The Dirty Dozen: Did Gary Gait tarnish his lacrosse legacy in Rochester?

A month into the 2011 National Lacrosse League season, Hall of Famer Gary Gait called it a career, again. (Larry Palumbo)
A month into the 2011 National Lacrosse League season, Hall of Famer Gary Gait called it a career, again. (Larry Palumbo)

Every Friday IL Indoor will track-back through the past seven days, looking at the stories that stole headlines and how they’ll affect the sport moving forward this weekend (and in some cases beyond).

If you hadn’t heard, and there’s a chance you didn’t, Gary Gait re-retired just about a week ago through a quiet, buried on the back pages send-off that has left some wondering about his legacy. Did his reputation as one of, if not the greatest lacrosse player off all-time, tarnish at all as a result of his recent, less glamorous stretch with the Rochester Knighthawks? Check out this week’s top headlines after the jump and let us know where Gait stands in your books?

12 – Tyler Lucas 1992 – 2011
Very sad and extremely unfortunate news coming from the Washington Stealth community in recent days, Stealth Academy member Tyler Lucas involved in a car accident that took his life on the first of this past month, the team recognizing Lucas this weekend when they host the Edmonton Rush on Saturday night. For more information visit www.TL17.org, the defending Champion’s Cup winners wearing a TL17 decal on their helmets in honour of their fallen friend.

11 – Grant 54 and counting
Earlier this week IL indoor confirmed that John Grant had surpassed Dan Dawson’s recent streak of scoring in 52 straight regular season games, Junior now sitting at 54 suited up games in a row. The last time Grant didn’t find the back of the net? Saturday, January 21, 2006 in a 12-6 Rochester win against the Minnesota Swarm. Grant did pickup three assists in the game and scored a combined 11 in the Knighthawks’ doubleheader a weekend later. Grant is up against Anthony Cosmo andthe Boston Blazers this weekend.

Can Lewis Ratcliff and the rest of the team's offense get them past a string of injuries to key players? (Washington Stealth)
Can Lewis Ratcliff and the rest of the team's offense get them past a string of injuries to key players? (Washington Stealth)

10 – Washington Stealth piling up injuries
The Stealth announced that versatile forward Peter Morgan would be moved to their injured reserve (back dated to Jan. 22) after sustaining a concussion in Week 1. The roster move now sees Morgan added to a sick bay that already includes Jeff Zywicki, Kyle Sorensen and Joel Dalgarno for extended stretches, the team also without Tyler Richards (who was on the bench however) in early January. Applauded for their depth all over the floor when they won the Champion’s Cup in 2010, that depth will no doubt be tested in coming weeks. Positive results in the standings will prove just how deep they really are. Negative results (aka losses), well…

9 – Rock PP dropping #2’s nightly
One of the biggest statistical mysteries this year without a doubt is the Toronto Rock’s power-play unit. A year after lighting the year on fire under Troy Cordingley (who also owned the best PP unit during Calgary’s Cup winning season), the Rock man-up crew has been, well, with no offense intended, absolutely without a doubt brutal. With only six finishes on 28 chances, not only does Toronto rank last in goals scored, their 21.4% efficiency is rock bottom too. The Boston Blazers however, who only scored 28 PPG all of last year, already sit at 17 in 2011, tops in the NLL. Toronto had 53 power-play regular season goals in 2010, on pace this year to bury just 16, which would result in a record drop-off. The West leading Roughnecks might be a great solution to their PP problem, the Rock and Necks meeting on Saturday night. Why? While Calgary’s short-man unit does sport a decent 61.9% kill rate, they’ve also found themselves short handed more than any other team this year (42) and given up more PP goals too (16).

Brett Bucktooth was one of a handful of former Syracuse University players that made the 2011 ASG. (Larry Palumbo)
Brett Bucktooth was one of a handful of former Syracuse University players that made the 2011 ASG. (Larry Palumbo)

8 – All-Star Game rosters
Tons of first timers, some Syracuse alumni (SU playing a huge game against Army the same day as the NLL’s ASG however), few Americans, and two fewer roster spots than the 20 the league currently has teams rolling out during the regular season. And you know what? As long as the game is off the charts good, potential new fans watching the game/sport for the first time won’t care if it’s Casey Powell scoring the goals or NLL commish George Daniel gearing up. As long as the product is worth putting the remote control down for an extended period, mission accomplished. Like we said in an earlier edition of The Dirty Dozen, it’s now up to the players if they’re gonna go full throttle like past All-Stars Jay Jalbert, Glenn Clark and Geoff Snider did, or play zero contact catch and pass like past games have showcased.

