Well, that's it for one of the most exciting and entertaining NLL seasons ever, thanks in part to the parity in the league. Almost every game was unpredictable, and there wasn't a single game all year where anyone would have been honestly shocked if the losing team had won. Incidentally, that's my excuse for finishing below .500 in my predictions.
A lot of interesting things happened in the 2013 season, some of which were expected, some of which were not. Let's take a look at a few of each.
Five things we expected
- Parity. As I mentioned above, the parity in the league is unprecedented. The Bandits only won 6 games, but four of them came against the Champions, the Championship runners-up, and the Rock, who had the best record. The team with the best record was ahead of the team with the worst record by only 4 wins (10-6 vs. 6-10), the smallest that number has been since Detroit finished 6-2 and four teams were 3-5 back in 1992.
- The Stealth didn't suck. Nobody expected their 2012 season to be as bad as it was, but I'm pretty sure that nobody realistically expected it to happen again.
- Garrett Billings cemented himself as one of the top offensive players in the NLL with his second-straight 100-point season.
- After one of the best offensive seasons ever, John Grant returned to earth with a pedestrian (for him) 91 points.
- Matt Vinc won his third Goaltender of the Year award. Another few years of this type of performance, and the "best of all time" argument between Watson and Eliuk will become a three-way conversation. In fact, it's almost there now.
Five things we didn't expect
- Sophomore slump? Never heard of it. If you look at the top rookies of 2012 – Kevin Crowley, Adam Jones, Jordan MacIntosh, Tyler Carlson, Evan Kirk, Johnny Powless – only Kirk dropped off significantly from his rookie performance. Powless dropped from 50 points to 40, but he had to start sharing the ball with the likes of Dan Dawson and Casey Powell. The rest all stayed about the same or got better.
- Getting rid of Casey Powell won't hurt your offense. The Knighthawks averaged 11.1 goals per game before the trade, 11.3 after. Cody Jamieson and Dan Dawson both saw their points/game averages go up to make up for the loss of Powell, Dawson from 4.2 to 5.1, and Jamieson from 5 to 6.3.
- Mike Poulin had a distinctly un-Poulin-esque season. His 12.70 GAA was the highest of his career, almost 2.5 points higher than 2012. The only starters who finished with higher GAAs were Evan Kirk and Anthony Cosmo. But his performance in the Roughnecks' 12-11 OT victory over Edmonton at the end of the season was outstanding, and he played well against both the Mammoth and the Stealth in the playoffs.
- Shawn Evans has been a very good player for years, and taking his game to the next level wasn't wholly unexpected. But this year, Evans jumped the next level and went to the one after that. He bested his career high in points by 33 and won the scoring title by 12. His 112 points is tied for the 5th best season ever, putting Evans among the Gaits, Grants, and Tavares'.
- The Knighthawks started the year 0-3, were never above .500 at any point, and only two teams scored fewer goals. But they are the Champions. Actually, we should have expected it, since it's almost what they did last year.
So there'll be no more NLL games until at least December when training camps open. Don't worry folks, it's only… um… seven months. (sigh) Until then, we still have the MLL for outdoorsy types, and the MSL and WLA for people who like sweating in arenas in July. There may or may not be other American indoor leagues as well, such as NALL, PLL, MILA, and possibly others; so many of them started up so fast I kind of lost track of which ones still exist.
So enjoy your summer and fall, whether it's filled with lacrosse or not! NLL Chatter will be more or less quiet over the summer, but we'll publish the odd story as things unfold: the new CBA, trades, the entry draft, rule changes, the 2014 schedule, things like that. And we'll be back next season with the usual mix of relevance and irreverence. See you then!