With the draft only a week away the new Connecticut team is trying to find its identity. Not only by a name, or if they will be called New England or Connecticut, but by players and what style they will have. Just under 3 weeks ago they traded one of the best to ever play the game in Brodie Merrill. This was obviously done to get some draft picks back for this season as they will pick 15th, 17, 20th , as long as no more trades are made.
Since then they have signed a few more players to one year deals. Mike Poppleton, Brian Megill, Michael Diehl, Ryan Hotaling, Brett Bucktooth, Pat Saunders, Kevin Croswell, Eric Hoffman and Kevin Buchanan. Once again, a lot of American names.
Buchanan was one of the players who chose to sit out last season to prepare for the FIL World Lacrosse Championships. Some other players that chose this option, Paul Rabil, Jeff Reynolds, Max Seibald, Brendan Mundorf. When camp started last year for the Philadelphia Wings Head Coach Blane Harrison said these players would need to earn their spot on the team. So far it seems the only identity we are seeing is that this is looking like another team America. New location, New owners, same format.
One of the things the team needs to do is get a well established back up goaltender. Evan Kirk obviously the starter and with veteran Brandon Miller being traded at the trade deadline last season, it left them with back up by committee. Kevin Croswell is signed for camp but two years ago was a disaster, and last season he saw a little action and did okay.
Another area is on offense. Sure you have Crowley, Hall returning from last season. Hall had a banner year last season and will look to duplicate and improve on it. Crowley started slow but still put up some big numbers, and obviously will look to start strong. Tracey Kelusky a 14 year veteran still has fuel in the tank, but just how much. Garrett Thul who had a great rookie year is still uncertain about his return for this season as he has a commitment to the United States Army. Thul is currently in training at Ft Benning in Georgia. Thul has said to me that the military comes first, if lacrosse can fit in there he will be suited up and ready to go. For New England, Connecticut or whatever they will be called they better hope he can suit up. Thul had a big inside presence last season and he became stronger in each game.
It’s obvious that players who sat out last season will be returning to the team as they need the offensive power. Paul Rabil who in 2013 played his first full season on offense and had his second highest point total of his career, Kevin Buchanan had a great 2013 in his second year, so all signs point up for Buchanan. The team is still missing at least one big gun on the offense.
Transition and Defense, Brett Manney is the veteran on a team of young defenders. MIchael Manley had a good rookie year and will look to get stronger. Also returning on the back line will be John Ranagan. Ranagan continued to grow game in and game out. Stephen Hoar was a good addition for the face-offs and transition, question is will he return for 2015. Joel White has really matured on the transition line. Big question is who takes the spot of Brodie Merrill who was sent to Toronto.
When the team was in Philadelphia, local product Eric Hoffman has been trying to crack the line-up on a permanent basis. After fighting through injuries, reduction of roster spots, “The Hoff” is still battling. When he is inserted into the line up he has made a difference in making the opponent earn every step on the floor. Hoffman signed a one year contract last week and will look to be a permanent spot on game day.
With the draft next Monday, New England or Connecticut will have two picks in round 2 (15/17 overall), one in round 3 (20th), round 4 (34th), and a 40th and 49 overall in rounds five and six. Hopefully those first three picks will bring something in, otherwise they will be looking at picking up players as free agents or players who didn’t make a spot on another team as roster spots are becoming a premium out there.
But no matter how it is sliced right now, it seems another team America is starting to develope. Draft is a week away and the regular season starts in 109 days (15 weeks from Friday). At that time the cards will be turned, the dice rolled and the levers pulled, will they come up with a winning hand or roll snake eyes?