The 2014 NLL season is almost upon us and there are plenty of storylines to go around. Below our staff goes over the ten most interesting things to watch as the season opens on Saturday.
Number Ten- Troy Cordingley in Buffalo
As a Philadelphia Eagles (NFL) fan, and underdog supporter in general, I’m pulling for Troy Cordingley of the Buffalo Bandits this season.I do not expect the Bandits to make a championship run but a playoff appearance is a realistic possibility. The NLL as a league is going through many changes this season in hopes of promoting and growing lacrosse. Following a 10 year career head coach, I believe the fans and players alike are ready for a change.
Chip Kelly, head coach of the Eagles, came into the NFL from college ball with some innovations in mind. As with every new coach a transition happened, but he expedited it and turned the team around. Troy Cordingley will have a similar impact. Rather than coming from a college game, he was on the Bandits Hall of Fame team, the only undefeated season ever recorded in the NLL. He has lasting relationships with team officials, and a heavy authority over the team, especially when working with John Tavares who he played with.
Cordingley has a lot in store for this new Buffalo Bandits team, and I think we should all expect major changes and success in his future with the team. – Ian Neadle
Number Nine- Is Curtis Dickson a 50 Goal Scorer?
Curtis Dickson has been over 30 goals in all three of his seasons to date and has been improving steadily as his game matures. As he enters his fourth season in the NLL—a season that will feature two extra games—can he reach a new plateau and get to the magical 50-goal mark? – Jim Flannery
Number Eight- Bandits Offensive Additions
2013 was definitely a season to forget in Banditland. The Buffalo Bandits decided during the post season that an upgrade was needed and this year will be the first look at the Buffalo Bandits: version 2.0. The Bandits new updates include a new head coach in Troy Cordingley, additions to their offense with Ryan Benesch and Joe Resetarits, Transition with Andrew Watt and Defense with Rory Smith. With all these new upgrades, will the 2014 season help bring the Bandits back from the brink and on the right track to championship glory? – Dan Pattison
Number Seven- Can Swarm Rookies Step Up?
The story to watch for the Minnesota Swarm season is will they meet the expectations that have been set this year. With the additions of five extremely highly touted rookies that include Logan Schuss, Scott Jones and Jason Noble, the Swarm are set to be one of the best teams this season. This story will also be something to watch seeing as this is also a decade in the NLL for the Swarm, which adds a little history and some more push from the fans to win a championship in a milestone year. –Alex Urquhart
Number Six- Where Will Free Agents End Up?
Several former star NLL players found themselves without a team this year. Will Athan Iannucci and Gavin Prout get signed somewhere? We already know Edmonton will not be looking at Iannucci, but several teams could use both scorers. Philadelphia could use to replace some lost offense and Minnesota needs veterans, but will either of these players end up in the eastern conference? – Marisa Ingemi
Number Five- Rookies Making Smaller Rosters
As the 2014 NLL season approaches one story that I am looking forward to is the battle for rookie of the year. The two standout rookies that I will have my eye on are Logan Schuss the number one draft pick this year and Robert Church. Having covered the Western Lacrosse Association this year I am familiar with both these players and the potential they have. Schuss won the rookie of the year award in the WLA this season posting 55 points for the New Westminster Salmonbellies and finishing 11th in league scoring. Schuss was also a candidate for the MLL rookie of the year as he had 27 goals and 6 assists for 33 points in just ten games. Schuss will look to make a similar mark in the NLL this season with the Minnesota Swarm. Chruch had a successful first year in the WLA posting 12 goals and 21 assists for 33 points but he made an impact in the playoffs for the Burnaby Lakers as he had 6 goals and 7 assists for 13 points in just four games. Church while be in a great position to make his mark in the NLL as he joins fellow young gun Mark Matthews in Edmonton. Schuss will be the clear favourite by many to win the Rookie of the Year award in the NLL but watch out for Church as he is a dark horse that may surprise everyone. – David Ashby
Number Four- Rush Getting Past Slow Starts
Much will be made in 2014 about the Edmonton Rush’s record at home, which was a disappointing 2-6 last year. There will also be a focus on the team finishing in the top two in the Western Division standings so that the they can give their fans that elusive home playoff date that the franchise has yet to realize. The team believes that much of that will be solved by getting out of the gates stronger than the 2-4 starts that have dogged them last two seasons. –Kris Partington
Number Three- Can JGJ Do it Again?
Gavin Prout was a casualty for the Mammoth of the reduced roster size. Casey Powell is not playing at the present time for undisclosed personal reasons. They do have Drew Westervelt, but you can’treplace two players with one. The pressure is one for recently named captain, John Grant Jr. Hopefully, he will respond favorably to it. –Agnes Reis
Number Two- Wings Rebuilt Roster
New coach, new goalie, new system. Lots of Americans on this team. Big names, that also play in the MLL on the squad, were rookies this past year and made impacts for their teams. Sure there’s some Americans who are forgoing the NLL season with Team USA involvements and injuries (Rabil & Mundorf), but they still have talent that could help the team go far. Adding McGlone back helps out a lot as the Ridley product gets another chance after sitting out almost all of 2013. Stocking up defensively was a nice touch by the organization, acquiring Brian Megill (Syracuse), Michael Manley (Duke), Chad Wiedmaier (Princeton) and John Ranagan (Johns Hopkins). Unfortunately, Team USA has a lot of their players on the 52-Man Roster with Kyle Hartzell, Kevin Buchanan, Tucker Durkin, Rob Pannell, Mike Poppleton, Kyle Sweeney and Garrett Thul. Sweeney, Thul and Poppleton are the only three on the Wings roster that will also be competing for a spot on the Team USA roster. With more cuts to come, who will the Wings decide to sign if more of their players are cut loose? Leading the Wings are 13 year veteran Tracey Kelusky, Ryan Ward, who’s in his tenth year in the league and Brodie Merrill, who’s in his eighth. These three men have done a lot on the lacrosse field and can help the young guns on this Philly squad become much better at what they do. Can the Wings make it back to the playoffs despite some of their Americans sitting out and with a new system and head coach? –Brendan Staudt
Number One- Will Miller be Back?
Once again the Wings look at a ten player turnover, this time due to the World Games in July. The Wings made a couple big acquisitions this past off-season. Evan Kirk will now be the man between the pipes until an agreement can be reached with Brandon Miller. Ryan Ward on the right side of the offense will obviously help the Wings as they had the lowest goal total in the league last season at 176. Rookies Mike Poppleton and John Ranagan on defense will make it difficult for opposing players. Wings will need to start out fast as their first five games are within the division. Buffalo(2), Minnesota(2), and Rochester. Wings will battle the Bandits and Swarm for the final playoff spot. Should the Wings and Brandon Miller come to terms, the Wings can be even stronger. – Rocco Granato