As the Philadelphia Wings begin preparations for the 2022-23 season, let’s take a look back and the positives of the past season, and also some things management needs to iron out and adjust.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way – the impact of Covid won’t be written about. Every team in the league dealt with it, and teams will continue to deal with it.
The Wings had an up-and-down season, finishing with a 9-9 record and making the playoffs for the first time since being reincarnated in 2018, qualifying as the league’s wildcard entry. They fell 9-8 in the first round, in a tight one-game elimination against the San Diego Seals.
There were games when it looked like they had been playing together as a team since they started playing peewee lacrosse. But there were other games, like in past seasons, whre they had a hard time catching passes from each other. They reverted back to Hail Mary shot attempts flung toward the net with hopes and prayers that those shots would go in. Overall, the Wings finished in the middle of the pack – better than some people predicted, and their best finish as the new-look Wings.
One of the brightest spots was between the pipes with Zach Higgins. Logging almost 1000 minutes between the pipes, his 8-8 record doesn’t reflect how truly solid his goaltending was. His save percentage was a little over 80%, and he made some spectacular stops. He was tough enough to come back after a ball obliterated his equipment. He also landed among the top five in goalies in the NLL.
Other bright spots were some of the individual offensive efforts. The team often struggled as an offensive unit, but there were several individuals who had great games, including Kevin Crowley.
Crowley finished the season 11th overall in NLL scoring with 25 goals and 64 assists. And although Crowley caught a lot of guff from fans for not scoring a lot of goals (25 isn’t enough?!), he had multiple assists in multiple games. His 89 points proved that there is still a lot of lacrosse left for him to play, but it won’t be in Philly – he signed as a free agent with San Diego.
Another bright spot on this team was Kiel Matisz. Not only was “Moose” a great example of leadership as captain of the team, he continued to get the job done at both ends of the field. He often was the only consistent spot in front of Higgins.
And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the addition of Kyle Jackson this season. He flew right into Philadelphia after being released from Halifax without missing a step. He brought a sense of urgency to the offense and was an effective playmaker from his arrival.
Finally, one has to mention Trevor Baptiste, who continued his ability to use his body to get the ball. He also improved his offensive skills. And unlike some of the others, he appeared to get faster as the season went on.
The Wings have plenty to work on if they expect to be contenders, but they already got a big offensive boost with the signing of NLL MVP candidate Joe Resetarits, a free agent who led Albany last season with 47 goals and 64 assists (111 points). Resetarits is the only American-born NLLer to ever reach the 100-point plateau in a season and he’s done it twice. Resetarits will help with the Wings’ need to work more as a cohesive unit on offense.
The Wings also addressed a big need on defense, adding Chad Tutton, a former member of the Georgia Swarm who hits hard and runs fast. Tutton immediately improves both the defense and the transition. He’ll be aggressive in stopping the big names from other teams like Lyle Thompson.
The Wings had a small draft class, with just six players, and five of them are back in the classroom this year as graduate students, so only goaltender Deacan Knott will be at training camp. From Curve Lake, Knott is a member of the Peterborough Jr. A Lakers where he plays for Wings’ defenseman Eric Shewell.
With little youth competing for spots this season, it doesn’t seem too much like things will change with this upcoming season. But, in this league, one never knows.
— with files from Anna Taylor