Not going with the press release on this one.
Watched the entire game and as the Ned Crotty 2-pointer shot past Austin Kaut, who deserved a lot more this season, only one thing came to mind.
That ending perfectly encapsulated the frustration of Launch fans this year. And the entire organization too.
It’s been a truism for a long time in this league that the difference between winning and losing in the MLL is mostly a lot of little things adding up and sometimes even just one or two little things.
Here’s Stat One of what will be a long list in this article:
2017 – Regular Season Record of 8-6, while being outscored by 23 goals (179 to 202) on the season
2018 – Regular Season Record of 5-9, while being outscored by 9 goals (192 to 201) on the season
Yep, the Launch actually narrowed the gap by a goal a game and LOST three more games.
And to be honest, a lot of the losses this year came from similar patterns that the previous year they found a way to win at the end.
Even this last game was a little different from a number of the losses this season.
In many of the games lost this year the offense went stagnant in the second half after looking like world beaters in the first half. And a lot of the time it came down to the same bugaboo . . . sliding back from a lot of off ball movement and finding the open player in the first half to looking to go one on one way too often in the second half.
The Dallas game did not follow that pattern. The lead was not lost because the offense got stagnant, the team continued to get great looks but either Dallas goalie John Galloway turned them away (many of those in close) or the cage was missed.
Dylan Molloy, normally money in the bank while open, shot 17 times in the game and only converted once, and before this game he was converting nearly 41% of his shot attempts as goals. That’s not a normal performance but so indicative of how this season went. Last year he shot nearly 45% of attempts into the net.
I’m not singling Dylan out here, just showing an example of how a game can go in this league.
The team finished well below the playoff teams in goals that were assisted.
Florida – 194 goals with 84 assisted – 43.3%
Dallas – 201 goals with 92 assisted – 46.3%
Chesapeake – 176 goals with 92 assisted – 52.2%
Denver – 225 goals with 117 assisted – 52%
New York – 211 goals with 128 assisted – 60.7%!
This is a much easier game to score when the assists flow, no one will disagree with that.
One other statistic where the one on one really showed by the end of the season . . . turnovers. When you look at the League’s statistic page, among attackers only, the Launch had FOUR players in the Top 20 in the league in turnovers among attackmen. That’s not a surprise when you get away from the off ball movement in this league.
I don’t have the Team number and the ability to compare it to the amount of turnovers made by the opponents, but it’s hard to see how the Launch had a positive +/- on that.
Another truism is that the MLL tends to have higher scoring games. Shot clock, higher end offensive talent, etc. Winning faceoffs is not the single most important thing about winning games but it doesn’t hurt, to use the old aphorism.
The last three years the numbers are:
2018 – Ben Williams – 159 of 326 = 48.8%
2017 – Will Gural – 164 of 335 = 48.9%
2016 – Chris Mattes – 145 of 314 = 46.2%
The Top 5 in the league this season is, in order, Denver, NY, Dallas, Atlanta and Chesapeake. Boston finished 6th at 51.7%
After a slow start Trevor Baptiste ended up at 55.4% for the year.
Coincidence that Denver, NY, Dallas and Chesapeake made the playoffs, Atlanta missed by a goal and Boston finished so hot?
Maybe, maybe not. Ohio finished dead last in 2017 and won the MLL title. But in the 2017 playoffs they went 32 for 65, well above their regular season stats.
The Launch have NEVER had a 50% faceoff win percentage in a year.
The Launch closed out one of the more peculiar records Sunday.
4-3 (should have been 5-2) on the Road and 1-6 at Home. I think that there’s been one or two times in the league the last number of years where a team with a winning road record did not make the playoffs, including Atlanta at 4-3 this year. But it’s rare and brings up something I can’t figure out.
I finally attended a road game this year, in Charlotte, and was struck by how intense the sideline was for that game. Start to finish the team was on edge. There were a number of games at home where I didn’t sense the same intensity and maybe there’s some clue there to the home record. The weather did not cooperate this year but that’s just no excuse.
God Bless Austin Kaut. The last two years he’s gone 54.3% and 56.6% in save percentage. 54.3% is top of the league for those who played at least 10 games. And second place last year by 0.01%. Facing the most rubber in the league too.
He did everything he could in Dallas.
