NLL 2016 Preview: Championship Odds, Projected Award Winners
The relocation of the Rush and the Swarm, the arrival of No. 1 draft pick Lyle Thompson, the retirement of John Tavares, the trade of MVP Shawn Evans, Ed Comeau and Glenn Clark's return behind the bench, commissioner George Daniel's departure and the likelihood that Josh Sanderson has played his last National Lacrosse League game were headline developments during a busy NLL offseason.
The 30th season of pro indoor lacrosse begins New Year's Day, when the Georgia Swarm, now playing in the Atlanta suburbs after leaving Minnesota, debut at Colorado. The defending NLL champion Rush, now in Saskatchewan after leaving Edmonton, will start their title defense at Calgary in the other game of opening weekend.
Since the NLL morphed out of the Major Indoor Lacrosse League in 1998, the championship has been won 16 times in 17 years by teams coming off a season in which they scored more goals than they allowed.
Edmonton, Toronto, Rochester and Buffalo were on the plus side last season, so it stands to reason that the Rush, Rock, Knighthawks and Bandits have the best shot at winning it all. Calgary, Colorado, Minnesota, Vancouver and New England were on the minus side, so the Roughnecks, Mammoth, Swarm, Stealth and Black Wolves are long shots.
That said, perhaps one will defy the odds, do what Rochester did in 2013 and celebrate a title despite scoring fewer goals than opponents.
One thing is certain: Speed of play continues to accelerate and is the driving force behind the evolution of pro indoor lacrosse. Fast line changes and explosive transition attacks are a necessity in today's NLL.
The top three teams in each division after 18 games will qualify for the playoffs. The first-place teams will get byes to two-game division finals, while the second- and third-place teams square off in a single-game elimination.
New England 30-1
PROJECTED AWARD WINNERS
MVP: Mark Matthews, Rush
Scoring Champ: Ryan Benesch, Bandits
Goalie of the Year: Aaron Bold, Rush
Defensive Player of the Year: Kyle Rubisch, Rush
Transition Player of the Year: Jordan MacIntosh, Swarm
Rookie of the Year: Lyle Thompson, Swarm
NEIL STEVENS' 2016 NLL PREVIEW
» East Division
» West Division
» Evans Primed for Biggest Challenge of His Career
» Rebuilt Black Wolves Have Look of a Contender
» NLL Teams Finalize Rosters
» Comeau, Swarm Hope to Make Good First Impression
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