IL Indoor Roundtable: New rules still looking good; a satisfactory start with YouTube; is fighting dead?
The National Lacrosse League tweaked some rules regarding contact to the head this year, but there was nothing like the slew of changes implemented for 2012. Reviews were generally, almost universally, positive at the time but are they still working? One big change that did occur this year is the switch of the NLL’s webcasts from Livestream to YouTube. IL Indoor’s Roundtable group this week of Bob Chavez, Marty O’Neill, Ty Pilson and Stephen Stamp have had time after five weeks that we’re ready to weigh in on how things are looking on that front. Also, how many fights have you seen in games this year? Unless–or even if–you’re watching a lot of games the answer is not many. What’s up with that? See our take on these topics after the jump.
STAMP: We’re a year and a quarter into the era of the new rules intended to speed up play and increase scoring opportunities. Just watching the games suggests they have achieved the former and the stats make it clear the latter has also occurred: scoring went from 22.4 goals per game in 2010 and 21.9 in 2011 to 24.2 last year and 24.3 so far in 2013. We now have enough perspective to form an informed opinion about which of the rules have had the biggest impacts among placing the ball down immediately on change of possession, eight seconds instead of 10 to get the ball over centre, shorter defender’s sticks, smaller goalie equipment, both feet having to be in the change box or the three-goal release on major penalties. What do you think? Also, do we still like the rules or could some of them stand to be re-examined?
O’NEILL: I think all the rules mentioned have made the game cleaner to watch and it really puts speed at a premium. I’m not a big fan of the high stick rule because it’s unclear how to define an accidental high stick from a match penalty to a guy who ducked and drew a 5 min major. The Damon Edwards high stick on Mark Steenhuis comes to mind. It was an accident in the sense that Steenhuis tried to shrug off the check to protect his stick and Edwards hit upper back instead of upper shoulder. The hit looked bad but it was a freak play, no way there was there intent in that check. The speed of the game is creating these kind of breaks and mistakes. Penalty kills and goals against averages are suffering league wide this year adding to the extra scoring and I think the 5 minute penalties are the cause.
CHAVEZ: I do like the rules, but not because there’s another goal or two per game. I like the quickened pace and maybe I’m weird, but I think the rule that’s had the most effect is the one requiring players to drop the ball on the spot. Nothing irritated me more a couple of years ago when guys would roll the ball backward after losing possession. I do think refs need to be a bit more careful about restarts, though. There have been a couple that have come too quickly and created an unfair break.
PILSON: Totally agree with Bob on the ‘put the ball down quicker’ rule. It was so annoying to watch the delays. It was the NLL equivalent of NHLers pushing and shoving after EVERY whistle around the net. Ruins the flow and annoys fans. It’s juvenile – grow up. I also like the eight-seconds to clear the zone. In a strange twist, I think there were far more 10-second violations in the old days than there are eight-seconds violations now. The reason? The long and the short of the new rules is that they have served to speed up the game. They have allowed today’s NLL athletes to showcase and take advantage of their fitness, speed and skill. Everything moves quicker, which is more entertaining and simply better lacrosse.
STAMP: So we all love the rules with the proviso that the league has to pay careful attention on high hits to try and discern intent vs. accidents. I will say, though, that I am a fan of erring on the side of protecting players heads and if some players get suspensions when they weren’t trying to hit someone in the bucket, that’s acceptable to me. None of us want the game to lose its physical nature, though. So, the game is better, what about it’s presentation? Another big change this year was switching over to YouTube for webcasting. My review is generally very positive. There is still some variation in the quality of the video that needs to be worked on. Watch last week’s game from Edmonton and it’s beautiful. Watch the Rock at Buffalo game and it’s hard to tell who’s who because it’s blurry.
CHAVEZ: I can see erring on the side of caution, but the stripes do have a tough job there. Sticks slide off of shoulders and up to the dome very easily, so hopefully the refs can distinguish between intentional and accident. If the game’s called too tight from that perspective, guys are going to lay up and we will lose that physical nature of the game. As for presentation, yeah, there are issues. But it’s tough to complain because we’re watching for free. It wasn’t that long ago that we were throwing down a few bucks per game.
O’NEILL: Television coverage lacking I think Youtube is a great alternative because there is such a following. Now each team needs to make their own Youtube commercials to promote their games. I can’t believe that teams aren’t doing this more and with more of an edge. New mediums have to be explored in depth, my god it’s FREE. The quality of the Bandit’s Youtube feeds and Calgary’s are real good, Washington is decent and Philly needs to design in game replays that are more internet user friendly since their REPLAY advertisement isn’t sponsored.
PILSON: The coverage is, as the young folks would say, budget. The quality is hit and miss but as has been pointed out, it’s free. It’s still better than refreshing your Internet feed to see the box score summary update on PointStreak like I used to to follow games in the old days. I’m a die hard and will watch a crappy Internet NLL feed over a high def NHL game. Just how I roll.
STAMP: One more thing. Through five weeks there have been five fights (four involving Washington with three of those in their Week 2 matchup with Colorado). That’s two fewer than there were in last year’s Week 2 slugfest between Philadelphia and Rochester. Why? And do we miss the fighting?
CHAVEZ: Bandits GM Steve Dietrich has said there really isn’t much room anymore on rosters for the straight-up enforcer and I think that’s a contributor to the parity we see in the league. We’ll still see some fights, but not like we used to because games are so tight and teams don’t want to risk being a man down or having solid contributors in the box at key times. I don’t miss the fighting as much as I thought I would. Fights are a fun byproduct, but that’s not why I’m there to watch in the first place. I want to see lacrosse, and the NLL today is an exciting brand of it.
O’Neill: Most teams don’t have that element anymore. As Buffalo mentioned they have rid themselves of Brandon Francis and Travis Irving because there really is no work for them to do. You still have guys like Scotty Campbell, Brodie Merrill, Rich Morgan and Pete McFetridge that will answer the bell but one by one designated fighters have left the game. You’ll still see Suitor, Beers and Smith looking to spark a team thats down but finding a taker is the biggest issue. I think fighting is dead.
PILSON: Fighting has simply been left behind by the pro game. The new rules, combined with only nine teams, combined with the lethality of today’s power play leave no room for guys who are simply fighters to play in the league. The guys who can fight — Suitor, Snider, Merrill, Smith — are much more valuable on the floor than in the bin. They’d all rather actually play lacrosse than fight, I’d bet, so they are happy to play the game instead. If you take a penalty trying to ’send a message’ with a fight, the message you’ll likely get back is a net full of balls courtesy of the other team’s man up and a kick in the butt and/or benching from your coach. And when guys like Smith or Merrill get frustrated late in a game their team is getting blown out like this season and go looking for a dance partner, they can’t find one. Why fight when your team is winning? Just point up at the scoreboard and laugh. Having a beer after is less fun with a busted lip.Stamp is a TV sports announcer and lacrosse lover whose skill set made him a defender but who always dreamed of being a goal-scorer. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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