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Saturday, January 9, 2010

NLL Prediction Results

I meant to get these up yesterday, but I was having too much fun with my new project. Sorry. Now that the first game of the season is in the books (I had company last night and had to work this morning so I have not checked the score), here are your predictions for the 2010 NLL season:
Minnesota Swarm (25%)

Rochester Knighthawks (25%)

Colorado Mammoth (12%)

Washington Stealth (12%)

Boston Blazers (12%)

Toronto Rock (12%)

Calgary Roughnecks (0%)

Edmonton Rush (0%)

Buffalo Bandits (0%)

Orlando Titans (0%)

Philadelphia Wings (0%)

It looks like we expect Rochester and Toronto to square off in the final. Should be a great season. It is just too bad that games are no longer on Versus.
I apologize for the ugliness of this post. I just got off of work - on Saturday - ugh.

Friday, January 8, 2010

MLL Expansion/Relocation Part 1

Last year Major League Lacrosse folded four teams and moved a fifth. This left the league with six teams and an amazingly entertaining season. With the closure of the LA Riptide, San Fransisco Dragons, New Jersey Pride, and Philadelphia Barrage there is a major hole in the professional lacrosse scene. The movement of the Rochester Rattlers to Toronto (technically a new franchise; Rochester is officially suspended) and the past movements of the Bayhawks and Barrage indicate that the league is willing to find a great fit for their teams.

Once again the league will play with six franchises: Denver Outlaws, Chicago Machine, Long Island Lizards, Toronto Nationals, Washington Bayhawks, and Boston Cannons. However, the addition of two NCAA division one lacrosse programs in the next two years (Jacksonville 2010; Mercer 2011) and the major influx of NCAA division two and three programs suggests that the market may be able to support ten professional field teams once again in the near future. High school programs are popping up all over the place and interest in our local programs continues to grow. Increased talent in the MCLA ranks (see Martin, Connor) suggests that more and more MLL quality players will be available as well.

A recent discovery (thanks 412 Lax!) of the efforts being made to bring a MLL franchise to Pittsburgh got me thinking about the league renewing their expansion efforts. Since four (technically five) franchises were contracted last year, would those teams be relocated or reactivated? Would the "new" teams receive the history of the old? Where would these teams play - not just the city, but the field as well? Should high school grounds be sought out? What about small college stadiums? Professional soccer or football fields? How much growth would the league expect annually? How many teams would the league reach before stopping?

While I do not pretend to have all of the answers, here are my thoughts on bringing the MLL up to the standards of a true professional league (at least in regards to the number of teams). Sure there are other things to look at like ownership groups, player allocations, salaries, etc. But for the purposes of this blog I am focusing solely on where the league should expand. For a taste of that other stuff, check out this part of my "Fixing Lacrosse" series. In the meantime, have fun with my suggestions - some will have logos, most will not.

2011 - Eight Teams

1. LA Riptide - I was completely shocked when this franchise folded. Not only is LA a critical market (unless you are the NFL), but the team seemed fairly popular. Drawing from the strong Orange County and Los Angeles area lacrosse base, the team seemed poised to do great things. With California-transplant, Nike endorsee, and all around fan favorite Kyle Harrison on the roster, the Riptide seemed secure to return last season. AEG was probably the most high profile and stable of the league's owners; why they decided to close the doors is still beyond my comprehension. Perhaps it was the economy as many claim. Now that that mess is settling down, expect the Riptide to be among the first of the folded teams to return to duty. They will once again play at the Home Depot Center.

2. Pittsburgh Pride - New Jersey's departure was not nearly as shocking as its location. As big of a hotbed as that part of New Jersey may be, it is not an ideal location for a major league sports franchise. With a strong MCLA club at Pitt, a rising NCAA D1 program at Robert Morris, and a growing high school scene, a professional lax team makes sense.

The reborn Pride make the natural move to Steel City and make their debut at the Peterson Sports Complex Soccer Stadium. Additional seating will have to be temporarily added to accomodate the fans. When the Riverhounds' new soccer stadium is completed, the team would move there.

