Yesterday’s NLL trade deadline was anticipated to be one of the most active deadlines in league history, as many teams were said to be actively shopping talent in the days and weeks leading up to the deadline. The biggest name on the market was Toronto Rock All-Star Garrett Billings.
Billings had recovered from ACL surgery and was awaiting a new contract from the Rock, however the two sides appeared far apart, with ongoing discussions creating friction between the two sides. Things got even more interesting when the Rochester Knighthawks submitted an offer sheet for Billings, giving the Rock 72 hours to match the offer. Not wanting to lose Billings for nothing, the Rock did match the offer, but most in the lacrosse world knew, Billings would never actually don a Rock jersey again. With Billings clearly on the block and time passing rapidly, the Rock pulled the trigger on a blockbuster deal sending Billings to the New England Black Wolves in exchange for Kevin Crowley.
While some may think the Rock didn’t get enough for Garrett Billings, as their hands were forced by the deadline and the offer sheet, you have to understand Kevin Crowley is an extraordinary lacrosse player, with an absolute ton of talent. Crowley is as decorated as they come as a lacrosse player, both in the indoor and field game. In 2013 Crowley was named the MLL MVP while a member of the now defunct Hamilton Nationals, he was a Tewaaraton Trophy Finalist, as the NCAA’s top field lacrosse player, he’s been a first team All-American on two occasions, and most recently won a World Field Lacrosse Championship with Team Canada, and that’s only part of his field resume, his indoor game resume is just as lengthy. The 6-foot-4, 220 pound Crowley is coming off back to back to back 70-plus point NLL seasons with the Philadelphia Wings, after being the Wings first Overall selection in the 2011 NLL draft. With 52 points in 10 games this season, Crowley is well on his way to another 70-plus point campaign, and continues to add production yearly.
So how does Crowley fit with the league’s top offense? Prior to the Rob Hellyer injury, I would have said his addition would be an interesting fit on the Rock’s right side, as Rob Hellyer, Brett Hickey and Kasey Beirnes have formed arguably the most potent and effective right side in the NLL. But with Hellyer going down, Crowley’s addition should be a seamless one. Crowley demands a lot of touches offensively, likes to take defenders one on one, using his size to his advantage on swim moves and shooting over smaller defenders. In a lot of ways, Crowley will fit in the Rock’s lineup eerily similar to the way Billings would have fit in. Both players while capable inside, like to use their accurate cannons of shots to score from the outside off pick and rolls and screens. Both players like to take their oppositions one on one, using their unique skill sets to their advantages. With Hellyer out of the lineup, getting Crowley touches on the right side likely won’t be an issue, however Crowley will have to understand the the successful Toronto Rock offense runs through veteran Josh Sanderson. The Rock have been thriving with Sanderson as their play maker, and I don’t expect that to change with Crowley’s addition.
Crowley may change the overall look of the Rock’s offense when Hellyer returns from injury, as you simply cannot remove Brett Hickey or Kasey Beirnes from the lineup, nor can you remove Kevin Ross from the lineup and go with four righties and two lefties. Ultimately the Rock will more than likely go with one fewer defender, and seven guys up front, which may in turn hinder their defense some. With only one ball to go around and Hickey, Hellyer and Sanderson having career years, Crowley’s addition will be an interesting one, but in all likelihood will be an addition that only improves the Rock offensively, as his mammoth frame, coupled with his elite skill is overwhelming for defenders.
Overall you have to say the Rock came away pretty well with the addition of Crowley, as they get an active proven 70-plus point guy, at just 26 years old, for a player that despite his loads of success in Toronto, had fallen out of favor with the club and was likely to never play another game with the club. Sure the Rock would have liked to get more, but in all fairness to both clubs, this deal will work out for both sides.