I did my analysis of the NLL East two weeks ago, so now I’ll do the NLL west. I realized after I posted the east review that I should probably have waited for the rosters to be announced. I know about the major trades and such, but there are always players that are released and free agents signed that either aren’t announced or are announced quietly, so I’m partially going by last year’s rosters. Once the rosters are announced, I’ll look things over and post updates if necessary.
2009 will be Calgary’s first full season with Josh Sanderson. Sanderson joins an already potent offensive group with Kelusky, Toth, Ranger, Cable, and Curt Malawsky, and they also signed Kyle Goundrey. The Roughnecks went 8-10 last year including the playoffs, but 4-2 with Sanderson in the lineup. Shooter is an impact player who will definitely have a positive impact on the ‘necks. The loss of veteran Steve Dietrich won’t make too much of a difference, since he played less than Pat Campbell last year anyway. The Roughnecks have both Ryan Avery and Matt King, both decent backups to Campbell.
In the past, trading Gary Gait away would be considered a major move for any team, but it’s almost a non-issue for the Mammoth since he’s been retired for three years. Actually, losing Gait is a plus for the Mammoth, since they picked up Andrew Potter and two first round draft picks from the Knighthawks essentially for nothing. Gee Nash is a top 5 goalie in the NLL and now has Andrew Leyshon backing him up. Gary Rosyski joins Gavin Prout, Dan Carey, and the always fun to watch Brian Langtry on the offense. This franchise has been at or near the top of the pack since they were in Washington, so it would be a mistake to count them out.
The people who sew the names on the back of Edmonton Rush jerseys have really been earning their money in the past year. They made five trades in March alone last year (four on trade deadline day), and have made eight more since the season ended. In are veteran goalie Steve Dietrich, Spencer Martin, Cam Bergman, Andrew Biers, and Lindsay Plunkett, and out are Brendan Thenhaus, Kurtis Wagar, Matt King, Kyle Goundrey, Ben Prepchuk, and Dan Stroup. They also traded Troy Bonterre, but signed former Rock Tim O’Brien to play the same goon role. I’m surprised they released Stroup and losing Prepchuk will hurt as well. They also lost Mike Accursi who played part of last year with the Rush. Goaltending looks solid with Dietrich and Palidwor, but that’s a lot of offense to lose, especially for a team that was 4-11 and last place overall last year. Barring yet more trades, I don’t see the Rush contending anytime soon.
San Jose Stealth
Big changes for the Stealth! Former goaltender of the year Anthony Cosmo is gone, as are Gary Rosyski, Luke Wiles, Paul Dawson and a bunch of others. In are Peter Veltman and Matt Roik and a bunch of young kids. Colin Doyle posted his opinions on his blog after week 1 of training camp; he didn’t say whether they’d be better or worse, but he did say they’d be “bigger and a little more athletic”, and that the offense will “have a different flavor to it”. Not sure what he means by that exactly. Lots of the defenders are American rookies, and American lacrosse players tend to start with field lacrosse and learn box later. As Doyle says, “the learning curve will take some time”. With this many changes to the roster and this many American rookies, I don’t see the Stealth repeating as Western division champs.
The Swarm move from the East to the West division, and might be poised to take over the west. Goalie Nick Patterson showed he was the real deal last year, Craig Point was Rookie of the Year, and Ryan Cousins was Defensive Player of the year. The Swarm was third in the NLL in scoring last year, and had five players over 50 points, all of whom are returning. If the sophomore jinx doesn’t hit Point like it hit the previous ROTY, Ryan Benesch, I see the Swarm being a major player in the west.
The LumberJax won the division in their first season, and then sucked rocks in their second season. Last year, they were pretty ordinary in the regular season, just squeaking into the playoffs, where they caught fire and went to the Championship game. Given all that, I have no idea how to predict what the Jax will do this year. The Jax lost Dan Dawson to Boston, and with all due respect to Brodie Merrill, he was their franchise player. Future Hall of Famer Dallas Eliuk has retired (or at least won’t be playing this coming year — there are rumours that he has not retired and may play in 2010, but he’s 44 now so I doubt that), but he wasn’t their starting goalie last year anyway. They did sign Dan Stroup and traded for defender Brad MacDonald, but the loss of Dawson might just push the LumberJax back down into “sucks rocks” territory.
New kids on the Western block Minnesota should take it. San Jose won’t repeat, but will still make the playoffs. Calgary and Colorado will be there too, as always, but there might be a pretty big gap between fourth place and fifth, with Portland and Edmonton finishing out of the playoffs.
- San Jose
Update: After Chicago vanished and the rosters were released, I updated my predictions.