But even with those save percentages the team finished AGAIN near the bottom of the league in Goals Against. Dallas and Chesapeake gave up the fewest goals this season and finished 1-2 in the standings while in 2017 it was Ohio, Rochester and Denver going 1-3. Ohio and Denver met in the finals in 2017 and there’s a good possibility that Dallas and Chesapeake will repeat that.
12 goals a game times 14 games is 168. the magic number the past two years is about 12.5. Even with Kaut’s save percentages the team gave up over 14 goals per game. If there is one small complaint on Austin it is that he has given up 18 2-point goals the past two years, which is the most.
Cutting down on the opportunities the opposition gets is a big need to get into position to win a championship.
Penalty killing needs to rebound.
This season the Launch were shorthanded 58 times and only killed them at a 65.5% rate. The highest percents killed were by the top teams, in order Dallas (who only took 41 penalties), Atlanta, Denver, Chesapeake and NY . . . the 5 teams left competing in the last weekend.
TWENTY shorthanded goals given up this season. That’s 1.4 shorthand goals this season PER GAME.
48 penalties killed at an 81.25% rate, tied for the league lead. NINE shorthand goals given up all year.
On the other side of the ball, the Launch were Man Up 56 times and converted on 28.6% this season.
That comes out to 16 Man Up goals for the season.
Making the special teams a MINUS 4 for the 2018 season.
I can’t calculate the Man Up goals from 2017, as the league mangled their season stats on that one. But I guarantee the team scored more than NINE Man Up goals.
The special teams need to step it up next year.
And another item about this year and the penalties . . .
I don’t have the exact numbers but there were multiple times this season where a pending Man Up situation was wiped out by a retaliatory penalty.
That has to stop, it’s selfish.
I don’t see how the same basic team comes back next year, there will have to be some changes, if for no other reason to find some more balance going forward.
You can see that the first paragraph, where I mention the difference between winning and losing, can be easily seen within the analysis above.
Most of the offense was run through the attack and many times it was 4 attackmen on the field. All of them were far more comfortable driving the play with the ball in their stick and none of them were fully comfortable playing off the ball as their first choice. What’s missing is a Will Manny or Eric Law type player. That might be an avenue to pursue.
The offense needs to get more efficient. Less turnovers, a better Man Up percentage and some easier goals in transition are definitely goals for next season.
Cutting down on the turnovers will also cut down on the other team’s possessions. This is not a small thing to focus on. If you have arguably the best goalie in the game why wouldn’t you gear the offense and defense to best maximize his effect on the game? If you have a goalie with a save percentage of 55% all you have to do is cut down the other team’s possessions by 5 and you are going to win a lot of games. In a 35 faceoff game a 5% improvement at the dot should equate to over one goal a game less against all by itself. Cutting down shot against attempts by just 4 per game would get you the other half a goal and then the team is giving up 12.5, not 14.
And with this offense that will go a long way.
The midfield needs some change too. Plenty of hard working defensive middies but not a lot of transition goals this year. It’s not something that the league itself yields a lot of but even one goal extra every other game might be huge. The most rare player in this league is the fast, skilled two-way middie. The second rarest is the fast, skilled one-way middie who can draw a slide consistently and find an open shooter.
Right now Connor Buczek is the only ball carrying middie the defense focuses on. The team could use another. Brian Cole ended up playing like a tweener and was more effective coming in from the wing than down the middle this season, which is a nice option to have. But Buczek was double-teamed a lot when he dodged because no one else was looked at as a 2-point shooting threat so when he went inside the arc the defense could collapse and that took away passing lanes. Just like in basketball the drive and kick can be effective in lacrosse, but this wasn’t available that often this season.
The defensive middie position is the thankless, tough one in this sport. There were a lot of options used this season and the group was more effective in one on one matchups but struggled at times with off-ball coordination. Clearing was pretty efficient too but without more pushing of the transition when it presents itself, is limiting to the offense.
I’m sure there’s more to think through but this will do for now.
The Launch hold the #2 overall pick in the Draft this upcoming year due to Boston’s strong finish.
Pat Spencer seems like the early favorite for the #1 overall pick and on first impression it does not look like a great draft class.
It will be a long offseason for the players and the coaching staff. This type of season should make the players hungrier to come back and show 2017 was not a fluke. On paper this year was the fluke.
Let’s hope that analysis is right.