis may actually put on a Rush uniform at some point, which is more than Rabil ever did, so the Rush are up one transition player and down nothing. This is a pretty good deal for both teams.

Well, in that trade they’re down nothing. Associate captain Shawn Williams will not be returning to the Rush, so they are down a scorer as well. The Rush traded Williams, who was a few days away from becoming an unrestricted free agent, to the Minnesota Swarm for draft picks. But Williams’s career as a member of the Swarm was just as long in terms of games played as that of Anthony Cosmo or Josh Sanderson, as he was immediately shuffled off to Buffalo along with Brendan Doran and more draft picks for Buffalo’s first round pick this year. The Swarm now have the #2, #3, and #4 picks in this year’s entry draft. The Bandits pick up Doran, a “young gritty defenseman” says Steve Dietrich, as well as the veteran Williams. Willy is fresh off a season in which he reached the finals, scored his 1,000th NLL point, and set an NLL record for most consecutive games played (190+ and counting). The move reunites the 38-year-old Williams with 43-year-old John Tavares, who played together in Buffalo in 2000 and 2001, and gives the Bandits another legitimate scoring threat. I wouldn’t say the move immediately propels the Bandits into first place in my 2013 NLL East division rankings, but it certainly raises some eyebrows for anyone looking at how the Bandits might recover from the 2012 season, which was terrible disastrous horrific less successful than they might have liked.

So all of those trades happened in just two days. The 2013 NLL season doesn’t start for over five months. It could be a busy summer.

Top 10 surprises from the 2012 NLL season so far (pt. 2)

In part 1, we covered Steve Toll, Athan Iannucci, Paul Rabil, Tyler Carlson, Evan Kirk, Matt Roik, and Nick Rose, as well as some rule changes. In this article, we’ll cover the top 5 surprises in 2012.

5. John Grant

John Grant being an impact player should not surprise anyone. He’s been an impact player his entire career in the NLL, MLL, MSL, or any other L he’s played in. But I don’t think anyone expected him to be as dominant as he has been this season. Not only is he 37, but he’s only three years removed from missing an entire season because of a serious injury that became life-threatening. He recovered well enough to go out and score 83 points in his last year in Rochester and another 83 in his first year in Colorado. Fine numbers, to be sure, but not Grant-like. In fact, 83 points was Grant’s lowest total (playing a full season) since his rookie year in 2000.

John Grant

Grant is a fierce competitor, so it is no surprise that he’d want to get back to his previous numbers – not because the personal stats are important to him, but because he wants to lead his team to as many wins as possible, and his contribution to that objective is putting up tons of points. Starting the season with 11 points was nice, but following it up with 9 and 10 points was amazing. Nobody thought he could keep up a 10-points-per-game pace, and he hasn’t. But he’s still averaging 8.3 points per game. He has yet to pick up less than 3 goals or 3 assists in a game and his season low for a single game is 7 points. He missed two games with an upper body injury, and then returned with another 7 point performance. Before the injury, he was on pace for 136 points in a season, blowing the old single-season record away by 21 points. In fact, even after missing two games (1/8 of the season), he is still on pace to break the record. Unbelievable.

4. Buffalo’s 6 game losing streak

The Bandits are mostly the same team as last year. They traded Chris Corbeil but got Billy Dee Smith back from injury, and also gained Luke Wiles and Mat Giles. They went 10-6 last year and given the team changes, you wouldn’t expect a huge drop-off this season. Sure enough, they started the season 2-0 with wins against the Rock at home and the Knighthawks on the road. And then it all fell apart. The Bandits lost their next six in a row, something they have never done before in a single season. (They did finish the 1999 season with five losses and missed the playoffs, then started 2000 off with a loss. Similarly, they finished 2009 with two losses and started 2010 with four, but there was a playoff win and loss in between.)

Some of the games were ugly. They managed to shut out Philadelphia for half the second quarter and all of the third, and still lost the game. They lost 19-11 to the Swarm in a game that included a 7-0 third quarter. They lost to the Knighthawks in a game that included a 7-0 second quarter. But there were two one-goal losses in there as well, including an overtime game against the Stealth. Of course, the Stealth were 0-3 at the time and then lost their next three.

