Over the next moth or so I will be looking back ate each NLL team as their season comes to an end. We start here with the Philadelphia Wings as they had a disappointing season in year one. Coming in as an expansion team is never easy and the Wings know that all too well.
While Philadelphia may not of had the success in the win column that they wanted, they certainly progressed and were better than their record shows.
Record: 4-14 (Home: 3-6) (Away: 1-8)
Divison Rank: 6th out of 6
League Rank: 11th out of 11
Streak: 1 – Win
Ending Strong: For such a down first year, the Wings ended their season the best way that they possibly could with a road win against the Georgia Swarm. In that game, the Wings played a full sixty minutes of lacrosse for one of the first times all season. They had nothing to play for and yet they came out and left it all on the floor to close out the season on a high note. If nothing else, that has to be satisfying for the players, coaches, and fans alike.
Offense is Hot: While there may have not been a lot for cheer about for Wings fans, the offensive performances were certainly one of the best things we saw from this team. The offense was led by forwards Kevin Crowley and transition player Kiel Matisz. With those guys on the offensive end of the floor they became the number three ranked offense in the country, in terms of goal scoring.
Rookie Success: While the Wings as a whole didn’t have much success this season we did see some of their rookies really step up and take center stage by the time the season was over. Of course, I am talking about American’s Matt Rambo and Trevor Baptiste. In the case of Rambo, he did take a while to adapt to the box game and he still is, but we have seen a lot of progress. Rambo is starting to make more “box” plays and has learned to adapt his field skills to the box, which gives him a bit of an edge over some defenders that have played primarily box their whole lives. Trevor Baptiste might have been one of the more impressive rookies this season because of what he did at the faceoff dot. While faceoffs aren’t as important in box as they are in field Baptiste still dominated, setting a rookie and single-season record.
Rambo ended the season fifth on the team in scoring with 57 points (27G/30A) on the season. Baptiste had 7 assist, 179 loose balls, 12 caused turnovers, and went 362-532 at the faceoff dot.
Not Finishing Strong: The most obvious problem for the Wings was the issue of not playing a full sixty minutes of lacrosse. All too often the Wings would be right on track and looking like they could pull out the win, only to blow it down the stretch, or have a few bad bounces go the other teams way. That right there was the theme of this inaugural season for the Wings. High peaks and low valleys, it’s tough on players, coaches, and fans alike.
Chemistry Issues (Expected): Besides not playing a full sixty minutes of lacrosse, there were other issues that were prevalent all season long. The first was chemistry. This team had never played together before and that fact alone can be looked at as one of the main reasons this team struggles so much, especially early on. While chemistry did get better as the season went on they did have some changes as well with bringing in Kevin Crowley and then also shipping out Chris Cloutier a few weeks later. That couldn’t have helped the chemistry issues, but certainly wasn’t a huge issue either.
Injuries: They happen in every sport and lacrosse is certainly no exception. This season goalie Davide DiRuscio, forward Brett Hickey, defensemen Anthony Joaquim and Zac Reid all went down with season-ending injuries. It’s something that can affect a team in different ways and you don’t want to see it, but it’s part of the game.
Who’s The Goalie?: Goaltending was another issue that seemed to plague the Philadelphia Wings season. Davide DiRuscio and Doug Buchan wen back-and-forth splitting games early on in the season. Buchan stepped in as the main starter and then had to step up even more when Davide DiRuscio was moved to the Physically Unable to Perform List. The Wings then signed Gowah Abrams who saw some time and even started the last game of the season with Buchan being scratched. The goalie dilemma certainly played a part in the teams woes and specifically the poor performing defense that we saw many times, especially early on.
Too Many Penalties: Getting into stats, this team was one of the worst disciplined in the league at time. At the time their season ended (April, 21st) the Wings were tied with New England for first in most penalty minutes with 277 penalty minutes. The Wings took 96 minors and 11 majors over the course of the season. Taking a lot of penalties is never good and it can hurt a growing team like Philadelphia very much. The Wings were also ranked 9th in penalty killing and 10th in power play at the time their season ended.
It’s going to be a busy offseason with another expansion draft happening and the Wings will be on the other side of things this year. Instead of being in the draft, they will be losing players in the draft.
With a lot of really good offensive pieces it will be impossible for Philadelphia not to run into a problem with the expansion draft. It is likely that they will leave their third, sixth, and seventh leading point scorers, Jordan Hall, Blaze Riorden, and Vaughn Harris, unprotected. They will also likely protect Doug Buchan so that leave Davide DiRusico and Gowah Abrahams exposed and it’s entirely possible that DiRuscio get’s swooped up as well as one of those offensive guys.
As far as free agency goes, defensemen Dylan Evans, Zac Reid, and Chet Koneczny will be unrestricted free agents along with forward Jordan Hall. Forwards Matt Rambo, Josh Currier, defensemen Liam Byrnes and Anthony Joaquim, as well as goalie Davide DiRuscio will be restricted free agents.
Philadelphia has put themselves in a bad spot with the draft as they traded their first round pick away to get Kevin Crowley. Heading up to the draft the Wings may try to make a trade to get a first round pick, but as of right now they do not have one but at least they have their other picks.