I take no disrespect from the question, I had assumed it was only a matter of time that somebody would want to know. I appreciate very much the passion you all have for the Mammoth. I have no problem with people questioning my decisions, I guess time will tell for all of us. The personal attacks are a little childish on the boards but I guess I have to consider myself fortunate to be a relevant part of the conversation.
I think of Theodore Roosevelt's quote whenever I see some of the infantile stuff that is written..."It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat."
There is no question that we held and still hold Matt Vinc in very high regard as a goaltender in the NLL. I said a few months ago and was very serious then that we would not entertain then or into the future trading Matt Vinc, then the rules of engagement changed. I guess my experience should have told me to expect the unexpected. I have said many times in this forum, we make decisions based on the information that is available to us at the time it is available. I would take Matt Vinc, in the dispersal draft 100 times out of 100, he was the best available player to us and by moving him ultimately made us a much better team.
The circumstances changed for him after the dispersal draft when the Mammoth schedule was released. Initially he informed me that Toronto or Colorado were his first choices of places to play, he was happy to be in Denver, I reiterated that in this forum as well, because that is what he told me. All along his teaching position was going to be a challenge, we deal with that every season with John Gallant and Brian Langtry, they must manage their teaching schedules against our travel and practice schedules. The more Matt contemplated his situation the more he decided that playing in the west was going to be impossible for him.
After only a few interactions with his agent, it became very clear to me that there was no intention on getting a deal done, I was being played in order to force a trade. At that point, instead of engaging in the charade, I decided to call Matt and lay it on the line. Matt is a very admirable young man, as good a person as he is a goalie. We came to an understanding that he needed to be in the east. I expressed our dissappointment and discussed with him the options.
Two very serious offers were tabled from Eastern teams but neither had enough elements that we were looking for. Both were legitimate offers, however, the 2011 draft is extremely desirable because it only includes 9 picks right now, Orlando vacated two spots in the draft but this draft is 20 players strong. We wanted another pick in that draft, we wanted a great defender and offensive talent. Once John Grant's name was brought up we zeroed in on him. Rochester became are primary trading partner. We continued to pursue that option.
Matt Zash was acquired by us from Washington in exchange for a third rounder. At the time of the trade his work committments had ended as a college lacrosse coach so his time to travel and play was opened up. Our new coaches from the Orlando team told us to jump at the chance because they loved him. Unfortunately, weeks later he became employed on Long Island, NY and his new boss told him he wouldn't allow him the days off to play in Denver. Bam, strike two!
Rochester saw the value in Zash and agreed to add Allen, the deal began to come together as the pieces started to become more clear. Rochester wanted their pick back in 12 so we took one in 13, the pick we were focused on the most was the one in 11, at this point they are gold. Brad Self's rights were included, Scott Self plays in Roch now, but Brad continues to play pro hockey in Germany and will not likely return to lacrosse any time in the forseeable future, we acquired him in the Chicago dispersal draft hoping he could play but his decision was to stay with hockey.
This deal was a tremendous win/win for both teams, it was fair and equitable with two teams that were looking to give equal value. Of course we gave up a lot, we acknowledge that, the bottom line is we feel we are significantly better today than last week and gave up two players that weren't going to be available for us.
When you have the opportunity to acquire a player of John Grant's quality you don't pass that up. He may have three to four years left but at 80 points per year you don't pass that up. Fans of the game or casual observers will have a hard time convincing me that he isn't still one of the most dynamic and exciting players in the game today. More on that later.
Mike McLellan was a player that we have been admiring for years in the Titans system, a pure goal scorer that doesn't need the ball. We feel very fortunate that he wasn't able to play in Toronto. Living in St. Louis, he becomes a very short commute away to play for us. A great locker room/team guy that shows up every week and contributes and wants to fit in. He consistently scores 25+ goals per season and his efficiency is the best in the League with the highest shooting percentage of all offensive players. The ball might be in his stick for a total of 20 seconds a game and he might have 3 goals!!
Matt King may not be Matt Vinc but his save percentage in 2009 when Calgary won the Cup was 77% with 7 wins and 0 losses. When they faced each other in the 2009 finals King was the one that took home the hardware.
The King/Conway trade was difficult to get my arms around. I feel Cory Conway has tremendous potential talent, I hope one day that potential is realized. There were some fundamental issues that made it difficult for him to fit into our systems and into the chemistry of our locker room, I wish him the best in Calgary. Again, the 2011 draft is very deep, a second round pick in that draft along with Matt King was more than adequate compensation for Cory Conway.
So when all is settled, we added tremendous punch to our offense with two proven goal scorers, an outstanding young 25 year old shut down defender in Mac Allen and a championship winning goaltender, along with two picks in the 2011 draft in the top 20.
I thought I would provide some answers to questions that haven't been asked of me but have been kicked around on the message boards here and elsewhere...