Bandits coach and GM Darris Kilgour has a reputation for being fiery and passionate, and I’m sure that during this streak more than a few f-bombs were dropped. But after losing six in a row, the Bandits started their next game against the Rock down 5-1 and losing 11-8 at the half. Did Darris lose his mind and scream and yell like a stereotypical drill sergeant? Not at all. In his IL Indoor interview with Tracey Kelusky, Ty Pilson used the unlikely word “gentle” to describe Kilgour’s reaction. Kelusky said “he just said you guys are sticking with it, you guys aren’t panicking, and that’s something we were doing during that six-game skid… He said we’re playing confident, keep doing that and we’ll have success.” How did that go over with the Bandits? They outscored the Rock 13-3 in the second half and won 21-14. That is solid coaching.

3. This year’s crop of rookies

Every year, one rookie is singled out and given the NLL Rookie of the Year award. And every year, there are arguments that someone else deserved it as well. Last year, Curtis Dickson won it over Cody Jamieson, and in 2010, Stephan Leblanc beat out teammate Garrett Billings. This year, the number of deserving rookies who will not win ROY is crazy. It seems that every team has a rookie who’s having an outstanding season, and some have more than one. In the case of the Minnesota Swarm, you could almost nominate half the team.

There are high-scoring forwards like Crowley, Powless, Jones, Lincoln, and Keogh. There are defenders and transition guys like Gamble, Thompson, MacIntosh, and Cornwall. And there are goaltenders like Kirk, Carlson, and Scigliano. At this point in the season, the race is likely between Crowley and Jones, but all of these guys have played well so far and with a few strong games to finish the season, any one of them could find themselves in the ROY race. I don’t remember another season with such a strong group of rookies – not just in terms of how good they are, but in terms of how many good ones there are.

2. Colorado starting 6-0 and 8-1

Maybe others saw this coming, but I certainly didn’t. This is related to #5 above, the amazing play of John Grant, but even if you thought he’d have a good season, did you foresee Adam Jones being so good? And the defense playing well even without Mac Allen? And Gavin Prout playing so well? And Chris Levis? And Sean Pollock and Jamie Lincoln and Jordan McBride and Derek Hopcroft and Ian Hawksbee and Rory Smith and Creighton Reid and Ilija Gajic and…? Honestly, none of those things individually is an absolute shock but the fact that they all happened at the same time has resulted in the Mammoth being the best team in the league, which is a distinction they haven’t been anywhere near for years. The Mammoth only won 5 games in 2011, and managed to match that total in 2012 after… 5 games. They have a very good chance of doubling their win total from last year.

The team is quite different from last year – Mac Allen is out with an injury, Steve Toll retired (temporarily – see #10 on this list) as did Brian Langtry, Joel Dalgarno is out for the year because of work commitments, Ned Crotty and Dan Carey were traded, and Connor Martin was released. Instead, we have Adam Jones, Jordan McBride, Jamie Lincoln, Jon Sullivan, Rory Smith, Sean Pollock, Mat MacLeod, Creighton Reid, and Derek Hopcroft. Is the fact that a team with this many changes has gelled as well as they have a testament to good coaching by Bob Hamley, or Gavin Prout becoming captain, or some combination of both? I’m sure Mammoth fans don’t care, but they’re certainly enjoying the ride.

1. Washington starting 1-6

It was surprising that a bad team would retool and instantly become a great team, but it’s even more surprising that a great team would make very few changes over the off-season and become a lousy team. And that’s what the Stealth looked like for the first seven games of the 2012 season. They won an overtime squeaker against the also-struggling Buffalo Bandits, but lost to the Roughnecks twice, the Wings, the Knighthawks, and the Swarm, and they got smoked by the Edmonton Rush 16-5 in their own arena.

Rhys Duch

Sure, they lost Jeff Zywicki to injury early in the year, but he only played three games last year anyway. They traded Matt Roik but Tyler Richards played more than twice as many minutes as Roik did in 2011. Richards and Rhys Duch got injured as well, but not until the Stealth were 1-5. They did lose Luke Wiles, who’s tearing up the turf in Buffalo, and didn’t really replace him, so that’s something. But Duch and Ratcliff couldn’t find the back of the net, and Richards had a worse GAA than every starting goalie in the league and several backups.

The Stealth have been struggling with low attendance despite two consecutive Champion’s Cup appearances; the highest Washington crowd this year, 4687, is 600 less than the lowest crowd anywhere else (5267 in Rochester). Maybe you could use that fact to argue that winning and losing has no bearing on attendance in Washington so it doesn’t matter if they win or lose. But I doubt it. And I doubt the players are OK with losing if it doesn’t affect the crowds.

