By Graeme Perrow
The Toronto Rock's big question has been answered. Barring more trades, the starting goalie for the 2012 Toronto Rock will be Matt Roik, after a trade with the Stealth that sent defender Kyle Ross out west. On the surface, this seems to be a pretty good deal for both clubs – Toronto obviously needed a goalie and had a pretty strong defense, while the Stealth have a solid number one goalie and an experienced backup but needed help in the defense department (only one team gave up more goals than the Stealth in 2011). But let's look a little deeper.
A couple of months ago I looked around the league for the possible successor to Hall of Famer Bob Watson, and managed to ignore Roik completely. I decided that Washington wasn't likely to trade Tyler Richards, especially to the team that beat him in the Championship last season. Somehow the obvious corollary, trading Roik instead of Richards, didn't occur to me.
Both players have the somewhat unusual distinction of having been acquired by a team only to be traded away before ever playing with them, Roik with the Stealth (though he did later return) and Ross with the Calgary Roughnecks. Both have been involved in blockbuster trades in the past – Roik for Anthony Cosmo, and Ross (and others) for Josh Sanderson. And while I wouldn't call this trade a blockbuster, it's certainly important, particularly for the Toronto Rock.
First, a little on Roik. According to Wikipedia, Roik was drafted by, of all teams, the Toronto Rock. He was quickly traded to New Jersey, playing with the Storm in 2002 and 2003, and then moving with the Storm to Anaheim for the 2004 and 2005 seasons. He was taken third overall by the San Jose Stealth in the Storm's dispersal draft and then traded to Philadelphia. He played two seasons as the starter in Philly before being traded to Chicago where he played one season. Roik was reacquired by the Stealth in the Cosmo deal and played with them for three years – one in San Jose and two in Washington. He has a career 12.29 GAA with a 75.48 save percentage. His best year was 2010, where he had a sparkling 10.50 GAA. Watson, by way of comparison, had a 11.14 career GAA with a 76.94 save percentage in almost exactly twice as many minutes. Then again, Roik has one career goal while Watson has zero.
Now for Kyle Ross. Ross spent two seasons (2007-8) in Minnesota, though he only played in two games during the 2007 season. He was then chosen by the Boston Blazers in their expansion draft, and played the 2009 and 2010 seasons in Boston before being traded to Calgary in the Josh Sanderson deal. Before he ever played with the Roughnecks, he was traded to the Rock where he spent the 2011 season. He's a defender, so saying that he has 10 career goals and scored 4 in the 2010 season doesn't tell you much, but in his two seasons in Boston he had 92 and 85 loose balls.
I wouldn't say that acquiring Ross solves Washington's defense problems, but it certainly helps. Ross is a hard-nosed defender who collected a lot of loose balls (more so with the Blazers than with the Rock, but that may have been just because of playing time) and wasn't afraid to drop the gloves. He went up against Geoff Snider last season and even took him down, although Snider got back up and ended the fight with three punches. But win or lose, anyone who has the stones to fight Snider instantly gets some respect from me. Ross will sit out the first game of the season for the Stealth because of a one-game suspension for a hit which ironically occurred in last year's Championship Game against the Stealth.
I must admit that I don't know much about Matt Roik but the chatter on the Wingszone message board is that he has flashes of brilliance but may have some focus issues. (One poster said "if he's not on the same page as the rest of the team, he'll just crumble".) I wasn't overly optimistic about Pat Campbell being the starter next season but I have no problems with him as a backup, so if Roik can't keep his head in the game, I'm confident with Campbell coming in off the bench. Note that Rock GM Terry Sanderson has specifically stated "We're not anointing Matt as the starter, and we'll have other goalies in camp" and I believe him, but I imagine that it'll end up being Roik / Campbell nonetheless.
I was away with friends the weekend that this trade happened, and found out about it through a twitter message. Some of my lacrosse buddies were there and I told them about it. Their first reaction was a disdainful "So our starting goalie next year was Washington's backup?" and I think it's safe to say that their overall reaction to the trade was neither positive nor wholly negative, but "let's just wait and see what next season brings". (In Toronto, we call that the Mats Sundin approach.)
Anyone who has ever seen an NLL game in Toronto very likely saw Bob Watson in goal. If they saw a playoff game, they very likely saw Bob Watson win. To misquote Lt. Valeris in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, nobody can replace Watson but someone has to succeed him. Roik and Pat Campbell make a solid combo that may not be another Watson-Cosmo or Montour-Thompson (or even Richards-Roik from 2010), but is more than capable. The loss of Ross as well as Creighton Reid in an earlier trade leaves the Rock defense weaker than last season (though Ryan Sharp will hopefully return from his injury), but the addition of Dan Carey may mean that one of the other lefties, Aaron Pascas or Pat Maddalena, could be dealt for a defender.
So after digging a little deeper, I'll stick with my first impression of this trade. Unless Roik or Ross pulls a Yashin and tanks completely, both sides should be pretty happy with it.