December 17, 2013

NLL West Division Preview: Colorado Mammoth

by Neil Stevens | | NLL 2014 Preview

Colorado hopes it has surrounded John Grant Jr. with the talent to reward his late-career renaissance with an NLL title. (Photo by Jack Dempsey)

2013 record: 7-9

Playoffs: Lost 15-10 to Calgary in first-round playoff game

The Colorado Mammoth have not won a National Lacrosse League playoff game since its 2006 championship season. In the offseason, general manager Steve Govett addressed three priorities: goaltending, right-side offensive proficiency and faceoffs.

The Mammoth had goaltending woes early last season and wound up fifth in goals allowed, with Tye Belanger emerging as a capable No. 1. Govett ensured stability in the crease for years to come by adding with the third overall draft pick the best available goaltender, Dillon Ward, who might just have been the best available player at any position.

"Goaltending was our Achilles' heel over the last few years so having two solid goalies for the future was the No. 1 priority for us," Govett said. "The importance of goaltending in the NLL can't be overestimated. We've addressed that."

Former Philadelphia Wings rightie Drew Westervelt will help lift the offense higher than the sixth-best status it had last season, and possibly squeeze Gavin Prout off the roster in the process.

"Everybody is under the microscope in regards to evaluation," Govett said.

Govett also got faceoff specialist Bob Snider from Vancouver for transition player Ilija Gajic, and he traded defenseman Rory Smith to Buffalo for Carter Bender, a big crease crasher the Bandits underused, and draft pick swaps.

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
» The Cost of Doing Business 

"We feel like this is a very special group we're putting together," Govett said. "Speed and athleticism define the NLL player profile more and more. The new CBA is going to increase that trend and we're prepared for what the new NLL is going to bring."

The accent will definitely be on youth, even more so now that former NLL MVP Casey Powell has said he won't start the season with the Mammoth. So where does that leave 39-year-old forward John Grant? He's such an exceptional player that, if his body holds up, he'll continue to play at an all-star level. His 43 goals were second-best in the league last season, and his showing at Canada's October national team field lacrosse camp was impressive.

"To see a 39-year-old guy have such a renaissance in his career is nothing short of amazing," Govett said.

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