Part, maybe even most, of the problem was the absence of head coach Chris Hall. CH was the heart and soul of the Stealth, but our old nemesis cancer raised its ugly head once again, this time in the form of throat cancer, and Hall had to stay away from the arena to concentrate on his treatment and recovery. Thankfully, it seems that Hall has won this battle, and after missing the first six games of the season he returned cancer-free to the bench. The Stealth lost their first game after his return, but have won two of three since then.

Top 10 surprises from the 2012 NLL season so far (pt. 1)

2012 has been a season full of surprises in the NLL, and it’s only half over. In true “top ten list” fashion, we’ll start at #10 and move up towards #1.

 

10. Steve Toll’s return

Steve TollHe hasn’t played yet, but Rush GM Derek Keenan has already announced his signing. I guess Toll’s retirement was never official, so he’s just a free agent. What I don’t know is whether his “iron man” streak will continue. He played all 16 games with the Mammoth last year, and wasn’t on a roster for the first part of this season, so does that count as breaking the streak? If not, he’ll only be one game behind the new leader Shawn Williams. Williams and Toll are good friends off the floor, so it stands to reason that Willy was involved in this transaction somehow, but I don’t know whether he convinced Steve to come back, or Steve asked him to put in a good word with the boss.

In case you are wondering, the other Toll on the Rush, Jarrett, is not related to Steve. At least he doesn’t think so.

9. Iannucci and Rabil

The biggest trade of last summer was unquestionably Brodie Merrill for Athan Iannucci. At the time, I thought Philly got robbed blind – not because Iannucci is so much better than Merrill, but because they gave the Rush three first round draft picks among everything else. Well, someone got robbed blind, but it wasn’t Philadelphia. Merrill is playing very well for the Wings, but Iannucci never reported to the Rush. Apparently he didn’t have problems with the team or the city, but the contract negotiations got heated and apparently things started to get personal, and Iannucci refused to play. Five games into the season, Nooch was finally traded to the Stealth, where he’s been OK, though nowhere near his level of play back in 2008. In return, the Rush got transition star Paul Rabil – who then refused to report to the Rush, and the whole thing started over again. This time it wasn’t about money; Rabil had been trying to get traded back east for years, but Washington couldn’t do it. I guess travelling to Edmonton would have been worse than to Washington since there are likely no direct flights from the Baltimore area (where Rabil lives) to Edmonton, so he’d likely end up having to fly to Seattle anyway and then to Edmonton so his travel schedule just got way worse. I guess you can’t blame him for that, but when you hear that someone like John Grant can up and move his entire family, including a young child, to Denver, you feel less sympathy for Rabil.

My impression of Rabil has always been that the MLL and field lacrosse in general is his thing, and the NLL is an interesting pastime and way to make a few bucks and keep up his skills during the winter. That’s not to say he doesn’t try hard; I’m sure he gives 110% when he’s on the floor, but if he had to give up the NLL or the MLL, the NLL would lose in a heartbeat. This is not a judgement or criticism of him, he just likes field lacrosse better. He’s happy to play in the NLL, but if it means lots of travel and major inconvenience, then he’s fine giving it up.

The trading deadline has just passed and Rabil was not dealt, so the deal now looks like Merrill, Mike McLellan, Dean Hill, a 5th round pick in 2011, and a 4th round pick in 2013 to the Wings for Alex Turner, Brodie McDonald, and first round picks in 2012, 2013, and 2014. Given the first rounders, it’s still not that terrible a deal for the Rush long term, but certainly isn’t helping them this year.

There are rumours that Derek Keenan will ask Rabil to report for the rest of the year, but that seems unlikely. I can’t imagine the reception he’d get from the Edmonton fans when his name was announced.

8. The rule change making the most difference

A number of rule changes were announced for 2012. A lot of people, myself included, thought the change from ten seconds to eight would be the most significant, or possibly the “two feet in the box” substitution rule. But when I’m watching the game, the two that make the most difference for me (and I’m putting them together because they’re related) are the delay of game on possession change, and the fast start rule. When the ref blows the whistle to signal a possession change (eg. a moving pick) or the shot clock expires, the attacking player must immediately put the ball down on the floor and give the other team some room. None of this rolling it away from the other team or running around for an extra second or two to give your team a chance to change. It’s been pushed to the limit a few times, where a player will put it down but not completely stop it, and it rolls a couple of feet and the player is given a penalty. That seems excessive, but assuming those kinds of calls disappear as the refs and players get more used to the rule, it really keeps the game moving.

