MLL in a Nutshell: 2010 Season Preview
by Jesse Baumgartner and Corey McLaughlin | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online
With more experience and a veteran coach at the helm, Kevin Leveille thinks the Machine's road show could yield successful results in 2010.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com
Major League Lacrosse's (MLL) 10th season commences Saturday, as the Long Island Lizards visit the Chesapeake (formerly Washington) Bayhawks and the Denver Outlaws visit the Boston Cannons. The ownerless Machine, playing its entire 2010 season on the road, will conclude the weekend with a game Sunday against Toronto in Cary, N.C.
Here's a team-by-team breakdown of what to expect this year.
Coach: Bill Daye
2009 record: 6-7
Outlook: The Cannons already have a star to build around in middie Paul Rabil, who took home league MVP honors in 2009. The key now is finding the other pieces. “There’s going to be a lot of eyes on him,” Daye said. “So we need to make sure that we have enough guys around him that can also generate from up top.” Boston has added some depth at the midfield with players like Pat Heim and Kevin Buchanan, which should help push them towards the top of the league.
Coach: John Tucker
2009 record: 5-7
Outlook: Tucker liked the way his team was playing at the end of the year, but the Bayhawks' early struggles made them miss the playoffs. One issue was defense, and Tucker feels like this year’s squad will be tighter in that area while pushing the tempo. “I think we’re going to be very athletic and fast going from the back to the front,” he said. The goalkeeper spot is not set in stone, and the Bayhawks also could use a creator on attack to help complement finishers like new addition Jeff Zywicki — Danny Glading and John Christmas are two possibilities for that role.
Coach: Brian Reese
2009 record: 10-4
Outlook: The MLL’s best team in the regular season came up short in the championship game for the second straight year in 2009. “We might have gotten into some bad habits late in the year, just because we did clinch pretty early,” Reese said. This team is a bit younger and maybe a little thinner in the midfield, but Reese sees that youth stepping into different roles to make up the difference. Shane Walterhoefer could be a key for the Outlaws at the faceoff circle.
Coach: B.J. O’Hara
2009 record: 3-9
Outlook: The Machine, which will be run by the league and play its home games in different locations, is coming off a 2009 season in which it finished last in the league standings by two games. They also allowed a league-worst 14.67 goals per game. With a new coach in O’Hara -- who led the Rochester Rattlers to an MLL title in 2008 -- and some more experience -- including the addition of Casey Powell in the supplemental draft -- the Machine will be look to improve. “We get a little bit more of experience, and everybody else has another year under their belt,” said attackman Kevin Leveille, who led team with 44 points last year.
Coach: Dave Huntley
2009 record: 9-5
Outlook: The Nationals took home the championship last season, but this team is missing some of those pieces. Joe Walters (42 points) isn’t playing, and Jeff Zywicki (33 points) was traded to Washington. Toronto was active in the offseason, including trading for Huntley's son and former MLL Rookie of the Year, Kevin Huntley. The elder Huntley will be taking this new group in search of a repeat. “We’ve got a lot of different players, so I guess we’ll see what we have when we get to training camp,” he said. The continued presence of Merrick Thomson (44 goals, 50 points and playoff MVP) should help any transition.
LONG ISLAND LIZARDS
Coach: Jim Mule
2009 record: 6-7
Outlook: The Lizards had some injury problems last year, including defensemen Nicky Polanco and John Orsen, and attackman Zack Greer. “Getting those guys back will be a big help,” Mule said. The Lizards made the playoffs in 2009, but scored the second-fewest goals in the regular season with 144 (12 per game). If they can keep Greer healthy, there should be plenty of production coming from his combination up front with former Duke teammate Matt Danowski.
New-Look Bayhawks Eye Kimmel
New Chesapeake Bayhawks player personnel director Spencer Ford doesn’t waste any time with deception or mind games when talking about who the team is targeting in June’s collegiate draft.
It’s Johns Hopkins midfielder Michael Kimmel.
The Bayhawks have the No. 2 overall pick. If Duke attackman Ned Crotty is selected No. 1 by the Machine, as Ford expects, Kimmel will likely wear Bayhawks gear this summer.
“We consider them 1 and 1a,” Ford said of Crotty and Kimmel.
Kimmel, a talented two-way midfielder, would fill a need for the Bayhawks, who would like to add a lefty dodging midfielder. Kimmel also is from Maryland.
In addition to preparing for the June 6 draft, Ford, an attackman for the Bayhawks last summer, has been busy working trades since moving to the front office in January under a new ownership group.
In February, he traded former MLL rookie of the year Kevin Huntley, midfielder Josh Sims and two draft picks to Toronto in exchange for attackman Jeff Zywicki, defenseman Nick O’Hara and midfielder Jordan Levine.
A month earlier, the Bayhawks shipped attackman Kevin Buchanan and three draft picks to Boston for attackman John Christmas, defenseman Ray Megill and goaltender Mike Levin.
“We got back six players who will likely be on our roster for the season,” Ford said.
Huntleys no strangers to father-son act
It may be interesting to be the coach’s son. But what about being the coach’s son on three different teams at once? That’s the situation former MLL Rookie of the Year Kevin Huntley is in after an offseason trade sent him from the Bayhawks to the defending league champion Toronto Nationals.
His father, Dave Huntley, coaches the Nationals, the NLL's Philadelphia Wings and will lead the Canadian National Team at the FIL World Championships in July. Kevin is a player on all three teams.
It’s safe to say no plates have been thrown at the family dinner table.
“I don’t really view it a whole lot different,” Dave Huntley said of coaching his son, which he’s done since Kevin was 7 years old. He said he learned early to avoid treating his son differently than other players.
“Most guys I know who have actually played sports and who coach treat their kid way worse than they should and take out frustration from other players on their kid,” Huntley said. “What I learned was that not only was I doing a disservice to Kevin, but it also wasn’t fair for other kids, because you’re giving them a free pass.”
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