It was a busy week last week, and even though there is still no #32 in the rafters, it was still pretty successful. After a week of relatively serious questions, it is nice this week to have one that is not only a little bit fun, but is also certain to spark some debate among loyal NLL fans. As they say in the UFC, here we go…
“If you could have one player of each roster to start an expansion team who would you take?” – Dave Miller, Barrie, Ontario via email
For the purposes of this question and also to have a bit of fun, let’s assume that everyone is available. I will break it down team by team and give my reasons for each. I will also treat this team like we are actually playing next year. If you disagree, please visit the NLL Forums or Twitter and tell my why your expansion team would beat mine.
Buffalo Bandits: With my first pick in the pretend expansion draft I select Billy Dee Smith. While I understand that he is no spring chicken anymore and there is always a remote chance you can’t control him, what better way to start a D with BDS. I want my home barn to be tough to play in and opposing teams to know that if they are going to score against us they are going to pay the price. There is still no player in the league that gives O guys visions of ice bags more than Billy.
Calgary Roughnecks: Curtis Dickson. With all the talent on Calgary this is tough but the former NLL Rookie of the Year is just too young and too good to pass up. He will be a top scorer in the league for years.
Colorado Mammoth: John Grant Jr. Why would I take a soon-to-be 38-year-old for an expansion team with all the young talent available? Simple. Star power. Jr seems to have convinced his body that he is 25 again, and he’s playing like it. He is on pace to set a points record this year, and I figure he still has three good years left. Even if his points production drops 10 percent per year, that would still put him in or around the top 10 in scoring. Also with his new found role as Mother Hen, or Mother Blue Hen as it were, he has found a new skill for arranging workouts, team meals, and things such as bowling nights. For my team to come together we need someone to take charge of that and he is the guy.
Edmonton Rush: Kyle Rubisch. Not only is he the best defender in the league, but he is probably the best player in it too. Pretty much all I need to say about him.
Minnesota Swarm: Toughest call here. Initially, it was a slam dunk taking Jordan MacIntosh as he is one of the few players I have ever seen give Snider a run for his money in the face off circle, is great in transition and has played for me this summer so I know what I am getting. But I have grown to really love Andrew Suitor, who does a lot of the same things but adds more toughness than Mac. In the end, I think I am going to go with Mac, as he is slightly better at getting us the ball and adds a few more points.
Philadelphia Wings: Kevin Crowley. He is real big, real young, and real good.
Rochester Knighthawks: Matt Vinc. I know people disagree with me on this, but I don’t care. Matt Vinc is the best goalie in the league and would be absolutely scary if he didn’t have to face the most shots in the league every year. Add the fact that his mother can make world class deserts for Jr’s dinner parties, and that seals the deal.
Washington Stealth: Rhys Duch. In a survey by my fellow Insiders that I was not invited to join, it was decided that Rhys is the best player in the NLL. Even if you don’t agree with that, you have to admit he is up there. Known for his big bomb he uses to score from the parking lot, with Team Canada I also discovered the man is a great defender and very quietly one of the fastest players in the league.
Toronto Rock: With my last pretend pick I take the guy that is probably my favorite player in lacrosse right now. Stephan LeBlanc can score inside, underneath, and from the perimeter. He cuts the middle, and fights for every ball. The most remarkable thing about all of this is that while he does it he does not speak. He doesn’t bitch at refs, he doesn’t whine, he doesn’t trash talk, he doesn’t react. He does his job , does it well, and gets off. Perfect.
While I am very aware that most of these players would never be available this is my team. If you think your team can beat us, please bring it on.Paul Stewart has coached at every level of lacrosse, including the NLL, MLL, Ola Jr and Sr, and Internationally with both the Canadian and Irish National Teams. He is currently the Director of Technical Development for the United States Box Lacrosse Association (www.usboxla.com). Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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