The other one is related – say a player on team A shoots at the net and misses, and then the shot clock expires. If the ball bounces off the boards and all the way out to centre and a team B player picks it up there, the ref blows the whistle and play just continues. In previous years, play would be stopped, the ball would be brought back to the goal area, and team B would start again. Again, the new rule keeps the game going. It makes transition plays more likely and forces teams to either change faster (but the “two feet in the box” rule makes sure that they’re not too fast) or have the O guys play more D, which we’re seeing a lot this year.

7. The goalie situation in Minnesota

At the beginning of the season, it looked like Minnesota’s goalies might be Nick Patterson and Anthony Cosmo, which should have been an excellent tandem. In reality, Cosmo was unlikely to play, as he told the Swarm before they picked him in the Boston dispersal draft. So the Swarm decided to go with rookies Tyler Carlson and Evan Kirk backing up Patterson. After Patterson let in 20 goals in the Swarm’s first game, they gave Carlson a try. Carlson went 2-2 with a GAA around 11 in his first four games, and Evan Kirk and went 2-0 and an amazing 6.50 GAA in his first two games. Patterson was released, Cosmo was finally traded, and Minnesota has just as great a goalie tandem as expected, but not with the players that we expected. After ten games, the Swarm are 5-4 and third in the west, Carlson is 3-2 with a GAA of 11.14, and Kirk is 2-1 with a league-leading GAA of 8.33 and by far the best save percentage with 83.2%. Only one other goalie is over 80%, and that’s Calgary’s Frankie Scigliano (another rookie), who’s only played 51 minutes.

6. The goalie situation in Toronto

Bob Watson decided to retire following the 2010 season but after the Rock lost the Championship Game, owner Jamie Dawick (among others) managed to convince him to come back for one more year. It ended up as a storybook ending that couldn’t have been scripted any better, with a Championship for the Rock and well-earned Championship Game MVP honours for Watson. But as happy as Rock management and fans were with 2011, the question loomed: how do you replace Bob Watson?

Matt RoikThey answered that question in July, when they traded Kyle Ross to Washington for Matt Roik. Over and over, Rock management sung his praises. When Boston announced in September that they would “temporarily suspend operations” (NLL-speak for “vanish forever”), the rumours of Anthony Cosmo’s return to Toronto started almost immediately. The Minnesota Swarm traded three players to the Mammoth to get their first round pick, and they chose Cosmo. When I heard that Toronto and Minnesota had made a trade during the dispersal draft, I assumed it would be for Cosmo. Instead, it was Josh Sanderson coming to the Rock, and once again the Rock said that Matt Roik was their man and that they had no interest in Cosmo.

Five games into the season, it certainly looked like they’d made the right choice. The Rock were 3-2, and Roik had been solid in the two losses and great in the three wins. He was even named Defensive Player of the Week for week 5. Smooth sailing, right? Wrong. Four games later, the Rock are 4-5 and last in the East. So do they stick with the guy they’ve been talking about as “their man” since July? Nope. They release him outright and trade for Calgary backup Nick Rose. Then they talk about how it wasn’t Roik’s fault that they’ve played badly in the last few games, but Roik paid the price anyway with his job, possibly his season, and maybe even his career.

This whole situation is eerily similar to the 2004 Rock season. Legendary coach and GM Les Bartley had announced over the off-season that he was fighting cancer and would not be able to be behind the bench during the 2004 season. The Rock named Derek Keenan and Ed Comeau the interim GM and coach respectively in Les’ absence. But after only 6 games, both were fired and the Rock hired Terry Sanderson (who was an assistant coach with the Bandits at the time – the Rock would give up a draft pick the next year as punishment for “tampering”) as the new GM and coach. Considering that both Keenan and Comeau have gone on to great success in the NLL, both winning the GM and Coach of the Year awards, I have to wonder what might have been if they had been given a little more leeway and time. But Rock fans certainly can’t complain about how things worked out, considering the team went 8-2 over the rest of that season and then won the Championship the next year. (Les Bartley would lose his battle with cancer at the tragically young age of 51 the day after that 2005 Championship game.)

Rock fans may always wonder what might have been had Roik been given more time. But if Rose works out in Toronto as well as Sanderson did, the question may just never come up.

 

Coming soon: the top 5.

