The MSL’s Brampton Excelsiors appear to have given up on the 2016 season.
The Excels currently sit in last place in the six team league, one point back of Cobourg for fifth, but the divide between the top four and the bottom two is insurmountable with half the season still left to play. Peterborough, Brooklin, Six Nations, and Oakville are all strong teams with double digits in points and strong rosters.
Friday the Excels announced they had traded away six core players. Six players with multitudes of NLL experience between them, seasoned veterans that made up the nucleus of the Excels roster and will immediately help their new teams.
Going to Peterborough is Dylan Evans, which is no surprise considering he plays for GM Paul Day and head coach Mike Hasen in Rochester; he previously played under Hasen in Brampton for three seasons. Evans is no relation to the Evans clan from Peterborough, of whom Shawn and Turner currently play for the Lakers. Dylan Evans adds another veteran defender to the lineup and will assist on face-offs. In return for Evans, the Lakers have given up their future rights to Ryan Lee, a player they drafted this season. Lee is currently playing for Nanaimo in the WLA.
Headed to Brooklin to reunite with Saskatchewan Rush coach Derek Keenan are elite defensemen Chris Corbeil and Kyle Rubisch, the NLL’s four time and reigning defenseman of the year. Corbeil has also twice been nominated for the award, and has led the Rush to back to back Champions Cup titles. Going back to Brampton are defender Jordan Houtby and forwards TJ Sanders and Kyle Buchanan, who had a breakout season with the Black Wolves. Houtby had a great season with Niagara in CLax. Sanders is an MSL sophomore who had 26 points in his rookie campaign but only nine so far this season in seven games. After an embarrassing 14-6 loss to Peterborough last week, the Redmen probably figured an upgrade on defense couldn’t hurt. And it won’t – it’ll make them that much tougher to play against.
Dan and Paul Dawson are off to Six Nations along with Ethan O’Connor in three separate deals made on Friday. Dan Dawson fetched a three player return in Andrew Watt, Reid Acton, and Quinn Powless. Watt has been around the league for awhile and will replace some of the veterans that Brampton gave up. Acton is a youngster who had only made two appearances this season.
Six Nations usually tries to bring rez players back in to the fold as often as possible, so giving up Powless comes as a bit of a surprise, especially since he was having a great season playing with his cousin Johnny, but also affirms the Chiefs intention to put the best team possible on the floor to host the Mann Cup. Dawson won the cup last year with Victoria.
Later, Paul Dawson was acquired for Jay Thorimbert and other considerations. Thorimbert is the best face-off guy in the league but has been in the league since 2007, and the Chiefs have youngster Vaughn Harris as a capable replacement. Thorimbert will provide a veteran presence and immediately help the Excelsiors in the circle.
O’Connor, a defender, was acquired for rookie forward Tim Edwards, second and third round draft picks in 2019, and other considerations.
What this all means is that the three top teams in the league have all gotten stronger. Peterborough could really use another sniper – they’re on a five game winning streak but it’s obvious they miss the spark that Curtis Dickson provided last season, especially with Brooklin and Six Nations adding to their d-corps this weekend. The Lakers do have John Grant Jr and Shawn Evans, while Brooklin counters with Mark Matthews, and the Chiefs with Ryan Benesch, Cody Jamieson, and Johnny Powless. Dhane Smith is expected out for the Chiefs until the playoffs. These three teams are all determined to host the Mann Cup, and they’re going to beat the crap out of each other to get there.
Oakville likes the team they’ve got despite not being able to reach higher than fourth place yet – that really means nothing at this point as only five points separate 1st through 4th. They’ve emerged as contenders with a roster comprised largely of Toronto Rock players and Oakville area players. Even with 10 call-ups in their roster this week, they led Peterborough for 57 minutes, with backup Steve Fryer in net, before ultimately losing in the last few minutes. As long as Rob Hellyer and Stephan Leblanc are on fire, and Nick Rose stands tall in goal, don’t count them out.
Cobourg stood pat as well, which isn’t surprising – they’re trying to build a solid program around the team that they have and will look to be improved in 2017 with a year of experience in the league.
As for the Excelsiors, it was a sad day in Brampton. The new-look team took on the Lakers on Sunday evening with only 12 available runners. They nearly surprised everyone, taking an 8-4 lead into the third period, but the Lakers roared back and shut them out 5-0 in the third. Only Powless made his debut for Brampton and picked up two goals and three assists.
The Excels got some good young talent back, but it’s clear they’re not expecting to catch up to the league leaders this summer. The coaching staff will integrate the new players into the lineup and help them gel a team and get stronger to make a push in 2017.