Sunday, December 30, 2012

9 Teams In 9 Days: Colorado Mammoth

Last year it was John Grant Jr. who lead the Mammoth to a home playoff date, scoring 116 points and capturing the MVP honor. The question now is will he be able to do it again? Will others step up instead? Or will the 2012 season show as a blip on the radar for the Mammoth who had their first winning season since 2008?

There is no doubt that Colorado is an offensively driven team as they lead the league is scoring with 217 goals, which is good because they also allowed the third most.

This has little to do with Chris Levis who put a decent .758 save percentage while facing the most shots of any goaltender.

If Colorado is going to be a powerful team this year, they are going to have to avoid offensive regression. It wouldn't be fair to expect Grant to put up those kind of numbers back to back years. Although he has put up more than 100 points four times now, it would be more realistic to expect 85-95 points, which is still nothing to scoff at. Gavin Prout, Rookie Of The Year, Adam Jones, and Sean Pollock also put up good totals, but I could have gotten a few points myself playing with Grant last year, not to make little of their accomplishments. I see the offense slowing down a tad, but not enough to really make a huge difference in the standings.

The defense sees additions in the form of Richard Morgan who was acquired from the Swarm, and a healthy Mac Allen who only played 3 games last year due to a knee injury sustained playing Summer lacrosse in Peterborough. Allen is one of the games top defenders and will be a leader on the back end.

Some familiar faces that left training camp without roster spots include Jamie Shewchuck and Alex Gajic.

The West will be extremely competitive this season and the Mammoth will compete for the top spot...just like everyone else.

Friday, December 28, 2012

9 Teams In 9 Days: Toronto Rock

By Avry Lewis-McDougall

The 2012 off season for the Toronto Rock has brought along a season of change, the club now thanks to owner ,Jamie Dawick, have a beautiful new training facility in Oakville and has been given what appears to be the keys to what could be another great season for the six time NLL champs.

In the draft, the Rock added a top prospect in the form of 20 year old defenceman Bradley Kri this year. Kri was apart of the Minto Cup winning Orangeville Northmen and  already has some accolades under him. In 2011 he was named the Ontario Junior B League's Eastern division Defender of the year.

Toronto, brought back their long time captain and their all time leading scorer Colin Doyle (898 career points) for another season. Doyle who's been with the club going back to their time in Hamilton as the Ontario Raiders had a 29 goal season last year and at 36 still shows no sign of slowing down as the heart and soul of this club.

Leading scorer, Garrett Billings was also resigned to the squad to a one year deal. Billings had a 114 point campaign and further solidified himself as one of the NLL's premier snipers last season and finished second to Colorado's John Grant Jr in NLL MVP voting. 

In the playoffs Billings also had 12 points before the club fell in the Rochester Knighthawks in the Eastern division final.

The Rock this year did lose one of it's leaders in the form Dan Carey who called it a career during the preseason after trying to comeback after missing the end last season due to concussion problems.

Scott Evans will now be in red, white and blue as he signed a one year deal after spending last year with the Edmonton Rush where he was a key cog in the team's run to the Champion's Cup last year while having a season of 24 goals, 23 assists for 47 points.

Troy Cordingly's bunch in 2012 were solid on the road going 6-2 but struggled to get wins at home in the Air Canada Centre with a record of 3-5, something that will have to change this season.

What will be interesting to see this year is the goaltending going into the season. Nick Rose will be back between the pipes this year as the #1 goalie it will appear after splitting starts in 2012 with Matt Roik (who Toronto brought in to be the main guy and lasted about as long as fine china in front of Ron Artest) and the now retired Pat Campbell. Rose went 6-2 in the regular season last year on route to the post season.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

9 Teams In 9 Days: Minnesota Swarm

By Mike Wilson

Our second stop on the 9 Teams In 9 Days tour takes to Minnesota where the young Swarm are gearing up to take a huge step in the West.

Last year they surprised the league and in some part themselves when they finished 3rd in the West with a 9-7 record.

The Swarm ended up with the third most goals, being lead by Callum Crawford (83 points), Ryan Benesch (72 points), and Kevin Ross (59 points). Kevin Ross has since signed with Philadelphia, but the offense sees more additions than subtractions.  The Swarm drafted Kiel Matisz with the third overall pick and Shayne Jackson with the forth overall pick in this years draft.

Matisz is a towering 6'5'' who will prove to be trouble to defend.  In his Junior "A" year with the Burlington Chiefs, Matisz scored 59 goals and 108 points on route to an MVP year. Playing with the Brooklyn Redmen of the MSL, Matisz put up 76 points over the past two summers in a supporting role.

Shayne Jackson is a little smaller coming in at 5''9', 180 pounds. He leaves Limestone college forth all-time in assists with 94. Jackson also scored 71 points in his senior years, 44 of them being assists.

The Swarm got elevated play in the transition and offensive game from Andrew Suitor, who won transition Player Of The Year, and Jordan Macintosh who was a candidate for Rookie Of The Year.

The Swarm also held the second overall pick in the draft and took Brock Sorensen, a 6''6' 220 pound defender from Ohio State. He has the skills to dominate the floor in his own end, run up the ball, and score. The Swarm allowed the third least goals last year and Sorensen will be a great addition if his ACL can
hold up.

For the Swarm to have been as good as they were, they had to get some help in goal, and they found it in the form of rookies Evan Kirk and Tyler Carlson. Kirk was first in save percentage for goalies who played more than 22 minutes, stopping 80.7% of the shots he faced. In the NLL, anything about .800 is outstanding so the question will be can Kirk sustain that number, or does it come from a small sample size?

The Swarm and a dangerous team and very young to boot. The 2013 roster features 6 rookies, 4 of them being first round picks, and 10 players who made their debut in 2012. They may have overachieved last year, so I would see them coming down to earth if they weren't cushioned by their draft class, which they will be. Consistency will be added and that can be huge.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

9 Teams in 9 Days: Rochester Knighthawks

By Avry Lewis-McDougall

Nine teams in nine days is underway! As we get closer to the NLL season Mike and myself will preview all of the teams in the league, I will handle the Eastern division teams while Mike will do previews for the Western division teams and the Rochester Knighthawks are up first.

The defending NLL champs are back and ready for a run at repeating as league champs.

Last year, the Knighthawks knocked off the Edmonton Rush at home in the Champion's Cup as they were carried by Cody Jamieson who had 36 goals and 49 assists for a 85 point season in a playoff run that shocked many including the entire country of Benin, and George W. Bush.

The big splash for the club this year has been the trade of Paul Rabil, Jordan Hall, Robbie Campbell, Joel White and two 2nd round picks in the 2014 NLL draft to Philadelphia for both of the Dawson brothers, Dan and Paul as well as a first round pick in the 2016 draft.

 Dan Dawson, had a 103 point year for Philly in a year that saw him lead the Wings to the post season but fall short in the Eastern division semi final to Rochester in 2012.

Paul, scooped up 53 loose balls playing in 16 games last year and was a rock defensively for Philly. 

With the addition of the Dawsons, Rochester becomes that much more of a dynamic team and should be easily able to put up 10-12 goals a night come January.

Rochester will also have the 2010 NLL player of the year, Casey Powell, this season. Powell was originally taken by the Knighthawks in last year's dispersal draft of the Boston Blazers. Powell did not play last year in the NLL and spent the 2012 season as a colour commentator for the NLL's games on the CBS Sports Network.

The Knighthawks also have Matt Vinc back in the net who had a so-so regular season but caught lightining in a bottle in net during the playoffs with a record of 3-0 and a save percentage of .807 which was tops among goaltenders during the postseason.