Roik out, Rose in

In an attempt to right their listing ship, the Rock replaced the anchor on Monday. Matt Roik was supposed to be the goalie of the future for the Rock but his tenure lasted just over half a season, as the Rock traded for Calgary backup Nick Rose on Monday, releasing Roik outright. Calgary gets Toronto’s first round draft pick in 2014, and if Toronto doesn’t make it to the Championship game this year, they also get a second round pick from Calgary in 2014. Is this the solution? Obviously we won’t know that until a few games have been played, but in order for Rose to be the solution, Roik would have to have been the problem. Was he?

In 10 games, Roik was 4-4. Among regular starters (i.e. 300+ minutes), he ranks ninth in both GAA (12.52) and save percentage (.725). In a nine team league, ranking ninth is not good. The Rock are also tied for last in goals against with 129. From these numbers, it certainly sounds like goaltending is a big problem. But (feel free to gasp out loud here as a stats guy says this) the numbers don’t always tell you everything.

Quite simply, Roik was not the reason for the Rock’s less-than-stellar season thus far. He had his tough games, and in a couple he wasn’t sharp at all. But in those ten games, he’s really only had two or maybe three bad outings, and only one real stinker. Interesting that the Rock decided that this was too much for Roik, when Stephen Leblanc has had more than three lousy outings this year, but he’s not going anywhere (and I’m not suggesting that he should be).

The real problem is that there isn’t a single problem. There were games where the goaltending wasn’t great (pretty much the last three), but there were also games where the defense in front of him gave up too many chances, and other games where the defense was fine but nobody wanted to score. The Rock have scored 13 or more goals in five games, so they can score. They held the Wings to only 6 goals so they can play defense, though that was the only game this year where they’ve held the opposition to less than 11. In the first seven games, the Rock were 4-3, but in the three losses, Roik wasn’t the problem. In the 14-8 loss to Philly, I said in my game report: “I certainly wouldn’t pin the loss squarely on him [Roik]”. Even Terry Sanderson said in the press release “In this case, I don’t feel our guys were playing well enough in front of Matt”. That sounds to me like they are acknowledging the fact that it was a team thing, not just Roik.

None of what I’ve said would be news to Sanderson, Troy Cordingley, Jamie Dawick, or anyone else in the Rock organization, were they to grace my humble lacrosse blog with their presence. So if Roik wasn’t the problem, why did the Rock make this move? I have to think it’s the same reason you sometimes pull the goaltender during a game – just to shake up the team. Mike Thompson had some ugly games for the Bandits, but their 6-game losing streak wasn’t entirely his fault. That didn’t stop Darris Kilgour from picking up Anthony Cosmo, and who’s been the better goalie since then? Thompson.

Rose hails from the lacrosse hotbed of Orangeville, Ontario, and a number of Rock players – Edwards, Gamble, Bryan, Rooney, and Josh Sanderson, according to Eh Game – have played with Rose before, either on the Boston Blazers or the Orangeville Northmen. It’s not like Roik was a complete unknown, but we all know that Terry Sanderson, also an Orangeville guy, would much prefer having players on his team that he’s familiar with.

Are the Rock a better team with Rose? This year, it obviously remains to be seen. Going forward, the answer is likely yes. Rose is eight years younger than Roik, and had a lot of success in junior lacrosse, winning a couple of Minto Cups and being named IL Indoor’s Junior Goaltender of the Year in consecutive years. He hasn’t seen an awful lot of playing time in the NLL, but has been a backup to two of the best in Cosmo and Poulin. Oddly, Poulin was also a backup to Cosmo, and both Poulin and Cosmo were at one time backups to Bob Watson in Toronto. And Cosmo was once traded for Matt Roik. The cycle of goalies is complete.

So what happens to Roik now? Maybe he and Nick Patterson will hang together and watch NLL games online for the rest of the year. It’s certainly possible that he’ll catch on with another team, likely in a backup role unless there’s an injury. Or maybe he’ll get a starting job somewhere if a team starts to falter, even if it’s not their goalie’s fault.

Iannucci for Rabil: Who won the trade

The Athan Iannucci era ended in Edmonton the other day. The stats: zeroes across the board. But the Washington Stealth don’t care about that, they’re just concerned with the more important number associated with Iannucci: 71, the record-setting number of goals he scored in 2008 when he was league MVP. This number was so intriguing to the Stealth that they were willing to give up a player who has been called “the best lacrosse player in the world”, Paul Rabil. That quote was referring to field lacrosse, not box, but Rabil is no slouch in the indoor game either. But who really wins this trade?

