Sunday, January 30, 2011

Game Review: Toronto 8 Buffalo 5

Originally posted on The NLL Blog.

The Toronto Rock planned to avenge last week's OT loss to the Buffalo Bandits in Saturday's rematch at the ACC in Toronto, and that's just what they did, defeating the Bandits 8-5 the lowest-scoring game of this young NLL season. The total number of goals in this game was less than either team scored in last week's game; in fact they came pretty close to tying the record for least total goals in a game (which also featured the Rock at the ACC, they defeated the Albany Attack 7-4 back in the early 2000's). The score at half-time was only 3-1, an almost unfathomable half-time score for lacrosse. Bob Watson, once again, was absolutely outstanding in net for the Rock. Whipper made 50 saves, only allowed five goals all night, and went for 33 minutes without allowing any. When was the last time an NLL goalie allowed zero goals in two different quarters in the same game? How about two consecutive quarters? Buffalo's Angus Goodleaf was very good, and allowing the Toronto offense only 8 goals is pretty impressive. He only faced 35 shots, which is more of a statement on the Buffalo defence than the Toronto offense.

From the very beginning of the game, it was apparent that this one would be more like the infamous pre-season game between these two teams (which was called in the third quarter after a bench-clearing brawl) than last week's game was. Last week, there were some roughing, slashing, and holding penalties, but nothing crazy. But crazy doesn't begin to describe the first period of this game. Stats from the first quarter alone:

  • 17 penalties (70 minutes + 3 game misconducts) for Buffalo, 18 (64 minutes + 2 game misconducts) for Toronto.
  • four fighting penalties each
  • at one point, there were six Rock players and five Bandits in the penalty box. Given the game misconducts and the players actually playing on the floor, the Rock had more players in the penalty box than on the bench. This is when I wished I had brought my camera to the game.
  • The game started at 7:08pm. At 7:30, we'd played 5 minutes and 12 seconds of lacrosse. The first quarter didn't end until 7:54, taking almost 50 minutes to play.
  • at least twice they played three-on-three
  • only three goals scored

Only a minute into the game, Bandit Steve Priolo tried to pick a fight with Toronto heavyweight Tim O'Brien but O'Brien didn't take the bait and each was given a roughing penalty. Less than a minute later, all hell broke loose (or so we thought at the time) as Tracey Kelusky and Patrick Merrill fought near the net and Jeff Gilbert and Frank Resetarits fought near centre. Amusingly, when Gilbert pushed Resetarits down he held him there until the other fight was over, and Resetarits didn't try to get up. It was almost like they realized that once Resetarits hit the ground the refs would have stopped the fight, but the refs were both trying to break up the other one, so they just waited. Both were ejected for starting a second fight when one was already going on. Kelusky and Merrill both got fighting majors and most Rock fans agreed that taking Kelusky off the floor for five minutes was worth losing Merrill for five, with no disrespect to Merrill.

Just five seconds later, another fight and another ejection as Brandon Francis attacked Rock newcomer Ryan Sharp. Both got five, but Francis got an extra two for instigating and a game misconduct. At this point, I thought "OK, this is just getting silly" but we hadn't seen nothin' yet.

It seemed that both teams were just looking for an excuse to start a fight. Mat MacLeod scored and then fell into the Buffalo goalie (no intent there, just gravity and momentum), and a Bandit defender or two jumped him and pummelled him. Then a few seconds later, a Bandit attempted to score and fell into Watson (again, no intent), and two Rock defenders jumped him. It quickly turned nasty as a whole crowd of people were piled on top of each other. No real punches were thrown in the scrum, but off to one side Steve Priolo and Cam Woods started another fight. It didn't last long before Woods walked away, but Priolo followed him and there were a few more punches before Woods walked away again. Priolo seemed to be out of his mind at this point, and literally ran around the net, looking for someone to fight. He even tried to pull one of the Rock players out of the scrum to fight him. My friend sitting next to me asked "Does he realize how stupid he looks?" and I couldn't disagree. Priolo and Woods were both ejected, and after a very long delay a bunch of roughing penalties were handed out.

After this, things actually did calm down a little, but the referees did not. Several more penalties were given out in the first quarter, but most of them were arguable. Phil Sanderson was given a very questionable slashing penalty and must have questioned the validity of the call on his way to the penalty box. He was given an extra two for unsportsmanlike conduct, and the same thing happened during the second, when Bandit Tom Montour was given an elbowing penalty.

Let me go off on a bit of a tangent here. I don't hate NLL refs like many others do. I realize that they have a very difficult and thankless job – if they do their job properly, nobody notices them (when was the last time you heard anyone say "Wow, the reffing in that game was really good"?) but if they make one mistake, it's talked about to death. Having said that, I really don't like Grant Spies. Perhaps he lives near Toronto, but he seems to do an awful lot of Rock games and has for years. I haven't noticed any significant pro-Rock or anti-Rock bias, but he frequently seems to get onto some kind of power trip - I've never seen any ref completely take over a game the way he does. He seems to take penalties personally; he was calling a slashing penalty last night and when he stood in front of the scorer's booth to indicate the penalty, he viciously chopped at his own arm like he was really pissed off. He probably gave himself a bruise. There were some questionable calls in the Toronto-Boston game last week as well, and I considered adding a bit about Spies in my report on that game, but decided against it. But this week, I can't just let it go. Obviously the fights and rough stuff early on made it difficult, but then they actually started playing lacrosse but Spies wouldn't put his whistle away. He calmed down a little in the second but still gave out a bunch of questionable penalties. Then there were almost none in the third or fourth. Even when a Rock player blatantly elbowed a Bandit in the head – no call. The lack of consistency was mind-boggling. It started with "C'mon, let them play!" while he kept interrupting whatever flow the game had, and ended with "C'mon, how can you let that go?"

Anyway, back to the game. The second quarter (and thereafter) looked more like lacrosse and less like Wrestlemania XXVLVLDXIIXV. The first quarter was ridiculous, but the rest of the game was really entertaining and we started to see some pretty nice plays. Tracey Kelusky was being heavily covered in front of the Toronto net but caught a pass one-handed and turned and shot it behind his back, though Watson somehow stopped it. Colin Doyle received a beautiful pass from Stephan LeBlanc and backhanded it into the Buffalo net. The whole second half was a defensive battle, with both teams hitting a number of shot clock violations because they just couldn't get a good shot off. As I mentioned, Goodleaf was good, but Watson was amazing, particularly in the last few minutes of the fourth with Goodleaf on the bench for an extra attacker.

The score at half-time was 3-1, and the Rock scored three more in the third quarter while shutting out the Bandits again. But the Bandits wouldn't give up and the 6-1 lead evaporated into a 6-5 lead with less than four minutes to go. Colin Doyle scored a minute later and added an empty-netter to seal the victory for the Rock, who are now 4-1 and travel to Boston next weekend. The Bandits fall to 2-2 and host the surprising Minnesota Swarm next Friday night.

