Lacrosse season is almost upon us once again! Here are my predictions for each NLL team – I will revisit this posting at the end of the season to see how I did.
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In: Matt Abbott, Dave Cutten, Ryan Hotaling, Mike Kirk, John Ortolani, Matt Smalley, Mike Stone
Out: D Carter Livingstone, F Jay Thorimbert, D Dilan Graham, D Curtis Ptolemy, F Bryan Bendig, T Jason Bloom
Burning question: Will the Blazers suffer the sophomore jinx after an impressive inaugural season?
Comments: With Cosmo in net and no significant changes, I don’t see any reason why the Blazers shouldn’t at least contend for a playoff spot in the East again this year. However, I think the Knighthawks and Rock improved more during the off-season.
In: D Chris Driscoll, F Frank Resetarits, F AJ Shannon, F Jon Harasym, D Darryl Gibson, G Angus Goodleaf
Out: D Pat McCready, D Clay Hill, G Mike Thompson, D Phil Sanderson, D Rich Kilgour, F Cory Bomberry, F Brian Croswell, GM Darris Kilgour (though he’s still the coach)
Burning question: Will Tavares ever age?
Comments: For a team that went to the division final last year, there are a lot of changes on the Bandits roster. Mike Thompson was a better-than-average backup goalie, but he’s gone and they have a rookie backing up Ken Montour – if Montour falters at all, the Bandits might have a problem. Losing Sanderson, Kilgour, and McCready will hurt, but Chris Driscoll was one of my favourite Rock players over the last few years, and Darryl Gibson is a solid defender as well. The Bandits have been so good for so long now that it’s hard to count them out as long as Tavares and Steenhuis are around.
In: D Mike Ammann, D Steve Ammann, D Michael Evans, F Dan Hardy, F Ryan Learn, F Kenny Nims
Out: F Jamie Rooney, T Keevin Galbraith, both Titans fans
Burning question: The Titans went to the finals last year, and are likely to be in contention this year as well, but will anyone in Orlando care?
Short term prediction: Second
Long term prediction: The Titans will last a year, maybe two, in Orlando before either moving again or folding for good.
In: F Dan Teat, F Bill McGlone, F Kevin Huntley, F John Christmas, D Bob Snider, F Jason Crosbie, F Josh Sims
Out: F Athan Iannucci, F Merrick Thomson (for a while), F A.J. Shannon, D Rob Van Beek, F Jon Harasym, F David Mitchell, D George Castle, D Benson Erwin, T Matt Bocklet
Burning question: Does gaining Dan Teat and Jason Crosbie make up for losing Athan Iannucci and Merrick Thomson? (Answer: no.) Bonus question: Iannucci will miss the entire 2010 season, but will he ever again live up to the expectations he set in 2008?
Comments: If the Wings were counting on Athan Iannucci to help them rebound from a lacklustre 2009, they had to change their tune during the offseason when he announced that he would miss all of 2010. They picked up a couple of scoring threats, notably Dan Teat, but did nothing to help their defense. Maybe they’re hoping to win a lot of 21-18 games. Then just before the new year arrived, the Wings put Merrick Thomson on the Physically Unable to Perform list, and haven’t said how long he’s out for. That’s bad news for Wings fans.
In: F John Grant, F Scott Evans, F Andrew Potter, G Aaron Bold, F Peter Jacobs, D Regy Thorpe, GM Curt Styres
Out: D Sandy Chapman, G Ben Every, D Troy Bonterre, D Pat Cougevan, F Ken Millin, F Dean Hill, D Bill Greer, GM Regy Thorpe
Burning questions: Is Grant fully recovered? Is the Gary Gait experiment over?
Comments: After a disastrous start, the 2009 Knighthawks (minus John Grant and Scott Evans) made the playoffs, losing to the Titans in overtime. Adding Grant and Evans should bring the Knighthawks back into contention. Then again, the 2008 Knighthawks, with Grant and Evans, didn’t make the playoffs.
In: F Colin Doyle, D Phil Sanderson, D Pat McCready, D Sandy Chapman, F Mike Hominuck, D Creighton Reid, D Brendon Doran, D Anthony Lackey, F Garrett Billings, F Stephan LeBlanc, D Drew Petcoff, F Kim Squire, GM Terry Sanderson, coach Troy Cordingley
Out: F Lewis Ratcliff, F Luke Wiles, D Chris Driscoll, F Craig Conn, F Matt Carroll, D Peter Lough, F Michael Fleming, D Chad Thompson, F Mark Scherman, F Bill McGlone, F Jason Clark, F Jason Crosbie, GM Mike Kloepfer, coach Jamie Batley
Burning question: I had this entry already written when the Rock had to go and trade for Colin Doyle, so now I have to write it all again. The original burning question was “Who are all these new people and why are they no better than last year?” Now it’s: “Can the Rock find the old Blaine Manning now that Colin Doyle is leading the search party?”, although having just gone through the In and Out lists, the “who are all these new people” part still definitely applies.
