Working For the Weekend: All-Star Edition
The Major League Lacrosse offices got all geeked up on fantasy sports this year, and came up with a pretty cool idea for this year's all-star game. Two fans chosen via an essay contest — 14-year-old Nathan Solomon of Alpharetta, Ga., and 13-year-old Michael Hatala of Glen Cove, N.Y. — will serve as all-star captains and pick the two teams from an all-star player pool at a selection party Friday night in Boston. The game is set for 7 p.m. Saturday and will be shown live on ESPN2 and ESPN3.com.
Here's my cheat sheet for the top 10 players among those eligible in the all-star pool. The list is heavy on offense. Have at it Nate and Mike.
1. Paul Rabil, Boston Cannons M
2. Brendan Mundorf, Denver Outlaws A
3. Joe Walters, Hamilton Nationals M
4. Max Seibald, Denver Outlaws M
5. Ned Crotty, Rochester Rattlers A
6. Ryan Boyle, Boston Cannons A
7. Matt Danowski, Long Island Lizards A
8. Peet Poillon, Denver Outlaws M
9. Stephen Berger, Long Island Lizards M
10. Matt Poskay, Boston Cannons A
There are nearly 40 players up for grabs. Who is the last pick is going to be, and will he will get a prize? When the NHL did its fan pick 'em for its all-star game, Phil Kessel of the Toronto Maple Leafs was the last pick. He was embarrassed temporarily on television, but then was given a new car for his trouble. I'm guessing Friday, the last MLL pick will be a defenseman or goaltender, maybe Hamilton netminder Joe Marra.
The all-star game is the symbolic midpoint of the season, which means it's appropriate to hand out midseason awards. One man's opinion:
MVP and Offensive Player of the Year: Paul Rabil, Boston Cannons M (18g, 13a, 5.5 ppg)
Denver attackman Brendan Mundorf (18g, 11a, 4.8 ppg) is a close second for both MVP and Offensive POY.
Defensive Player of the Year: Brodie Merrill, Hamilton Nationals LSM (6.42 GBs per game, 3g, 5a, 9pts)
The five-time defending winner of this award holds the honors until someone knocks him off. No one has yet.
Goaltender of the Year: Jordan Burke, Boston Cannons
Perhaps the biggest all-star snub, Burke is leading goaltender statistically (10.17 GAA, .617 save percentage) and Boston has allowed just 10.7 goals per game.
Rookie of the Year: Jeremy Boltus, Hamilton Nationals A
Boltus' early MLL career benefited from Army's failure to make the NCAA postseason this spring. Under the new MLL draft rules, Boltus was able to join Hamilton in Week 1, and has the most points of any rookie. What's more, the Nationals traded away John Grant Jr. in an effort to "get younger" That meant pave the way for players like Boltus. He's younger.
Coach of the Year: Tom Slate, Denver Outlaws, first year
The Outlaws have seemingly underwent a smooth transition from Brian Reese to Slate on the sidelines. The two still work closely together and Slate was an assistant with the team, but he should be commended for captaining the Outlaws' ship. There's been no noticeable drop off in Denver's usual regular season success. They are 5-2 and in second place only behind 6-1 Boston.
Most Improved Player: Danny Glading, Chesapeake Bayhawks A
The third-year attackman has four fewer points (22) than he had all of last season, and has scored at least three points in five of seven games. He's got 13 goals and nine assists.
Denver is the example of how the MLL can work. The Outlaws broke their own attendance record in last weekend's fireworks game, drawing 27,184 fans to see the top two teams in the league play. Boston won, which frustrated Outlaws coaches, players and front office personnel, but the postgame fireworks — and huge crowd — eased the pain a little bit.
"Tough loss tonight but we will get it back on track," tweeted goaltender Jesse Schwartzman. "Thanks to the 28000 who came to support. EPIC fireworks goin down."
Most Work to Do: The winless Rochester Rattlers
The Chicago Machine was the last team to go winless during its inaugural season in 2006. They went 0-12. Rochester, sitting at 0-7 at the all-star break, would like to avoid joining that company. It would be a terrible coincidence if the Rattlers didn't manage to win a game. This team is essentially a repackaged form of the Machine franchise that played its home games in test markets on the road last season. New coach Tim Soudan is one game into his head coaching career with the Rattlers. Give them time, and some luck.