MLL Offseason Storylines

First of all, I am honored to be a contributing member of the QuickStick family. I couldn’t let my boys have ALL the fun.

A little about me, because I’m sure you care: I began playing lacrosse when I was 10 years old, and from the moment I learned how to cradle I knew I was going to enjoy this game. Like I’m sure most of you did as well, I battled back-and-forth with my baseball-playing friends growing up about which spring sport was superior, and I’m happy to see blogs like this one popping up left and right in an effort to #GrowTheGame.

Like Shears and Brody, I also played lacrosse at beautiful Elon University, and I was lucky enough to live with those goons for a year (Brody for two). Meaning, I got to listen to Conor ‘The Lacrosse Encyclopedia” Brody talk for years about how he was going to start a lacrosse blog post-graduation. To see him, and Shears, actually do it is awesome for two reasons: 1) he’s pursuing a passion, and 2) you all get to experience what Shears and I went through for 4+ years hearing all about how “sick this 15-year-old lefty middie out of Darien is, and he has a brother in 3rd grade who might be even better.”

My internship last summer was working for the Boston Cannons of Major League Lacrosse (MLL). I got an inside-look at how these teams operate on a day-to-day basis in an extremely young league (17 years old). With that being said, I will let Brody and Shears handle the high-school and collegiate levels and focus more on the professional game.

Now, on to the fun stuff.

2018 MLL Collegiate Draft

We start with the Draft. If you’re a casual fan of the game, this is probably what you’ll care about most when it comes to the MLL calendar. It’s cool to see where your favorite college lacrosse household names end up getting drafted and how much professional teams value them.

On April 18th, much like the NFL or NBA Drafts, you’ll probably tune into ESPN for the first couple of picks and hear what Quint and Carc have to say about the players drafted. Obviously, I’m kidding, but hopefully in the future that won’t be a joke.

The truth is, most MLL fans find out about the picks via Twitter, Instagram, or an Inside Lacrosse article the next day. While that probably won’t change this year, the 2018 Draft is unique for a couple of reasons.

First, it will be held in April, which is while the NCAA season is still in progress. This is a first for the league. In recent years (2011-2016), the Draft was held in January, prior to the start of the collegiate season. Before then, it was held at the conclusion of the NCAA season.

I have to think this is an effort by the league, and more specifically brand-new Commissioner Sandy Brown, to hype up the start of the MLL season. With the Draft previously being held in January, fans would then have 4 months to wait until the start of training camp. Plus, the collegiate season would still be going on, so the first few weeks of the professional season would be very under the radar. This way, the Draft, which is one of the hallmark events on the MLL calendar each year, can produce some hype for the first few games that shortly follow the Draft.

Second, the 2018 Draft will be held at US Lacrosse’s Headquarters in Sparks, Maryland. Crab cakes and football lacrosse; that’s what Maryland does. In my opinion, this is a step toward making the MLL’s Collegiate Draft similar to other professional sports’ drafts. With the NFL, the destination of the draft has always been big news since its departure from Radio City Music Hall. Fans love to gather and listen as names are read off, players get on the mic and say how “blessed they are to playing for the _______ organization,” and they “can’t wait to get started.” And, of course, you have Jets fans booing every single one of their team’s picks. It’s tradition. It’s a gathering spot for fans of the league. It’s what, I think, the MLL is eventually trying to establish.

As for the players and where they will be drafted, that’s anyone’s guess. Last year it was 2016 Tewaaraton Award winner Dylan Molloy going #1 overall to the Florida Launch. Rounding out the top three picks were Sergio “Motor City Hitman” Perkovic (BOS) and 2017 Tewaaraton Award winner Matt Rambo (CLT).

Screen Shot 2018-03-23 at 5.56.49 PMI don’t think anyone can argue with those picks, as the Launch qualified for the playoffs for the first time in franchise history, the Cannons added arguably the best middie in the draft class to their squad, and the Hounds were able to put Rambo alongside Joey Sankey, Mike Chanenchuck, and, oh yeah, Ryan Brown, to fuel every defensive unit’s nightmares. Talk about an embarrassment of riches.

This year, I think the top pick is up in the air. The initial thought has to be Connor Fields out of Albany, but the team with the first-overall pick, Boston, already has a pretty loaded attack unit, lead by former Tar Heel, Davey Emala. The Cannons made some moves this offseason to sure up their midfield, so it seems that’s a point of focus for the #BoomSquad (I didn’t make that up. That’s legitimately their team hashtag). For this reason, I think we see the Cannons take yet another midfielder by drafting Maryland’s Connor Kelly. Can’t really go wrong with either player, though.

Same Team, New Town

Screen Shot 2018-03-23 at 5.53.41 PM

The big offseason news for Major League Lacrosse involved the (former) Rochester Rattlers and their move to Dallas, TX. The move to a brand-new market came at the right time. Rochester was STRUGGLING, both on the field and with attendance numbers.

In my opinion, it had a lot to do with the success of the other New York team, the Lizards. Whenever your team has a guy like Paul Rabil, you’re going to dominate headlines in the sport, and as we all know, New York sports teams are all about the #headlines. Couple Rabil with Rob Pannell and you have two of the biggest names in the sport of lacrosse. While the Rattlers have good players, it was tough for the organization to come out under the shadow of the Lizards. Actually, the Lizards beat the Rattlers in 2015 to win the Steinfeld Trophy, just to add insult to injury.

The argument to move the team south was also supported by the fact that this was a golden opportunity to expand to an up-and-coming lacrosse market. I think the MLL realized it wasn’t the best business strategy to have two teams in the state of New York competing for the same fans when they could expand to a completely new market that is clearly embracing the sport.

Texas may not be known for lacrosse (yet), but damn does it have some legitimate club programs. First of all, the state has its own conference within the MCLA (the Lone Star Alliance). Additionally, a handful of Texas teams will find themselves flirting with top-25 rankings every year. I was actually in Dallas a couple of months ago and saw SMU’s “Club Lacrosse Facility” first hand. I was both pumped to see the sport being recognized at a big-time southern athletic school, and incredibly, incredibly jealous that Elon didn’t have one.

With all of that being said, it made sense for the sport to have a professional team in Texas. The time was right, the market was there, and I am optimistic the fans will respond in a positive way. Although, I have to say, I am OUT on their jerseys. So much potential, yet nothing to show for it. Going to be tough to make a playoff push wearing these:

That’ll do it for now. Keep an eye out for an MLL season preview and a draft reaction here in the next couple of weeks before the season starts up. If you’ve made it this far, thank you for reading. If you hate everything I just wrote, be sure to drop me a note in my campus box – I’m all about constructive criticism.

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