Each year, MLL teams are allowed 40 spots on their pre-season rosters, which are then pared down to 25 men for their active rosters prior to the start of the season. In an expansion year, each team’s roster has undergone a drastic reconstruction. After a fast-paced off-season highlighted by the MLL Expansion, Supplemental and Collegiate drafts, how do the teams stack up? We had the opportunity to speak with “Inside the MLL” host Evan Washburn to get his opinion about each team’s roster construction. With opening day less than three weeks away, who does Evan see as contenders for the Steinfeld Trophy?
Tier FourLong Island Lizards
2011 record: 5-7
Key Additions: Max Seibald, Grant Catalino, Rob Pannell (2012 Draftee)
Key Losses: Matt Danowski, John Grant Jr., Stephen Berger, Jay Card
Long Island put a lot of stock into acquiring the first overall selection in the MLL Collegiate Draft, which they used to draft Cornell’s Rob Pannell. They traded away the face of their team in Matt Danowski to get that pick. If you look big picture, this is a move that the team made because they feel that Pannell can be a superstar in this league and potentially somebody who could be a franchise cornerstone. But this season, I just don’t see enough talent on the roster to compete for a playoff spot. I do love the fact that they picked up Grant Catalino. He is such a dangerous weapon. He and Seibald form a good foundation going forward, but I don’t see them contending in 2012.
Key Additions: Connor Martin, Greg Bice, Chazz Woodson, Anthony Kelly, Kyle Hartzell, Steele Stanwick (2012 Draftee)
As an expansion team, I don’t expect Ohio to contend in its first year. They have certainly built a strong core and I think they will have tremendous chemistry, which is very important in this league, but I think that the first season will be a struggle. I think that drafting Steele Stanwick with the second overall pick in the Collegiate Draft is a great cornerstone piece. In terms of lacrosse IQ and making players around him better, there isn’t anybody in college that is better than Stanwick. I will be interested to see how he adapts to the physicality of the professional game. With the strength and depth of all of the rosters, I think that Ohio will struggle to challenge teams, especially early on in their schedule. Once the collegiate season is over and some of their draftees sign, they will become more competitive.
Tier ThreeDenver Outlaws
2011 Record: 7-5
Key Additions: Curtis Dickson, Chris Bocklet (2012 Draftee), Mark Matthews (2012 Draftee)
Key Losses: Max Seibald, Drew Westervelt, Billy Bitter, Brett Schmidt, Joe Cinosky
Denver is one of those teams that seems to find wins in places that you wouldn’t expect. Bringing in General Manager Tony Seaman and Head Coach Jim Stagnitta will be a huge positive for this team and will definitely keep them going in a good direction. However, this roster has aged a bit and I think that they may struggle to fight for a playoff spot. One interesting player to watch will be Curtis Dickson. He hasn’t played in the league yet, but he can be a game-changer and he and Brendan Mundorf could develop into an excellent one-two punch at attack. They still have a great goalie in Jesse Schwartzman and I think defense is a position where age actually works in Denver’s favor. Their defenders can still run and they have such a great understanding of how to play the one-on-one game that you have to be able to play to be successful in MLL. They will be in every game, but ultimately I don’t see them competing for a championship in 2012.
2011 Record: 7-5
Key Additions: Chad Wiedmaier (2012 Draftee)
Key Losses: Jeremy Boltus, Ryan Flanagan, Kevin Leveille
Hamilton suffered some major losses this off-season. They lost last year’s Rookie of the Year Jeremy Boltus because they were unsure of his summer availability. Then Jordan Hall tore his ACL. If he is forced to miss the season, that will be a huge loss for the Nationals because he is one of their glue guys. He does so many great things that don’t show up on the stat sheet, in addition to everything he does that does show up on the stat sheet. They still have Brodie Merrill, who is a top 5 player in the league. And they have great chemistry. They really play well together, which is a dangerous thing for other teams to deal with. I would never count Hamilton out, but I think they’re hurting because of some of the guys that they lost.
