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Thursday, May 6, 2010

...And Give Them a Good Home...

III. Players

With a franchise purchased and a stadium deal in place, I will need to acquire players. Major League Lacrosse, like most American sports leagues, have systems in place to ensure that expansion (or in this case, reactivated) teams are able to field a competitive squad out of the gate. In addition to the regular league entry draft, the MLL holds an expansion draft.

The precedent for an expansion draft was set in 2006 when the MLL added the four Western Conference teams. As is often the case, the existing teams had lists of protected players, meaning that they could not be drafted by the new teams; everybody else on the roster was fair game. The 2006 expansion draft is notable not only because it is the only one in the league's history, but also because a large number of high quality players were left unprotected and subsequently acquired by the expansion teams: John Grant Jr, Doug Shanahan, Mark Millon, Tim Goettleman, Jeff Zywicki, Brian Langtry.

Other players can be picked up via trades, free agency, scouting, the entry draft, and tryouts.

The first player I would target is Zack Greer. At Duke, Greer was an outstanding attackman; he won the Turnbull in 2008 and was also on the Tewaarton watch list for most of the season. Using the fifth year of eligibility granted by the NCAA in wake of the 2006 scandal, Greer followed Coach Pressler to Bryant University and played in the Bulldogs' first season of Division I lacrosse.

Greer is a primary target due to his role with the Minnesota Swarm of the National Lacrosse League. He has become the face of that franchise is lacrosse in the Twin Cities area. His prolific skill and playing style make him an instant favorite with the fans.

Another player I would acquire is Alex De La Pena from the University of Iowa. Although the talent in the MCLA is considered below that of the NCAA, De La Pena has finished in the top five in the points per game category for the last two years. As a Hawkeye, he would be regarded as a local hero and favorite.

From there the team would be built up of a mixture of seasoned veterans and college draft picks. Landing a Cody Jamieson or Mike Catalino would be a real boon to the franchise. A high powered midfielder with the ability to take over a game is the dream of every coach and team owner. I would be happy landing either or both of the Bratton brothers when they come available for the same reason.

Mike Levin is the sort of goalkeeper that a first year team would be lucky to grab. The defense should be anchored with somebody like Kyle Sweeney. If I could convince him to come to the Midwest, my boy Greg Gurenlian is the ideal FOGO. Maybe he could bring along Matt Zash to strengthen the midfield unit.

The MLL does not publish salary information, but various places have reported average salaries around $13,000 per season as recently as 2008. That number might be closer to $20,000 now, but probably not beyond that. Most professional laxers also have "real" jobs. Sure a select few like Rabil and Grant make enough money from endorsements, camps and playing in the NLL to supplement their paltry league salary, but most do not.

As a comparison, the slightly older and vastly more popular Major League Soccer finally reached the $40,000 minimum salary stage (although some players earn half that based on their classification). MLL teams have an average roster of around 30 players. Assuming a $20,000 average, I would spend $600,000 annually on salaries; that is less than most players in the "Big Four."

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