“Muffler” Mike Kostiuk – All Lacrosse All The Time, a Division of the Edge of Philly Sports Network
2021-2022 Record: 9-9; T-4th place East Division; Lost to San Diego in 1st round of playoffs as Wild Card entrant. 2022-2023 Outlook: Philadelphia Wings
F Joe Resetarits, D Chad Tutton, F Hunter Lemieux, D Koby Smith, G Deacan Knott, OC Jeff McComb
F Kevin Crowley, F Corey Small, D Anthony Joaquim, T Jackson Suboch
Would’ve, could’ve, should’ve. It’s safe to say that Philadelphia fans are tired of those excuses when it comes to their sports teams over most of the last decade, with one rather “Special” exception. When it comes to their beloved Wings, however, it hits even harder. The franchise leads the league all-time with six championships, but the last one came over two decades ago (2001). Additionally, the city was left without a franchise for three years following the relocation to New England. Coming back into the league with the new wave of NLL expansion in 2018, the fanbase has argued over the new logo versus the old. But there is no arguing that Head Coach and General Manager Paul Day is making the right moves to try and restore the Wings to their past glory and bring home Cup #7.
Philadelphia’s offense struggled mightily last season. The Wings scored the second-fewest goals in the league, and ranked 12th out of 14 teams in goal differential. One area where the Wings excelled was on the power play, with their unit ranking tops in the league (55.4%). The departure of offensive coordinator Tracey Kelusky to become Panther City’s head coach may have contributed to those struggles. Former Saskatchewan Rush head coach Jeff McComb joins the Wings as the new offensive coordinator. It is believed that this move will greatly benefit forward Ben McIntosh, who previously played for McComb in Saskatchewan.
Gone are a pair of future Hall of Famers in Corey Small and Kevin Crowley. The Wings responded by signing 2022 MVP candidate Joe Resetarits in the first big move of free agency. Resetarits, the only American-born player in NLL history to record a 100-point season, has now accomplished the feat twice, with last season’s 111-point effort consisting of a league-leading 47 goals. Joining Resetarits and McIntosh on the right side are Kiel Matisz and Sam LeClair, acquired from Colorado midseason last year.
The left side will see Matt Rambo, Blaze Riorden, and Cory Vitarelli return, giving the Wings two of the top quick-stick shooters in the league in McIntosh and Vitarelli. Another midseason acquisition from last year, Kyle Jackson, will add to the offensive depth. Top 2021 Draft pick Hunter Lemieux will also compete for a spot on the left side. The changes on the floor and behind the bench should pay dividends in total production and on the power play.
The Wings’ defense was a mystery wrapped up in an enigma last year. They had the fewest penalty minutes of any team in the league and allowed the second-fewest Power Play goals. They also ranked fourth overall in Loose Balls. Despite those impressive numbers, they only ranked ninth in both Penalty Killing and Caused Turnovers. Goalie Zach Higgins had a career year, tied for second in the league in Total Saves, and ranking fourth overall in Save Percentage amongst goalies who played the majority of minutes for their team. Backup Angus Goodleaf will compete with free agent signing Nolan Clayton and 2022 Draftee Deacan Knott for spots on the active or practice rosters.
Could the defensive disparity above be attributable to a lack of physicality on the defense? If so, signing Chad Tutton away from Georgia in free agency is a step toward resolving that problem. His size and grit should mesh well with 16-year vet Ian Llord, Isaiah Davis-Allen, Alex Crepinsek, and enforcer Eric Shewell. The transition crew also boasts a good mix of size and speed, featuring John Ranagan, Steph Charbonneau, and speedsters Ryan Wagner and Alex Pace. Matisz will periodically lend support on the back end as well.
Look for Blake McDonald, who made the team after an open tryout last year, to get increased floor time. Other players competing for spots include 2022 draft picks Jack Farrell and Sean Quinn (both Drexel alums), Atlas LC midfielder Koby Smith, and Rowan Kelly. The Wings also hold the rights to veteran Brock Sorensen, who is fully recovered from injuries suffered two years ago.
Last but certainly not least, faceoff wizard Trevor Baptiste returns, bringing with him 2022 PLL MVP honors. Baptiste ranked second in the NLL in both Faceoff Wins and Faceoff Win Percentage. He will also surpass 1,000 career faceoff wins in just his fourth year in the league. Those added possessions with a more potent offense and a larger, more physical defense are sure to make the Wings the force a hungry fanbase wants the rest of the league to have to reckon with in 2023. 2022-2023 Outlook: Philadelphia Wings
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“Muffler” Mike Kostiuk was formally introduced to box lacrosse when he attended a New England Black Wolves game on a whim in 2016. Instantly hooked, he has since become an avid follower of the National Lacrosse League. Following the postponement of the 2019-2020 NLL season, he was offered the chance to share his wealth of statistical knowledge and unique insights with the lacrosse community at large. He cheerfully accepted, and currently serves as Edge of Philly’s correspondent for both the Albany FireWolves and New York Riptide.