Tier TwoCharlotte Hounds
Key Additions: Matt Danowski, Stephen Berger, Jeremy Boltus, Billy Bitter, Brett Schmidt, Jovan Miller
The Charlotte Hounds won the off-season. To start with a blank canvas and end up with this much talent is simply incredible. They have put together an offense that, on paper, could rival anybody. They have the best attack in the league right now. Obviously, we haven’t seen how they play together but between Matt Danowski, Billy Bitter and Jeremy Boltus they could be a tough trio to stop. I do think that they still have room for improvement in the midfield. But overall, I think that the Hounds have provided a blue print for new teams to come in and make a splash. They are poised to win right away and they did so by building a team around proven commodities, rather than stockpiling Collegiate Draft picks.
2011 Record: 2-10
Key Additions: Dan Hardy, Mike Manley (2012 Draftee), Kevin Drew (2012 Draftee), Jay Card, Kevin Leveille
Key Losses: Grant Catalino, Jovan Miller, Jordan McBride
If the Hounds won the off-season, the Rattlers unquestionably won the Collegiate Draft. They filled all of their needs perfectly. I think that Mike Manley from Duke was the perfect pick at number three. Last season, Rochester struggled to guard the ball in one-on-one situations, which is so crucial in this league. I think Manley could come in midseason and potentially be their best defenseman. I also loved the Kevin Drew pick. He is such a great transitional midfielder and he could be an asset on both sides of the field. They made great picks throughout the draft. A lot of times guys who are drafted in the later rounds struggle to crack the roster, but I think that Rochester filled needs throughout. Add that to an already very solid roster with Ned Crotty who is one of the two best players in the league and a very solid goalie in John Galloway and I think that this Rochester team could be poised to contend in 2012.
Tier OneBoston Cannons
2011 Record: 9-3
Key Additions: Bill McGlone
Key Losses: Kip Turner, Max Quinzani
Coming off a championship run in 2011, Boston is in prime position to contend for another title in 2012. They were able to hold onto the core of their roster during this whirlwind offseason. They still have the best player in the league, Paul Rabil, and a nucleus of players that know how to win and have experienced a championship run. They hired a great coach in Steve Duffy, who has been with the team as an assistant and knows the guys. They are a team that is just loaded with talent and will be a tough out during Championship Weekend.
2011 Record: 6-6
Key Additions: Drew Westervelt, John Grant Jr., Kip Turner, CJ Costabile (2012 Draftee)
Key Losses: Kyle Hartzell, Dan Hardy, Chris Garrity
My favorite to win the Steinfeld Trophy this season is the Chesapeake Bayhawks. They had an up and down season last year where they struggled to find themselves but they got into the playoffs and were right there. They brought in Dave Cottle who is one of the most well-respected talent evaluators and head coaches in the league and then made a potentially franchise-altering move in acquiring John Grant Jr. When he is healthy, John Grant is still one of the very best players in this league. They also brought in Kip Turner who is a former goalie of the year. I think that CJ Costabile could be a perfect fit for them if he signs after the collegiate season. I have just been so impressed by how they have bolstered the weak spots on their roster this offseason. I think that they and Boston are the best teams in the league and they are the two that I expect to be playing for the Steinfeld Trophy.
Evan Washburn is entering his second season as an analyst for Major League Lacrosse. Last year, Washburn was the color announcer for the Rochester Rattlers, calling all 12 regular season games, and was a contributor to Inside the MLL and MLL News. In 2012, Washburn will be the national analyst for all 14 live MLL games aired on CBS Sports Network. A former defenseman, Washburn was an All-Conference defender at the University of Delaware from 2004 to 2008 and played a key role in bringing the Blue Hens to the Final Four in 2007. He served as co-captain in 2008. In the off-season Evan works a Baltimore Ravens reporter for Comcast SportsNet.