After being sent to Edmonton in the biggest trade of the last off-season, Athan Iannucci never reported to the Rush because he never signed a contract. The details of the negotiations were never released, but there were rumours that Nooch was asking for top dollar on a multi-year contract. Iannucci himself said that this wasn’t the case and that there would be players in the league making double what he was asking for. Rush owner Bruce Urban said that what Iannucci was asking for, specifically in the second year, was not allowed by the CBA. Regardless, the Rush started the season without Nooch and it quickly became clear that he was unlikely to suit up for them.

I remember watching Iannucci in a playoff game in Buffalo during his 2008 MVP season. He just had a presence when he was on the floor. You knew that every defender was watching him and yet it seemed that he could score at will anyway. The only other player I’ve seen with that level of dominance is John Grant. But Grant has kept up that dominance for a decade, and this season it seems stronger than ever. Iannucci, on the other hand, had injury problems and only played 10 games in the 2009 season and missed 2010 entirely. He returned last year, apparently back to full health, but wasn’t nearly as dominant, only racking up 29 goals and 61 points in 13 games. Neil Stevens from Lacrosse Magazine points out that he only played in one playoff game, a loss, in his “five years with Philadelphia” (which was really four because of the year he didn’t play) but that’s hardly Iannucci’s fault – the Wings had sucked for years before Nooch got there, and he did score four goals in that one playoff game.

Dominance aside, Iannucci’s numbers make him look like the prototypical “ball hog” during his MVP season – he only had 29 assists to go with his 71 goals. John Grant, on the other hand, has had more assists than goals in 9 of his 11 NLL seasons. Now Iannucci didn’t have Shawn Williams, Scott and Shawn Evans, Cory Bomberry, and Craig Point to pass to in Philadelphia, so perhaps that’s an unfair comparison. But Bob Chavez at IL Indoor recently ranked Iannucci as the 16th best player in the league saying that, in short, he’s back. In 15 playoff games with the Langley Thunder this past summer, Nooch picked up 45 points, helping the Thunder to their first Mann Cup appearance. It would not surprise me if Stealth GM Doug Locker was at one or more of those games, and liked what he saw.

Paul Rabil has been one of the best transition players in the NLL for three years. He is, as I said, widely known as one of the best field lacrosse players in the world – he’s been named MLL MVP twice, MLL Offensive Player of the Year twice, and MVP of the World Lacrosse Championship in 2010. His shot has been clocked at a blistering 111 mph. He was a big part of Washington’s 2010 and 2011 NLL Championship appearances, and seemed to be one of the faces of the Stealth franchise along with Rhys Duch and Lewis Ratcliff. Given his offensive success in the MLL, he can obviously be a scoring threat, but he’s listed as a transition player and that’s how he’s primarily been used.

But Washington’s problem this year is not transition, it’s offense. Even including Rabil, they have three players with more than 10 points after five games – and one of those three only has 11. Tyler Richards, the starting goalie, is tied for 7th on the team in points. Unless they convert Rabil to be a full-time forward, he can only have so much of an impact. Iannucci, on the other hand, is pure offense. I honestly don’t know how good of a defensive player he is, and with the new rules promoting transition, it’s more likely than in previous years that he’ll be caught on the floor and have to play some defense – this is true for all offensive players, not just Nooch.

On the assumption that Iannucci is average defensively (i.e. not a superstar but not a pylon either), it would seem that the Stealth are willing to give up some transition and defense for a ton of offense, which is what they need. The Rush gain a great transition player while giving up nobody from their starting roster. There are still rumours that Rabil is not finished being moved, and that he may come even further east, in which case he’s trade bait, and the Rush will still get something significant for him. It’s hard to say that they got Rabil for free though, even if Iannucci never played for them, considering they did give up Brodie Merrill to get Iannucci. The Rush also receive a first-round draft pick for next year from the Stealth, while Washington gets the Rush’s second round pick. Note that this brings the total count of first round draft picks Edmonton has received for Brodie up to four (over the next three years).

I think the Stealth did improve in an area that they absolutely had to improve in, and so this was a pretty good move for them. I’d have to call Edmonton the winner though, considering they got one of the most exciting and dynamic players in the game, gave up nothing from the roster that played their first four games, and upgraded a second round pick to a first. As with all trades though, we’ll have to revisit this after the season ends, or even a year or two down the road, and see how it really played out.