Philadelphia Wings 2013 NLL Preview: Building Towards the Champion's Cup
Although the Philadelphia Wings finished the 2012 season in third place in the NLL East with a 7-9 record, they were two games better than they were the year before.
For the 2013 season, the Wings are looking to continue to build on that momentum and go deep into the playoffs.
The Wings have some things to improve upon. They had the second fewest goals scored last year (176) and were tied for the second most goals given up (204). They'll have to find ways to improve upon both of those numbers as a team if they want to improve their fortunes.
One big upside coming into this season is the performance of all-rookie forward Kevin Crowley. The former first-overall pick had an excellent rookie season, finishing 14th in the NLL in scoring with 71 points and tied for the team lead in goals with 36.
With a season now under his belt, Crowley could begin to take over this offense and become a major force in the league.
Along with Crowley, the core of the Wings' offense remains largely intact for the upcoming season.
Big Dan Dawson is back again, providing a major scoring threat. His 103 points last season were the third most the the NLL and it was the third time in his career that he has broken the 100-point barrier.
Brendan Mundorf (68 points) and Drew Westervelt (tied with Crowley with 36 goals) also return, giving the Wings several solid offensive options.
Kevin Buchanan, acquired in the offseason from the Buffalo Bandits, will add solid secondary scoring to the mix. He produced at a two-points-per-game pace for the Bandits, has scored as many as 57 points in 2011 and is just entering his prime.
Transition should once again be a strength for Philly.
Brodie Merrill is one of the top five transition sticks in the NLL and showed it once again last year, recording 32 points and 157 loose balls. He's joined, once again, in transition by Max Seibald (14 Pts, 77 LBs) while Kyle Hartzell (4 Pts, 41 LBs), acquired from from the Washington Stealth, adds further depth.
The defense is deep as well.
Dan Dawson's brother, Paul (6 Pts, 53 LBs), Steve Holmes (who led the team in forced turnovers with 18), face off specialist Jeff Reynolds (59.8 face off percentage), Patt Heim, and Jordan Sealock form a solid core.
One X-Factor on defense is Taylor Wray. Wray is a former NLL Defensive Player of the Year and a force to be reckoned with in the defensive end. He has not played a full season since 2007, however, and only got into seven games last year.
If Wray is able to take to the floor consistently this season, he'll significantly improve the defense all by himself.
Goaltending duties will once again be handled primarily by Brandon Miller. Miller's goals against was the second worst in the NLL, at 12.64, with an equally weak .742 save percentage. Those numbers were some of the worst of his career and much worse than his 2011 performance.
Miller will be called upon to return to form. If he can't do the job, Steve Fryer and Chris Collins will be waiting in the wings to fill the role.
If the game doesn't float your boat, at least you've got the Angels dance team to keep you entertained during stoppages in the action. Last season they were ranked as the best dance team in the NLL (by me, at least).
Will Buchanan be able to elevate the Wings' offense? Can Miller cut down on the goals against? We'll find out when the Wings host the Buffalo Bandits in their season opener on Jan. 11.
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