The Pride logo will only undergo slight modifications to better fit the city's strong sports heritage. Although not done to the example at left, the mane and eye would incorporate blue rather than red, and a more suitable gold would be used as trim. If I was smarter and/or had the appropriate program I would demonstrate...

-League Alignment-

The return of these franchises would bring the league back up to a suitable number of teams. They would split back into two divisions with the Riptide, Outlaws, Machine, and Pride in the West. The Lizards, Cannons, Nationals, and Bayhawks would represent the East. The top two teams from each division qualify for the playoffs; East #1 play West #2 and vice versa.

Continue to Part 2

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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Better Late than Never

As promised, here is the stuff from Great Atlantic Lacrosse that I bought with my birthday money:
Warrior Kryptolyte $29.99

Lacrosse Ornament $7.19 (free with Club Lax Points)

Two six packs of orange lacrosse balls (for the 2010-11 box season) $5.39 per half dozen ($10.78)

Under armour Blitz Micro Shorts (comfy as hell) $17.09

Nike Johns Hopkins Practice Hoody (best sweatshirt ever!) $53.99

Brine Great Atlantic Lacrosse Hoody $39.99 (free gift)
There were a couple of other items (Maverik West Side T-shirt $13.49, Under Armour Women's Artic Beenie [for the wife] $21.59) that were sent back. The Maverik shirt was so skin tight that it was unbelievable. My Under Armour compression shirts are not as tight as this regular t-shirt was. Even if I wasn't a 31-year-old lard ass, I would not wear that thing in public. I do not recommend Maverik's shirts, not matter how stylish they are...

The UA hat was also kind of small, but not really what my wife wanted. She was hoping for a knit UA hat like the one I have worn for years because it is consistently warm and never hot. This hat had no stretch to accommodate her hair and was polar fleece.

In exchange I ordered a Warrior Mojo Hoody ($31.49, now $35.09). It was delivered to my in-laws house last night, but I have not yet picked it up. Here is the pick from Great Atlantic.

I received a $10 gift card from Great Atlantic for my birthday. That card was used towards this purchase. Many items carried an additional 20% off as well as part of a promotion. The only thing that cost me the original, full Club Lax price was the Hopkins hoody. But it was too awesome not to get it...

Monday, January 4, 2010

2010 NLL Preview - East Division

Thanks for your patience! Here is part two of my National Lacrosse League 2010 season preview. Since the first game of the season features two teams from this division, logic would dictate that I should have done this first. However, I started with the West for two reasons:

  1. I am more familiar with those teams.

  2. I am confident that a team from the West will win the league (specifically Washington).

Without further ado, here are my predictions...

-East Division-

1. Rochester Knighthawks
The Knighthawks will be the best team in the East for three reasons - two of those reasons are named Gait. Coach Paul Gait returns to the bench after sneaking into the playoffs last season. Aiding him will be the only player that is considered to be his better on the field, the legendary Gary Gait.

GG may not be able to do the acrobatic moves of his younger days, but he is still a force to be reckoned with. His presence alone sparks intimidation in the hearts of younger players that grew up watching him. A professional in the NLL since 1991 (technically Major Indoor Lacrosse League at that time), GG has won numerous championships and awards including a league championship, MVP, and Rookie of the Year during his first season. Before that he was a major standout at Syracuse; his famous number 22 jersey would later be worn by the Powell brothers. Last season, GG had 37 points in 11 games proving that even after a four year absence he is still capable of changing the course of a game.