Other notes from the game:

  • Dear Mr. ACC Video Replay Guy: Please do not show replays of Rock goals if there is any chance of a review being called. Kasey Beirnes scored a goal in the 4th, and a couple of replays were immediately shown on the screen. The replays showed that Beirnes' foot was in the crease, so the Bandits called for a review, which they won. Should it have been a goal? No, the challenge was valid. Would they have called for a review even if the replay wasn't shown? I don't know, but don't just hand them the evidence.
  • Tracey Kelusky scored in the 4th from behind the net. It was not an "Air Gait" type move or the lacrosse equivalent of a wrap-around. You cannot score by bouncing the ball off the goalie's back, so I'm not sure how it counted. Watson may have been partially turned around at that point, so it's possible that the ball actually went in off of Watson's mask or chest, and I suppose that counts. There was no review.
  • The Rock didn't have much of a transition game all night. They had maybe two or three real transition chances, not all of which even resulted in a shot, let alone a goal. Speedy Rob Marshall was not in the lineup, so perhaps that's partly why. The Bandits transition was much better, but that's to be expected when you have Mark Steenhuis on your team. I remember thinking a couple of years ago that there was nobody on the Rock that I wouldn't trade for Steenhuis. The Rock are a much better team now so that's no longer true, but he's still one of those players that you hate when they're on the other team but would love to have on yours.
  • In the five games the Rock have played this season, they have shut out the opposing team in the third quarter in three of them. In last week's game, the Rock were shut out in the third quarter.
  • Compare the penalties handed out in the first quarter of this game with the Rock's win in Rochester on January 15. In that game, only one penalty was handed out to either team. That penalty was to Rochester for illegal substitution.
  • One of the groups listed in attendance at the game was the "Gee Nash fan club". Nash was released by the Rock earlier this week. (Well, he was then re-signed and assigned to the practice roster, but still.)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

NLL Player Name Pronunciation Guide

By Graeme Perrow - GRAY-um PEAR-o

Over the last couple of weeks, I've heard a number of names of lacrosse players mispronounced on various TV broadcasts and lacrosse podcasts. As someone whose name is routinely mispronounced (and misspelled), I take issue with this so I've written up a handy list on some of the harder-to-pronounce names in the NLL. These are in no particular order.

Kaleb Toth – KAY-leb TOE-th. Not TAW-th, and not KAH-leb as I've also heard.

Matt Vinc – like the name VINCE.

John Gallant – gal-ANT.

Stephan Leblanc – STEFF-in la-BLONK.

Nenad Gajic – Nuh-NAD. Last name is either GUY-ch or GUY-itch. I hope it's the former, because I sure wouldn't want to tell people my name sounds like guy-itch, especially if your first name ends with "nad".

Ilija Gajic – ILL-ee-ya.

Alex Gajic – AL-eks. Yeah, I know, but if I don't include him here, some smart-ass will ask about it.

Rhys Duch – REES DUTCH.

Ryan Benesch – buh-NESH.

John Tavares – tuh-VAR-ez.

Athan Iannucci – eye-uh-NOOCH-ee. In Philadelphia, it's frequently pronounced GOD.

Chet Koneczny – CHET.

Mitch Belisle – buh-LY-el.

Sean Greenhalgh – GREEN-hall.

Neil Peart – PEERT. Not PERT. Drummer for Rush. Nothing to do with lacrosse. I like Rush. Deal with it.

Geoff Snider – SNY-der. Not SHNY-der.

David Morgan – HO-lee-CRAP look-at-the-SIZE-of-that-guy.

Dane Dobbie – DOUGH-bee. Not DAW-bee.

Curtis Palidwor – PAL-i-door.

Kasey Beirnes – BEERNS.

Mark Steenhuis – STAIN-house.

Grant Spies – SPEEZ. NLL ref.

Mark Miyashita – mee-YA-shtuh. Hasn't played in the NLL in a few years, but included here because I'm sure he's had his share of mispronunciations.

John Grant – Normally just like it looks, GRANT. However, because of a local dialect quirk, in Colorado it's actually pronounced DOOSH.

Another odd change due to a regional dialect occurs in Philadelphia where the last name of all opposing players becomes hyphenated. The name "Suchs" (SUKS) is appended to the names, though it's curious that the PA announcer keeps forgetting this. Thankfully, the ever-helpful Philadelphia fans are there to remind him.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Why the NLL sucks

Wanna know what sucks about the NLL? Here's what sucks about the NLL. Bandits forward Sean Greenhalgh will miss the entire 2011 season because of something completely unrelated to lacrosse. According to Darris Kilgour in a Buffalo News article, "Greenhalgh has a new job. He has to put some time in before he can ask for time off."

This is nowhere near the first time a player has had to put his full-time job ahead of his NLL career. Toronto Rock goalie Bob Watson became a police officer this past year and was seriously considering retiring from the NLL because he wasn't sure he would be able to get enough time off to play. Luckily for Rock fans he was able to get the time off and changed his mind, but he still misses mid-week practices because of it. There are plenty of examples of players who have missed games and practices because of their job, and I'm sure there are other players who have missed entire seasons.

The worst part is that there's no blame here. You can't point to one person or one group and say "it's their fault", or make some change to the rules or collective bargaining agreement to fix it. You can't blame Greenhalgh for changing jobs; that decision is his alone, and is entirely based on what's best for him and his family. You can't blame his company for expecting their new employee to put in the required time before taking as much vacation as being a pro lacrosse player requires. Player salaries are not high enough for players to make a living from it alone, so they need outside jobs. But you can't blame the PLPA or the league for that because the league just doesn't make enough money for that to be a reality.

Perhaps this new deal with IMG will result in more exposure, leading to higher-paying TV deals and greater attendance and such, which will eventually lead to higher player salaries and eliminate the need for outside jobs. If that happens (and realistically, that's a big if), let's hope that it doesn't go hand-in-hand with higher ticket prices.

It would be nice to see NLL players able to be full-time pro lacrosse players but until then, we'll just have to live with the consequences of being a "fringe" sport.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

More movie haikus / The Harry Potter series / But what will be next?

Continuing on from my recent Star Wars haiku posting, here are some for the Harry Potter series. I managed to come up with two different ones for the first movie. Not sure what to do next – Lord of the Rings? Star Trek? Indiana Jones? James Bond? No, that would take too long and most of the Bond movies blur together for me anyway. Toy Story? Shrek? Spy Kids? Ooooh, I know – High School Musical!

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

He's the boy who lived 
And a thumpin' good wizard 
Wow, he can fly too


Fluffy guards the Stone 
You-know-who wants to steal it
We don't say his name

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Is Harry the heir? 
They both can speak parseltongue 
That's a big-ass snake

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

A powerful spell 
"Expecto Patronum" works
If you think happy 

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Harry's name comes out 
Cedric's, Fleur's, and Krum's do too 
They all fight dragons 

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Occlumency fails
Voldemort plants a vision
Sirius is toast

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Thanks to his textbook 
Harry wins some liquid luck 
Who's the half-blood prince? 

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

The final battle 
Voldemort and Harry fight 
One of them will die 

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Game Summary – Toronto 15 Boston 14 OT


So it's shortly into the third period and the Rock are leading by a couple. This is lacrosse, so this is by no means an insurmountable lead, especially against the likes of the Boston Blazers and The Big Three. I've written a few notes in my little notebook but not that much and nothing earth-shattering. It's been a pretty entertaining game thus far, but what am I going to write about when I get home? The first goal, which was really weird? The fact that Josh Sanderson was invisible for most of the game so far? No, really, I can't just say "here's the final score, and here's who scored the goals" – I need to write about something. This is a problem. I sure hope some interesting stuff happens in the second half.

