Major Series Lacrosse : Mid-Season Review
Prior to the beginning of play in the 2018 Major Series Lacrosse season, all six General Managers of the League teams had commented on how competitive the MSL had become. Each season teams improve and the caliber of play seems to increase to an even higher standard from year to year. It was agreed that every game would be a battle and wins would be hard earned. As the MSL season passes the midpoint, that presumption has proven to be true.
Certainly, the scores of the games support the claim of Doug Luey, Commissioner of the MSL, when he recently observed, "At the halfway point of the season if the fans are looking for parity they are getting what they want. Only 3 points separate the three teams vying for the final play-off spot. The statistics don't lie when you consider that to date there has been 4 games finish in an overtime tie. Also 6 games completed with a one goal margin of victory and another 4 games by two goals or less. The second half of the season should be more of the same as rosters have been finalized and everyone is looking for a spot in the Mann Cup scheduled to be held in Ontario this September."
Let's take a brief look at each team's progress to this point of the schedule and their prospect for the remainder of the 2018 season.
Rank Offence Defence Power Play Penalty Kill
1st Oakville Peterboro Peterboro Peterboro
2nd Peterboro Oakville Oakville Six Nations
3rd Brampton Brooklin Brampton Cobourg
4th Six Nations Six Nations Cobourg Brooklin
5th Cobourg Cobourg Brooklin Oakville
6th Brooklin Brampton Six Nations Brampton
Brampton Excelsiors - With an overall record of 1-6-2, the Excelsiors are currently tied for fifth place with the Cobourg Kodiaks, although Cobourg does have a game in hand. Offensively, Brampton is overall third amongst all teams in scoring (9.8) is on par with the MSL average (9.7) goals scored per game. The challenge for the Excelsiors relates to the number of goals scored against - the MSL league average is 9.7 whereas Brampton is giving up 12.3 goals per game, last in the MSL. In regards to specialty teams, Brampton is third on the power play (44% - League average is 36%) and last on the penalty kill (40% - League average is 63%). The team struggles in the face-off circle winning only 40% of the draws.
A record of 1-6-1 has to be frustrating for Brampton. Of their six losses, two have been by 2 goals and another two losses have been by 1 goal. Along with 2 games tied, a bit more offence or more importantly - improved goals scored against, and the 1-6-1 record could be far better. That aside, Lacrosse Hall of Fame General Manager Zeny Lipinski knows what it takes to build a championship team (He has been an integral part of five Mann Cup championships for Brampton). The Excelsiors have made trades this season that are making the team younger and faster. The foundation for a speedy skilled team are being compiled. With talented players such as Phil Caputo (currently fourth in MSL scoring leaders) and Mike Burke, the offence will be there, most games. It comes back to winning games with improved defense. Certainly Nolan Clayton is a young capable goaltender who will likely get better. With a couple of talented junior players about to graduate and a number of early round draft picks forthcoming in the 2019 Major Series Entry Draft - many more wins are inevitable, perhaps not enough this season to make the 2018 playoffs, but look for the Excelsiors to have far more wins in the future.
Brooklin Redmen - With a mid-season record of 3-4-1, the Redmen are currently in fourth place holding down the final playoff spot. Offensively, Brooklin is overall last amongst all teams in scoring (7.8) below the MSL average (9.7) goals scored per game. Defensively, Brooklin ranks third in the MSL as they give up an average of 9.1 scored against - the MSL league average is 9.7. In regards to specialty teams, the Redmen are fifth on the power play (23% - League average is 36%) and fourth on the penalty kill (63% - League average is 63%). The team is not excelling in the face-off circle winning 44% of the draws.
Two losses to Six Nations - one loss by 1 goal and a second loss by 3 goals and an 8-8 tie with Peterborough, suggests the Redmen are a team that cannot be regarded lightly. They have offence that has the potential to be effective with players such as Mark Matthews, Dan Lintner and Connor Kearnan. Backstopped by veteran goalie Zach Higgins, goaltending is strong as evident with a 77% save percentage, above the league average of 69%.
A factor that is statistically difficult to measure is the impact of coaching. Redmen's Head Coach Derek Keenan is a proven winner. He has a coaching resume of winning championships from tyke to the NLL level. Brooklin has not won the Mann Cup since 2000. Keenan was a player on that team and had a storied Hall of Fame career as a player. Brooklin may well be approaching a Mann Cup championship where Derek Keenan is the Head Coach.
It is challenging to assess the Redmen based on the first half of the MSL season. A number of players on their roster were still playing in the NLL for the initial portion of the MSL season. It is fair to suggest, we have not yet seen the real Brooklin Redmen.
Cobourg Kodiaks - This time last season, Cobourg was 0-8 with zero points. General Manager John Webb has drafted well and made a number of player movements including trades that have improved the fortune of the Kodiaks. At this point into the 2018 season, with an overall record of 1-5-2, the Kodiaks are currently tied for fifth place with Brampton, having played one less game than the Excelsiors.
Offensively, Cobourg is overall fifth amongst all teams in scoring (9.4) is almost on par with the MSL average (9.7) goals scored per game. The Kodiaks need to improve on the number of goals they give up each game. The MSL league average is 9.7 whereas Cobourg is giving up 11.6 goals per game, fifth in the MSL. In regards to specialty teams, the Kodiaks are fourth on the power play (31% - League average is 36%) and a respectable third on the penalty kill (72% - League average is 63%). The team needs to improve vastly on face-offs as they currently win only 30% of the draws.
Two losses by 2 goals and 2 ties could have had more favourable outcomes that led to more points in the standings for the Kodiaks. Currently, 3 points out of the fourth and final playoff position, Cobourg do control their playoff destiny. The remainder of the Kodiaks' schedule includes 3 games against Brampton and 2 games against Brooklin - a potential of acquiring much needed points to make the playoffs against teams they have to beat out .
