After a disappointing 5-11 record and no playoffs last year, the Rush did what they always do. Revamp the entire roster! A number of huge trades and the Blazers dispersal draft have shaped this team in to what it is today. They finished last in the West last year and had problems in every area at different parts of the year, but things have changed. Out goes Brodie Merrill and in comes some of the best attackers and defenders in the league as well as some young goalies.
The Rush Offense has been revamped this year bringing in a ton of outside help. Shawn Williams was brought in along with Aaron Bold and and a second round pick for Alexander-Kedoh Hill, Ryan Cousins, and Andy Secore. Willams is an 14 year NLL yet that has put up 69 or more points for 11 consecutive years, 10 if which were with the Knighthawks. The veteran should add some stability to a Rush offense that could never be described as consistent.
Corey Small returns in his third year with the team after leading the team with 63 points. He also lead the team in shots with 168 and was second in missed shots with 47. Small has one heck of a shot but has problems hitting the net. He had the worst shooting percentages of the top Edmonton scorers only scoring on 13.7% of his shots. If he can start hitting the net on his sub-shot, he will be an even deadlier weapon this year than he was the last. His percentage did improve to 21% playing with the WLA's Victoria Shamrocks, so the Rush are hoping he can transfer it over to the NLL.
More after the break!
Ryan Ward had a disappointing season last year that was hi-lighted with a poor showing in February when he only put up 11 points in 4 games. His January and March were better, but did not meet the expectations he carried going into the season as he had taken 74 points going into the playoffs the season before that. Ward was missed most near the end of the season in a do or die playoff series with Colorado that Edmonton ended up losing. Getting him up to the level he played at in 2010 is definitely going to be a goal for the team.
After being brought in 4 games into the season, Scott Evans came into Edmonton and ended up leading the team in goals with 27. He brought a much needed spark and added edge to a bland and predictable Rush offense. If there were any complaints about Evans its that he takes too many penalties, He has the team lead with 54, 20 more than the next player. He had knack for taking 4th quarter penalties when his team was down which happened on 3 separate questions last season. Although this is not a new problem, it's one that has to be taken down a notch, at least at crucial points in games. I don't want him to stop playing with energy, because it was huge last year and will hopefully continue. I'm just saying there is a difference between playing with energy, and taking stupid penalties.
In the same trade that brought Kevin Croswell and Ryan Cousins also brought in creaseman Aaron Wilson. He did see reduced stats season going from a point total of 89 points in 2010 to a 57 point total, but i'm guess its because of a cut to his shot totals. I cannot confirm this, because it seems that the NLL just started keeping stats last season. Maybe he just had an off year. He probably just had an off year.
The biggest name the Rush have brought in this season is Athan Iannucci. He carries with him the hype that he captured when he scored a league record 71 goals and brought the MVP award back to Philadelphia. His knee surgery the following offseason was responsible for him missing the better part of the 2009 season all all of 2010. He made his return last year leading his team with 61 points and put up 58 with the Langley Thunder during the summer. He won't get close to his record setting season ever again but can still be a huge part of this Edmonton offense.
The problem with Iannucci is that he is currently without a contract. Rumors say he is looking for league max pay over a 3 year deal, and the Rush are looking for a single year deal because of the uncertainty of his knee. Both sides seem faraway, but fans in E-town are still hoping a deal can be worked out shortly.
Rounding out the offense is Zack Greer who has always had a ton of potential, but has never been able to consistently project it in the the NLL. Derek Keenan says that this year will be the year, so we shall see how it plays out for him. Dane Stevens and Alex Turner will also get reps.
With or without 'Nooch, this offense will not be hard pressed to put up 190 goals this year.
Edmonton will be boasting one of the best young defenses in the league with Brett Mydske, who is going into his third year, Chris Corbeil, another Jr, and sophomore Kyle Rubisch. Although these kids will have a ton of responsibility with the departure of Brodie Merrill and Bill Greer, I think they are up to the task. Both Rubisch and Mydske were on Allstar roster last year and Corbeil could find himself on one in the very near future.
Tyler Codron, John Lintz, John LaFontaine, and Derek Suddons will also be participating in the defense and Jarrett Toll will play the full season this year after splitting time between the club and the University Of Alberta hockey team.
The transition game will be this teams greatest weakness this year after losing 2 of their best guys for it in Merrill and Greer. Jimmy Quinlan will most likely have a large roll in the transition game along with some other defenders such as Toll, LaFontaine, and rookie Jesse Fuhr.
Matt Disher is out and 3 new goalies are in. Aaron Bold came over from Rochester with Shawn Williams and was regarded as the best back-up goaltender in the league and now has a big opportunity to show what he's made of and take a starting role. Also fighting for the job will be Kevin Croswell who came in from Minnesota. He was also the back-up and will also receive his first opportunity to seize his first starting job. The third goaltender is Brodie MacDonald who was outstanding in the summer league, taking his team to he Mann Cup where he struggled once he got there and ended up on the losing side. MacDonald will be a star in this league one day, but there is no point in rushing his development. He will most likely have a spot on the practice roster while Bold takes the starts. Croswell will probably back up, but don't be surprised if he gets an opportunity early if Bold shows he can't handle the task.
This years crop is unproven, but will definitely be an improvement of last years keeper who had the worst save percentage in the league. I don't see them being exposed too much even if struggles do occur, just because of the strength on defense.
The way I see it, the rush will find themselves hosting their first playoff game in franchise history after finishing the season in second place. Let us know what you think about this years squad in the comments!
(Sorry the coloring is weird. This is a one time thing.)