2018 Preview: West division

Just like yesterday’s East division preview, today we’ll cover the West: where I think they will end up in the standings, who might have a breakout year, and a haiku for each team.

RoughnecksCalgary Roughnecks

Look out for

Holden Cattoni. He didn’t really stand out last season with 26 points in 15 games, but had an excellent summer in the MSL. With Jeff Shattler now in Saskatchewan, Cattoni will likely get more floor time and can use his new-found confidence to help the Roughnecks.

Prediction

Jeff Shattler and Scott Carnegie are gone, Mike Carnegie is injured, Bob Snider is on the practice roster, and Wes Berg has not yet signed a contract. In their place are third-overall draft pick Zach Currier, Vaughan Harris (who had a cup of coffee with the Necks last year), and two more rookies, Anthony Kalinich and Tyler Pace. A good crop of rookies to be sure, but those are some awfully big shoes to fill.

Fourth in the west.

Haiku

Shattler on the Rush
Will be a shock to Necks fans
Will they sign Wes Berg?


MammothColorado Mammoth

Look out for

Jacob Ruest. Ruest scored 18 goals and picked up 18 assists in 18 games last year. With Crawford gone, there will be more space on the Mammoth’s right side so along with Keogh and Noble, Ruest will be getting a lot more floor time.

Prediction

Coates and Holding are gone for the year, Bryce Sweeting is also injured, though I don’t know how long he’s out, and Ilija Gajic was not re-signed. Those are some pretty big holes to fill on defense. But the offense didn’t want the defensive guys to have all the fun. Also missing are Zack Greer and Brent Adams. The addition of Ryan Benesch basically fills the hole left by Callum Crawford, though on the opposite side of the floor. If even half of those missing guys are back by mid-season, the Mammoth could do OK but if they’re all gone long-term, Dan Carey may be a busy guy in the early part of the season. He did sign Scott Carnegie to the Mammoth practice roster, so I’d expect to see him on the active roster before long.

Third in the west

Haiku

Injuries on D
Decimating the Mammoth
But Benny’s in town


RushSaskatchewan Rush

Look out for

Ryan Keenan. Keenan had a pretty good rookie season last year, but wasn’t the impact player many thought he would be; 42 points in 16 games isn’t what one might expect from the first overall draft pick. This is a bit reminiscent of Lyle Thompson the year before, but Thompson’s sophomore season was spectacular. Not saying Keenan will win the MVP or bump Mark Matthews from his top spot on the Rush offense, but seeing Keenan hitting the 70-80 point plateau this year wouldn’t surprise me.

Prediction

Personally, I don’t think Evan Kirk is a huge upgrade over Aaron Bold, other than being younger. I don’t think he’s any worse than Bold, and I don’t think this was a terrible deal for the Rush, just not a significant improvement. But Derek Keenan is a big Kirk fan, and I admit that Keenan is probably a better judge of lacrosse talent than I am. Adam Jones, who never really seemed to fit in as part of the Rush offense, is out and Jeff Shatter is in. I’d say at worst that’s a wash and more likely, that’s a net gain for the Rush. So they probably got better at goaltender and offense, and their defense is still the best in the league despite losing John Lafontaine. The Rush are still the team to beat in the West.

First in the west

Haiku

Boldy out, Kirk in
Good goaltender and offense
Still the best defense


StealthVancouver Stealth

Look out for

Tony Malcom. After 38 points in his rookie year, Malcom was on pace for 62 last year but injuries caused him to miss half the season. The New West kid will now be playing home games at home and assuming he’s back to full health, playing with guys like Small, Duch, and Schuss can’t help but bump both his confidence and his numbers.

Prediction

A fair bit of turnover in Vancouver. They lost Lintz, Hodgson, Harnett, Garrison, Wagner, and Toll on the back end and Conway and Durston up front, and Tyler Richards was released. They did gain Tony (the former Anthony) Malcom, they seem excited about draft pick Ryan Fournier, and then Andrew Suitor just fell into their lap a few days ago. The Stealth made big strides last season, and I can see them capitalizing on that this year.

Second in the west.

Haiku

Hodgy retired
Matt Beers becomes the captain
Suitor joins in too

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2018 NLL: Who’s in, who’s out

Here it is: a complete summary of all the roster changes for each team, all in one place.

Note that these are the changes as of the final roster from last season, so a player might be listed as “In” even if he played for that team during 2017. And a player who’s injured but still part of that team will be listed as “out”.