The game started off with one of the weirdest goals ever. Stephan Leblanc fired it and hit the crossbar, and the ball shot straight up in the air. I'm not sure Anthony Cosmo knew where it was because when it came back down, he made no attempt to catch it, and it bounced in front of the net and went in. The refs reviewed it to see if it went off of Cosmo's back (which would have negated it), but it didn't touch him or anyone else so it counted. Kind of an ugly goal for Leblanc, but the ugly ones still count. This was not the first ugly goal I've seen Cosmo give up (nor would it be the last). During a game a bunch of years ago when Cosmo played for the Rock, he made a save on a fairly routine play, then stood up and looked down the floor for someone to pass to. He reared back to make the pass, then hesitated for half a second, and the ball fell out of his stick and bounced into the net. There were no opposing team players within 20 feet of the goal. The guy who got credit for the goal was sitting on the bench when it went in. Ugly. This wasn't quite as bad as that, but I'm sure Cosmo wouldn't mind having it back.

Rock sophomore Stephan Leblanc was on fire tonight, scoring five and adding four assists. The other Rock sophomore Garrett Billings only scored one but added six assists while captain Colin Doyle was only one-and-four. On the other side, Casey Powell was almost unstoppable, matching Leblanc's 5 goals and 4 assists. But he scored his 5 goals on 13 shots, while Leblanc only needed 12. So there. Josh Sanderson only had three assists, which might have been the difference, since Kevin Buchanan scored five and Dan Dawson added two more. If Shooter had been on his game, it wouldn't have been nearly this close. Maybe he wasn't happy about having daddy behind the other bench rather than behind his.

That said, Watson had a good night, despite giving up 14 goals. He wasn't quite as on as he was during the first two Rock games, but he made a bunch of great saves, especially late in the 4th and overtime. I made a point of telling my son that he was lucky to be able to watch the greatest goalie in the history of the NLL. Anthony Cosmo was equally good if not better in the second half – he had a span of over sixteen minutes during the third and fourth quarters where he only gave up one goal. I don't want to take anything away from Cosmo – he did stand on his head a number of times and was excellent in the second half - but an awful lot of the Rock shots missed the net in the 4th. It does seem weird to talk about how great the goaltending was when 29 goals were scored, but there you have it.

With a little over two minutes left, Colin Doyle grabbed a beautiful flip pass from Garrett Billings and tossed it backhanded into the little hole between Cosmo's leg and the post, putting the Rock up 14-11. But as we all know, two minutes is an awful long time in a lacrosse game, and no 3-goal lead is ever safe. Boston scored three in the final two minutes (two with less than a minute on the clock), to tie the game and send it to overtime.

The defense and goaltenders for both teams were outstanding during overtime, with a number of forced shot clock violations because nobody could get near enough to the net or open enough to shoot. At one point the Rock had three full 30-second possessions in a row and had no serious scoring chances in any of them. Then almost nine minutes into overtime, Stephan Leblanc tossed the ball towards Aaron Pascas who was in front of the net, but Pascas missed it and it bounced underneath Cosmo and into the net. Easily the ugliest goal all night (see video below), but as I said earlier, the ugly ones count too. The Rock celebrated and lined up for the handshakes, but the refs were reviewing the goal. The Blazers weren't about to concede anything so they never left their bench. After a minute or so the signal was given and the game was officially over. The weird thing is that Pascas quite obviously ran through the crease before the ball got to the net, so why did the goal count? He wasn't in the crease when the ball went in, but he did take a couple of steps through and I thought that was an immediate loss of possession. Perhaps it's only when the guy with the ball steps in the crease. Checking rule book now...

I have a copy of the 2005 NLL rules so it's possible that these have changed, but it says that a goal is disallowed when the ball goes in the net "when any part of the body of a player of the attacking team is in the goal crease area at the time". This was not the case, as Pascas was out of the crease before the ball went in. However, Rule 46 (a) specifically says "An attacking player may not be in the opponent's goal-crease area at any time". Strangely, it doesn't say what the penalty is but I doubt it's "any goal scored after this rule is broken will count".



So I think enough interesting stuff happened in the second half that I can find something to write about. Both teams showed why they were both undefeated going in. There was great defense and great goaltending but lots of offense as well. There was some rough stuff but no real fights. There were ugly goals and beauties on both sides. The game was close all night and overtime lasted almost nine minutes and was thrilling. All in all, not a bad way to spend a frigid Friday evening.


Other notes:

  • It irritates me when players jump and dance around like they have to go to the bathroom during the national anthems, or leave the line before the songs are over. I get that they are warmed up and want to stay loose, but some players stand absolutely still during the anthems, and it doesn't seem to negatively affect them. Great players like Jim Veltman and Colin Doyle never jump around during the anthems, and Doyle even sings O Canada. It really makes no sense – you have all these players jumping around to stay loose, and the first thing the majority of them do when the anthems are over is go to the bench and sit down. Show some respect and stand still.
  • When the shot clock is reset and the ten second countdown starts, why do the refs count the ten seconds themselves? (Yes, it is in the rule book. Rule 32 (b): "The time shall be kept by the trailing referee on the floor by a chopping wave of the hand for each second.") Do they not know that there is already a clock doing the counting for them?  Just keep an eye on the shot clock and if it reaches 20 before the ball crosses the centre line, blow the whistle. There was one play tonight where the shot clock was at 16 before the Rock brought it over the line – the Boston bench was going crazy but no whistle was blown. I guess some refs say "Mississippi" faster than others.
  • The second assist on Boston's 9th goal was originally given to Nick Rose. Pretty impressive for Rose, considering he's the backup goalie who never left the bench the whole game. They did fix the scoring a few minutes later but we got a good laugh out of it.
  • Sandy Chapman's first goal of the season was a beauty. He grabbed the loose ball in his own end and ran most of the length of the floor with a defender stuck to him and two more a few feet behind, then dove through the crease and scored.
  • Kevin Buchanan scored five, and none of them was fluky or cheap. I think every one of them was a laser shot from way out. Nasty.
  • Speaking of nasty, Mr. Buchanan decked Patrick Merrill with a blatant crosscheck to the head with about 3 minutes left in the 4th. One ref was on the other side of the net so he didn't have a great view, but how the other ref missed it I do not know. Not only was there no penalty on the play, but the whistle wasn't even blown for five seconds while Merrill lay on the floor.
  • Anthony Cosmo was seriously pissed about something. He was yelling at the refs starting in the 3rd and continuing for the rest of the game. Don't know what it was.
  • The music guy at the ACC decided to play some upbeat music right at the beginning of OT. Unfortunately, the song he chose was the theme from Mission: Impossible. Perhaps not the best choice.
  • In the last 2 minutes of the game and OT, the coaches cannot throw their little yellow flags to challenge goals. OK, fine, I get that. But is it really necessary to make a point of taking the flags away? The coaches know the rule so if they throw the flag just pick it up and ignore it, or throw it back. Maybe yell at them that challenges are no longer allowed. Why go over and collect the flag?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


One of the things we bought my sister this year for Christmas was a book called The Book of Awesome. It's a book based on a blog listing a whole bunch of awesome things, from waiters who bring refills without asking to the smell of freshly cut grass to the last few seconds of untying a really stubborn knot. It's a fun book, and I think everyone had at least a few minutes of looking through it. Every time I saw someone looking at it, it didn't take long before they were smiling and nodding, having found one they agreed with. I decided to come up with a few of my own, but note that I did not read the book cover to cover so it's possible that one of mine is actually in the book.

