In the past, the Philadelphia Wings have been labeled by some as “Team America” with their heavy rotation of U.S.-born players week in and week out. However this year may be a bit different with the 2014 FIL World Field Lacrosse Championships set to take place this summer in Denver. It’s been widely speculated that a few top end American players for the Wings will take the 2014 NLL season off in order to ensure they’re at their best to represent their country. So how does that sit with Wings GM Johnny Mouradian, who has been a key architect for the club over the past few seasons? “We are sticking with our U.S. player base procurement plan and feel there are a number of great U.S. players who are very capable of making the transition to indoor like Brett Manney, Joel White, Mike Manley, Kyle Sweeney and Chad Wiedmaier.”
But for a team that struggled scoring goals last year and having lost Drew Westervelt via trade (insert Ryan Ward) and possibly Kyle Hartzell, Brendan Mundorf and Paul Rabil, it could be another interesting season in the city of Brotherly Love.
After finishing last season 7-9, the Wings now find themselves in an even tougher East Division with the addition of the always-tough-to-play Minnesota Swarm. What’s more, with only three teams from each conference making the playoffs, this squad is going to need to hit the ground running on opening day.
There will be some new faces in Philly this year and one of those faces will be goalie Evan Kirk ,who will be reunited with his Six Nations teammate and goalie partner Brandon Miller. Coming off a Mann Cup winning summer with the Chiefs, Kirk’s stock really rose, however the Swarm opted to go away from the goalie platoon, naming Tyler Carlson their guy leaving Kirk expendable.
The Wings gave up the third-most goals during the regular season in 2013, so bringing Kirk in, who will immediately push Miller for the starting job, brings a healthy edge to training camp which continues this weekend with two exhibition game in Buffalo.
“It’s art form for a coach to handle two top level goalies and I know Blaine Harrison will do a great job in dealing with both Evan and Brandon,” said Mouradian, who knows his new head coach has a clearer picture of what their final roster may look like after this weekend.
It can’t be overlooked the impact that the loss of some of those Americans will have, though. While no clear reasoning has been given by players on either side of the equation, if we look back to four years ago we may get some answers.
In 2010, when the World Games were being held in Manchester, Mundorf sat out the 2010 season for the Orlando Titans in order to remain healthy to compete for his country and is quoted as saying just that in a 2010 interview with Inside Lacrosse. “I’m not playing indoor this year so that should keep me healthy and unharmed.” Could this be the case this year for a few of the Wings players?
Kyle Hartzell was traded to the Wings last year so he could be close to his home and work. However, now that he’s in Texas as director of a high school lacrosse program, the commute became much longer and it’s unsure of how much he’ll play for the Wings this season. But according to Hartzell, “I want to play, I think you’ll see me out there.”
Max Seibald didn’t play in 2013 and isn’t expected back in 2014 to ensure his ankle is 100% healed and ready for a chance to make Team USA. Mundorf only played in six games last year while Rabil has had an off-season surgery, so both may opt out of being in Wings colours this season.
Nagging injuries aren’t exactly rare in lacrosse so everyone has had to deal with some form of injury or another but to take six months off to ensure you’re 100% to compete for your country could be the norm every two to four years. But what does that say about the NLL?
Another NLL GM posed the question, “does that mean they won’t play MLL either?” It’s a fair question. If these players are indeed sitting out the NLL season for health reasons, will they play MLL? One could argue that the indoor game is rougher and tougher than the outdoor game and some Americans may opt from playing NLL for those reasons. However that would then open up another can of worms that doesn’t need to be opened here.
The U.S. Men’s National Team final tryouts are scheduled for January 24, right in the early parts of the NLL season and could cause conflicts for a few teams. The Wings did not schedule any games on that date to avoid conflicts.
Four years ago, the Stealth allowed Rabil and Eric Martin the ability to go try out for Team USA but they still managed to play the majority of the season with the Stealth. So what’s different between then and now?
Maybe it really is a health issue and nobody would call out a guy for sitting out a season to get healthy for the following season. But this just seems so clouded and with so few concrete answers coming out, we may never hear the words that puts us all at ease.
Does this heat up the Indoor vs Outdoor debate? Canada vs the U.S.? NLL vs MLL? How will this affect young prospective Americans and how they feel about the NLL? And why does this mystery only seem to be taking effect in Philadelphia?
The constant discussion of growing the game and everyone working together for the betterment of the game will rage on, however this could be a huge divide in those talks. For Johnny Mouradian and the Wings, they have to go forward with what’s available to them. With a new playoff system, a new five-team East and a very new looking roster, maybe a new identity and look could be just what the Jungle needed.Teddy Jenner is one the leading sources for lacrosse information. He comes by his love of lax honestly with a lifetime of experience, two Mann Cup championships and six years of play in the NLL. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow him on Twitter @OffTheCrosseBar or catch him on Team 1410 radio in Vancouver, B.C., as the host and producer of the Off the Crosse-Bar Radio Show In 2012, he was awarded the BCLA's Norm Wright Merit Award- handed out to a member of the media deemed to have have contributed to the promotion of lacrosse.
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