While the 2019 season was the first since 2016 in which the Georgia Swarm got knocked out of the playoffs in the division semifinals (first round) it can still be defined as a successful one, even through the ups and downs.
Season In Review
Georgia started the season on a four-game winning streak before hitting a rough patch in mid-January, losing back-to-back games in the same weekend. That two-game losing stretch seemed to be a turning point for the Swarm in which their young defense started to finally click, and was able to put together a full game and not have lapses in the middle of the game which led to fourth quarter comebacks.
The Swarm had another bad stretch in February where they seemed unpredictable week-to-week. Through March the Swarm really got going and looked like they could come into the playoffs sitting atop the East division. While they finished the regular season in second place in the East the end of the season was anything but pretty.
Georgia ended the season with three losses, including the divisional semifinals. Much of the Swarm’s late season woes can be attributed to the injury to goalie Mike Poulin. After Poulin went down in the Swarm’s second to last game of the regular season in Calgary they never seemed to gain any steam back on the defensive end.
Georgia took a 14-13 loss against Calgary following Poulin going down midway through that contest. They then went on to lose 19-14 at home against Philadelphia to close out the regular season with a horrendous loss. In that game rookie Craig Wende got the start in cage. Poulin came back for the playoffs, but it didn’t help the Swarm much as they lost 16-14 at home against Toronto in the divisional semifinals.
Highlight of the Season
The highlight of the season for Georgia came back on January 27th. In a Sunday home contest the Swarm put together their best performance of the season, securing one of their biggest wins as well.
Georgia took down the 2018 champion Saskatchewan Rush in a 13-10 win. The Swarm got off to a hot start, leading 7-2 at the half. Their offense was able to carry them through the game, securing the big win. That win also got Georgia back on track after losing two straight the week prior.
That win over Saskatchewan was also a coming out party of sorts for Zed Williams, who tallied four points (3G/1A) in the win. Williams was by far the most improved player for the Swarm this past season and really gave them a boost down the stretch.
It’s pretty easy to look at the Swarm’s roster and pick out the team’s MVP from this past season. Lyle Thompson does pretty much everything for the Swarm all over the floor. The transition player is one of the best in the game, if not the best, and is a complete grinder.
While Thompson wows fans with his impressive array of scoring, passing and insane playmaking ability, he is also one of the best transition defenders in the game. Thompson never seems to quit on any play and plays right through the whistle.
This past season Thompson tallied 105 points (43G/62A) while also scooping up 95 loose balls and causing 16 turnovers. Thompson has also been named as one of five finalists for the league’s MVP award.
Just like every team in the league, Georgia will be hit with a few losses to either New York, Rochester, or both in the expansion draft. Last season they lost transition player Kiel Matisz and forward Jordan Hall to Philadelphia.
In this year’s expansion draft there are a few players that Georgia could lose, and it all depends on the direction these two expansion teams will go in the expansion draft.
Each existing team can only protect 11 players, and they will lose two to the expansion draft. Of the 11 protected players, only five can be forwards and one can be a goalie. A team can protect an unlimited number of defensemen.
Since Zed Williams is listed as a transition player the league has power to list him as a defenseman or forward in the expansion draft. It’s highly likely that they will list him as a forward, which will likely leave him exposed to not being protected.
Also, defenseman Alex Crepinsek and Brendan Bomberry are two other players that have a chance at being picked up in the expansion draft by either team.
Coming into the 2020 season Georgia will be looking to get back to the NLL finals and win their second championship. The Swarm have the talent to accomplish that goal, and will likely be one of the favorites to finish in the top of the East yet again.
The Swarm return one of the best offenses in the league with Lyle Thompson, Randy Staats and Holden Cattoni being just three of a plethora of guys that can contribute heavily on any given night.
Defensively, Georgia will likely be much better for the entire season with more guys having an entire year together under their belt. With Jason Noble, Bryan Cole and Jordan MacIntosh leading the charge in front of the net success is very much in the realm of possibility.
No matter what, the Georgia Swarm will be back as contenders for the NLL championship next season and could possibly reach the finals just like they did in 2017. Georgia has one of the most dynamic offenses in the league to help lead the way, and rest of the cast will likely fall in place.