Turkey sandwiches the day after a turkey dinner. A couple of pieces of fresh bread, turkey (white or dark meat, doesn't matter), some mayonnaise and a touch of salt and pepper, then nuke it for about 10 seconds. I was going to say "soft white bread" instead of just "fresh bread" but this past Christmas I had one at my parents' place on fresh twelve grain bread that was just... well, awesome.

When your kids give you a hug in front of their friends. I remember dropping the boys off at school last year and after saying goodbye to Nicky, I saw that Ryan (age 10) was across the room talking with his friends. I didn't want to embarrass him so I just waved, said "Have a good day, buddy", and kept walking. He said "Daddy!" and ran across the room to say goodbye and give me a hug. It made my day.

When you get home from a long vacation and remember as you are walking in the door that you cleaned up the kitchen before leaving. We've had vacations where that wasn't the case, and when you've been travelling all day and you're tired and have lots of unpacking and laundry to look forward to, not to mention returning to work / school / etc., walking in to a messy kitchen just sucks.

Taking your ski boots off and putting your regular boots on after a full day of skiing. Doesn't matter how old and ratty your boots are, they are soooooo comfortable. Also, the warm glow you feel on your face when you come inside after a full day of skiing.

The sound of a baby giggling. Extra points if it's your baby.

That moment when your parents kiss at the Enchantment Under The Sea dance and you, your brother, and your sister re-appear in that photograph in your pocket. You know the feeling. Just makes you wanna pick up your guitar and wail on the Johnny B. Goode solo.

Working from home during a big winter storm. I've written about this in the past. The iPod in the dock, a cup of hot chocolate, and a fierce storm outside makes for a surprisingly happy guy working at home.

Fixing a particularly nasty software bug. You have been working on this bug for days. It seems random. There's seemingly no predicting when it will happen, let alone why. Customers are waiting for a resolution. You have made zero progress since the last time your boss asked how it was going, and you know that he's just about ready to ask again. Then in the debugger you see that a variable is set to 0 when it shouldn't be. "Why the hell is it 0?" you think. "If it's zero, then that would mean that —" and then it hits you. Suddenly you know exactly why it's happening, and why it's so hard to reproduce. All of the weird descriptions of the problems the customer is seeing that didn't make sense suddenly do make sense. Even better, you know you can give the customer a workaround, fix the problem easily, and even write a simple automated test so that the problem never happens again. It doesn't get any better than that.

Forgetting that it's garbage day until you think it's too late, and making the garbage truck anyway. Even better, when you get the green / blue bin to the curb just as the truck gets to your house, so you can wait for 15 seconds and bring the bin back in.

Being complimented by a stranger on your parenting. When we're out with the boys at a restaurant or store, I'm proud to say that sometimes they will be particularly polite or helpful. Sometimes, not so much. But when they are, the server will occasionally turn to us and tell us how impressed they are with our kids. When a complete stranger tells you that your kid is very polite, that feeling ("I'm not a complete failure as a parent!") more than makes up for the bowl of cereal that he (the kid, not the stranger) took 45 minutes to eat that morning despite the fact that you were already late for work.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Tavares scores!

Here's an interesting coincidence from last Saturday.

The Bandits' John Tavares scored a hat-trick in Buffalo's 9-6 win over Philadelphia. The very same night, Tavares' nephew, the other John Tavares, scored a hat-trick in the Islanders' 4-1 win over Buffalo. But not only did two players with the same name each score hat-tricks for or against Buffalo teams in different sports on the same night, but they both did so against goaltenders named Miller.


Sunday, January 16, 2011

Movie review: Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage

I am a huge Rush fan, and have been since the early '80s. I had heard some of their songs on the radio, but my real introduction was the first side of Moving Pictures, which someone copied onto a tape for me. Tom Sawyer, Red Barchetta, YYZ, and Limelight. Four unbelievably fantastic songs, which I played over and over again. Imagine my surprise when, at least a year or two later, I realized that there were more songs on that album! And they were really good too! I eventually got most of their older albums as well, and I remember Signals being one of the most popular albums when I was in grade nine. Hearing the opening of New World Man still reminds me of early high school. I started to lose interest with the Grace Under Pressure album, and wasn't too thrilled with the next couple of albums. It wasn't so much that they started using more keyboards (Signals had lots of keyboards and I love that album), for me it was more that the keyboards seemed to replace the guitar rather than complementing it. I didn't even buy Hold Your Fire (or Test for Echo) for many years, which meant that Rush had been removed from my list of auto-purchase bands - when a new album was released by bands on this list, I would immediately go and buy it, even if I hadn't heard anything from it. Dream Theater has been on this list for years, and Linkin Park was, up until the most recent album A Thousand Suns, and now I'm not so sure about the next one. But I digress. Presto was pretty good, and rekindled my interest in the band. For Christmas, Gail bought me the DVD of the new movie Beyond The Lighted Stage, a documentary about the history of Rush. I have heard (on the radio and twitter) that even people who aren't Rush fans are really liking this film, so I figured I would love it, since I am a Rush fan. I wasn't disappointed.

There was lot more footage and pictures from the very early years of the band than I would have expected, including video of early concerts at local high schools and such. There was even video of a teenage Alex Lifeson sitting at the dinner table at his house, arguing about why he should be going to school when music is what he really wanted to do. Why someone in his family was recording that conversation, I have no idea. I found it funny that to this day, Geddy and Alex still refer to Neil Peart (who joined Rush in 1974) as "the new guy" because he wasn't there for the beginning of the band and didn't appear on their first album. There was a fair bit of discussion on each album up to and including Signals. After that, they mentioned that Rush entered a period where they used lots of synths which nobody but Geddy seemed excited about, including many fans. They squashed the Grace Under Pressure, Power Windows, Hold Your Fire, and Presto albums into fairly one short segment, and I don't think they even mentioned the names Grace Under Pressure, Hold Your Fire, or Presto. Roll The Bones and Counterparts were touched on briefly and Test For Echo was almost ignored before a section focussed on Neil Peart and the tragedies that befell him in 1997 and 1998.

Within a year of each other, Peart's daughter and wife both passed away, and Peart took several years off from the band to ride his motorcycle around North and Central America. (He wrote a book about this trip called "Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road" which is now on my must-read list.) After returning, he had doubts as to whether he would be able to continue in Rush because he'd been away from the drum kit for so long. It seems amazing that someone as talented as Peart (widely regarded as one of the best rock drummers there is) could have such doubts about his own ability. A couple of people in the film described Peart as a perfectionist, so he'd likely be unhappy performing at 80% of what he used to be able to do – even though 80% of Neil Peart is still better than a large percentage of other drummers. They also talked about how private a man Peart is, and how he really doesn't like meeting with fans who gush or fawn over him, and is uncomfortable with his fame (for reference, see the lyrics of the aforementioned "Limelight"). Neil, if you happen to read this, just know that I think you are an extremely talented drummer and lyricist and your music has meant a lot to me over the last thirty years. And I promise that if I happen to see you at a restaurant or store or something, I will leave you the hell alone.

Funniest scene: Alex and Geddy are sitting in a diner (the scene looks pretty recent, i.e. 2005-2010 time frame), and the waitress recognizes Geddy. She said that her son or nephew or something is a big fan, and asks if he can give her an autograph. He says sure, and she basically elbows Alex (who she obviously does not recognize) out of the way to give Geddy something to sign. Geddy asks if she wants Alex to sign it as well, and she just says "Thanks a lot" and walks away. Alex is laughing the whole time.

