In our third installment of Evan's previews we look at the Hamilton Nationals and New York Lizards. Don't miss Evan tonight as he hosts the first "Inside the MLL' of 2013 exclusively on CBS Sports Network.
2012 Record: 4-10
Key Losses: David Earl (M), Steven Waldeck (D)
Key Additions: Martin Cahill (M)
After a disappointing seventh place finish in 2012, the Nationals looked to restructure their roster, in so many words, during the lead-up to the 2013 MLL season. Hamilton picked up midfielder Martin Cahill, who will see increased playing time in the beginning of season due to multiple players with commitments to both collegiate and indoor lacrosse. In addition, three of Hamilton’s top selections in the draft were traded to Charlotte for the rights to defenseman Tucker Durkin, who could make a world of difference for Hamilton’s defense should he join the Nationals in 2013.
Evan says: “This is one of those teams where, for us to have this conversation in April as we get ready for the season, it’s impossible to predict what we’ll be saying on June 8
th and July 8
th. By my count 30 players are either still in college, in the NLL or have not signed their contract, and the NLL players are their best players. I mean, we’re talking names like Cody Jamieson, Steven Keogh, Brodie Merrill, Joe Walters, Jeremy Thompson- and I’ve been on the record and I’ve said it- I think as an organization you have to make a decision at some point to build your roster with players that are going to be there the first few weeks. A lot of these guys won’t, and my concern is- and last year it’s what happened- they started slow because they didn’t have all of their top players, and then it was just a fight to try and make the Championship Weekend and they couldn’t do it. Now the year prior, they were able to rebound and we saw what they did. So at this point, the roster is a top four, top three roster but it’s not the roster that you’re going to see in the first few weeks, so it’s tough to give them a high grade. I have them as my fifth best team heading into the preseason; a big part of that is just based off of if they can somehow salvage a couple wins and then come back full-strength with all their indoor players, they’re a top team.”
New York Lizards
2012 Record: 8-6 (Semi-finalist)
Key Losses: Ryan Young (A), Colin Briggs (M)
Key Additions: Mark Matthews (A), 2011 draftee Rob Pannell (A), Stephen Berger (M)
The newly rebranded New York franchise will see the Lizards attempt to capitalize on their phenomenal acquisitions since the end of the 2012 MLL season. Following a season where Matt Gibson was named Cascade Rookie of the Year, Drew Adams Goaltender of the Year and Joe Spallina earning Coach of the Year honors, New York added Mark Matthews from Denver to their attack unit and brought middie Stephen Berger back to the Lizards from Charlotte. Also, last year’s first overall selection Rob Pannell, who redshirted this year at Cornell, will be a major weapon for New York depending on when/if he joins the squad in 2013.
Evan says: “At the moment, I have them as my second best team in the league heading into the season. We’ve seen this before, not just in professional Lacrosse but just professional sports- just bringing in players isn’t necessarily going to make it all work, but I trust Joe Spallina because of the way he does his business and the way he picks guys that he wants to be part of his team. I think that he’s picked guys that will buy in and I think he’s managing his roster in a way where people will understand their roles and they could be very successful. They are, from a talent perspective, the only team that comes close to the Bayhawks.”
Evan continued, “I look at this team as one like Chesapeake last year, where you’ll see stiff competition to make that 19-man gameday roster. I mean you’ll see guys sitting out there in street clothes on game night that could start on any other team just because of the fact that there are so many good players on their roster. So they’ll love to have [Rob] Pannell when he’s there, but I don’t think they’ll miss him terribly for the first few weeks if he’s still playing in the college game."
“Their midfield is going to really have a lot of punch, and Berger’s a guy who we saw what he could do in Charlotte when he was the man. He’ll be the first one to tell you, he’s better when he has players like Max Seibald and Stephen Peyser around him; that allows Berger to do things that he’s really made to do as a player. I really like that unit, and then the attack is going to be deep, I mean- again, I just don’t know if there’s enough ball to go around for as many of these guys that Spallina has.”