Since the boards are shutting down, can you care to explain some of the decisions you have made over the past off season??
1) Trading a first round pick for Drew Westervelt. Yes, Westervelt has demonstrated he can play in NLL, but is he really worth a first round pick. Will he fit in with our offence? What is his commitment to the team, when he requested the Outlaws trade him so he can be on the East Coast?
Drew Westervelt is a marquee player in this League and has scorched the Mammoth over the years a number of times. Drew was a 30 goal scorer last season and has been a consistent 30 goal scorer in the NLL throughout his career. There were a total of 15 players that scored at least 30 goals in the NLL last year, out of 207 players, 15 is the top 7% of the NLL, exclude the goalies and you are at the top 10% in the NLL. Of those same 15 goal scorers in the NLL, Drew was 6th in shooting percentage. A top 15 goal scorer that is 6th in shooting percentage, I believe should be worth a first round draft pick. Westervelt shoots more efficiently than Evans, Ratcliff, Billings, Crowley, Shattler, Matthews and is equaled by Dickson. The question shouldn’t be… is he really worth a first rounder? the question should be why wasn’t he worth two and how can we get him more shots!! By all accounts, (and not that we measure ourselves by this, but), every NLL lacrosse person, to a man, that we discussed this with throughout the League thought we stole Drew from Philly.
As for his commitment, all I can do is go by how he has carried himself since the trade, he’s extremely excited, thrilled to be here and was a standout at camp this past weekend. At one point he said, “I should rent my house out in Baltimore and move to Denver for the season”!! I have no idea what the situation was with the Outlaws and don’t really care, he seems pretty elated to be a member of the Mammoth.
2) Drafting a Goaltender in the first round? I thought Tye (Belanger) was our guy? He played well and will only get better. With the exception of a very elite few like Eluik and Vinc their careers seem short and limited at best. Are you trying to bring competition to training camp or mess with Belanger's confidence? A lot of the goaltender's game is mental..what are you really telling Belanger?
Let me be very clear, Tye is our guy and we love him, he will be a fixture for the Mammoth for a very long time if it is up to us. He had a great weekend this past weekend and was stellar for us once he earned the starting position halfway through last season. That being said, Dillon Ward was the best player available in the draft, and we couldn’t be happier to have him here.
Tye was included in the decision about the draft, he was there when he was selected and has welcomed him to the team with open arms. Last I checked, you must have two on your roster. You might as well have two good ones. In order to be successful they should have a good relationship and they should like each other. Competition at any position is a good thing, two young promising goaltenders pushing each other to be better never hurts. Interestingly, and amazingly, their styles are eerily similar.
You almost answer your own question though, when you suggest that careers are short for goaltenders, that may be the case, we expect both of these goalies to last forever, the fact is that approach can be dangerous in the NLL. We have had the rights to two of the best in the NLL over the course of the last few years; both Matt Vinc and Anthony Cosmo could have been Mammoth players from the Titans and Blazers dispersal drafts respectively. Both told us they couldn’t commit to playing for us because of other commitments in their personal lives with work and family, etc. such is life in the NLL, different than other Leagues. That can happen at any time, finding quality goaltending can only be done in the draft and they don’t come along very often, so when they do, you have to jump at the chance and we have over the last few years. Other commitments happen as well, so having two or three good young goaltenders is paramount to our future success, just in case one goalie makes a decision that he has to leave the team for a great job or god forbid, gets hit in the head and breaks an orbital eye bone and can never play again.
Let’s face it; the last 4 championships have been won by teams with GREAT goaltending, Rochester with Vinc, Washington with Richards and Toronto with Watson. Gee Nash was outstanding in 2006 and lead us to the promise land, and as a perfect example of why we drafted Dillon Ward, a back injury to our starter has sidelined the Mammoth playoff hopes since then. Laser focus on the goaltending position in the last couple of seasons has brought us to three very good, very young and very promising future net minders for the Mammoth.
