December 9, 2013

NLL East Division Preview: Philadelphia Wings

by Neil Stevens | | NLL 2014 Season Preview

"He is one of those special players that can be the MVP in both leagues," Wings head coach Blaine Harrison says of forward Kevin Crowley, the 2013 MLL MVP. (Courtesy of Philadelphia Wings)

2013 Record: 7-9

Playoffs: Lost to Rochester in first round

The Wings last won the National Lacrosse League championship in 2001. After a 7-9 finish and first-round playoff exit in 2013, Johnny Mouradian has relinquished head coaching duties. Assistant Blane Harrison now has the reins, with Jim Milligan returning as offensive coordinator.

A Philadelphia-Colorado-Minnesota trade saw the Wings lose Drew Westervelt, who scored at least 30 goals in four of the last five seasons, and gain transition player Ryan Hotaling and goaltender Evan Kirk. A raft of draft picks also changed hands.

Kirk and returnee Brandon Miller give the Wings an accomplished goaltending tandem. They were teammates last summer with the Six Nations Chiefs team that won the Canadian senior championship.

"The addition of Kirk solidifies and adds much-needed depth at this position for us," Harrison said. "He and Miller have a healthy rapport."

Mouradian filled the hole up front left by the loss of Westervelt by acquiring Luke Wiles.

"We'll look for Wiles to find his form from two years ago, Kevin Ross to come back healthy, and really look to Jordan Hall to have a breakout offensive year from the left side," Harrison said.

The Wings were the lowest-scoring team in the NLL last season, but rightie forward Kevin Crowley has red lights in his eyes after coming off an MVP season in the outdoor Major League Lacrosse for the Hamilton Nationals.

''We think Crowley is poised to have a banner year," Harrison said. "We'll ask him to be a bit more patient with his shooting to increase his efficiency. He is one of those special players that can be the MVP in both leagues."

The Wings might be in store for a breakthrough season.

Neil Stevens' NLL 2014 Season Preview (in projected order of finish)

NLL East Preview

1. Rochester Knighthawks
2. Minnesota Swarm
3. Toronto Rock
4. Buffalo Bandits
5. Philadelphia Wings 

NLL West Division

1. Edmonton Rush
2. Calgary Roughnecks
3. Vancouver Stealth
4. Colorado Mammoth
» Where are the Americans? 

"We win two more games and we're 9-7," Mouradian said of the 2013 campaign. "We've made the playoffs the last two years and lost in the first round to the team that won the championship. We're very close to where we need to be. We just have to win those extra couple of games."

Philadelphia operates on a different model than other NLL teams, concentrated on signing U.S. players.

"Guys like Michael Manley, Joel White and CJ Costabile have a year's NLL experience now and we'll build on that and add more U.S. players we're going to develop," Mouradian said.

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