2014 MLL 2015 Championship Game Denver Outlaws vs. Rochester Rattlers
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MLL 2015: Who Has Holes To Fill Already?

Publisher’s Note: Chris Rosentall took in the MLL Supplemental Draft results, looked at retiring players, and how the earlier start date could impact teams and asked himself Who Has Holes To Fill Already in MLL 2015 action? My answer to this question would be an emphatic “everyone”, and I’d just leave it at that. Thankfully, Rosie is a smarter man than I and he actually answered this question in-depth. Simply put, the man is the best in his business, and that business is talking about Major League Lacrosse. Also, subscribe to our YouTube channel. Shameless plug.

From inflexible day jobs to draft picks rolling in at random times, Major League Lacrosse lineups are in a constant state of flux; for many teams, the roster that begins the season often bears little resemblance to the one that closes it out. No matter who wears the jersey on any given weekend, a good coach and GM must find ways to piece together enough wins to survive, and this offseason, doing so became a bit more difficult.

USA vs England 20-1 6.14.14
Garrett Thul was the #1 pick.

(As a refresher, you can find the 2015 supplemental draft results right here.)

Sure, the NLL guys won’t show up for a while because of the earlier start date, but a solid number of MLL players coach at NCAA programs in the spring, and since the MLL season gets started about twenty minutes from now (the league has moved its start date up to April 12; last year’s opening day was April 26), you’ve got another chunk of familiar faces potentially arriving fashionably late, or potentially, not at all.

To be fair, all of 2015’s April games take place on Sundays, which could help some of the college coaches out there, but even with that accommodation, there’s no way to say with complete certainty how it’s going to play out. Much like last year, some players will show up on time and some will wait until May; only now, there are more games to miss.

Rochester Knighthawks vs. Buffalo Bandits Stephen Keogh NLL Photo Credit: Larry Palumbo

Between coaching obligations, NLL participation and the occasional retirement, every team in the MLL will find themselves in a bit of a hole as the MLL season begins. Of course, no two teams are created equal; each team faces their own unique challenges. In order to determine who has it the best and worst heading into the start of their season, I’ve devised a highly scientific rankings system, where seven of the eight teams have been awarded their own “Early-Season Hole” Status. Not a pre-season ranking, mind you, but an evaluation of obstacles teams must overcome heading into the start of the season.

(Note: Why publish this study now, as opposed to say, a week ago, when the supplemental draft took place? Well, between studying since-completed NLL rosters and NCAA schedules, along with researching individual player day jobs, the validity of this study depended upon countless hours of extensive research and analysis. Also, I downloaded Sim City on my laptop last weekend, and the town of Bluffington isn’t going to run itself.)

Ohio Machine – MLL 2015

The Ohio Machine is, without a doubt, the team most difficult to evaluate. First of all, Marcus Holman is starting the NLL season on the Minnesota Swarm practice squad, but what will that mean four months from now? Meanwhile, Holman’s indoor and outdoor teammate Logan Schuss’ future status is even more uncertain.

Ohio Machine vs. New York Lizards Photo Credit: Casey Kermes

According to The Province (it’s a newspaper), Schuss recently took a job working as a long shoreman in Vancouver. He’s in the middle of the job’s probationary period and therefore unable to commit to the Swarm, which means he’s been placed on Minnesota’s holdout list. More on this as soon as I can nail down Schuss’ exact job requirements, but if he’s missing the entire NLL season, you have to wonder what it means for his summer with the Machine. Furthermore, Steele Stanwick is a women’s coach at Johns Hopkins, and he has at least one conflicting date between the teams, meaning early-certain uncertainty (at best) for three of Ohio’s top four scorers.

With Greg Bice retired and question marks around Holman/Schuss, having two picks in the first round worked out quite well for the Machine, drafting Lehigh defenseman Ty Souders third overall and attackman Steven Boyle just two picks later. Boyle was one of the key contributors who kept the Rattlers afloat early last season, and although he became an assistant at Drexel a few months ago, his coaching stint at Brown didn’t trip him up in 2014; chances are he might still be able to make it work.

Early Season Hole Status: TBD based on however long a Vancouver longshoreman’s probationary period is.

