Great questions, and neither is "sticky".
Cliff Smith is an exciting, dynamic, player that can do many things. In the NW system he is an offensive force and is scoring at a tremendous rate, the Mammoth are certainly excited to see it. Early last season his role was very similar to what he is doing with the Bellies, there is an adjustment period to the NLL and a maturation process for any young player, not to mention being thrown into the mix where there are several different players from those you are used to playing with and against. Cliff has been with the NW team for about 4 years, I believe, giving him a comfort level with his teammates, their systems and the opponents, he has matured in that system. We are confident that this will expedite his maturity in the NLL for success in the coming season.
We happen to see Cliff as so much more than a purely offensive talent, he is gifted athletically and can play both ends while scoring and defending. He did some of that this past season with NW and has put up good numbers, out intentions for the Mammoth are to put Cliff in as many situations so that he can be successful, he is a quality individual both on and off the floor and he deserves every success he gets.
As for systems we are continually evaluating how we want to play the game and what system fits both our personnel and our desires. Our new coaching staff has already had several discussions about using the current tools and potential acquisitions to push the tempo and compete at a much faster pace. Players like Cliff Smith personify the types of players that we covet for the future of this franchise.
You are very correct, there will be very difficult decisions prior to training camp and selecting the final 23 roster spots. A couple of landscape issues have changed, the reduction of another team and 23 roster spots in the league, it just got tougher for every player in the League to make their respective squads. The other change is the addition of two dressing players, how are those players used on the roster and in dressing situations. Some teams have already said they will dress pure fighters, some dedicated face off men, some have said they will use the spots to get young "American" players valuable experience without having to play them on a regular shift in critical situations. We are moving towards those decisions, but until the boys come to camp and show us what they have, we can only predict.
This particular draft was held by every GM in the NLL as a particularly weak draft, however tilted more towards the defensive side of the floor, the measurement of the draft will be ultimately in how many players from the 2010 draft class secure a coveted roster spot on 10 teams.
As we examined where we were drafting and what we already had in our "stable" so to speak, the picks might make more sense. We have just acquired Vinc, Park and Zash from results of the dispersal draft. Park is preparing to move to Denver and fills a need as a defensive transition player, Zash, no longer coaching and hopefully in a better work situation that will allow him to play all the games, is also a tremendous transition player that can defend well. We added Ben Davies in last season's entry draft, a 6'5 solid athletic defender that played an entire year in the WLA on the Burrards, he will join us this season. Jamie Floris, has successfully adopted a new role with the Salmonbellies that has him playing defence first, out the back door with the green light to move the ball up the floor, watch him in the Mann Cup. We just signed Shayne Bennet, another NW player playing great def. and taking faceoffs successfully in the Mann. Matt Wilson will return after shoulder surgery last season, Matt was contributing solid minutes on D last season and taking faceoffs prior to the injury. And the consideration that we may sign Matt Leveque for the upcoming season. Also, Forsythe and McFadyen both return and both will be young fixtures on the D end this season.
So with all those additions and returners, among some of the veterans in the mix, we felt that any one of the players mentioned above would be a top first rounder or second rounder in this past draft. Each of those players already on our roster but new to the team would outweigh the merits of what we could acquire in this particular draft. Time will tell if we are correct, and its always easy to look at that draft in hindsight and say we should have done something else. Look at Tyler Richards, he was taken 46th overall and spent a year on the practice roster in SJ before he was able to be considered a solid starter in the NLL, 45 picks went before him, most aren't in the League anymore. So its easy to Monday morning quarterback the draft. Dan Dawson was picked in the 6th round!!!
Knowing all that and understanding where we are last Wednesday, Ned Crotty looks like a pretty strong addition to the Mammoth. This draft will not be known for its offensive contributions to the NLL so a player of Ned's ability could be a steal at where we got him. Crotty was recruited and played midfield for the Blue Devils for three years before was asked to play attack in 2010 as a Senior, he could have tremendous value as a transition player with his background. He has size and is athletic. On a USA outdoor team that was designed to beat the Canadians, he was selected and played in front of multiple blue chip outdoor players, and played with the likes of Mundorf, Boyle, Westervelt, Rabil, Zash, Seibald, and Peyser, all familiar names in the NLL. We had extensive conversations with him prior to the draft and he is excited to play the indoor game and excited to be a member of the Mammoth. His background as a hockey player always intrigues us when a player doesn't have extensive indoor experience. A Tewaaraton winner, a national champion, a world champion and a captain, with desire to learn the indoor game with a background in hockey, I am willing to take a gamble on a player like this at almost every opportunity.
Whenever Ned's name came up in conversation I couldn't help but think of Drew Westervelt, a player that was high on our list in the 07 draft but we took some more "seasoned" indoor players, not sure at the time if Drew could transition to the indoor game, every draft I think about Drew and hope we don't miss that opportunity again.
Ken Clausen is another player that we thought we stole at 22, big, strong, fast defensive player with a nose for ground balls, that is excited about the indoor game, and to top it off is moving to Denver to be a fixture in the lacrosse community. If any player from the NCAA can transition to indoor this player can. Another quality individual that we had extensive talks with prior to the draft.
Both players will have to learn quickly and adapt to the indoor game but both are extemely smart players that are motivated to succeed. Will they both make the squad in the landscape of the 2011 NLL, we hope they do, they both represent tremedous upside. There is no question we feel we got the two best pure lacrosse players in his draft, now its up to the coaches to help them find their spots on our crowded roster for the upcoming season. No matter who we drafted, based on the moves we have already made it was going to be tough to make this team or any other, we felt these two players represented the best opportunity to find their way in the NLL.
We also selected John Rae and Mark Farthing. John is a very interesting player that carries with him quite a reputation from Ontario Junior lacrosse. Some compare him to, and suggest he might be the next Rory Smith, this is a kid with a unique talent that could make our entire roster feel more confident out there. We will be working hard to develop his defensive skills so that his other talents can be effectively used. Mark, like Ben Davies last season, dropped signficantly in the draft because of a recent knee injury with the Peterborough Lakers junior team. Coached by Dan Carey in the summer, Dan suggests he is a natural leader and tremendous shut down defender that will be shelved for the year recovering from ACL reconstruction, but in the 6th round this year, he could easily be a 2nd rounder next year.
Considering we drafted only 4 times this draft, we feel we made the most of an unusually poor draft. Only time will tell, but we feel we will look back at this draft and consider ourselves very fortunate.
As for the NW Salmonbellies, we are very excited for their success, our players that play there are gaining valuable chemistry and comradarie that we can only hope will translate to wins for the Mammoth. Alex Gajic and Craig Conn are working extremely well together, Cliff Smith and Ilija are tearing up the other side, Nenad is healthy again and contributing as a great captain. Its a special time for those players and we wish them all best in the Mann Cup and beyond!!! We may not add the salmon to the Mammoth tusks but we may consider working those socks into our uniform!!!
Thanks for sticking with us Mammoth fans, and yes it reads like a press release because I am excited for our immediate and long term future, is there downside?? Of course, but when all things are considered we feel positive about the direction. And don't pay any mind to the haters, its just too easy for people to sit on the sidelines and throw darts from behind a veil of anonymity. I stand by what we have done and know we are stronger because of it, and know that the we are successfully executing a plan to host the 2011 championship game at Pepsi Center and ultimately carry that day.