7 – Shewchuk and Campeau swapped
It’s definitely not a blockbuster but probably a little bigger than a  minor move, Jamie Shewchuk (+ Mammoth 2012 4th rounder) traded for Tim Campeau (+ Swarm 2011 2nd rounder) earlier this week. Pretty even deal for two guys that might be pegged as forwards but do substantially different work come game time. If Campeau can create room and frustrate the opposition, resulting in better quality chances for Colorado’s hot-and-cold shooters, will it matter they dealt last year’s goal and point leader, who found himself pushed down the Mammoth depth charts this year? And Shewchuk finds himself in an environment that has seen still young forwards have record high increases in point production. Pretty even by accounts. The difference maker might be that 2011 second rounder though, Colorado picking up a reasonably high grab in a very deep draft year.

The Rush will likely need somewhere around a 7-4 record the rest of the way to make the playoffs. (Photo: Larry Palumbo)
The Rush will likely need somewhere around a 7-4 record the rest of the way to make the playoffs. (Photo: Larry Palumbo)

6 – Rush searching for first win, need a lot more
After being on the wrong side of Week 4’s Battle of Alberta sweep, the Rush were able to rest and regroup last weekend, thrown back into another doubleheader against an even more recent Cup winner in Week 6. Even though 5-11 got Minnesota into the playoffs last year, there still isn’t a ton of time to pull that off, which would obviously require Edmonton to go 5-6 the rest of the way. Most feel the West’s last spot will come down to who wins the regular season series between the Rush and currently 1-4 Colorado Mammoth, the two teams yet to meet in 2011, but do end up seeing one another three times in the span of just over a week in April.

Since 2006 (the first season the top 4 in eash division qualified for the playoffs), 4th place finishers (aka last playoff spot) in the West have needed on average 7 wins to make the post-season, 8 W’s in the East. Below, check out what teams in both divisions will likely need over the next ten weeks of NLL lacrosse to qualify for the playoffs (based on those since ‘06 win averages) this year…



West Division
 
Team Current Need Remaining Games
Calgary 4-2 3-7 TOR (2), EDM (2), PHI, WSH, MIN (2), COL (2)
Minnesota 3-2 4-7 ROC, BOS, COL (3), EDM, BUF, CAL (2), WSH, PHI
Washington 3-3 4-6 EDM (3), COL, CAL, BOS, TOR, BUF, MIN, ROC
Colorado 1-4 6-5 BOS (2), WSH, MIN (3), EDM (3), CAL (2)
Edmonton 0-5 7-4 WSH (3), CAL (2), ROC, MIN, COL (3), TOR
 
East Division
 
Team Current Need Remaining Games
Toronto 4-2 4-6 CAL (2), ROC (2), PHI (3), WSH, BUF, EDM
Buffalo 3-2 5-6 PHI (2), ROC (3), BOS (3), MIN, WSH, TOR
Rochester 3-2 5-6 MIN, TOR (2), EDM, BUF (3), BOS, PHI (2), WSH
Boston 4-3 4-5 COL (2), MIN, BUF (3), WSH, ROC, PHI
Philadelphia 3-3 5-5 BUF (2), TOR (3), CAL, ROC (2), BOS, MIN
 

5 – Beers Burnaby bound
A Minto Cup winning captain last year with the Adanacs, Matt Beers went first overall to the Senior ‘A’ Burnaby Lakers in this past week’s WLA entry draft. Beers’ Minto winning teammates, goalies Brodie MacDonald and Chris Seidel , were taken second and fourth overall respectively, but the keeper that won the A’s Junior ‘A’ gold and IL Indoor’s 2010 Playoff Performer of the Year, Dan Lewis, went high, but only 15th overall to, of all teams, Burnaby. As long as everyone reports, the Lakers came out looking pretty decent… as long as everyone reports. Plus… Bob Salt is named the Coquitlam Senior ‘A’ Adanacs’ new head coach.

