NLL: Calgary Roughnecks Three Up, Three Down

The Calgary Roughnecks currently sitting at 5-5 with six games left to play. That makes this a good time to reflect on the season thus far and look at which players have performed well and which ones have performed below expectations.

As a team who only lost four regular season games in the entire 2012 campaign, you might think it would be easy to single out a bunch of players for sub-par performances, but aside from a couple fairly obvious ones, it might be more safe to say that the Roughnecks have spread the responsibility around.

The big team issue is penalties. Calgary has faced 79 penalty kill chances thus far, a full 25 more than the next closest team (the Buffalo bandits, with 54 PKs).

While the Roughnecks have managed to be middle-of-the-pack in penalty kill percentage, at 48.1, and have scored a league-best 12 short-handed goals, if you’re going to play that aggressive a game, you better have the best PK squad in the league or it will cost you dearly. The 41 goals the Roughnecks have given up so far while killing penalties is 13 more than the next closest team and that more than makes up for the difference in several of Calgary’s losses.

With all that said, here are my three up, three down:

Three up

Shawn Evans

Shawn Evans led the Roughnecks in scoring last year with 79 points, making a very positive impact in his first year on the team and equaling his career best from 2009 with the Rochester Knighthawks.

This year he has turned it up a notch.

On a team known for balanced scoring among several excellent options, Evans has set himself apart by not only leading the Roughnecks but by leading the NLL in scoring with 64 points.

He has eclipsed the 10-point mark twice in 2013, including a 13-point performance in January against the Colorado Mammoth which set a Calgary record for most points in a single game.

On his current pace, Evans will blow past his personal best for single-season scoring and will crack the 100-point barrier.

Curtis Dickson

The man known as Superman around Calgary has had high expectations placed on him and he has lived up to the task.

His 25 goals lead the Roughnecks, place him in the NLL’s top five and have him on pace to eclipse his personal best of 33 from his rookie season.

If Dickson continues scoring at his current rate he should reach 40 goals by the end of the year, solidifying his reputation as one of the most dangerous weapons in the league.

With Dickson and Evans together on offense, the Roughnecks have arguably the best righty-shooting options in the league, giving them a major threat on that side of the floor.

Dane Dobbie

If the Roughnecks’ embarrassment of riches on offense weren’t enough already with Dickson and Evans, teams also have Dane Dobbie to contend with.

Right behind Dickson in goals scored, with 24 in two fewer games, Dobbie is having an excellent year thus far and is well ahead of his pace from last year in goals scored and total points.

If he continues to average a hat trick per game, as he has been doing, he’ll break the 40-goal barrier for the second time in his career.

Dobbie’s weakness is the same as many of his teammates; he can let his emotions get the best of him. He missed the season opener this year due to a one-game suspension earned in the 2012 playoffs and he is frequently right in the middle of the scrum when trouble breaks out.

Like teammate Geoff Snider, Dobbie is an athlete who leaves everything on the floor, playing with passion and intensity, the team is much better when Snider and Dobbie are on the floor. But both also need to learn how to keep those emotions in check rather than putting their team in a bad situation.

Three Down

Mike Poulin

The Poulin Wall earned the NLL Goaltender of the Year in 2012, winning 10 games while posting an outstanding 10.27 goals against. So anything less than another stellar campaign would have to be seen as a regression.

Unfortunately, he’s not playing up to the standards he has set for himself.

In the last four games Poulin’s goals against average was ballooned and he now sits at 13.03, with a poor .738 save percentage, both among the worst in the league.

As noted above, at least some of this can be attributed to the number of short-handed minutes the Roughnecks have been playing this year, putting Poulin at a serious disadvantage.

But when you’ve established yourself as someone who makes the impossible seem possible, the pressure is on to rescue the team from their own shortcomings. As the old adage goes, your best penalty killer needs to be your goalie and right now, Poulin isn’t getting it done.

The issue has been made worse by the lackluster performance of backup goalie Frankie Scigliano. In limited action, he has only stopped half of the shots he has faced making it difficult to go to the bench for relief if Poulin has gone cold.

Daryl Veltman

It feels wrong to knock a guy who is currently tied for 31st in  league scoring at 30 points and just had an eight-point night against Edmonton, but that’s what I’m doing.

Veltman’s pace is well behind the 20-goal, 62-point season he had last year. In fact, unless he starts putting the ball in the net he’ll wind up with the fewest goals he’s ever scored in a single season.

He hasn’t been helping the Roughnecks on loosies either. He has only collected nine loose balls to date which also projects out to a career low and to fewer than half of what he earned last year.

Veltman needs to pick up his game to open more holes for Evans, Dickson and Dobbie to exploit.

Travis Cornwall

Travis Cornwall enjoyed a solid season as a rookie in 2012, picking up a point and a loose ball per game on transition. With a year in the NLL under his belt, it seemed time for him to blossom into an effective contributor.

Instead, Cornwall’s play has regessed. He has managed only three points in seven games to go along with seven loose balls and has now found himself sitting out for the last three games.

Whether his lack of production is the result of some undisclosed injury or the sophomore jinx, Cornwall will have to find a way to step his game up significantly if he wants to find himself on the floor again this season.