3) Drafting defence and transition? This was an area that was not addressed over the offseason. Period. Park, Gallant, Morgan, and Orsen, are not getting any younger and have been hampered with injuries. Our goalies faced way too many shots and we seemed to get really beat in the loose ball game. Why did you not look at Tucker Durkin when you had a chance? I am sure Minnesota will be happy with the pick. I am not sure about how you address Transition with picking up Cody McMahon?? Can he score, does he have the hustle and the aggressiveness to pick up loosies?
To suggest that we didn’t address defense or transition in the offseason “period”, as you put it, is a bit misleading. Goaltending is the cornerstone of great defense and it was our sole focus for the first round! However, because of the Westervelt trade, which I explained above, we didn’t have 2nd round picks and weren’t able to select Tucker Durkin, as he was selected 19th by Philadelphia (not sure what you mean when you say that Minnesota will be happy with the pick?). I have no doubt that Tucker Durkin will be a nice player in the NLL, if he plays, which is always a crap shoot with American players that have never played a day of indoor lacrosse in their lives. The gamble is always a little high, you just never know. Even Philly, the only eastern US based team with a history of working with US players passed on him twice before they selected him at 19. That is the challenge with the draft, you make the decisions with the information you have at the time that you make the decision, I guess only time will tell if we selected properly.
That being said, we did address the defensive end. A very well timed trade for a young player from Calgary’s system in Jackson Decker is a strong defender with great speed and strong offensive upside. We also signed a strong, very big defensive player in Patrick O’Meara at 6’5 as a free agent. We also added Cameron Mann in the third round, long after Durkin was selected, a player that by all comparisons around NLL staffs is comparable to a young Sandy Chapman, well respected transition player in Toronto or Jesse Gamble, another Toronto transition player that excited the NLL last year with a number of transition player of the week honors. And if for some reason that Cameron Mann doesn’t make the team, then we must feel pretty good about what we already had in camp.
Keep in mind, rosters have been reduced by 3 players and dressing rosters by 2, fewer players have to contribute more. I can assure you that offenses will retain the same amount of players on the active roster and the dressing roster, but defenses will be reduced. Faceoffs become much more vitally important as they were with Jamie Hanford, Bobby Snider will give us increased possessions and first shots and an opportunity to compete against Calgary and his brother as opposed to simply conceding possessions.
I am a little confused by your comment about shots, we outshot our opponents by 22 over the course of the season, we shot 1,100 times compared to our opponents 1,082. We did get out loose balled without question, but only by 6 per game, face offs were the single biggest contributing factor to that number and that has been addressed.
I would also suggest that after Tye entered as the starter, our save percentage sky rocketed from a dismal 59% and 71% with the former starters to 77.6%!! that in and of itself, makes the defense and the goals against much more understandable. Shots that go in from the restraining line, can’t be defended very well by any defense. Defenders are forced to push out to stop long shots that are going in, this exposes them to being beat into space in the middle, until you are confident and comfortable that your goalie will make the saves, you have to second guess everything done in the defensive end. An entire season of goaltending that eclipses last season’s end, with 10.77 goals against, 4th overall in the League, and a save percentage of 77.6%, which is also 4th overall, among all starters in the League, will produce much different results than the skewed early season results that we saw last year.
I am still very confident that watching young players like Coates, Reid, MacCleod, Cupido, Holding and Lincoln mature into strong, very athletic defenders that handle the ball and start (and finish) the transition will gel very nicely with veteran leadership in the defensive end.
I don’t think that disparaging young Cody McMahon is fair; Cody was drafted as an offensive lefty that may one day compare to a player like Josh Sanderson. He had a fantastic Junior career in Orangeville winning two minto cups and contributing with great lacrosse iq and timely scoring. Don’t let this kid’s size fool you, his heart is twice the size of a lot of current NLLers.
One Last Question...
The Stealth moving to Langley, BC. Steve I believe you are from the Lower Mainland and I am originally from Bellingham, WA. I do not get this move at all. Granted the Stealth did very poorly in San Jose and not much better in a Seattle suburb. I thought the Vancouver area was going to be "reserved" for a new expansion team? Is the Stealth really the organization to be in the Vancouver area? I have been to Stealth games, and I am not impressed. I am not talking the product on the field (which is good, they win games), but a terrible and unprofessional fan experience. Denise Watkins staff does not know how to put tails in seats or even maintain professionalism..something the Mammoth do very well. Wille B does have his detractors here in Denver, but I think for the most part he does put people in seats and they have fun (and want to come back). I never felt that way when I went to a Stealth game.