The Kodiaks' goaltending tandem of Kevin Orleman and Davide Diruscio are young and work hard to keep their team in games. Along with young scorers such as Kyle Killen, Joey Cupido and Chris Cloutier - all of these players will have to excel and lead the way in the second half of the MSL schedule for Cobourg to catch a playoff spot. A tough task indeed, but not impossible.
Oakville Rock - With a mid-season record of 5-1-1, the Rock are currently in second place and looking strong. Offensively, Oakville is first amongst all teams in scoring (11.3) above the MSL average (9.7) goals scored per game. Defensively, the Rock ranks second in the MSL as they give up an average of 8.1 goals scored against - the MSL league average is 9.7. In regards to specialty teams, Oakville are second on the power play (47% success - League average is 36%) and fifth on the penalty kill (58% success - League average is 63%). So far this season, the Rock win 50% of the draws.
Oakville General Manager Josh Sanderson (an NLL Lacrosse Hall of Fame player), established from the beginning of the season that he expects the Rock to win and be a Mann Cup contender every year. He has proven he is not reluctant to make big trades having acquired Johnny Powless and Ryan Benesch in the off season.
The Rock have dependable goaltending with Nick Rose between the pipes. Their roster is laden with talent including plenty of players who can put the ball in the net including Andrew Kew, Reid Reinholdt, Wesley Berg and Challen Rogers, along with Benesch and Powless.
The remainder of the Rock schedule includes 3 games against Brooklin, along with 2 games against both Six Nations and Peterborough. Plenty of heavy lifting still left in the regular season with several opportunities to establish and prove that the Oakville Rock are the real deal.
Peterborough Lakers - With a mid-season record of 7-1-1, the Lakers are currently in first place and appear capable of repeating as Mann Cup champions. Offensively, Peterborough is second amongst all teams in scoring (10.9) above the MSL average (9.7) goals scored per game. Defensively, the Lakers rank first in the MSL as they give up an average of 7.6 goals scored against - the MSL league average is 9.7. In regards to specialty teams, Peterborough are first on the power play (50% success - League average is 36%) and first on the penalty kill (74% success - League average is 63%). So far this season, the Lakers lead the MSL in face-off wins drawing a percentage of 63% success.
Lacrosse Hall of Fame General Manager Paul Day does what is necessary to continue to ensure the Lakers' roster has minimal weaknesses. The loss of Curtis Dickson was rectified when Day enticed Corey Small to join Peterborough.
The Lakers have experienced and solid goaltending with the duo of Matt Vinc and Evan Kirk in nets. Their line-up is full of offensively skilled snipers including Shawn Evans, Kyle Buchanan, Corey Vitarelli, Holden Cattoni and the aforementioned Small.
The remainder of the Lakers' 2018 regular schedule includes 2 games against Brooklin and Six Nations, along with 1 game against Oakville - all teams vying for as high a finish as possible in the top four. There will be no freebies amongst these competitors.
The Lakers most recent Mann Cup victories include 2010, 2012 and 2017. As defending Canadian champions, currently, this is a team that leads the MSL in defense (goals against); is amongst the top teams in offence; a roster full of Mann Cup championship experience and has incredible fan support at every home game. Much like the heavyweight champion of the World - you will not win a decision over the Lakers - you will be required to knock them out. Not impossible, but a formidable task.
Six Nations Chiefs - With a mid-season record of 4-4-1, the Chiefs hold down third place. Offensively, Six Nations rank fourth amongst all teams in scoring (9.4) slightly below the MSL average (9.7) goals scored per game. Defensively, the Chiefs place fourth in the MSL as they give up an average of 9.4 goals scored against - the MSL league average is 9.7. In regards to specialty teams, Six Nations are sixth on the power play (19% success - League average is 36%) and second on the penalty kill (73% success - League average is 63%). So far this season, the Chiefs win the majority of face-offs with a success rate of 58%.
Chiefs' General Manager Duane Jacobs (a Lacrosse Hall of Fame player), made a major off-season trade when he acquired Eric Fannell, Ryan Wagner, Bryan Cole and a third round draft pick. Jacobs felt the Chiefs needed to get younger and quicker and accomplished this task with the trade.
Six Nations goaltending is reliable with a trio comprised of Angus Goodleaf, Doug Jamieson and Warren Hill. Offensively, they have plenty of scoring power which includes the current MSL scoring leader Dhane Smith, Randy Staats, Jordan Durst and the always powerful Cody Jamieson.
The remainder of the Chiefs' schedule includes two more games against Brampton who has defeated Six Nations twice this year by 13-12 scores, both times. Other opposition include three games against Oakville and two games against Peterborough. In the highly competitive Major Series Lacrosse circuit, the head to head games against each other provide opportunity to move up in the standings for Six Nations.
Keep in mind - Six Nations won Mann Cup championships in 2013, 2014 and 2016. There is plenty of experience in their organization and on their current roster that were part of that success. Do not be totally surprised if the Chiefs are amongst the teams bidding to host the Mann Cup to be held in the East this season.
Final Mid-Season Comments - Some MSL players will be missing from action as the World Field Championships are taking place in Israel from July 12-21 and these players represent their chosen teams in that event. All that to say, we will likely see MSL teams continue making adjustments to their rosters.
All teams will be fine tuning their specialty teams which will likely result in improvements in some of the teams' success on the power play and penalty killing units.
By July 22, it will begin the home stretch of the MSL schedule - the final 8 games of the 48 game schedule will be exceptionally meaningful on final regular season standings and playoff match-ups.
Get ready MSL fans - the action will be fast, skilled and edge of your seat entertaining!!!