A number of prominent musicians were interviewed throughout the movie, including members of Rage Against The Machine, Smashing Pumpkins, Dream Theater, Metallica, and Kiss, as well as musician / actor Jack Black. Sometimes Jack Black can be really funny while other times a little goes a long way, and I kind of found that here. A few interviews with him were fine, but I almost wanted to fast-forward over a couple.

I guess it's not surprising that I really enjoyed this movie, since I am such a fan of the band. But as I said, I have heard a couple of different people talk about how much they enjoyed the movie despite not being Rush fans. At least, they weren't Rush fans when they started the movie.

Game Review: Toronto 12 @ Rochester 9

The Rock finally broke the curse of Rochester Saturday night, winning there for the first time ever in the regular season. (Of course, Rock fans will not hesitate to tell you that the team actually has won in Rochester once, the one time being the 2003 Championship game.) The final score was 12-9 Rock, but the game wasn't really as close as that score may indicate. Twice the Rock had 6-goal leads, and were pretty much in control for the entire game. The first quarter was all Rock, and it started to look like it might be a pretty one-sided game. But starting in the second, and especially continuing in the third, the Rochester defense really picked up their game, and Matt Vinc made some very nice saves. Once again the story of the game was game MVP Bob Watson who was simply stellar, making 53 saves.

The Knighthawks have been an enigma to me for years. You look at a team with people like John Grant, Shawn Williams, Shawn and Scott Evans, Cory Bomberry, Gary Gait, Mike Accursi, and Craig Point, and backstopped by Pat O'Toole, and yet some nights they look like an expansion team consisting entirely of cast-offs from all the other teams. In 2007 everything came together and they won the Championship, including a sixteen game winning streak that continued into the 2008 season, but then they've missed the playoffs two of the past three years. I think they've seriously underperformed during that time, and losing Grant (and Bomberry) will not help, even if Cody Jamieson is the real deal. And he looked like the real deal last night, scoring three and adding three helpers.

Other notes from the game (which I did not see live, but watched on TSN2):

  • TSN announcers: Yes, there are a lot of new faces in Rochester this season, and yes, Mike Hasen is in his first year as coach, but listing Hasen as one of the new faces in Rochester is patently wrong.
  • Kasey Beirnes' goal in the first was called off but it was actually good – his foot didn't land in the crease until after the ball was in the net. Of course, I had the advantage of watching the game on PVR, so I rewound and advanced in slow motion.
  • TSN's play of the game was Doyle's second goal – a backhand and underhand shot that found the top corner. I can't decide if it was a beautiful shot or a really ugly shot, but it counts either way.
  • After two games, I don't see a difference in faceoffs. Other than when a player (namely Geoff Snider) simply grabs the ball, it still seems random which team ends up with the ball. The two players involved mash their sticks together and one of them wins out and pushes the ball behind him – but there are players from both teams behind him, so it's essentially random which one ends up with the ball.
  • Congrats to Shawn Williams who reached 900 career points and Bob Watson who reached 6000 career saves.
  • Beautiful over-the-shoulder goal by Craig Point near the end of the 2nd.
  • Some pretty exiting Rock players have worn number 93: Kim Squire back in the early 2000's, then captain Chris Driscoll, and now rookie Aaron Pascas, who scored two last week and another two tonight.
  • Two strange stats: for the second straight game the Rock didn't allow a goal in the third period, and there was only one penalty in the game – an Illegal Substitution penalty against Rochester at the end of the third.
  • Stephan Leblanc's streak of scoring in every NLL game he's ever played in continued with a hattrick. That's 21 straight games with a goal to start his career. The announcers mentioned this streak but strangely, there was no mention of what the league record is. Maybe nobody knows. Or maybe Gary Gait holds the record of something like 84 games and Leblanc is so far away from breaking it that mentioning it wasn't worth it.

Each off-season for the past four or five I've wondered about the Rock's goaltender situation in the next season, and the phrase "Whipper isn't getting any younger" always seems to come up. But during the season, that phrase never comes up at all. Watson is arguably the greatest goalie in the history of the NLL, and despite being 40 years old, is still one of the best in the league. Watson recently became a police officer in Kitchener-Waterloo, and because of the new career, he didn't even decide whether he would play this year until shortly before the season began. Given that, it's probably safe to assume that this will be his last season, which is a huge blow to the Rock. Watson has been one of the top goalies in the league for the entire existence of the franchise, so the end of the Watson era in Toronto will be bigger than the end of the Bartley era or even the Veltman era. I only hope that if Watson does decide to retire after this season, he announces it before the end of the season as Veltman did so that he can also be given the goodbye he deserves. I have confidence in both of the backup goalies, Campbell and Nash, but as backups. Neither has been a regular starting goalie in the NLL for a few years, so I'm not sure how confident I will be next year if the Rock go with Nash and Campbell as their goalies.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Game review: Toronto 13 Edmonton 7

The Toronto Rock opened their 2011 season with a decisive 13-7 home victory at the Air Canada Centre. 2010 Rookie of the Year Stephen Leblanc led the Rock with 3 goals, while Garrett Billings, Kasey Beirnes, and rookie Aaron Pascas scored two each. Bob Watson was stellar in net, allowing only one goal in the second half. Whipper made 36 saves and his good friends the goal posts made a few each as well. Ryan Ward scored a pair for the Rush, who were simply outplayed tonight.

In recent years, it seemed like the beginning of the season always snuck up on the Rock. "What? You mean the preseason is over and we have to play tonight? Like, for realsies?" Because, you know, the schedule isn't announced months in advance or anything. The first game of the year (and from 2007 to 2009, the second through sixteenth as well) always seems to feature dropped balls, missed passes, passes to teammates who aren't there, or just dumb plays. Not tonight. The Rock seemed ready for this one from the get-go, even though they didn't score their first goal until 11 minutes in.

Rush goalie Matt Disher was solid in net – he actually made more saves (43) than Whipper did, owing to the fact that the Rock took 56 shots at him while the Rush only took 43 at Whipper. Disher did give up a lot of big rebounds, though I think there was only one or two that led directly to a Rock goal. I didn't think Edmonton's defense was really all that bad, but Toronto played the pick-and-roll to perfection, or so my friend Steve tells me. He actually plays lacrosse whereas I do not, so I'll take his word for it. I think Toronto's win came mainly because they put that little round thing in the Rush net more times than the Rush put it in the Toronto net.

Brodie Merrill did not have his best game ever. He was dropping passes and occasionally looked lost, though he did end up with 18 loose balls – ten more than anyone on the Rock. He almost blew a gasket in the first quarter when he had a breakaway and the Rush coach called a timeout. He looked at the ref who blew the whistle and held his hands out as if to say "What the fuuuuuuuuuck?", and the ref told him there was a timeout call. He slowly walked back to the Rush bench but didn't drop his hands or close his mouth until well after he got there. He then said about five words (unlikely "Perhaps not the best time") to the coach and went and sat down. In the fourth, Mike Hobbins and Brodie's brother Patrick Merrill managed a 2-on-1 with Brodie as the 1. Hobbins ran around Brodie like he was standing still (which, in fact, he was) and passed to Patrick, who scored. Brodie certainly did not look like the better Merrill on that play.