Comments: Can’t tell the players, or the captain, coach, GM, or owner, without a program. Stepping up the defense (which they have definitely done) was absolutely necessary, but someone other than Colin Doyle has to score goals. Blaine Manning has dropped in productivity (both in numbers and visibility on the floor) since Doyle left, so he needs to find his way again. If Watson gets hurt, the Rock are in deep trouble in net – I just don’t think Steve Dietrich is up to the task of being a starting NLL goalie any more.
As much as I love seeing Doyle back, I wouldn’t call the Rock a lock for the playoffs quite yet. Four of last year’s top six scorers (Ratcliff, Wiles, Crosbie, and Conn) are gone. If Doyle’s offense replaces Ratcliff’s, and Hominuck replaces Crosbie, we’re still down over 100 points from Wiles and Conn. Then again, Blaine Manning may rebound from a few off seasons with the return of Doyle, and Garrett Billings is a highly rated scoring prospect. Kim Squire’s career was cut short due to personal problems off the floor, but if he’s managed to exorcise those demons, he can be a very exciting player to watch. The defense is a lot better, but the goalie tandem of Watson and Dietrich is probably the oldest in the history of the NLL.
In: T Rob Van Beek, F Carlton Schuss, D Rob Kirkby, D Craig Gelsvik, F Craig Conn, G Chris Levis, coach Dave Pym
Out: F Curt Malawsky, F Kyle Goundrey, D Greg Hinman, D Kyle Couling, G Pat Campbell, coach Troy Cordingley, assistant coach Terry Sanderson
Burning question: Where Terry goes, Josh has been sure to follow, and so GM Brad Banister probably has Terry Sanderson’s phone number blocked. Is Josh even allowed to talk to his dad?
Comments: Malawsky is now an assistant coach, but they’ve got Craig Conn to replace him, and they’ve also brought defenders Rob Kirkby and Craig Gelsvik back from retirement. But it’s rare that a team lose the head coach (and an assistant coach) in the offseason following a championship win. We’ll see how much of Calgary’s success from last year came from the coach. I suspect a fair bit of it did, but this is still a very talented team.
In: F Ilija Gajic, F Alex Gajic, F Chad Culp, F Cory Conway, F Cliff Smith, D Ryan McFayden, D Kevin Unterstein, D Matt Wilson, F Shaun Dhaliwal, F Peter Veltman, T Brad Richardson
Out: G Gee Nash, F Dan Carey, D Jim Moss, F Gavin Prout, F Andrew Potter, D Ray Guze, D Matt Leveque, F Tyler Crompton, F Matt Danowski, F Chris Gill, F Gary Rosyski, T Tim Booth, T Bryan Safarik, T Mike Ward
Burning question: How will the Mammoth deal with the loss of the only captain in team history? Bonus question: Are there any more Gajic brothers?
Comments: Lots of changes for the Mammoth. Alex Gajic and Cliff Smith were Colorado’s first round draft picks. But the Mammoth weren’t happy with having two of the top five picks, they parted with the only captain in team history to get the #2 overall pick Ilija Gajic.
This might be the first step in a rebuilding process for Colorado, who had six years of dominance before finishing with their first-ever sub-.500 season last year. It’s not like the team will suck this year, but I don’t see them finishing any higher than third.
In: T Brodie Merrill, F Gavin Prout, F Derek Malawsky, F Ryan Powell, D Scott Stewart, D Ryan Ward, G Matt Disher, GM/coach Derek Keenan
Out: F Ryan Benesch, D Callum Crawford, D Scott Self, F Dan Teat, GM/coach Bob Hamley
Burning question: Is this the year the Rush finally don’t suck?
Comments: Adding Merrill, Prout, Powell, and Malawsky certainly adds to the possibility of a non-last-place finish – this would only be the second time in five seasons.
In: F Ryan Benesch, D Scott Self, D Callum Crawford, D Alex Turner, F Sean Thomson, F Brock Boyle
Out: D Ryan Ward, F Chad Culp, D Ian Rubel
Burning question: The Swarm have been a pretty decent team over the last few years – even winning the East two years ago – but have never won a playoff game. Is this the year?
In: F Luke Wiles, F Lewis Ratcliff, T Tyler Codron, F Joel Degarno
Out: F Colin Doyle, G Aaron Bold
Burning question: Where the fuck is Everett, Washington?
Comments: Colin Doyle tied Josh Sanderson’s league assists record (though he was later eclipsed by Sanderson and Dan Dawson) and won the league scoring title, and Rhys Duch set a new rookie scoring record, but overall, 2009 was a disappointing season for the Stealth. The Stealth now have Lewis Ratcliff and Luke Wiles but lost Doyle – numbers-wise, this is a net positive for Washington, but losing a player like Doyle is more than just numbers. Still, I think the Stealth are in pretty good shape for 2010.
Long Term Prediction: The Stealth had a decent team last year but couldn’t draw flies in San Jose, which has a population of almost a million people. So they moved to Everett, a town of about 100,000 people 30 miles north of Seattle. This is like the Rock moving to Barrie, except that Barrie is 25% bigger than Everett. They have a class-A baseball team called (I’m not making this up) the Everett AquaSox. The Stealth will continue to have the lowest attendance in the league (though it might still be higher than in San Jose), and will be gone before you can say “Columbus Landsharks”. Though maybe I’m wrong and they’ll get lots of people driving down from southern B.C. to keep the numbers up.