By Graeme Perrow
How do you replace a legend, and one of the best players ever to play the game? We don't know much at this point about what changes Terry Sanderson and Troy Cordingley might be considering for the Toronto Rock this offseason, but one thing's for sure – they need a new #1 goaltender to replace the retiring Bob Watson, the only #1 goalie the Rock have ever had. How do you replace someone like Watson?
With all due respect to Pat Campbell, he'll be 35 next year and has been a solid backup goalie most of his career, so I don't see the Rock tossing him the keys to the franchise. The Rock have had a definite #1 goalie for their entire history so I don't see them going the route that the Bandits and Stealth have used – having two main goalies and "platooning" them (to steal a baseball phrase), so going with both Campbell and Gee Nash is unlikely as well.
Not going with Campbell or Nash means they will have to try to acquire someone from another team. I don't have of a list of goalies who are free agents this summer, so let's ignore that route for the moment and just assume we're talking trade. The top goalie on the "would be nice" list would have to be back-to-back Goaltender of the Year Matt Vinc. Suuuuuure. The Knighthawks gave up John Grant for this guy so unless we offer Doyle, LeBlanc, and a few prospects, he's not going anywhere – and definitely not to a division rival. Mike Thompson? Suuuuuure. Thompson is coming off of a fabulous season in which he had the second-lowest GAA and third highest save percentage in the league. If Ken Montour is able to return from his injury, the Bandits may consider trading Thompson, but Stephen Stamp's article about concussions didn't give much reason for optimism there. I hope I'm wrong about that. Brandon Miller from Philly? Maybe, although he was one of the few bright spots in Philly this season and was the reason they fought for a playoff spot as long as they did. Anthony Cosmo? Possibly – he had the lowest GAA in the league last year though I wouldn't call it one of his better seasons. It'd be ironic if Cosmo actually did replace Watson in the Rock net, like we thought he would many years ago. Cosmo himself mentioned that possibility recently in an interview with ILIndoor.com.
Let's look west. How about Poulin from the Roughnecks? That'd be great for the Rock, but why would Calgary do this? Do they want Palidwor as their #1 next year? Not likely. And it's not like the team has some glaring weakness that could be addressed by making a big trade, so file that idea under the "Suuuuuure" category as well. (Not to mention the fact that making roster changes to his lacrosse team is not exactly at the top of Brad Banister's To-Do list these days. Hey Brad, if you're actively trying to sell the team, surely there's a better way to convince some
sucker astute business person to buy them than publicly whining about how little support the team gets and how much money you're losing.)
So what about Edmonton? I'm sure they wouldn't mind some extra firepower given that they traded Gavin Prout back to Colorado. But which Edmonton goalie to choose – Matt Disher or Rob Blasdell? Ummmm... no thanks. Chris Levis from Colorado? Another "Suuuuuure". After years of mediocre goaltending the Mammoth finally have a strong #1 so I don't see them trading him, though they could also use some help in the offense department. (Aside: It seems unbelievable that a team that just acquired John Freakin' Grant still needs help on offense.) How about Washington? I didn't think Tyler Richards had that great a 2011 season, but he was certainly the second-best goalie in the playoffs. But how likely are the Stealth to trade him to the team that beat them in the finals? Similar to Calgary, they're a strong team to begin with, so what could we offer the Stealth for them to give up Richards? Would Minnesota give up Patterson? I doubt it, though I know nothing about Kevin Croswell – if they have enough confidence in him, maybe they would if they got enough in return. That's a team that should have made big changes in the off-season last year and didn't, so perhaps a big shake-up would be good for the Swarm.
There are lots of possibilities here, some of which I can't address properly because I don't know much about the backup goaltenders. Philadelphia backup goalie, Ray Hodgkinson, is only 23 and only played 46 minutes this year. But maybe the Wings think this kid is the next Dallas Eliuk – if they have enough confidence in him, maybe they would give up Miller for the right price. Hell, for all I know the Rock have some young goalie in their system (is there such a thing as a "system" in the NLL? It's not like there are AAA affiliates like in baseball, or the OHL/AHL like in hockey) that is the heir apparent, though I've never heard mention of one.
So we have a few "maybe"s and a few "not bloody likely"s, but there aren't really any "no chance in hell"s. (In a league where Gary Gait can be traded three years after retiring, nothing's impossible.) But trades run two ways – the other question would be "Who could the Rock give up to get a #1 goalie"? Doyle, LeBlanc, and Billings are untouchables. Blaine Manning is a possibility, or maybe a rookie with potential like Aaron Pascas or Rob Hellyer. (Or more likely, the combination of a Pascas and a veteran like Manning or Cam Woods.) It's not unlikely that a team trading away a goaltender may want defense in return rather than a goal scorer, so perhaps 2010 NLL Defender of the Year Sandy Chapman (though I'd prefer if he were untouchable as well), or hard workers that get little fanfare like Drew Petkoff, Jeff Gilbert, or Creighton Reid.
Trade speculation is fun but ultimately pointless, as there are a zillion factors that we as fans don't know about that affect whether deals can be made. Are there no-trade contracts in the NLL? If not, could there be "gentlemen's agreements" between players and GMs that effectively mean the same thing? Are there personality conflicts between players or between a player and a GM that mean that some trades are impossible? Are there players who might simply refuse to be traded? Since this is a part-time semi-pro league, it's certainly possible that a player may decide that travelling across the country for the majority of games is just too difficult with work or family commitments, and would prefer to retire than be traded to a team on the other side of the continent. I remember a rumour that the Rock were not allowed to trade Dan Ladouceur because of his position with the Durham Region Police.
So after all that, here's the net result of this discussion:
- The Rock need a new #1 goalie.
- I don't know who they should get.
- I don't know who they should give up to get him.
My work here is done. This is why the NLL Blog pays me what they pay me.