Will Crotty Bring Lizards to Promise Land?

For the second consecutive year, the Lizards are the talk of the offseasons’ biggest moves.
First, they sent veteran midfielder Stephen Peyser to the Ohio Machine in exchange for john Austin and the 13th overall pick in the 2014 MLL Collegiate Draft. Austin can be a good complimentary piece on New York’s midfield but he is not expected to blow anyone away. The former University of Delaware and Shoreham, NY native did not play in a single game for Ohio, but did suit up in six contests with Hamilton, scoring three goals and seven points, including a 2-point goal. He put up similar production in 2012, yet again playing in only six games for Hamilton.
Replacing him on the Machine will be a proven, hot-or-cold quality shooter, Stephen Peyser. A Lizard since 2009, he has been a consummate pro on and off the field. The Johns Hopkins graduate has played in 60 games, scoring 114 points overall, with 84 goals (14 of them 2-point goals) and 16 assists. He was a member of the 2011 MLL All-Star Team and the 2010 Team USA squad. He will be a big help for Ohio who has been looking for a weapon from up top to relieve their talented pool of attackmen.
What it also did was open up wiggle room for the unexpected move to come. Hours later, New York management pulled the trigger to stun the lacrosse world.
The Lizards acquired veteran midfielder Matt Streibel and attackman Ned Crotty from the Rochester Rattlers. New York gave up a 2014 4th round Collegiate Draft Pick and 6th round Supplemental Draft pick in the exchange for Streibel and Grant Catalino, then the third overall pick in the 2014 Collegiate Draft, along with their 2015 Collegiate Draft first round pick, in exchange for Crotty.
For those who need a history lesson, Streibel has been around since the time of lacrosse dinosaurs (back in 2001 when the MLL was born). He won three Steinfeld Cup Championships in 2004, 2006, and 2007, all with Bridgeport. He would serve two stints with Chicago followed by Rochester. Including his four All-Star game appearances and three tours of duty with Team USA, Streibel is simply a winner. He will bring an element to New York locker room that may get them over the hump.
From the Lizards website:
“This is a great trade for our organization,” said Lizard’s head coach Joe Spallina. “Playing with championship experience and pedigree of Matt is something we really lacked last season. We could not be more excited to have Matt wearing our uniform this season. We’re looking for him to come in and be a great leader and example for our young core.”
The Lizards current midfield pool looks like this:
Max Seibald-David Earl-Streibel
JoJo Marasco-Austin- Jeff Tundo
Others: Justin Smith, Alberto Maione
That is a pretty menacing first line, enough for opponents to consider sending three poles up top.
But now you add in Crotty to an attackline that includes Rob Pannell, Tom Palasek, Mark Matthews, Matt Gibson, and Stephen Mock…well that’s enough to have defensive coordinators flail their hands up in the air in frustration.
Crotty, the 2010 ML Rookie of the Year, has put up 141 points on 70 goals and assists, including one 2-point goal. All this in only 44 games. He was also a member of the 2011 MLL All-Star Team, 2010 Team USA, and is a front runner for the 2014 Team USA squad. As one of the most vibrant players at his position, he raises the play of his teammates. The former Duke star had to carry the weight sometimes. This is a player that has been one of the league’s top scorers since day one of his professional career. Now on the Lizards, he has the chance to go the distance.
Head Coach Joe Spallina once again, per the Lizards website:
“Ned is one of the most dynamic players in Major League Lacrosse,” said Spallina. “He is somebody who is not only a great individual player, but has the ability to make the players around him better and he will allow us to play a more team oriented game. To be able to add a player of Ned’s quality to our lineup, I believe, brings our team to a different level.”
So New York now has three of the past four MLL Rookies of the Year on their roster (Crotty in 2010, Gibson in 2012, Pannell last year in 2013). The Lizards also boast three of the past five Tewaaraton Award Winners (Seibald in 2009, Crotty in 2010, Pannell in 2013).
But why should they not be considered the hands-on favorite entering 2014?
Because we were saying the same thing last season about the Lizards!
They were wheeling and dealing throughout the winter. Stephen Berger returned from Charlotte for a third rounder, Collin Briggs and some guy named Ryan Young. At the 2013 MLL Draft, they also made off with Mark Matthews, David Early and Steven Waldeck. Oh, do not forget about veteran defender Jack Reid. This was huge, affirming New York wanted to make a statement.
Instead, the Lizards ended up missing the playoffs for a number of reasons.
Injuries to key players (Max Seibald and Matt Gibson), an off-year for the league’s best goaltender (Drew Adams), porous shooting (56% shots on goal, only team under 60%), and bad chemistry offensively. Too many times New York came away with empty possessions that resulted from a shot clock violation or a turnover due to a bad pass from an isolation play. We saw flashes of what could happen when the half field unit was clicking, but too many times the switch was off.
This is not an indictment that these moves will have the same effect. In fact, the team may learn from last year’s shortcomings and put together a menacing line-up. If anything, it is a reminder to all sports fans that championships and accomplishments are not won on paper or in the off-season. It is earned on the field with blood, sweat and guts.
That will be their biggest question: can New York put it all together?