4 – Heavyweight title on the line?
Will we see Tim O’Brien and Geoff Snider dance on Saturday night in Toronto, a game that will be broadcast live across Canada on TSN (7PM EST)? Inside Lacrosse recently put to bed their upcoming March issue (available soon), which includes a multi-page spread looking at what role fighting serves in the sport today. Both O’Brien and Snider were interviewed for the feature, both players saying that they no longer look for fights for the sake of fighting, O’Brien telling IL, “If it happens it happens, but it’s not something I’m looking for,” in regards to a pre-planned title fight against Snider. Below, check out the one and only time these two legendary enforcers went buckets (during a 2009 MSL game between Peterborough and Six Nations), and let us know who’d win a Week 6 scrap (if it happens)…

Who WILL win if they fight in Week 6's Toronto vs. Calgary game?

  • Geoff Snider (60%, 56 Votes)
  • Tim O'Brien (40%, 37 Votes)

Total Voters: 93

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3 – Casey Powell one away
We’ve been looking for it for almost three weeks now (do it already!), Powell currently tied with Jake Bergey for most total goals by an American in NLL history, both future Hall of Famers (or at least they better be) sitting at 269 (regular season and playoffs combined) goals. Powell is up against (likely) Chris Levis and the Colorado Mammoth on Saturday night.

2 – John Tavares one away
He has already scored more goals than any other past or present NLLer, but John Tavares is just a goal shy of hitting a pretty amazing milestone of 700 regular season goals. He’s also just nine helpers away from 800, which also means he’s just ten points away from 1,500 on his career too. Second on the all-time goal list, Gary Gait, left the sport last week with 635, so he’ll obviously never catch Tavares (not that he likely would have anyways), and most other top goal scorers listed in or around the all-time Top 10 are either retired (ie. Paul Gait, Tom Marechek, Chris Gill, Ted Dowling, etc…) or are so far away they’ll never catch him in the time they likely have left. The closest active player, John Grant, who currently ranks fourth overall all-time, is 254 goals away from catching Tavares.

Did Gary Gait's two seasons and a bit stretch playing for the Rochester Knighthawks hurt his legacy? (Photo: Larry Palumbo)
Did Gary Gait's two seasons and a bit stretch playing for the Rochester Knighthawks hurt his legacy? (Photo: Larry Palumbo)

1 – Gary Gait
A week before a 42-year-old John Tavares is about to hit 700, a 43-year-old Gary Gait oddly announced his in-season retirement to little or no fan fare or any mainstream (even lacrosse specific) media interest. Unlike the first time he and brother Paul Gait retired during separate seasons, there was no throwing game worn equipment to an overly eager crowd, no reminiscing about seasons past, no mainstream non-lax media poking their head into our game to observe their almost done greatness, there was no last game of his career hype at all. With Rochester Knighthawks attendance numbers dropping faster than Vitor Belfort did last weekend, a “Gary Gait’s last ever game played” campaign would have surely at least had ticket booth operators at least a little busier whenever that last home game was gonna happen. Publicly both player and team professed that Gait was only meant to cover up some early season injuries (playing in two of a possible four games), out the door when Jordan Hall was finally expected back in the lineup (sports hernia). Again, making that type of juicy info public before the season started would have likely had more even just casual NLL fans making an effort to see one of the greatest ever leave our sport, albeit for a second time. It never happened. As we covered last season on IL Indoor, although Gait’s points per game average was nowhere near his career best, his touches proved very clutch for the Knighthawks, co-leading the NLL with game winners in 2010, even adding a GWing helper in 2011 in those two lone starts. With fewer minutes played than he was used to (pre 1st retirement), selective shifts, not a whole lot of scoreboard visible impact, and playing on a Rochester team that experienced their two worst regular season finishes (7-9 in 2009 and 2010) upon his arrival, did Gait hurt his legacy over the past two seasons and a bit? Were we, as his audience, expecting too much? Did Rochester and Gait get what they wanted out of this second stint? Did his legacy, obviously one of the most glamorous in lacrosse,  lose any luster?

Did Gary Gait's legacy take a hit due to his comeback with the Knighthawks?

  • Yes, he should have stayed retired. Not a good couple winters. (50%, 142 Votes)
  • No, he's still as good in my eyes no matter what he did in Rochester. (50%, 142 Votes)

Total Voters: 284

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The foremost boxla writer, Tutka is a former NLL scout and a longtime Inside Lacrosse contributor. Email him at paul.tutka@nllinsider.com.

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