It's never easy to keep up with the offseason changes in the National Lacrosse League. It was certainly the case as the 2011 season begins, which had plenty of movement and developments. The recap:
Eleven into ten
The Orlando Titans' stay in the NLL lasted only one year, with the players from the Eastern Division champion going to the rest of the league in a dispersal draft. Casey Powell, the league's most valuable player in 2010, went to Boston. Matt Vinc and Jarret Park were picked by Colorado (more on Vinc in a moment), while Brendan Mundorf went to Philadelphia.
The playoff format will remain the same, with four teams from each division qualifying. That will lead to a season that almost looks like one drawn up for NASCAR -- a 16-game regular season that will eliminate only two teams, and a single-elimination playoff that should be close and compelling.
Coaches will have the chance to dress two more runners (non-goalies) for games this season, as the roster limit goes from 16-and-2 to 18-and-2, just like hockey. That means the scratches go from five to three for a particular game.
Wheeling and dealing
Vinc, perhaps the league's best goalie, didn't stay in Colorado long. He was sent to Rochester in a deal that brought forward John Grant Jr. to the Mammoth. No one will want to play the Knighthawks in a playoff game with Vinc around.
Calgary did some major retooling. It traded Josh Sanderson, the league's top scorer in 2010, to Boston for Daryl Veltman, Kyle Ross, and Jon Harnett, while Tracey Kelusky went to Buffalo. Geoff Snider, one of the league's best at faceoffs, joined the Roughnecks.
Closer to home, Joe Smith was cut by the Bandits in preseason, but signed with Philadelphia. Mike Accursi joined Rochester as a free agent.
Departures and arrivals
A couple of longtime standouts in goal retired from lacrosse, and both had Bandit connections. Steve Dietrich and Pat O'Toole had some great seasons in Buffalo; they now will become assistant coaches in Toronto and Rochester respectively.
The biggest new name -- and biggest contract -- in the NLL in 2011 is Cody Jamieson. He was the Knighthawks' first overall pick in the draft, and promptly signed a record 10-year contract with Rochester. Jamieson was a standout for Syracuse University.
An old name who is back in action this season is Athan Iannucci, who has missed most of the last two years with a knee injury.
At season's end
Boston looks like a power in the East, but the firing of coach Terry Ryan on the eve of the season is a bit troubling. That might mean that Toronto has the favorite's role in the East. In the West, Washington is the league's defending champion and looks even better for 2011.
Minnesota and Philadelphia are the consensus choices to miss the playoffs, with the other teams playing a car crash of a playoff in which practically anyone could win. It's going to be quite a ride.
--- Budd Bailey