Some other random notes from the game:

  • The opening Rock highlight reels showed a ton of fights, a number of solid hits, and the odd goal or save. I wholeheartedly disagree with this type of marketing. I've always told people that lacrosse is a rough game but it's not a violent game. Don't market the violence over a great passing play culminating in a score or the beauty of an over-the-shoulder goal.
  • The Rock unveiled their new mascot Iggy (short for Igneous Rock). Not terrible, but it didn't do anything for me. Then again, I'm 41 so I kind of doubt I'm in the key demographic they were considering when they decided they needed a mascot. My 8-year-old son was sitting right in front of me, however, and he didn't seem all that enthused either. But much to my chagrin, he doesn't care much for lacrosse (or pro sports of any kind) anyway; he spent most of the game playing with the new digital watch he got for Christmas.
  • No dance team! I guess they replaced the dance team with Iggy. Personally, I'd rather watch a bunch of beautiful and scantily clad young women dance around than a man with a permanent grin on his big plastic head, flexing his pretend muscles. But that's probably just me.
  • Colin Doyle had a breakaway in the second and once he got to the crease area, did he bury a laser into the top corner? Dive across the crease and shoot behind the goalie? Bounce a beauty between Disher's legs? No, he took a weak shot directly at Disher's chest. My friend Jeff immediately thought of Alex Ovechkin – he can score backwards from his knees with multiple people pounding on him, but put him in a shootout and he can't find the back of the net.
  • Blaine Manning took a ton of shots in the first half but either missed the net or hit Disher square in the chest. He finally scored one in the third and ended up with 5 assists.
  • The Wave doesn't show up at every Rock game, just now and again. It went around the ACC in the fourth quarter, but clockwise. In the past, and just about every time I've seen it, it's always been counter-clockwise. My friend Faisal wondered if this is what it would be like to watch a sporting event in Australia.
  • Something happened in the fourth quarter that I'm pretty sure I have never seen before. At one point, both nets were empty. The Rock had possession in their end, and Garrett Billings was set up near the Rush net, with Disher on the bench. Note that play was stopped at this point, so Disher would have had time to get to the net, but did not. The Rock net was also empty, also for reasons that escape me. The whistle blew, the Rock player launched a pass to Billings, and he was hit by a defender a split-second before he shot, so he missed the net. The Rock came rushing (ha ha) down to the Edmonton end and another Rock player scored in front of a diving Matt Disher who had come charging off the bench. There were several minutes left in the quarter at this point, so I have no idea why either net was empty, let alone both.

As I mentioned, I have never played organized lacrosse, so perhaps someone can enlighten me on something I've seen a number of times, including at least once last night. Play is blown dead and before play resumes, the attacking team pulls their goalie. They have five attackers in the opposing team's end, and another attacker with the ball way back in their own end. The whistle is blown, the guy with the ball starts running, passes to another attacker, and immediately runs to the bench. The goalie then runs out and goes back to the net. WTF? Why bother with the switch? Why couldn't the goalie make the pass?

Both teams next see action next Saturday night. Edmonton travels to Boston, while the Rock head to Rochester.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Game preview: Edmonton at Toronto

The Toronto Rock and Edmonton Rush begin their 2011 seasons this Saturday night at the Air Canada Centre. The Rock are coming off a very successful, if streaky, season. They started off 6-1 and then lost five in a row before pulling it together again and winning three of their last four. Despite finishing with a mediocre 9-7 record, the Rock got hot in the playoffs and returned to the Championship game for the first time since winning it in 2005. They lost to a superior Washington Stealth team, but a number of Rock players had never been to the finals before and got a taste of what it's like to get there – and what it's like to lose. They will be hungry to get back there again and this time, take home the trophy.

The Rush had their most successful season by far in 2010. They finished above .500 for the first time and made the playoffs for the first time. In fact, it could be argued that they just didn't suck for the first time. The Rush missed making it to their first ever Championship game by one overtime goal. The long-suffering Rush fans were treated to an exciting season, and hopes are high in Edmonton that they can repeat their success in 2011.

The Rock and Rush met twice last year and split the series, with each team winning at home. In February, the Rock demolished the Rush 16-7 in Toronto, as Blaine Manning scored 5 goals and added 5 assists. A week later, Ryan Powell scored 4 and added 4 helpers as the Rush held off the Rock 14-13 in Edmonton.

When the Rock won the Championship in 2005, they were an offensive powerhouse, with Colin Doyle, Josh Sanderson, and Blaine Manning all finishing with over 100 points. Last year only Sanderson (then on Calgary, now on Boston) hit the century mark, but the Rock had four players over 80 points – the only other team to have more than two was the Minnesota Swarm who had three. (Yes, the Swarm. I checked it twice.) Two of those four were rookies so as long as the sophomore slump doesn't hit both Billings and LeBlanc, the Rock should still be right up there again in the goals scored department, especially after adding Pat Maddalena to the mix.

On the other side, the Rush tied for the most goals allowed last year so in the off-season, they were looking for ways to cut down on opposing attackers getting good shots on their goaltenders. Given the sheer size of the Rush defense, the Rock attackers may have trouble even seeing Matt Disher at all, let alone shooting at him. Only one player on the Rock roster (Tim O'Brien, who typically doesn't see much floor time) is listed at over 215 pounds, while the Rush have five, including three (one of which is Disher himself) at 260. And I'd like to see a Rock player try and pull the old swim move on 6-foot-10 David Morgan.

The big story of this game is Brodie vs. Patrick – the battle of the brothers Merrill. According to, the pair have only met in an NLL game once before, when the New York Titans (remember them?) featuring Patrick beat the Portland Lumberjax (remember them?) featuring Brodie back in 2008. Patrick is a tough defender and drops the gloves occasionally, while Brodie is the NLL's reigning Transition Player of the Year (two years running) and knows his way around both ends of the floor. Brodie is obviously one of the premier transition players in the game, but if anyone has ideas on how to shut him down, it might be his brother.

Given the fact that only one team scored more than the Rock last year, and nobody got scored on more than the Rush, you might think this will be a cakewalk for the Rock. It's hard to compare between divisions though – the Rush scored 11 fewer goals and allowed a whopping 45 more goals than the Rock last year, but ended up with a better W-L record.

Need a good blog post / Maybe some movie haikus? / I'll start with Star Wars

I hated English class in high school. And the part of English class that I hated the most was poetry. But I always liked doing haikus. Why? Because they didn't have to rhyme! The only real rule was the syllables, and I can count as well as anyone. Sure, you sometimes had to work a little to pack as much "information" into seventeen syllables as you could, but hey, I'm on twitter now – seventeen syllables, 140 characters, same idea.

I recently began posting Star Wars haikus to my facebook status as well as twitter. Both trilogies (in the order the movies were released) in a total of 102 syllables. They are summarized here. The Harry Potter saga is next.

Star Wars

Alderaan destroyed
Great disturbance in the Force
Death Star is no moon

The Empire Strikes Back

Yoda in a swamp
Trap is set on Cloud City
Vader is Luke's dad

Return of the Jedi

Yoda dies and fades
Vader has some good in him
Ewoks save the day

The Phantom Menace

Droid army invades
Ani and Obi-Wan meet
Jar Jar ruins it

Attack of the Clones

Grievous coughs a lot
Ani and Padme get hitched
But it's a secret

Revenge of the Sith

Dooku bites the dust
Anakin fights Obi-Wan
Darth Vader is born

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

2011 NLL Predictions from the NLL Blog

Just for fun, each of the writers at the NLL Blog have made predictions on the final standings of the 2011 NLL season. The rosters have been set and the season starts in just a couple of days, so here they are. Make sure to bookmark this article so you can check on how we did at the end of the season!


