Buffalo looks like a lame duck because all they seem to have left is Tavares and a revolving door coaching policy. The marketing has dropped big time and the fans have left as well. If they can finally get younger and get some stability they lost the day Bartley and Veltman the Bandit crowds of old will return. However, it seems pretty unlikey.
Arizona, Anahiem and San Jose will have a tough go at it this year because of the new surroundings and old salaries. Because of this flying players into that area on a weekly basis will be much more expensive and they won't have great fan support right away unless they win right away. This will be a tough first year for all of them although San Jose has a shot at succeeding with the Sharks helping out.
Colorado has great fans and they will continue to support this team. (Any city that actually pays to see the flatline Nuggets in good numbers is a great sports town.) However, 37 year old Gary Gait and no defence or goaltending will make them very hard pressed for even a playoff appearance. (You should have stayed in Baltimore Gary.)
Vancouver just won't go away. Dispite horrible management and a team leaking goals and money like a seive the fans STILL come out in good enough numbers to keep the bills paid and the team afloat. This is a true Lacrosse stronghold and will continue to be. If only team owners in Vancouver across the board didn't have their heads in their a$$es...
Calgary is a true success story on and off the field. They have improved every year since day one and Toth has given them great on-field leadership and stability up front. The crowds have shocked everyone and with the team's fortune's improving expect the Roughnecks to challenge the Rock in this year's finals.
Rochester is the only team in the East that will even put up a fight against Toronto this year. This is because of John Grant Jr. ONLY. The rest of the team is mediocre and past their prime. They get great attendance and have always been competitive but they will only make the playoffs because Buffalo and Philadelphia are worse.
It will be a weird year with so few teams in New York State, (the Saints, Attack and New Jersey gone and Buffalo rumoured to be going as well,) but it will be a good news/bad news year for the NLL. Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver, Philadelphia, Rochester and Colorado will draw well while the California and Arizona teams will be lucky to draw 4,000 a game in their first season with a sport most everyone out there has never seen before. It worked in Denver because they are a sports-mad town in dead centre of a sports-mad state. Phoenix is yet to prove it can support anything but the NFL and NBA consistantly. (the Coyotes and Diamondbacks have never made money in their history and have usually struggled at the gate, [the Coyotes have never drawn better then they did in Winnipeg]) Anahiem will NOT draw unless they win now. They don't have the personell to do so and San Jose will be a wild card depending on how the 49ers do down the strech and how the Sharks are doing by mid January.
1. Calgary (they will continue to get better and move to the next level in 04)
2. Colorado (more or less by default)
3. Vancouver (all they have done right in the front office in the last 2 years is recruit good local talent and they will stay competitive for that alone.)
4. San Jose (the former Attack will still have good enough players carried over to be competitive but not much else.)
5. Anahiem (the Storm sucked in Jersey and be worse in Anahiem.)
6. Arizona (will be lucky to finish the season, let alone win a game.)
1. Toronto (when a 37 year old is playing the best lax of his career you do not call him past his prime. However, as Veltman goes, so do the Rock. With Bartley having cancer treatment it could be a tough go for the Rock but they will pull though as always.)
2. Rochester (John Grant Jr. is all they have but it's better then the rest of the division.)
3. Philadelphia (Too many has-beens and WAY too many never-will-be's.)
4. Buffalo (trade Tavares NOW and let him retire with Dignity!!!)
Vancouver over Colorado in the first round.
Calgary over Vancouver in the West finals.
Rochester over Philadelphia in the first round.
Toronto over Rochester (as usual) in the East finals.
Toronto over Calgary in OT.
Toronto is off to it's usual slow start and will pull it out like they always do.
Buffalo got lucky with one good young player and they have literally nothing else but Tavares going for them.
Let's see how the rest of the year goes before my prediections get evaluated.
Maybe you should re-evaluate your thinking about the Bandits. They seemed to do a pretty good job with the Rock-slide in your building last Friday night. But like you said, let's wait and see how it all with play out!
Again, watch for the Rock to get back on track after the All-Star break. There's too many battle tested vets who know how to win for them to slide any further.
EAST GP W L Pct GB GF GA Streak Div Hom Awy
------------ -- - - --- --- -- -- ------ --- --- ---
x-TORONTO 12 8 4 .667 /// 152 132 Won 6 5-4 4-2 4-2
x-BUFFALO 13 8 5 .615 0.5 170 152 Lost 1 5-4 4-2 4-3
ROCHESTER 13 6 7 .462 2.5 139 155 Won 1 5-4 5-2 1-5
PHILADELPHIA 13 5 8 .385 3.5 155 162 Won 1 3-6 2-5 3-3
WEST GP W L Pct GB GF GA Streak Div Hom Awy
--------- -- - - --- --- -- -- ------ --- --- ---
x-COLORADO 14 11 3 .786 /// 188 157 Won 1 9-3 5-1 6-2
SAN JOSE 11 7 4 .636 2.5 137 135 Won 1 6-3 4-1 3-3
CALGARY 12 7 5 .583 3.0 152 140 Lost 1 7-4 2-4 5-1
ARIZONA 13 6 7 .462 4.5 160 166 Won 1 5-5 5-2 1-5
VANCOUVER 13 4 9 .308 6.5 148 167 Lost 1 3-7 2-4 2-5
ANAHEIM 12 1 11 .083 9.0 128 163 Lost 3 0-8 1-6 0-5
Well I was right and wrong on a lot of picks. Philadelphia and the sunbelt teams with the exception of San Jose all sucked. Vancouver falling so hard so fast was a huge shock to me this year. Buffalo turning things around with one hot newcomer was a big shock. However the playoffs will determine weather or not they are for real.
Toronto bounced back as I predicted they would. They never have a very strong start to the season and this year was no different. This is a money team that I think should again be heavy favorites to defend their title. Hopefully Les can make a full recovery from the cancer. (The winning should give him a lot less to worry about so hopefully he will be okay.)
Calgary has taken a step backwards after steady improvement over the last couple of seasons. I still think they will turn it around in the playoffs to face Toronto in the big dance.
Rochester is in huge trouble right now. For a team that was supposedly rebuilt this team is looking older and weaker by the day.
Colorado won a lot more games than they had any right to win this year. However, as always expect Gait to pull his annual disappearing act in the playoffs.
How sad were Anahiem and Zona's attendance figures? They make New Jersey and Syracuse's crowds look robust in comparison. Don't expect either of them to be back next year.
That's all for now, see ya in the playoffs!