Dirty Dozen: Shawn Williams closing in on a pair of milestones, All-Star thoughts and bracing for the March 20 trade deadline

Edmonton's Shawn Williams, right, is could reach 2 elite NLL milestones next weekend. (Photo: Dale MacMillan)
Edmonton's Shawn Williams, right, is could reach 2 elite NLL milestones next weekend. (Photo: Dale MacMillan)

Mention the name Shawn Williams and people who know him will nod and say, “nice guy.” It’s true, and that’s why it’s so cool to see a guy like Williams, a professional athlete who is as down to earth as they come, approach not just 1 but 2 very elite milestones in the National Lacrosse League. When Willy suits up for Edmonton’s March 10 game at Calgary, he’ll tie the NLL record of 188 consecutive games. And in that same game, he could very well become the 6th player in NLL history to score more than 1,000 points. He’s 7 points shy of the mark and if he doesn’t clear it in the March 9 home game against the Riggers, it sets up what could be a special game for him on March 10.

As impressive as the consecutive games streak is, consider this: In an NLL career that started in 1998, Williams has played in 213 out of a possible 216 games in the regular season. He missed 1 game with the 1999 Toronto Rock and then missed 2 games in 2000 with the Buffalo Bandits.

And as you well know, lacrosse is a contact sport. So avoiding injury is not as easy as it may seem and it’s a testament to not only his endurance, but his savvy and guile in keeping himself in the right places at all the right times.

And it doesn’t end with the consecutive games and points plateau. With 402 career goals, Williams is in position to overtake Paul Gait (410) for No. 5 on the all-time list.

And with his 213 games played to date, he’s tied with retired Wings goalie Dallas Eliuk for No. 4 on the all-time games-played list. And if Williams plays all 16 games this regular season to stand at 223 career games, he’ll pass Bob Watson (217) at No. 3 and will be within reach of Chris Driscoll (234) at No. 2 heading into the 2013 season. No. 1 is John Tavares at 258, and counting.

These records aren’t the only new world on the horizon these days for Williams. He’s also new, literally, to the world of Twitter @51_Willy. Follow.

Bearing down: Phone fingers are getting itchy this time of year in the NLL as the March 20 trade deadline approaches. That means teams have 18 days to find and make deals they believe will make their team better for this season, or beyond. What can we expect? Given the way this season has gone so far, is anything worth predicting? The safest bet is that Edmonton will be trying really hard to move holdout Paul Rabil but the options there are limited because Rabil wants to return East to be closer to his Baltimore home. Rabil’s motor and drive would be a welcome addition to most any team, but finding the right dance partner isn’t as easy as it looks.

All-Star idea? The All-Star Game was fantastic and it was exactly what it was supposed to be: an entertaining spectacle for fans. But the National Lacrosse League is going on its 26th season, which means there are plenty of fellas out there retired from the game. Wouldn’t it be cool to see some sort of old-timers reunion or even an old-timers game during an All-Star break? Who wouldn’t want to see guys like Jake Bergey, Kevin Alexander, Bill Gerrie, the Gait brothers, Randy Mearns, Andy Ogilve or Duane Jacobs give it another go? Even if it’s just a 30-minute game with 2 halves, with rules modified to protect those creaky joints, it’d be neat to see what some of the old-timers can still do. And it’s be a nice tip of the cap to the guys who paved the way for the current players, letting them hear once again the cheers of appreciative fans.

For your listening pleasure: Long overdue props to the Buffalo Bandits and their radio team of John Gurtler and Randy Mearns. Their solid work was on full display for the All-Star Game in Buffalo and for anyone new tuning into an NLL game, they got true professionalism. It’s said that the mark of a true pro is someone who makes it look easy. We saw that with the players on the rug for the game in Buffalo, and we heard that on the airwaves through the work of Gurtler and Mearns. Consumate professionals, through and through.