NLL East


Melissa Dafni

Alex Hinkley

Avry Lewis-Macdougall

Kevin Neibauer

Graeme Perrow

Mike Wilson

Toronto Buffalo Buffalo Boston Toronto Toronto
Buffalo Boston Toronto Buffalo Boston Boston
Philadelphia Toronto Boston Rochester Buffalo Buffalo
Boston Philadelphia Philadelphia Philadelphia Rochester Rochester
Rochester Rochester Rochester Toronto Philadelphia Philadelphia


NLL West


Melissa Dafni

Alex Hinkley

Avry Lewis-Macdougall

Kevin Neibauer

Graeme Perrow

Mike Wilson

Colorado Calgary Washington Washington Washington Washington
Washington Colorado Edmonton Edmonton Colorado Edmonton
Edmonton Washington Minnesota Calgary Edmonton Colorado
Minnesota Minnesota Colorado Minnesota Calgary Calgary
Calgary Edmonton Calgary Colorado Minnesota Minnesota


Consensus says another Toronto-Washington final. The Stealth had four first place votes out of six, and only one person had them finishing as low as third. Not much love for Philly or Rochester in the East or Minnesota in the West. Calgary, Colorado, and Toronto got both first and last place votes. We've got an interesting season ahead!

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

What led you to me?

Here are some actual searches that led people to my blog from September to December 2010. 

Attention Facebook readers: You might want to click the "View Original Post" link at the bottom of this note. Facebook sometimes messes up the formatting.

  • "toop ten 2010 fucking girls an sking" – I have no idea how this led to my blog. I even tried doing the same search and my blog didn't show up in the results. I messed around with this search string to try and make my blog appear in the results – including adding "cut the chatter" to it – but I couldn't.
  • "garth brooks bmw truck opera subsidize"
  • These three were all on the same day. Not sure if it was the same guy who kept forgetting the answer or three different people, but I have not seen criteria like this on any other day.
    • "my middle name is earl song lyrics"
    • "my middle name is earl lyrics to song"
    • "what song miidle name is earl"
  • Someone found my blog through a search from This must be Google's search engine for pirates.
  • "my face has sunken"
  • "i have been sent home with a t-tube coming out of my tummy what is this"
  • "boys on pool table doing the macarena" as well as "macarena boys dancing pool table"
  • "procedure for placing drain tube in buttock cheek ct guided"
  • "should you call ambulance when acute pancreatitis attack" – on the assumption that you don't want to die, I'd say yes
  • "do they have to cut my stomach to tie my tubes"
  • "is wayne gretzky circumcised" – I wrote an article on circumcision several years ago and ever since, I've seen a number of searches hit my blog asking about the... um... status of celebrities including Wayne Gretzky, Eric Lindros, Charlie Sheen, Clay Buchholz, and others. I don't know why this information would be of value to anyone and honestly, I don't want to know why someone thinks it might be.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

2011 NLL Overview and Predictions

Attention Facebook readers: You might want to click the "View Original Post" link at the bottom of this note. Facebook sometimes messes up the formatting.

NLL East

Boston Blazers

In: David Brock, Kevin Buchanan, Scott Campbell, Geoff McNulty, John Orsen, Casey Powell, Matt Quinton, Kyle Rubisch, Josh Sanderson

Out: Gary Bining, Paul Dawson, Mat Giles, Jon Harnett, Matt Lyons, Sean Morris, Kyle Ross, Matt Smalley, Brendon Thenhaus, Daryl Veltman, Head Coach Tom Ryan

Comments: There's only one ball. Sanderson can score, to be sure, but he loves to pass. But both Dawson and Powell are used to being the guy. Can they both be the guy at the same time? Head coach Tom Ryan was fired during training camp, which tells me that he was not fired because they bowed out in the first round of the playoffs in each of the last two years, or because ownership felt that they underachieved with an 8-8 record last year. In either of those cases, he would have been fired long before now. No, that tells me that either Sanderson or Powell (or both) didn't like Ryan or something about his coaching style, and they demanded that he be fired. This does not scream "cohesive unit" to me and makes me wonder if this will be like Canada's 2002 Heritage Cup team – a group of superstars that could not play as a team.

Prediction: Second


Buffalo Bandits

In: Chad Culp, Clay Hill, Travis Irving, Tracy Kelusky, Scott Self, Brendon Thenhaus, Jay Thorimbert

Out: Mike Accursi, Kevin Dostie, Sean Greenhalgh, Ken Montour, Kyle Schmelzle, Billy Dee Smith, Brandon Swamp

Comments: No major changes for the Bandits; the biggest would be losing Accursi and picking up Kelusky. Both are veterans with leadership ability, but Kelusky scored 20 more points last year in 2 less games. Greenhalgh and Smith (at least) are injured to start the season, but may return. Adding Culp and Thenhaus will help the offense, and Self is a solid defender.

Prediction: Third


Philadelphia Wings

In: Matt Alrich, Ryan Boyle, Paul Dawson, Ray Hodgkinson, Steve Holmes, Athan Iannucci, Bodie MacDonald, Brett Manney, Ryan McClelland, Ryan McFadyen, David Mitchell, Brendan Mundorf, Shawn Nadelen, Joe Smith, Alex Turner

Out: Rob Blasdell, Jason Crosbie, Dave Cutten, Tom Hajek, Kevin Huntley, Jordan Levine, Brett Moyer, Steve Panarelli, Jeff Reynolds, Josh Sims, Bob Snider, Geoff Snider, Dan Teat, Kyle Wailes, Mike Ward

Comments: Wow, is there anyone on the team from last year? Six of their top ten scorers last year (Wailes, Snider, Teat, Giles, Huntley, Crosbie) are gone, and their backup goalies are both rookies. On the upside, Athan Iannucci is returning, and if he's anywhere close to as dominant as he was in 2008, he'll be a serious offensive force to be reckoned with. Then again, that was three years ago.

Prediction: Fifth


Rochester Knighthawks

In: Mike Accursi, Troy Bonterre, Tyler Burton, Jarrett David, Colin Hall, Cody Jamieson, Pat McCready, Ian Rubel, Josh Ruys, Matt Vinc, Chase Williams, Matt Zash

Out: Marshall Abrams, Mac Allen, Cory Bomberry, Matt Danowski, Shawn Evans, Kevin Fines, John Grant Jr., Jordan Hall, Peter Jacobs, Cody Johnson, Bobby McBride, Pat O'Toole, Andrew Potter, Regy Thorpe, Steve Toll, Shawn Williams

Comments: Abrams, Shawn Evans, Hall, and Shawn Williams are all starting the season on the injured list, with no announcements on how long they might be out. I know that Williams broke his arm during an MSL game during the summer, but was supposed to be healed and ready for training camp, so hopefully Knighthawks fans won't have to wait long for his return. Mike Accursi adds some offensive punch, and Cody Jamieson is heavily hyped. Rochester must believe wholeheartedly that he will be the real deal, since they signed him to an unprecedented 10-year deal in mid-December. With all due respect to Pat O'Toole, who did a better-than-admirable job in net last year, their goaltending has improved with the trade for Matt Vinc, but the big question is: can the Knighthawks replace the offense of John Grant, Jr.?