Last updated: December 7, 2017

BanditsBuffalo Bandits

In: Reid Acton, Alex Buque, Josh Byrne, Callum Crawford, Jordan Durston, Chase Fraser, Ethan Schott, Ryan Wagner
Out: Ryan Benesch, Anthony Cosmo, Tim Edwards, Alex Kedoh Hill, Anthony Malcom, Blaze Riorden, Billy Dee Smith, Andrew Watt, Adam Will
IR:
PUP: Dallas Bridle
Holdout:
Practice Roster: Gowah Abrams, Vaughan Harris, Liam Patten, Zac Reid

Tons of new faces for the Bandits including three rookies. Callum Crawford strengthens the Bandits’ right side while his former Swarm teammate Ryan Benesch is replaced on the left side by Jordan Durston. Alex Buque replaces newly retired Anthony Cosmo and will probably get the nod as the everyday starter.

According to Steve Bermel just moments ago (I was literally seconds away from clicking the “publish” button on this article when I saw his tweet), Alex Kedoh Hill is an RFA because the Bandits offered him a contract but he didn’t sign it. “If any team makes him an offer, the Bandits have 72 hours to match it.”


SwarmGeorgia Swarm

In: Frank Brown, Warren Hill, Jesse King, Kevin Orleman, Zed Williams
Out: Mitch Belisle, Liam Byrnes, Jordan Hall, Brodie MacDonald, Ethan O’Connor, Chad Tutton, Joel White
IR:
PUP: Chad Tutton
Holdout: Jordan Hall, Mason Jones, Ethan O’Connor, Joel White
Practice Roster: Liam Byrnes, Isaiah Davis-Allen, Lauchlin Elder, Brayden Hill

More changes to the Swarm roster than they might have liked. Hall and White are out for non-lacrosse-job-related reasons, Belisle retired, MacDonald was traded, and Tutton is injured. Jordan Hall was acquired last year when the Swarm found out that Jesse King would miss the season, but this year the Swarm were going to have a “problem” fitting King into the lineup. Problem solved – King ironically replaces Hall who’s going to miss the season. The Swarm have made the odd move of keeping three goaltenders on the roster.


BlackWolvesNew England Black Wolves

In: Aaron Bold, Adam Bomberry, David Brock, Mark Cockerton, JP Kealey, John Lafontaine, Colton Watkinson
Out: Brett Bucktooth, Chad Culp, Ryan Hotaling, Evan Kirk, Brooker Muir, Bill O’Brien, Zac Reid
IR: Ryan Hotaling
PUP:
Holdout:
Practice Roster: Nick Chaykowsky, Anthony Joaquim, Nick Mariano, Rance Vigneux

The biggest move is obviously at goaltender, where Aaron Bold replaces Evan Kirk. David Brock becomes the latest ex-Bandit to join the Black Wolves. Bucktooth and Culp retired, and the release of Bill O’Brien was a bit of a surprise, seeing as he was one of the faces of the franchise in recent years. All four guys on the practice roster will be featured in the NLL Pronunciation Guide when they make the NLL.


KnighthawksRochester Knighthawks

In: Eric Fannell, Austin Shanks, Eric Shewel, Billy Dee Smith, Jake Withers
Out: Jordan Dance, Jarrett Davis, Dylan Evans, Marty Hill, Luke Laskiewicz, Quinn Powless, Andrew Suitor, Sean Young
IR: Cody Jamieson
PUP: Dylan Evans
Holdout:
Practice Roster: Greg Longboat, Adam Perroni, Quinn Powless, Mike Triolo

A bunch of rookies and a 35-year-old vet join the Knighthawks, while most of the “Out” list are guys who only played one year with Rochester. Jarrett Davis is both in that club (played 2017 in Roch and Saskatchewan the year before that) and not in that club (played two years in Roch in 2011-2012).

Notably absent is Cody Jamieson, who will start the year on the IR. All the team has said is that Jamieson has “been making great strides to get back in the lineup”. But given what happened last year (he came back from being injured in the playoffs the year before, played five minutes, tweaked his knee again, and missed the rest of the season), I imagine they’ll play it pretty safe this time around.