I am certainly not going to say one bad thing about Denise or Bill Watkins, a wonderful lacrosse family that has sacrificed millions of dollars to keep the Stealth alive in San Jose then Everett, now the Lower Mainland/Vancouver region. They deserve a tremendous credit for their continued commitment to the NLL.
Now the Vancouver region / Langley is an interesting decision. Since the disappointing demise of the Vancouver Ravens in a completely undercapitalized attempt to bring the NLL to BC, the League has always had a focus to return. Because it’s my hometown, I want to believe that it will work there; the challenge has always been that the area doesn’t support the lacrosse that is played there now. Some of the best lacrosse in BC is played in arenas around the lower mainland in front of crickets, Canucks hockey is king, with soccer and football professionally dominating the market place. I don’t know if there is a place for lacrosse in the lexicon of sports in Vancouver, sad to say, but I am just not sure. When the community can’t support the Minto Cup, the National Junior Championship of the nation, played at the 3500 seat Queen’s Park arena last summer, what does that say for the support of the lacrosse community itself. I attended this fantastic tournament of wonderful junior lacrosse and I, literally, counted 246 people in the seats for one of the round robin games. Blame it on "marketing" if you want, but the lacrosse community knew the Minto Cup was being played and stayed away.
I do have to say, I like the Langley Events Center, I wish it had about 2,500 more seats for the NLL, it doesn’t. The challenge with the Vancouver market is that the NLL was, in fact, reserving that market for an expansion team, unfortunately, no one has shown the interest in the market for expansion. The Canucks have shown little to no interest, the Pacific Coliseum has a major tenant that is not interested, and is somewhat restrictive when it comes to sharing the space. The venues are limited, Abbotsford may be a more suitable building but it’s too far from the demographic core. Langley is right in the heart of the growing lacrosse community (see above for my hope that they support the NLL and the Stealth). The Burnaby lacrosse community is slowly dwindling, Coquitlam is robust as is Surrey/Langley and the suburbs, if it’s going to work in Vancouver then Langley is the right site. With a 5500 seat venue, the hope is that it can be filled and generate twice as much revenue as Everett was with expenses that are significantly decreased with a built in player base and travel savings.
The city of Langley (owner of the Events Centre) has been a strong supporter of the NLL and has expressed a passion for having the product there for a number of years. Three exhibition games and an NLL Championship game have been well attended and supported financially. The City was willing to take on a number of operational functions for the team so that the Stealth could more acutely focus on what they were good at, by putting a competitive team on the field.
The Stealth was not going to continue in Everett, Langley was the only alternative considering the choices. With no other interest in the market, and an owner that was willing to continue in a better situation with a partnership in a city that was passionate about the product it was an easy decision for the Watkins. The NLL had to support the move and wanted to support an ownership that has been a good partner for a number of years. The hope is that with the Events Centre taking a significantly active role in the success at the box office, by growing the product in the Vancouver area would be easier in a smaller venue that will burst with excitement rather than a large, expensive venue that had no stake in the matter.
There are a number of economies of scale that make sense in Langley, lower costs, lower travel expenses, local access to players. I think by far the most intriguing is the possibility that TSN has taken a significant interest in the NLL and the potential that our property is entrenched in many major cities in Canada, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Toronto with renewed interest in Montreal, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, and Halifax for potential expansion, has them contemplating a relationship for NLL content. A national television deal in Canada with a significant broadcast partner could change the face of our game forever, so if Langley is a lynch pin in that process, I am all ears.
The city has already completed a practice facility for the team and has jumped into the NLL with both feet, the Watkins family is now in a partnership with an engaged entity in a market that, I hope, has a passion for the game, with a team that will contend for a championship as they have done for the past few years. I wish them all the best in Langley and hope that it proves fruitful for the entire NLL.