Update: The Shawns, Williams and Evans, have both been activated from the injured list, and Chase Williams and Colin Hall have been released.

Prediction: Fourth


Toronto Rock

In: Pat Campbell, Mike MacLeod, Pat Maddalena, Patrick Merrill, Gee Nash, Tim O'Brien, Aaron Pascas, Kyle Ross

Out: Scott Campbell, Steve Dietrich, Brendan Doran, Mike Hominuck, Anthony Lackey, Pat McCready, Geoff McNulty, Kim Squire, Josh Wasson

Comments: No huge losses for the Rock, but they've added Pat Maddalena for some more offense, and upgraded their goaltending by replacing the now-retired Steve Dietrich with Paddy Campbell and Gee Nash. I don't know about other Rock fans, but I will sleep a little easier knowing who's backing up the Whipper. I also applaud the signing of Tim O'Brien. I'm not a big fan of fighting in lacrosse, but I recognize that it's sometimes necessary and if someone has to spend five minutes in the box, I'd rather it be O'Brien than Doyle, Billings, or LeBlanc. Also with O'Brien's reputation as a fierce fighter, people just might take a few less liberties with the big scorers, so even if he doesn't actually do anything, his mere presence may help. Toronto made it to the finals last year, and I'm trying not to be a homer about my prediction here, but I don't see any reason why they couldn't get back there again.

Prediction: First


NLL West

Calgary Roughnecks

In: Cory Conway, Curtis Dickson, Jon Harnett, Derek Hopcroft, Brandon Ivey, Dan MacRae, Dayne Michaud, Curtis Palidwor, Geoff Snider, Daryl Veltman, Kurtis Wagar

Out: Craig Conn, Craig Gelsvik, Tracey Kelusky, Matt King, Rob Kirkby, John Lintz, Cutris Manning, Jeff Moleski, Josh Sanderson, Carlton Schuss, Rob Van Beek, Devan Wray

Comments: Snider will pick up every face-off and loose ball available, and then pass to... who? The Roughnecks have lost two of their most potent scoring threats in Sanderson and Kelusky. They still have Dane Dobbie and it's not like they got nothing in return – Daryl Veltman picked up 65 points for the Blazers last year. A healthy Kaleb Toth will also help, but it's not just about numbers. Replacing Sanderson's vision on the floor will be difficult. The Roughnecks also replaced their starting goalie with former backup Mike Poulin and also signed Curtis Palidwor, who announced his retirement a week before the rosters were announced.

Prediction: Fourth


Colorado Mammoth

In: Mac Allen, Shayne Bennett, Rob Blasdell, Ned Crotty, Ben Davies, John Grant Jr., Matt King, Matt Leveque, Mike Mclellan, Jarrett Park, Steve Toll, Josh Wasson

Out: Rich Catton, Cory Conway, Chad Culp, Shawn Dhaliwal, Chris Gill, Chris Levis, Andrew Leyshon, Derek Malawsky, Ryan McFadyen, David Morgan, Bruce Murray, Curtis Palidwor, Jed Prossner, Brad Richardson, Bryan Safarik, Neil Tyacke, Matt Wilson

Comments: Out goes a superstar goalie, and in comes one of the most prolific scorers in league history. Grant isn't well liked in Denver after delivering a punishing hit to John Gallant about five years ago. Some call him the "Todd Bertuzzi of lacrosse", though Bertuzzi was never one of the best players in the league, as Grant has arguably been for most of his career, nor was Grant's hit nearly as brutal as Bertuzzi's. Hell, Gallant himself has forgiven Grant, so surely the Mammoth fans can as well. And if he plays at the same level as he has in Rochester for a decade, I think they will. And considering Matt Vinc never played a game in a Mammoth uniform anyway, they pretty much got Grant for free.

The Mammoth also released Andrew Leyshon and Curtis Palidwor and picked up Matt King from Calgary so although their goaltending isn't as good as it would have been with Vinc, it's still better than last season. They've also re-signed all of the Gajic brothers (I think they have twelve of them now), so I predict pretty good things for the Mammoth this year.

Update: Chris Levis is on the roster, and will be the backup goalie along with Blazer. The Mammoth also signed transition specialist speedin' Stevie Toll after Rochester released him. I would have been happy to take Toll back on the Rock at any point in the last few years, but if Rochester released him, perhaps he's lost a step or two. But even if he's not as fast as he once was, he's still a better-than-average defender.

Prediction: Second


Edmonton Rush

In: Bill Greer, Kedoh Hill, John Lafontaine, Bruce Murray, Devan Wray, Bobby McBride

Out: Bruce Alexander, Chris McElroy, Ryan McNish, Justin Norbraten, Ryan Powell

Comments: For five years, the Rush were the L.A. Clippers or Toronto Maple Leafs of the NLL. No matter how bad your team was, you could always count on the Rush to be worse. But sometimes being last has its privileges - in 2010, the Rush selected first in the Portland dispersal draft and picked up Brodie Merrill, who they hoped had the power to turn the team around. They also changed coaches and picked up Matt Disher, Ryan Ward, and Derek Malawsky. Merrill lived up to his billing as a franchise player, and the Rush not only made the playoffs for the first time in franchise history, they finished tied for second in the west and were one overtime goal away from the Championship game. The Rush haven't made many changes to their lineup for 2011. Former Roughneck Devan Wray comes home to Edmonton as a faceoff specialist, and former captain Chris McElroy has moved on to Washington.

Update: Devan Wray is actually on the practice roster.

Prediction: Third


Minnesota Swarm

In: Mat Giles, Tyler Hass, Travis Hill, Matt Kelly, Ryan Sharp, Rory Smith, Andrew Suitor

Out: Colin Achenbach, Kevin Buchanan, Ryan Cousins, Josh Funk, Scott Self, Sean Thomson, Jay Thonimbert

Comments: The Swarm made the playoffs despite a 5-11 (.313) record, which is the second worst ever in the NLL (three teams made the playoffs in 1993 and 1994 with 2-6 (.250) records) and third worst ever in any sport (the 1952-53 Baltimore Bullets of the NBA made the playoffs with a 16-54 (.229) record). They were beaten by the eventual champion Stealth, but I'm curious about the lack of significant changes in their lineup during the off-season. A 5-11 record, playoffs or not, should be an indication that major changes are needed, but they haven't really made any. Perhaps they have followed the Toronto Maple Leafs modus operandi and decided that as long as they made the playoffs, the season can be considered a success. God help them if they head down that path.

Prediction: Fifth


Washington Stealth

In: Chet Koneczny, Chris McElroy, Jeff Moleski

Out: Joel Dalgarno, Wade DeWolff, Travis Gillespie, Ben Hunt, Brett Manney, Kyle Sorensen

Comments: They won the Championship last year, and have made minimal changes to their roster this year. The only significant changes are the additions of Moleski and McElroy, who will bolster an already better-than-average defense. Their offense was pretty damned impressive already, and in the list of best one-two goalie tandems in the league, Richards and Roik are right up there. Not much to say here – no reason to believe they won't kick serious ass again this year.

Prediction: First


Overall Standings


  1. Toronto
  2. Boston
  3. Buffalo
  4. Rochester
  5. Philadelphia


  1. Washington
  2. Colorado
  3. Edmonton
  4. Calgary
  5. Minnesota