RockToronto Rock

In: Phil Caputo, Rob Hellyer, Adam Jones, Brandon Slade, Brock Sorensen
Out: Kasey Beirnes, Turner Evans, Jesse Gamble, Jeff Gilbert, Challen Rogers
IR: Turner Evans, Challen Rogers
PUP: Dan Craig
Holdout:
Practice Roster: Drew Belgrave, Riley Hutchcraft, Adam Jay, Darryl Robertson
Protected: Paul Rabil

Caputo was on the team for parts of last season but as an offensive player. With the return of Hellyer and the addition of Jones, his skills aren’t really needed up front so he’s now a defender and will probably play some transition as well. Gamble will miss the year for work and Beirnes and Gilbert retired. Rob Marshall retired as well but he missed almost all of last year. As a Rock fan, I’m looking forward to the potentially devastating front line of Hellyer / Hickey / Jones / Leblanc / Schreiber / Lintner.


RoughnecksCalgary Roughnecks

In: Zach Currier, Anthony Kalinich, Tyler Pace
Out: Mike Carnegie, Scott Carnegie, Jeff Shattler, Bob Snider
IR: Kellen LeClair
PUP: Mike Carnegie
Holdout:
Practice Roster: Steph Charbonneau, Ryan Martel, Bob Snider

The “In” list is all rookies, but there are some big names on that “Out” list. Wes Berg hasn’t signed a contract yet, so you’d hope he won’t be out for long. Shattler was signed by the rival Rush, Mike Carnegie is injured, Scott Carnegie was cut (!!) and Bob Snider is on the practice roster.

Update: Wes Berg was signed.


MammothColorado Mammoth

In: Ryan Benesch, Scott Carnegie, Brody Eastwood, Steve Fryer, Rowan Kelly, Ryan Lee, Quinn MacKay, Nick Ossello
Out: Brent Adams, Alex Buque, Dan Coates, Callum Crawford, Ilija Gajic, Cam Holding, Bryce Sweeting
IR: Brent Adams
PUP: Dan Coates, Zack Greer, Cam Holding, Bryce Sweeting
Holdout:
Practice Roster: Tim Edwards, Rowan Kelly, Jarrod Neumann, Nick Ossello

2018 will be the first season without Ilija Gajic in the league since 2009. Benny takes over for Crawford while Fryer assumes the backup goalie role left by Buque. The losses of Holding and Coates will not help the defense but they still have Hope. (See what I did there?)


RushSaskatchewan Rush

In: Evan Kirk, Jeff Shattler
Out: Aaron Bold, Adam Jones, John Lafontaine
IR:
PUP: Nic Bilic
Holdout:
Practice Roster: Nick Finlay, Johnny Pearson, Tor Reinholdt, Adam Shute

As usual, not many changes for the Rush but the changes they did make are pretty significant. Bold is out, Kirk is in, while Adam Jones is in Toronto, replaced by Jeff Shattler. John Lafontaine is in New England and will likely be replaced by Nic Bilic when he returns from injury.


StealthVancouver Stealth

In: Ryan Fournier, Brandon Goodwin, Brodie MacDonald, Tony Malcom, Andrew Suitor
Out: Cory Conway, Jordan Durston, Jon Harnett, Curtis Hodgson, Thomas Hoggarth, Tyler Richards, Ryan Wagner
IR: Jon Harnett, Thomas Hoggarth, Casey Jackson
PUP:
Holdout: Tyler Garrison, Jarrett Toll
Practice Roster: Patrick O’Meara, Eric Penney, Tyson Roe, Cody Teichroeb

The Cory Conway experiment lasted about half a year. No mention was made of Garrett Billings at all this pre-season so that experiment is also over (but we knew that at the end of last season). Hodgson retired, Richards was released, and Durston and Wagner are now Bandits. Brodie MacDonald beat out Eric Penney and Zach Higgins for the backup goalie job, but that was not a surprise either. The Stealth traded for MacDonald a month ago, and you don’t trade for someone to let them compete for a job. Andrew Suitor was likely a nice surprise for the Stealth – they picked him up two days before rosters were due to be submitted to the league. A nice surprise, that is, for everyone except the defenseman who was cut to make room for Suitor.

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.

In which I admit my mistake

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

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

In short, I was wrong.

