Both the Chesapeake Bayhawks and Charlotte Hounds experienced first to worst seasons this Summer in Major League Lacrosse.
The Chesapeake Bayhawks (last year’s champs) defeated the Charlotte Hounds this weekend to up their record to 5-9, while also “winning” the battle for last place. The Hounds dropped to 4-10 (finishing the season winless on the road) with the loss, and now sit alone in last place for the 2014 Major League Lacrosse season. Chesapeake finished in 6th place, tied with the Florida Launch, who also finished the year at 5-9.
Photo Credits: Craig Chase & Casey Kermes
It’s amazing to see Chesapeake and Charlotte in the bottom three because of all the talent they have, but these two teams also played for the MLL title last year, and that makes it even more confusing.
Did everyone else in the league just get that much better? Did Chesapeake and Charlotte get that much worse? Or is something else going on? Is it possible that the gap in parity was so slim this year that a seemingly wacky season was actually the norm?
My inclination is to go with the last option and I think the numbers back me up on this one.
In 2013, you could look at the best teams’ scoring margins and see they were the best. Denver scored 226 goals while only allowing 136 and that 90 goal differential proves how dominant they were during the regular season. Chesapeake was another strong team in the goal differential department as they scored 181 goal while giving up 149, giving them a +32 on the season. Charlotte, who snuck in to the playoffs by the skin of their teeth, scored 178 goals while allowing 179, for an overall -1. Ohio only scored 130 goals all season long, and Boston gave up 202. Scoring offenses and defenses were literally all over the place, and Denver had the highest goals for and lowest goals against.
In 2014, all of this went right out the window.
Rochester led the league standings, and they scored 188 goals while allowing 161 (+17 goals). Denver was right behind them, scoring 188 goals and giving up 176 (+12 goals). New York scored 177 and gave up 166 (+11 goals). Ohio popped off for 200 goals, but also allowed 189 (+11 goals). Boston went 187 for and 185 against (+2 goals). Florida only scored 172 goals, but they also only gave up 193 for the year (-21 goals). Chesapeake had 173 against, but only scored 160 (-13 goals). Charlotte gave up 182 goals and scored 153 (-29 goals).
The point here is that the extreme numbers of last year seem to be gone this time around. A max of 226 goals for in 2013 is now 200 goals for in 2014. A 130 goals against minimum is now 142. The gap shrunk from a 94 goal difference over the course of the season to 58 goals, and to me that is really incredible. No team went above 17 as a positive. No team went below 30 on the negative. This is a big change from +90 (Denver) and -51 (Ohio) that we saw last year.
It says (to me at least) that the change from 2013 to 2014 was notable, even if it wasn’t exactly noticeable as the games played out. It says all 8 teams are closer together now than ever a year before, and it says that two of the best teams from 2013 going from first to worst and finishing in the bottom three for 2014 makes total sense.
The Bayhawks went 3-1 in one-goal games this year, showing they could compete in tight games, but they also went 0-5 in games decided by 2 or 3 goals. Going 2-4 in games above a 3 goal margin didn’t help either, but it showed that the Bayhawks were never truly outclassed. That being said, last year they went 2-0 against the Machine. This year, they went 0-2.
Charlotte went 1-2 in one goal games, and 2-4 in 2 or 3 goal games. In games with larger margins, the Hounds went 1-4. The Hounds beat Chesapeake, Florida, Boston, and Denver. Only one of those teams made the playoffs, but both of Charlotte’s games with New York were also very tight, and last year, Charlotte beat New York in both games they played.
Both of these teams were very much “in it” for much of the season, and two-game swings against teams they defeated in 2013 really pushed them down in the final standings.
In the end, it’s my belief that Major League Lacrosse simply saw more more parity in 2014 than in 2013. Charlotte and Chesapeake both played well, just not well enough, to see another season of success. Statistically, and in many games, both franchises were right there. It’s far from a fall from grace, but more of a rising tide, where all boats come up. It makes things more competitive, and clear cut winners can slip behind quickly.
In my opinion, the MLL brand of the game has finally started to show true parity. Teams that stick together year after year can do well one season and struggle the next. Teams that seem to be in good shape early on (Charlotte at 4-5) can fall apart towards the end, and teams that look to be in rough shape early (Rochester losing to NY 18-15 in game 1) can finish the regular season at the top of the heap. Denver CAN finish the regular season somewhere other than first. Ohio CAN make the playoffs and finish with a winning record.
Week 14 Game of First To Worst
Anything can now happen in Major League Lacrosse, and I like it. Parity has arrived in a serious way, and in an 8-team league, going from first to worst should almost become an expectation. Luck rarely runs in the long-term but that just might be what you need to win in the MLL now.
Good luck to Rochester, Denver, New York, and Ohio as they make the playoff push!