April 24, 2014

MLL 2014 Preview: No. 3 Boston Cannons

by Phil Shore | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

An experienced roster with players like Kevin Buchanan, Paul Rabil and new addition Brodie Merrill means the time is now for Boston. (John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com)

2013 Record: 5-9
Coach: John Tucker, 2nd season

Three seasons ago, the Boston Cannons won the Major League Lacrosse championship, powered by a core made up of known commodities Paul Rabil, Ryan Boyle, Jordan Burke, Chris Eck, Kevin Buchanan, Mitch Belisle, Kyle Sweeney and Matt Poskay. Last season, the Cannons finished with only five wins despite featuring the same players.

With that veteran group yet another year older, is the window for another championship closed?

"The time is now," Buchanan said.

With so much experience on the roster, and the addition of six-time MLL Defensive Player of the Year Brodie Merrill, coach John Tucker is optimistic this group will turn things around.

"Veteran guys are necessary," Tucker said. "Guys like John Grant Jr. were necessary to help Chesapeake win last year. Coming off a difficult season like last year you'll see the best those guys have to give."

Boston will need its youngsters to support the veterans, however.

Third-year pro Colin Briggs, 2013 rookies Will Manny and Scott Ratliff and incoming rookies Scott McWilliams and Rob Emery will need to contribute on the field and push the rest of the roster during training.

Boston's roster has been notorious for being tough for rookies to crack, but there may be more chances than normal with FIL World Championship this summer. Four Americans — Rabil, Buchanan, Eck and Belisle — and Merrill are slated to compete during two weeks in July.

"If I'm a rookie, I need to compete at my highest level, whether it be in practice or training camp," Buchanan said. "You have to give everything at that moment. You never know what's to come. ... You have to take your chances and make the most of them."

No matter who is on the field — rookies or veterans — Tucker expects the Cannons to be a legitimate championship contender.

"We're going to try to make life difficult for other teams. We're going to get back to that world," he said. "The fans in Boston are wonderful. We owe them our very best effort and that's what they're going to get."

MVP Candidate

This article originally appears in the May 2014 issue of Lacrosse Magazine. Start your subscription by joining US Lacrosse today!

M Paul Rabil

Rabil was hampered by injuries all season — he had surgery for torn abdominal and adductor muscles after the season — but still was third in the league in scoring with 54 points. He appeared healthy during Team USA tryouts and is primed to have a strong season.

"He's the most gifted lacrosse player on the planet," Tucker said.

Next Best

D Mitch Belisle, M Stephen Berger, A Ryan Boyle, A Kevin Buchanan, G Jordan Burke, FO Chris Eck, D Brodie Merrill, D Kyle Sweeney

New Arrivals

A Owen Blye, M Rob Emery, D Diogo Godoi, D Scott McWilliams, D Eric Martin, D Brodie Merrill

After giving up the most goals in the league last season, improving the defense was a must. Getting Merrill vastly improves the talent level of the group. Godoi and McWilliams (Virginia) give the team a more physical presence at close defense, something that has been missing since the team traded Jack Reid prior to the 2013 season.

Behind Enemy Lines

Opposing coaches thoughts on the Cannons

"They put their chips all in on this year and if they don't do it this year it's going to take a couple year to get them fixed. ... They're going to be a different team than they were a year ago. They did a great job in the draft and a great job in trades. ... Boston is still Paul Rabil's team. I think Paul likes it that way. I think he has a lot to say about the decisions about players. They've improved defensively. There's a lot of question marks though."

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