New York Lizards – MLL 2015

Three years ago, this MLL schedule change could have been a serious problem for the New York Lizards. Fortunately for them, former Philadelphia Wings teammates Ned Crotty, Max Seibald, Steve Holmes and Kyle Hartzell are no longer playing in the NLL. In fact, when you look at the Lizards’ 2014 roster, the only conflict appears to be the fact that Matt Gibson’s on the Minnesota Swarm roster (PUP list), and if/when he does arrive, he’s going to have to battle Cody Jamieson for his starting spot anyway, who will also be arriving from another NLL season with Rochester.

New York Lizards vs. Charlotte Hounds 6.21.14 Photo Credit: Casey Kermes

While this is all good news for Lizards fans, it’s not so good for their supplemental picks looking to make the team, although first round pick Shamel Bratton (head coach Joe Spallina was very impressed with Bratton’s contributions during his brief stint with the team last season) and third round pick Stephen Peyser most likely have the inside track to stick around throughout the season.

Early Season Hole Status: Cheerio

Charlotte Hounds – MLL 2015

The Hounds have grown accustomed to not having Matt Danowski in their early-season lineup, and Georgetown assistant Justin Ward seems to have a fairly compatible work schedule, so things aren’t really that bad in Charlotte. Even if they were concerned, the Hounds didn’t need to spend much time looking for someone to pick up the scoring slack, because they kicked off the supplemental draft by selecting attackman Garrett Thul. Military commitments brought Thul’s 2014 season with the Launch to a screeching halt following the World Games, but he’s been transferred to Fort Bragg, NC and happens to gets weekends off, all of which is absurdly fortunate for the Hounds.

New York Lizards vs. Charlotte Hounds 6.21.14 Photo Credit: Casey Kermes

Time will tell exactly how the rest of the early season roster sorts itself out, but don’t forget that Florida wasn’t afraid to send Thul out as a midfielder last season, creating all kinds of matchup nightmares for the relatively tiny opponents who got in his way. In addition to picking up Billy Ward, the former Syracuse captain with extensive experience at both midfield and attack, the (Grey)Hounds kept it real by drafting former Loyola goalie Jack Runkel, then adding fellow alum Matt Sawyer (another midfielder/attackman) from the player pool.

Early Season Hole Status: Shallow Sidewalk Puddle

Florida Launch – MLL 2015

David Earl, Jordan Hall, and Steven Keogh are playing in the NLL (Keogh is beginning the Knighthawks’ season on the PUP list) and P.T. Ricci is director of lacrosse operations at Loyola, but compared to some of the other teams in the league, things could be much worse for the Florida Launch (despite coaching for the Syracuse women’s team, Brett Queener suited up for all of the Launch’s early-season games last year). As a result, the Launch took a fairly moderate approach to the draft, using the second overall pick to retrieve midfielder Cameron Lao-Gosney then pulling back 2014 alums Mario Ventiquattro and Chazz Woodson as well.

Team USA vs. MLL All-Stars 2014 MLL All-Star Game Photo Credit: Casey Kermes

Aside from the alumni reunion, the majority of Florida’s picks were spent on young players with little to no league experience (Sam Snow, Zack Losco and Will Mangan played in a combined five games for their respective teams in 2014), the biggest name being former Syracuse attackman Tim Desko. Assuming he joins the MLL this season (he’s never done so in the past, but that could be because he was an STX/LXM guy back when that was a problem), Desko could fit into Keogh’s interior role, while adding a bit more range as well.

Early Season Hole Status: FDR Pothole

Boston Cannons – MLL 2015

Bad news, Cannons fans: Kevin Buchanan has returned to the NLL, meaning (depending on Will Manny’s coaching obligations at Wagner), at least three of your top five scorers from 2014 could be out to start the season. Worse news? Two of them (Ryan Boyle and Stephen Berger) aren’t coming back. Oh, and defensively, Mitch Belisle and Brodie Merrill will be playing indoors as well. With all that in mind, drafting a goalie early would have been the only inherently dumb place to kick off their draft, so Boston responded by picking up veteran midfielder Josh Amidon in the first round.

