NLL Preview: Mammoth Hope to Bottle Late-Season Magic for Full Campaign

PHOTO BY JACK DEMPSEY/COLORADO MAMMOTH


The countdown to the NLL season has reached its end, as the season kicks off tonight. Check back to uslaxmagazine.com as we roll out our season preview — including Jack Goods’ predictions, team-by-team capsules and additional features. Next is a look at the Colorado Mammoth.

Colorado Mammoth

Head coach: Pat Coyle (seventh season)​
2018-19 record: 6-12 (fourth in West Division)​
Playoff finish: Lost in West final

Overview

The 2018-19 season brought mixed emotions for the Colorado Mammoth. The regular season was somewhat disappointing, as the squad went 6-12, fighting until the end with Vancouver for the final West playoff spot as opposed to duking it out with the top three teams in the division.

Yet when the playoffs came, the Mammoth were able to knock out the boogeyman of the West and advance to the divisional finals by upsetting the Saskatchewan Rush. Their quest for a surprising trip to the NLL Finals was ended a round later, though, by the eventual champion Calgary Roughnecks.

There are positive vibes after the initial postseason victory, but Colorado knows with the new playoff format six wins won’t be enough to get them back to the postseason for a 10th straight season.

What’s new

Four of the Mammoth’s draft picks made the final roster, defenseman Warren Jeffrey, forward Will Malcom and transition players Brett Craig and Dylan Kinnear. Jeffrey, the sixth overall pick, highlights the group after a strong first full season with Brampton in Major Series Lacrosse.

Pat Coyle took on GM duties full time after serving in an interim role last season. He made a trade just last week, acquiring former Tewaaraton winner Dylan Molloy from the Bandits. The former Brown star and field lacrosse success story is gunning for his first NLL look.

What’s gone

Cory Vitarelli, acquired late last season in a swap with Rochester, didn’t stick around long in his new home. The veteran scorer opted to sign with Philadelphia after notching 40 points between the Knighthawks and Mammoth.

Colorado traded Jeremy Noble, who accounted for a career-low 31 points last season, along with previously retired Zack Greer to San Diego for a package of draft picks.

Brad Self retired and moved into the assistant GM role, while backup goalie Steve Fryer is now the expected starter for the expansion Knighthawks. Forwards Chris Wardle and Jeff Wittig start the season on the physically unable to perform list. The pair had 33 and 21 points, respectively, last season.







What’s the same

The Mammoth return their top four scorers, led by Eli McLaughlin. The core of McLaughlin, Ryan Lee, Ruest and Killen are all 26 years old or younger, a good sign for the franchise’s future.

The defense, which held opponents under 200 goals for the third straight season, still features stalwarts Robert Hope and Dan Coates as well as numerous other returnees. Joey Cupido, a two-time winner of the NLL Transition Player of the Year award, recorded his fifth straight season of at least 90 loose balls last year. Goalie Dillon Ward had the second-best goals against average among full-time starters and was a finalist for the Goalie of the Year honor.

What could they use

That young offensive core needs to progress, and the advancements need to be seen on the scoreboard. Because …

Biggest question

Colorado and Vancouver weren’t just battling in the standings. They were also duking it out in the goals for rankings, with both way behind the rest of the pack. The Mammoth offense is a major question mark after scoring 181 goals last year, just two more than the last-placed Warriors. The team mustered just four goals in its divisional final loss to Calgary.

MVP Watch

Eli McLaughlin

Liger was able to put up numbers without much help, returning to the 70-point club after a step-back year in 2018. He notched 17 more points than the Mammoth’s second-leading returning scorer, Lee.

Verdict

The defense should get even stronger with Jeffrey, but the Mammoth have something to prove offensively to be considered among the West contenders.

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