Speaking of speakers: In an age where too many broadcasters try to shove contrived calls into our ears, Edmonton’s Jason Gregor is a fantastic relief. His throaty “he scooooores!” call is natural and genuine while at the same time, entertaining. Hopefully the Rush offense kicks into gear so we can hear that call more often.

Quote of the Week: “I don’t think I get a prom date because I was pretty damned ugly out there. I wish my numbers were down given the way my defense played.” – Toronto goalie Matt Roik after Friday’s win over Rochester.

Welcome back: The Colorado Mammoth came crashing back down to earth, in a big and rude way. The Calgary Roughnecks were at full throttle from the get-got and led 11-1 by halftime. And by all accounts, it looks like it was just “one of those games” for the Mammoth. Not a lot went right and they did save face with a second-half surge, but this clearly was Calgary’s night. Hey, it happens, and the Mammoth know this. The key for them now is to rebound but that won’t be easy on the road against an angry Buffalo Bandits team that is eager to snap a 4-game losing streak and has had 3 off weeks to think about it.

Decision time: The Buffalo Bandits have been looking up and down the floor to answers for their recent struggles. They had the chance to bring in established goalie Anthony Cosmo, which doesn’t suck for anyone but Mike Thompson and Angus Goodleaf. That duo’s been a steady unit for the Bandits for at least 2 seasons but there’s no doubt Thompson’s struggled this season. And it’s not that he’s getting shelled, it’s just that the timing on some of the goals he’s surrendered hasn’t been conducive to winning. Understand, Thompson is not the sole reason the Bandits are struggling but any time a team can bring in a goalie the caliber of Cosmo, it’s got to pull the trigger. Maybe the arrival of Cosmo sparks Thompson’s game. But do you trade for a guy like Cosmo to have him sit on the bench? There’s definitely a tough, tough decision staring Buffalo in the face: Stay loyal to Thompson or hand the defense over to Cosmo?

That didn’t take long: Chris Hall said he was excited to return to the bench for the Washington Stealth but that happiness lasted all of 1 full quarter. That’s when it all unraveled in the 15-7 loss to Minnesota, at home. So a team that’s been to the last 2 title games has struggled mightily out of the gate and is 1-6 this season. Injuries have hit the Stealth hard and now they’re without leading scorer Rhys Duch and starting goalie Tyler Richards for at least another weekend. It’s a tough hole to climb out of and the painful part is that even if the Stealth don’t manage to turn it around and end up with next year’s No. 1 entry draft slot, they lost that pick when they sent Paul Rabil to the Edmonton Rush for Athan Iannucci.

Remember me? The Rochester Knighthawks and Philadelphia Wings meet again this weekend and their first meeting of the season was one to remember. Rochester posted a 22-12 victory and you just know that when scores start to get like that, you can expect the mitts to drop. And boy did they. The teams combined for 233 penalty minutes as bout after bout went down late in the game. But that’s history. If you’re expecting something similar in Saturday’s rematch in Philadelphia, you’re probably setting yourself up for disappointment. Sending messages isn’t the priority at this point of the season as the Wings are battling Toronto for first place in the East Division and the Knighthawks are trying to avoid their 6th loss of the season. No doubt about it, the Knighthawks will be facing a different Wings team this time around, a team that’s much more potent on offense with Dan Dawson establishing himself as the leader and a defense that’s been much more consistent than in seasons past.

Snider still rules: Geoff Snider as a faceoff man posted winning percentages of 75%, 73%, 73% and 75% in his first 4 seasons in the NLL. Then the league changed its faceoff rules, directing drawmen to face off with their sticks 8 inches apart rather than 2. The league said it was the get the ball out of the draw faster to encourage more transition. Others dubbed it the Snider rule because of his immense domination. Since the change? Snider won at a 70% clip for the 2011 season but this year, he’s at an amazing 78%, lofty even by his standards. Yeah, he’s adjusted.

Chavez is an avid lacrosse player in Rochester and a journalist for the Democrat and Chronicle as well as a longtime Inside Lacrosse contributor. Email him at bob.chavez@nllinsider.com or go to RochesterSports.com.

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