12/6/11 9:00 AM
On December 7th, the Ohio Machine will participate in Major League Lacrosse’s first Expansion Draft since 2005 when the Denver Outlaws came onto the scene. In 2006, the Outlaws finished 10-2 in MLL and advanced to Championship Weekend before falling in the championship game.
Machine President and General Manager John Algie hopes to learn from the Outlaws’ first season success and use towards the Machine’s first season. “They had a pretty consistent group of dedicated players week in and week out,” said Algie. “We want to do a lot of the same things. We want to find players that fit into our system and who accept their roles on the team.”
Going into MLL’s first Expansion Draft with the third overall pick, former Denver Outlaws General Manager Brian Reese knew how significant the draft was for the new franchise. “It’s an important draft because you want to get a core foundation,” said Reese. “It was our first chance to create an identity.”
Head Coach Ted Garber shares the same views with Reese on how the Expansion Draft shapes the team for the future. “Having a successful Expansion Draft sets the table for having many years of success,” said Garber. “But the draft is not an exact science so you never know what is going to actually unfold once you have your players in place.”
Through the first Expansion Draft, the Outlaws built a stable team that helped make them the winningest MLL team since 2006. The Outlaws are also the only team since 2006 to reach the playoffs every year. Reese attributes this success to the first players he drafted their inaugural season. “We had a good group of guys with a combination of youth and experience. The draft gave us a good foundation and we built off of that.”
Garber sees the team as a whole as the main focus for the Machine in its first season and putting the team first over individual players’ talents to reach his goals for 2012. “The key for success for an expansion team is the same for any other team, all of the players need to be willing to give up something individually for the collective group’s success,” said Garber.
Going into the Machine’s first draft, Algie and Garber have the benefit of an already solid base of players, including MLL All-Stars Greg Bice, Anthony Kelly and Kyle Hartzell, who were acquired earlier in the offseason.
“Greg, Anthony and Kyle are three of the finest individuals and players in MLL. Knowing that they will be a big part of the team, based not only on their lacrosse prowess but also in terms of their outstanding leadership abilities, makes it very easy for me to sleep at night as we head into the season,” said Garber. “Our strategy is to find more players like them at the other position; if we do that we will be just fine.”
Algie and Garber have watched game film on dozens of players in order to find the right players for their inaugural team. When game film isn’t enough or isn’t available, Algie and Garber reach out to the coaches who’ve previously worked with the players to find out more about them.
“John and I have seen most of the players play but some of the guys who are interested in playing for us have sent us game film,” said Garber. “So we are fully confident in our assessments of the players we’ve been evaluating.”
Algie has to keep physical location in mind as well when contemplating draftees. “If you’re faced with two guys of comparable skill level and one guy is closer, you’re going to lean in the direction of the closer player.”
Not every expansion team will be as successful as the Outlaws were right away but Reese offers the key to his success with Denver. “Sometimes you can be enamored with bigger names and people that won’t fit into your team,” said Reese. “If they don’t fit, they don’t fit. If you focus on what type of franchise you want to build, you will be successful.”
The Machine traded four Expansion Draft picks, including the first overall pick to Rochester, to get a head start building a successful team. Even with a strong core established, Algie does not expect his draft strategy to change. “We still to need to dress 19 guys and have 10 on the field,” said Algie. “Our strategy is to primarily take the best available player but overall it starts with building from the net out.”
The Machine will make their first of 11 Expansion Draft selections with the third overall pick. The Expansion Draft begins on Wednesday, December 7, at 1 p.m. and can be followed in its entirety on MLL’s live blog. More details to follow later this week.