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  Sunday, April 20, 2014
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Cannons Re(Loading)
By Paul Noonan

     After representing the American Conference in the MLL Finals last year, but falling short, the Cannons are looking once again to contend for their first MLL Championship.  However, things will look a lot different as the MLL has added four new teams to the fold:  Chicago Machine, Denver Outlaws, LA Riptide and San Francisco Dragons.  The original six teams will now combine to form the Eastern Conference while the four newbies will form the new Western Conference.  With the new teams unknown, as far as talent goes, the Cannons will conceivably face a tougher time having to play in what should be the stronger conference.  With the new teams also came many roster shake ups, and while the Cannons should still have a shot at the championship it will be with a different lineup.

             

     With the MLL holding an expansion draft, for those unfamiliar it is a draft where teams choose players they wish to ‘protect’ and the ones they don’t are available to be picked up by any team according to the draft order, the Cannons had to make decisions on who to keep and who to part with.  The Cannons decided defense was their first priority.  This was made evident when the Cannons decided not to protect the most prolific scorer to date in MLL history Mark Millon.  The only attacks the Cannons retained were home grown product and former MVP Conor Gill and veteran David Evans, who also doubles as a midfielder.  Other than those two the Cannons protected mostly midfielders and defensemen, as well as goalie Chris Garrity.  The Cannons also made sure to bring back team captain and standout defenseman Ryan Curtis.

             

     So after a year where they tried winning with offense the Cannons seem to be going the other way this time around.  The Cannons added on to this point when they traded for D John Glatzel.  A two time All- Star for the Rochester Rattlers, Glatzel will strengthen an already deep unit, and likely will be the #2 guy behind Curtis.  Yet the new concern for the Cannons now is offense.  Gill will likely carry the offense again, and is a great playmaker, but he no longer will have a big gun like Millon to work with.  Evans should provide some help if he stays healthy, but he is aging, and the Cannons will need more.  Other attacks Chris Vallone and Chazz Woodson do not have a lot of MLL experience, and will be relied on heavily, which could turn out to be good or bad depending on how they handle the pressure.  If they overachieve the offense should score enough to win games, especially with the presumed strong defense.  Luckily, the Cannons do still have a solid midfield as well, and the midfielders should be able to shoulder some of the offensive burden as well.  Chris Fiore is coming off a career year, and should continue to improve.  Another strong season from him will be a big help.  John Christmas had a pretty good rookie year, and should get more playing time this season.  Christmas is capable of playing attack as well and may see time there.  He was an attack in college, so if the Cannons are having trouble scoring he should be able to pitch in.  Newton native Mike Battista is the veteran of the midfield group and had another good year last season.  Both his experience and ability should prove valuable for the young midfield unit.  Face- off man David Jenkins will be returning as well.  He is strong on the draws and was 3rd in the MLL in ground ball pick- ups.  He may go unnoticed, but his contributions will be valuable. 

             

     Without a doubt the Cannons have some question marks up front, but should be one of the best teams in their own end.  A lot of players will have to overachieve and step up for the Cannons to be a real contender.  Their defense should keep the games relatively low scoring so it should make the offense’s job easier, but if the Cannons rely too much on their defense and don’t put enough pressure on the other team’s defense then it may come back to haunt them.  The first four games of the season, which opens Saturday at New Jersey, should be a good indicator of how the Cannons should fair.  Three of the first four games will be on the road, including two games against rival Long Island.  The good news is that all the teams are in the same position.  Every team had to part ways with some good players to accommodate the new teams so no team improved too much.  With that in mind, the Cannons should still have a good shot at making a run at the title.  If they are to do it, though, it will be following the ‘defense wins’ mantra.  It worked for the Patriots, and hopefully it will work for the Cannons too. 



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