Lizards Vs. Cannons 20140530

Cannons fans get some good news too, as Boston traded the 15th pick in the collegiate draft to Charlotte for attackman Ryan Young. Instead of waiting for a rookie to graduate and hopefully join the team, the Cannons get someone who can immediately contribute to their decimated attack line, and if Young plays like 2013’s Ryan Young, he and Manny could team up to form the quickest attack duo in the league (with the possible exception of Jordan Wolf and whoever is playing attack with Jordan Wolf).

Early Season Hole: Empty Swimming Pool (Much worse without that trade)

Chesapeake Bayhawks – MLL 2015

Dave Cottle has spoken in the past regarding the multiple identities a team needs to adopt in order to be successful throughout the season. Good thing he knows how this game goes, because in addition to being one of the NLL’s worst victims (Kevin Crowley, Drew Westervelt, Brian McGill, Jason Noble, and Joe Walters are all playing indoors this winter), the Bayhawks had only three picks in the first five rounds of the supplemental draft.

Brendan Mundorf Chesapeake Bayhawks

Chesapeake picked up Mount St. Mary’s attackman Andrew Scalley (two goals in his MLL debut last season with the Launch) and Duke defenseman Chris Hipps; aside from hoping Brendan Mundorf is up to the challenge and Hobart (featuring assistant coach Peet Poillon) doesn’t make a run into the tournament, Cottle could find himself banking on career resurgences from well-known players such as Matt Striebel and Jovan Miller, the latter of which was on Chesapeake’s roster but didn’t see the field in 2014.

Early Season Hole Status: Abandoned Mineshaft on Oak Island

Denver Outlaws – MLL 2015

The Denver Outlaws entered the supplemental draft with only one non-NLL player (Chris Bocklet) protected at the attack position, but with Lee Zink’s retirement and Chris O’Dougherty’s NLL participation, a glaring hole in their defense as well. The Outlaws went defense-first in the supplemental draft by selecting Tim Henderson (returned to action last season with the Lizards), then picked up attackman Buggs Combs to close out the second round. Combs, who served as Towson’s offensive coordinator under current Outlaws GM Tony Seaman, has over 150 goals to his name, but he’s 36 years old and hasn’t played substantially since 2010.

Lizards Vs. Cannons 20140530

Unless they were concerned that Cottle would try to lure Combs back to the Bayhawks, couldn’t this pick have been made a little later than the second round? It’s times like these where the Outlaws could have used the recently-traded Terry Kimener, a midfielder who’s been known to play a little attack in the past when needed. While it doesn’t help the offensive issue, good thing they traded Curtis Dickson’s rights (and I’ll continue to say “rights” until he actually reports to the Launch, which my entirely unqualified hunch tells me he won’t) for supplemental picks they turned into goalie Johnny Rodriguez and LSM Matt Harris; they’ll need the depth.

Early Season Hole: Grand Canyon

Rochester Rattlers – MLL 2015

Yikes. So Kevin Leveille retires, then they lose Joel White, Mike Manley, Mark Cockerton, Mark Matthews, and Miles and Jeremy Thompson to the NLL. Granted Matthews had lost his spot in the rotation late last season (albeit to Cockerton), and Jeremy Thompson wasn’t there long enough to miss, but those are some key contributors on both sides of the ball. John Galloway’s coaching obligations at Providence haven’t been an issue in the past, (he played in all 14 games last season), and while Justin Turri just joined the coaching staff at Army, he made it work at Providence last season as well, all of which is great news, but still…

2014 MLL Championship Game Denver Outlaws vs. Rochester Rattlers lacrosse news

The legendary captain, defensive player of the year, and one of last year’s premier rookies are all gone? That’s a lot to deal with. Hopefully seventh-overall pick Jeremy Boltus is rust-free and ready to join the Rochester attack, because they’ll need someone to keep the double-teams away from Jordan Wolf.

Early Season Hole: That Pit from “300”

One of these days, the NLL and MLL might not overlap. Or perhaps, one of these days, they’ll pay so much money that players will be forced to choose one pursuit over the other. Until then, this staggered roster development is an inevitable byproduct of separate entities forced to coexist (it’s like if you build a coal power plant and industrial park right next to a residential zone – property values drop, crime goes up, something’s bound to give) and the best-constructed, best-coached teams will find ways to overcome. Climb your way out, rally your troops, and piece together some wins – it’s all part of the game.