While the eyes of the professional lacrosse world are on the indoor game, we are only two months away from the start of the Major League Lacrosse season.
This season begins with a renewed excitement in the MLL. This summer, we will see the play of two new expansion teams: the Ohio Machine and Charlotte Hounds. This brings the total number of teams to 8 this year. In addition to the new teams, there will be two more games played, bringing the total to 14 games in the season.
Let’s look at the preseason power rankings for the MLL teams.
The Rochester Rattlers are returning in 2012 as the reigning worst team in the MLL. They amassed a 2-10 record over last summer's season.
The Rattlers have great offensive players like Dan Hardy and Ned Crotty, but transitioning to a winning team will be difficult for the Rattlers. If they want to make waves in the MLL this year, they will need to get off to a fast start.
With games against the Boston Cannons and Chesapeake Bayhawks to open the season, I don’t see that happening.
Predicted final record: 3-11
Anthony Kelly will join the Machine in 2012
The Ohio Machine is one of the two expansion franchises entering the MLL this year. The Machine enter using the name of the now-defunct Chicago Machine of a few years back.
Historically, the first year for explosion franchises are difficult to garner wins. This is due to the unfamiliarity between players and coaches. I think the Ohio Machine will fall victim to this.
Looking at the preseason roster of the Machine, Chazz Woodson and Conner Martin stick out as possible starters. This team will need to find a leader among them if they want to make an impact this year.
Predicted final record: 3-11
The face of the Hounds, Matt Danowski
The Charlotte Hounds are the other new expansion team in the MLL this season.
The Hounds are going to be led by Matt Danowski, who recently renewed his contract in the MLL. Other notable names on the Hounds’ roster include Billy Bitter, Stephen Berger and Adam Ghitelman.
The Hounds appear to have a decent roster to start their inaugural season. Like the Machine though, the team must come together on and off the field to succeed.
While I believe the Hounds have a better chance than the Machine, they must prove that they belong in the MLL during the season.
If the Hounds can string together a few wins here and there, they may surprise many around the MLL.
Predicted final record: 5-9
The Long Island Lizards return to the MLL after a disappointing 5-7 season last year.
The Lizards joined the Rattlers as the only teams to miss the playoffs in 2011. The only goal for the Lizards in 2012 should be to improve their overall record.
They should be led offensively by Zack Greer and Max Seibald. The defense will be anchored by long-pole defenders Nicky Polanco and Chris Passavia.
The Lizards have all the tools they need to win games, but they need to execute when it matters.
Predicted final record: 7-7
The Chesapeake Bayhawks come into 2012 after a playoff appearance and 6-6 record.
The Bayhawks have made one of the biggest trades of the 2011 offseason, acquiring attackman John Grant Jr. from the Lizards. Along with Drew Westervelt and Danny Glading, his presence means the Bayhawks offense is becoming dangerous quickly.
With faceoff specialist Alex Smith taking the draws for the Bayhawks, the offense should have several extra possessions in their games.
Predicted final record: 8-6
The Hamilton Nationals are coming off a 7-5 season and a one-goal loss to the Cannons in the final game.
The Nationals will build off of their success in 2011 and put up several wins in 2012. They boast huge offensive players from the indoor game like Cody Jamieson, Adam Jones, Rhys Duch, Casey Powell, and Geoff Snider. The net-minders for the Nationals are Brett Queener and Scott Rodgers.
The Nationals roster looks like a combination of the NLL All Star team roster with a few field players sprinkled in. With that said, the Nationals will be a force to be reckoned with this summer.
Predicted final record: 9-5
The Denver Outlaws are coming off a 7-5 season with a playoff appearance.
An early exit from the playoffs seems to be the norm for the Outlaws’. The Outlaws will need to continue to put up a solid regular season and actually deliver this year in the playoffs.
The Outlaws are led offensively by Brendan Mundorf, a perennial MLL All-Star. The net-minder for the Outlaws will be Jesse Schwartzman. This roster isn’t sprinkled with huge names, but the team instead relies on solid role-players to gain victories.
One major issue that might haunt the Outlaws is their trade of Billy Bitter. Bitter was said to be a future MLL superstar, but the Outlaws dealt him away after his first season.
Regardless of the Bitter trade, I feel the Outlaws will once again make the playoffs in the MLL.
Predicted final record: 10-4
The reigning 2011 MLL Champions, the Boston Cannons will enter this season as the favorite to win again.
Coming off a 9-3 season, the Cannons will ride their momentum and deliver in 2012. Powered by the likes of Paul Rabil and Ryan Boyle, the offense of the Cannons will be hard to stop. The Cannons also have solid defenders in Jack Reid, Ryan McClay and Kyle Sweeney to keep the scoring down.
Look for the Cannons to cruise during the regular season right into the playoffs.
Predicted final record: 11-3