“Muffler” Mike Kostiuk – All Lacrosse All The Time, a Division of the Edge of Philly Sports network
2021-2022 Record: 10-8; 1st place West Division; Lost two games to one to Colorado in West Division Finals.
F Curtis Dickson, F Kevin Crowley, F Jake Govett, D Jacob Dowell, T Connor Farrell, T Jesse Gamble
F Zack Greer, D Tor Reinholdt, D Mark Glicini, T Brandon Clelland, D Devyn Mayea, G Justin Geddie
No discussion about contenders for the NLL Cup in 2023 is complete without including the San Diego Seals. This despite an epic implosion last season that saw the team start out 9-2, then finish 1-6 to limp into the playoffs. The Seals still somehow managed to win the West Division title on the strength of head-to-head tiebreakers over Colorado and Calgary.
After surviving a last-minute charge by Philadelphia in the first round, they appeared poised to reach the first NLL Final in team history. However, a Colorado Mammoth team undeterred by the loss of their top scorer managed to end the Seals’ season by taking both playoff games in San Diego to win the best-of-three semifinal series.
This team was already in “Win Now” mode during the 2021-2022 campaign. Several key additions on both sides of the ball, coupled with the return of goalie Frank Scigliano, who came within 20 minutes of a Mann Cup victory this summer, immediately puts San Diego on the short list of favorites to win it all in 2023.
With Las Vegas signing Zack Greer, the left side of the offense now consists of Dane Dobbie, Austin Staats, Casey Jackson, and Mac O’Keefe. On the right-hand side, Wes Berg and Jeremy Noble now find themselves paired with two of the biggest free agent signings of the off-season. Curtis Dickson joins the team from Calgary, while Kevin Crowley departs Philadelphia for the west coast. They bring with them a combined 1,620 regular season points in their careers, adding to an offense that ranked 5th in goals scored last season and 4th on the power play (48.1%). Top 2022 draft pick Jake Govett, son of team president Steve Govett, will be a future asset out the front door.
With such a high-powered offense in place, questions will abound. Do the Seals move righty forward and top 2020 draft pick Tre Leclaire to a transition role? Does 2021 first-round draft pick Jacob Dunbar become expendable due to personnel numbers on the right side? Do the Seals opt to go with more than 8 forwards on the active roster? Doing so would likely mean having to scratch two forwards every game – is that wise? Most importantly, there’s still only one ball to go around. How does head coach Patrick Merrill keep morale and chemistry trending positively with so many elite superstars on the floor?
The San Diego defense allowed the second-fewest goals in the league last season. They were also one of just five teams in the league to have a positive goal differential. However, they struggled on the penalty kill (10th; 53.9%). Faceoff man Brandon Clelland, who ranked 10th in the league in faceoff wins last season, signed with Las Vegas in free agency. Also gone in free agency are defenseman Tor Reinholdt (Las Vegas) and goalie Justin Geddie (Albany). In addition, the Seals traded defender Devyn Mayea to Buffalo.
Scigliano was taken by the Desert Dogs in the Expansion Draft. However, he returned to San Diego in a trade for Mark Glicini and other assets. Chris Origlieri is expected to be the backup netminder. He won his NLL debut at just 19 years old last season, and will have time to develop his game. The Seals have lost several goalies to Expansion Drafts in recent years, so the organization will be thrilled at the prospect of not having to choose one goalie to protect again anytime soon.
Captain Brodie Merrill, the league’s all-time leader in loose balls, anchors the back end. Mainstays include Drew Belgrave, Graydon Bradley, Cam Holding, Mikie Schlosser, and Eli Gobrecht. Matt Sykes and Tyson Bomberry provide ample size and toughness. Recent draft picks Patrick Shoemay and Mike McCannell will provide plenty of transition capability. Tyler Garrison and Chrome LC’s Connor Farrell will battle for faceoff duties, hoping to improve a weakness from last year.
Oliver Bolsterli, Reed Rezanka, and free agent signing Jacob Dowell, coming off an impressive summer showing with the WLA’s Burnaby Lakers, could also see significant floor time this season. San Diego also signed former Toronto Rock standout Jesse Gamble in free agency. Gamble, who hasn’t played in the NLL since 2017, could be a welcome surprise, provided he stays healthy. There are certainly a lot of moving parts (and questions) as the Seals head into training camp. Ultimately, a mix of the free agent signings and recent draft picks coming into their potential could be the re-tooling San Diego needs to reach the penultimate goal of raising the NLL Cup in 2023.
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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.