This article was originally published June 16, 2021. We’re bringing it back following the announcement of Paul Rabil’s retirement.
It’s been a strong showing through two weekends for Paul Rabil, and he and his teammates have helped the new-look Cannons Lacrosse Club show the rest of the league that it isn’t your typical expansion team.
After what we’ve seen from Rabil so far, you have to ask: is the PLL co-founder back to his old self again?
Following two-straight years of a decrease in scoring output and what I would consider disappointing play, there were many around the lacrosse community who thought the former MLL MVP was not worth the draft capital Cannons LC gave up to acquire him. Most thought his trade to Cannons, the team that drafted him, was just a publicity move and a great way to end his career back where it began. But through three games, Rabil is proving he is a valuable part of this Cannons offensive attack.
Even though he was an All Star in 2019 (as voted on by the fans), Rabil’s seen his scoring output and scoring efficiency drop since 2018. His points per game dropped from 3.75 in 2018 to 2.3 in 2019 and came crashing down to a pedestrian 1.0 points per game in 2020. Not only was there a decrease in scoring, but his shot percentage dropped from 33% in 2018 to 23% in 2019 and a league worst 5% in the bubble.
It was fair to question if Rabil was seeing his game fade. At 35 years old, maybe he was on his final legs as a pro. But now, Rabil seems to be quieting the critics and proving he was worth the picks given up to get him. So far in 2021, he’s averaging three points per game and shooting 44%, making him one of the top offensive players early in the campaign.
Being the co-founder of the PLL might have led to some of his on-field struggles. Considering the stress of starting the PLL in 2019 and having to navigate the 2020 bubble season in the middle of a pandemic, these off-the-field obligations might have taken away from Rabil dedicating himself to training the way he has in years past. Now that it seems things are going smoother on the business side, maybe Rabil can put in the time needed to be an elite lacrosse player again.
Maybe it was the Atlas LC’s system, especially because the three main stars from last year’s Atlas team (Rob Pannell, Ryan Brown, and Rabil) all seem to be excelling with their new teams. It’s possible that Rabil (and others) just didn’t fit well into Ben Rubeor’s system, which is why we saw a drastic change in their roster this offseason.
With Lyle Thompson, Andrew Kew, and the breakout performance of Stephen Rehfuss, Rabil doesn’t have to drive play in this offensive system. He will get better matchups and can exploit lesser defenders with his skills, which has led to better offensive opportunities so far this season. And with the Cannons having a strong offensive attack, it seems Rabil will continue to get these opportunities throughout the season.
It might be too early to tell, but hopefully Paul Rabil has returned to his elite level of play and can change those “Rabil’s washed” chants into All Star votes.