Bringing even more oomph to the offense is John Grant Jr. JGJ is the son of legendary Philadelphia Wings star (and current Rochester Assistant Coach) John Grant Sr. Featuring for the Canadian National team, JGJ is the marquee player for Adidas Lacrosse. His signature line is a major improvement over the company's first attempts and is being released this season. As Reebok (official supplier of the NLL) is owned by Adidas, it is possible that we may see the new line on the turf this season. JGJ was out last season due to emergency knee surgery. He did return to action this summer with the Toronto Nationals where he netted five goals in his lone game. Just as impressive - and more relevant to the upcoming NLL season - JGJ had five goals and five assists in just three games with the Peterborough Lakers of Major Series Lacrosse.
2. Orlando Titans
After winning the East and playing the league championship game last season, the Titans left the biggest market in the country (perhaps the world) for sunny Orlando, FL. Along for the ride were stars Casey Powell, Ryan Boyle, and Stephen Peyser. The league's lone Australian, Brendan Mundorf, is also sticking with the team that drafted him in the first round in 2007. The star power alone makes the Titans early favorites.

In 13 games last season, Powell scored 40 goals and grabbed 45 assists. Boyle had 54 points in 16 games. Mundorf had 28 goals and 31 assists in 16 games. Peyser's numbers were not that great (17 points in 15 games), but he acted more of a defenseman than a true transition player. Rounding out the roster are an impressive number of above average professionals, may of which are the brothers of superstars.

Despite their strong bench, Orlando will fall short of the winning the division. Rochester's experience and leadership will negatively impact the Titans. Even more important, the distance between Orlando and the league's other cities will create major problems during away games - even within their own division. At the same time, the travel issue could give the Titans an impressive home field advantage. Time will tell...

At any rate, seeing professional lacrosse in the state of Florida is a great thing. Given its status as a fringe sport, moving to untapped markets like Orlando is a smart move for the league and the game itself. Hopefully the team draws well and similar franchise locations will arise within the next few years.
3. Toronto Rock
After only finishing ahead of the abysmal Edmonton Rush last season, expect Toronto to spring back in a big way. Riding the way of lax popularity in Canada's largest city, the Rock will look to emulate their Major League Lacrosse counterparts, the Nationals. After the field team won the MLL championship this summer big things are expected from the indoor team.

With an entirely Canadian roster, national pride is at stake for the Rock. Unfortunately they boast no real superstars, but the bench is chock full of extensive box experience. This should make the Rock serious contenders for the middle of the table in the East. They will be nothing spectacular but they will get the job done.
4. Boston Blazers
After an amazing inaugural year, expect the Blazers to return to the playoffs. Last season, the Blazers finished third in the East but matched the overall records of #1 New York and #2 Buffalo. Strong scoring from their many role players was the key to the Blazers' early success.

With no real stars to speak of, the Blazers learned how to work as a team. Their strong ethic and the rabid support of Beantown will keep the Blazers in contention again this year. Expect nothing spectacular from this middle of the road team though.
5. Philadelphia Wings
The Wings bring a talented coach in the form of Dave Huntley. Huntley guided the relocated Toronto Nationals to the MLL championship in their first year this summer. However, he failed to get the Wings to the NLL playoffs last season. Granted the race for the final East playoff spot was tight last year. Still, Huntley has not shown that the Wings have what it takes to do better in 2010 than 2009.

Philly has a fairly short bench with few stars. Geoff Snider and Merrick Thomson are the team's only active stars. While both Canadians are excellent in their own right, neither has the pizazz to inspire the Wings to greatness. Such a spark could come from Johnny Christmas, who is currently listed as "restricted" but not active with the team. A regular role for Christmas could signify major changes in the City of Brotherly Love.
6. Buffalo Bandits
I expect nobody to fall as far as the Bandits this season. After finishing second in 2009, Buffalo will tumble to last in the East. Although the retirement of Rich Kilgour should have minimal impact on the Bandits, it is their overall lack of roster activity that makes me believe they will do very little this year.

Buffalo lost Pat McCready and Phil Sanderson to Toronto this season. McCready's contribution to the offense will be sorely missed and Sanderson's absence leaves a bit of a hole on defense. A weak entry draft sows little promise for the Bandits. Perhaps after this major nose dive, the front office will make better roster moves in the off season and rebuild this franchise. As the second oldest team in the league (1992; Philadelphia started in 1987), the Bandits need to be a strong franchise.


Remember, the 2010 season kicks off on January 8 when the Philadelphia Wings visit the Orlando Titans.

Tribe 7