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

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

Matt Beers

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

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

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

Could happen… 2017 edition

Round about this time of year, people think they have a decent idea of how the standings will end up, more or less. So far this season, Saskatchewan has clinched a playoff berth, but nobody else has. We think the Rush and Swarm will probably be at the top in their divisions, but it’s not guaranteed. Calgary and Rochester are currently at the bottom but both are only a half game back of the team in front of them. There’s enough time left for some really crazy things to happen, and every year I find it fun to look over the possibilities if the lower-ranked teams start winning and the teams at the top start losing. If everything falls into place, could we have a Calgary-Rochester final? Could the Swarm miss the playoffs? Let’s look at some scenarios that are unlikely but still possible:

Calgary finishes 2nd in the west

Calgary wins out, Saskatchewan loses to Vancouver, New England, and Toronto, and Colorado loses out. Then the Rush win the west at 10-8, Calgary is second at 9-9, and Colorado and Vancouver tie at 8-10. Vancouver would win the tiebreaker in that scenario with a 3-1 record against the Mammoth, so Colorado is out.
Calgary wins out, Vancouver beats Colorado, and Colorado loses one more game. Then the Roughnecks are 9-9 and the Mammoth are at best 9-9, but Calgary holds the tiebreaker.

Vancouver wins the west

Update: Can’t happen anymore.
Vancouver wins out, Saskatchewan loses at least three more, and Colorado loses to Rochester. Then the Stealth are at 10-8, the Rush and Mammoth are at 9-9, and the Roughnecks are at best 8-10.

All five teams in the east finish 9-9

Update: Can’t happen anymore.
New England beats Georgia and Saskatchewan and loses to Vancouver. Buffalo beats Calgary, Toronto, and Georgia twice. Rochester beats Colorado, New England, and Georgia twice. Toronto loses to Saskatchewan and beats Buffalo. Then all the eastern teams are 9-9 and we have the nastiest tie-breaker ever.

Rochester wins the east

Update: Can’t happen anymore.
Rochester wins out. Toronto and Georgia lose out. Buffalo loses to Calgary. New England loses to Saskatchewan and Vancouver. Then Rochester, Georgia, and Buffalo are 9-9 while Toronto and New England are 8-10. Rochester has a 4-2 record against Buffalo and Georgia and wins the east while Buffalo finishes second and Georgia third.

Buffalo wins the east

Update: Can’t happen anymore.
Buffalo wins out. Toronto and Georgia lose out. New England loses to Saskatchewan and Vancouver. Rochester beats New England and loses to Colorado. Then the Bandits are 10-8, Georgia is 9-9, and the rest are tied at 8-10. New England wins the tiebreaker and makes the playoffs.

Georgia misses the playoffs

Update: Georgia has now clinched a playoff spot.
Georgia loses out. Toronto beats Saskatchewan and Buffalo. New England beats Saskatchewan and Rochester. Buffalo beats Calgary and Toronto. Then Toronto and New England have 10 wins while Buffalo and Georgia are both 9-9. Buffalo would win the tie-breaker here and the Swarm are out.

2017 NLL Predictions

Here are my predictions for the final regular season standings as well as the major annual awards. The “Dark Horse” predictions are my “not as likely but could happen” picks.

Final Standings

East

  1. New England
  2. Buffalo
  3. Georgia
  4. Toronto
  5. Rochester

West

  1. Saskatchewan
  2. Colorado
  3. Calgary
  4. Vancouver

Individual Awards

MVP

Winner: Mark Matthews
Short list: Shawn Evans, Dhane Smith
Dark horse:  Adam Jones

Goaltender of the Year

Winner: Aaron Bold
Short list: Dillon Ward, Nick Rose
Dark horse: Frank Scigliano

Robert HopeDefensive Player of the Year

Winner: Robert Hope
Short list: Ryan Dilks, Kyle Rubisch, Graeme Hossack
Dark horse:  Mitch de Snoo

Transition Player of the Year

Winner: Karsen Leung
Short list: Alex Kedoh Hill, Chad Tutton, Chris Corbeil
Dark horse:  Challen Rogers

Rookie of the Year

Winner: Ryan Keenan
Short list: Challen Rogers, Mike Messenger
Dark horse:  Kieran McArdle

Les Bartley Award

Winner: Troy Cordingley
Short list: Derek Keenan (though you could put his name here every year)
Dark horse: Jamie Batley

GM of the Year

Winner: If the Rock are above .500 and make the playoffs, Jamie Dawick. Otherwise, Steve Dietrich
Short list: Derek Keenan (though you could put his name here every year)
Dark horse: Curt Styres or Doug Locker

This was a tough one since the Rock, Knighthawks, Swarm, and Stealth made a lot of moves but I’m not terribly confident in them. Most other teams didn’t make many at all.