Goaltending is our weak spot? In comparing Levis' last 7 games in the NLL to Vinc's last 7 games in the NLL with regard to save percentage Levis was 79.4% and Vinc was 77.8%. There is so much more to winning games and the defence must get better, this is why we have made such a concerted effort to give our coaches better tools to work with and the goalies more support.
Tyler Richards was 77.4% and Matt Roik was 76.5% last season with a championship to show for it in Washington, Levis was a total of 76.4% for last season. Matt King was 77% the year before when he won the championship.
Let's face it, the injury to Palidwor last season devestated us, we were left scrambling for much of the early part of the season, we feel we are more prepared this season going into camp.
We have to get more offensive production to win games this coming season, we have to get better on our special teams both offensively and defensively. We must stop the shorthanded goals against.
John Grant is too old? Of course I would love him to be 25 and not 35 but this is a guy that just finished a grueling summer playoff season in Peterborough where he lead the playoffs in scoring with 25 goals and 29 assists for 54 points in 13 games in less than a month, then went on to the Mann Cup against many of our young stud ball players and led the Mann Cup in goal scoring with 13 goals and 19 assists for 32 points in 6 games in 8 days. His opponents in that two month period where he lit it up were the likes Cosmo, Richards and Roik in goal and numerous All Star NLL defensemen.
He was also an outstanding performer in the World Games this past summer for Canada playing numerous games in 10 days against the best of the world.
He may not be the age of Alex Gajic but he certainly doesn't seem to be slowing down.
Is he a ball hog? His assists regularly outweigh his goals and his passes are legendary. Ask any of his teammates that he has played with if he is selfish. There is no question he wants the ball in his stick when the game is on the line and frankly, we wouldn't want a player that didn't want it that way!! This is just a ridiculous statement!
Why bring an old John Grant into a team that is full of young players? How does that build chemistry? I will be the first to admit we didn't have any chemistry last year. I will tell you that our young team is completely jacked that they get to play with Junior. Shewchuk just left my office so pumped up that we couldn't keep him contained. Winning breeds chemistry folks and Junior is a winner.
Have the Mammoth gotten better? Let me put it this way John Grant alone makes us relevant again. Last season in the NLL with Roch, in a down season for them he was 39 and 44 for 83 points. 4th in the League in goal scoring, 4th in power play goals and 9th in the League in points. Shewchuk and Langtry were the next best Mammoth players at 66 and 65 points respectively for 21 and 22 in the League. Right behind Prout at 20th.
When you consider that we have added Grant, McLellan, Conn and a healthy Ilija Gajic we have added about 180 points while only losing Conway and the recently released CulpÂ’s combined 60. I will take the net effect of 120 points. If half of that is goals then we are well on our way to improving our win total. So yes, we are better today than on Monday.
Is John Gallant covering his A**, or being PC because there is still bad blood between Junior and Gallant? Hard for me to know if Johnny is speaking his mind, but he has never pulled punches with me in the past, he is a pretty straight shooter. He was consulted prior to the trades and was given the opportunity to voice his true opinion behind closed doors. He was thrilled with the moves and excited for the direction that we are going.
The incident for those that donÂ’t know took place in a game on Saturday, Dec. 30th 2006 at the beginning of the 2007 season. The Mammoth were winning 20-15 at the end of the game and Junior in frustration cheap shotted John Gallant in the back of the neck. A dirty play that was in response to Gallant giving to Grant all game long, bad decision by Junior that he admits was a mistake. I know that Junior regrets the event and he and Gallant have reconciled some time ago.
During the 2007 World Games a couple of months later in Halifax they were great friends on Team Canada as they won a gold medal together and I am pretty sure that Junior made it up to Johnny Gallant with a few beers and a dinner! Lacrosse players are a pretty resilient bunch, its not unusual to see a beer and a laugh change hands in the post game because of an ill advised play at times. I know I am guilty of it and anybody that hasnÂ’t reacted harshly in a competitive situation is a better man than most. I am shocked that we so easily forgave Gavin for going after Gallant from behind last season in our game at home against Edmonton.
I share John GallantÂ’s sentiments, this is a non issue for our team and the locker room.
As Junior moves to Denver and begins to interact in the community I am sure people will see the side of him that I appreciate, a great passion for the youth of the game and someone who loves lacrosse and what it stands for. Also a person that will put his body on the line every night to win lacrosse games. We can always use that after last season.
We are extremely excited by what this week represents for the franchise, we feel we have the right mix of Â“win todayÂ” attitude coupled with a healthy preservation of our future. Only time will tell and we are by no means breaking our arms by patting ourselves on the back. The staff, coaches and players are aware of the tremendous hard work it will take to erase the pain that was last season.
The fun is that it all starts tomorrow with rookie camp. We have the great opportunity to see some of our draft picks and rookie free agents starting tomorrow. Join us at the Carroll Butts Arena in Westminster tomorrow afternoon to get a sneak peak at the likes of Crotty, Clausen, Rae, Jones and Martin. See the main page for details.
We are just a couple of short months until our first win at home in a long time. CanÂ’t wait. Hang in there Mammoth fans, fun times are ahead!!!