Colorado Mammoth 2014 NLL Preview: Building on Last Season's Momentum

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Colorado Mammoth 2014 NLL Preview: Building on Last Season's Momentum
Photo: Joshua Lawton, via nll.com
John Grant Jr. and Jordan McBride will be back in 2014.

The Colorado Mammoth got off to a terrible start in 2013, winning just two games in the first half. A couple of midseason moves turned their fortunes around and got them to the playoffs, but just barely.

They were one-and-done in the postseason, sending them back to the drawing board.

Over the summer, their first big move was to trade versatile transition Ilija Gajic to the Vancouver Stealth for faceoff specialist Bob Snider. Snider adds depth on defense, and his faceoff prowess will mean far more possessions per game, which should also boost the offense.

The offense will be further boosted by the acquisition of Drew Westervelt from the Philadelphia Wings in exchange for Ryan Hotaling. Westervelt is a goal-scoring machine, having scored no fewer than 27 goals in each of his five full seasons in the NLL. (In his rookie season, he scored five times in just seven games played.)

The Mammoth will need that boost after the revelation that sniper Casey Powell will not be with the team this year. On Dec. 14, the Mammoth announced on their website that Powell would not be available due to "recent circumstances in [his] personal affairs."

Powell was one of the key contributors to the late-season surge by the Mammoth. He averaged five points per game after coming over from the Rochester Knighthawks, giving a huge boost to the offense.

Another big part of the offensive equation who is no longer with the team is longtime captain Gavin Prout, who was cut at the end of training camp. The 35-year-old forward contributed 41 points to Colorado's offense last year, fifth-most on the team.

In the new NLL, where rosters are smaller and the season is longer, aging veterans such as Prout are becoming more and more rare.

One of those rare older players who is still sticking around is John Grant Jr. At 39, he's still extremely effective. He was fifth in league scoring last year with 91 points and second in goals with 43. 

Grant and Westervelt are joined by Adam Jones, who was Rookie of the Year in 2012. Last year, he scored 33 goals and added 39 assists. 

Colorado has a solid transition group in Matt MacLeod (24 points), Cam Holding (86 loose balls, 18 forced turnovers) and Joey Cupido (101 LBs, 20 FTs). They are joined this year by Jackson Decker, acquired on draft day from the Calgary Roughnecks, and rookie Cameron Mann. 

Defensively, Snider (169 LBs, 262 faceoff wins) joins Jamie Lincoln (25 points), Creighton Reid (44 LBs, 11 FTs) and Dan Coates (50 LBs). Also, free agent Dan Ball was added to the defensive squad on Dec. 23 to add extra depth. 

The Mammoth's biggest struggles last year were in net, where they made wholesale midseason changes and gave Tye Belanger the job. Belanger responded well to the challenge, giving up just 10.77 goals per game, good for fourth-best in the league.

Belanger is back in 2014 and is joined by highly touted first-round pick Dillon Ward. The two youngsters will have extra help this year from new goaltending coach Dallas Eliuk. Eliuk is a Hall of Famer and arguably the best goalie to ever play in the NLL, so his tutelage should prove extremely valuable.

With the goaltending situation shored up, Colorado shouldn't have the kind of issues it battled through last year. The loss of firepower from the departure of Powell will be tough to make up, however. 

If the Mammoth can get contributions up and down the lineup, they should be fine. But they might not be improved enough to take a deep run into the playoffs.

 

Follow me on Twitter @calgaryjimbo

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