Whipsnakes Offseason Recap
By Joe Keegan | May 27, 2020
Here’s what the champs have been up to since hoisting the Cup in Philadelphia:
Connor Kelly (expansion draft), Ben Reeves (expansion draft), Drew Snider (expansion draft), Ryan Drenner (expansion draft), Tim Rotanz (retirement), Jeff Reynolds (retirement), James Barclay (traded to Chrome LC), Foster Huggins (traded to Chrome LC)
Defense wins championships
Ahead of the expansion draft, the Whipsnakes protected every member of their starting defense. Goalie Kyle Bernlohr; close defenders Matt Dunn, Bryce Young, and All-Film Team Tim Muller; long-stick midfielder Michael Ehrhardt; and short-sticks Jake Bernhardt and Ty Warner are all back.
Some defenses rely on their scheme every game, but the Whips execute matchup-specific gameplans better than any defense in the league. Against the Chaos, the Whips forced Connor Fields to beat them one-on-one. They refused to slide to whoever was on-ball – usually Muller or Dunn. The results: Fields averaged 3.7 assist opportunities per game against the Whips, down from 5.0 AOPG against other opponents. When Warner and company can forget about sliding and focus on matching feet with cutters, it’s tough for Fields to force feeds into high percentage areas.
Joe Nardella winning after the clamp
With the new rules at the faceoff stripe (the players’ sticks are farther from the ball, violators must sit out the ensuing faceoff), winning the initial clamp meant less in 2019. Now, it’s all about what your faceoff athlete can do after the clamp. That’s when Joe Nardella is the best in the league.
Whipsnakes LC had the league’s best fast-break offense following faceoff wins (16 goals) and fast-break defense following faceoff losses (7 goals allowed). Nardella’s offensive play doesn’t stop after he leads a break; he’ll stay and play as a screener for cutters – a deadly tactic against faceoff athletes clinging to Nardella’s hip awaiting a ride back to the box. Defensively, he beats everyone into the hole. That’s a must for head coach Jim Stagnitta’s team; defending transition is how you earn your scales.
With 22-man rosters, many teams will dress multiple faceoff specialists. Will fresh legs for opponents negate Nardella’s impact after the clamp? Will the Whips need to spell Nardella occasionally? Ehrhardt, Isaac Paparo, and Bernhardt took some draws in 2019. They can take draws in case of an emergency.
Emphasis on off-ball offense
Some coaches have been tempted to build an offense with six initiators. Five dodging threats guarantees that you’ll have a short-stick defending a dodger at all times; six makes it nearly impossible for opposing defenses to gameplan. The downside: You’re trading some off-ball know-how for extra speed on the perimeter. That’s fine - most professional players can move off-ball without completely clogging an offense.
The Whipsnakes have a throwback offense featuring a pure crease attackman: Jay Carlson. He has a tendency to be in the right place at the right time, following slides and cleaning up rebounds. Midfielder John Haus pairs well inside with Carlson – in addition to being a dangerous hesitation dodger, Haus is one of the league's sneakiest screeners on the inside.
The newcomers – Zed Williams, Brad Smith (missed 2019 due to injury), and Max Tuttle – fit around Carlson on the perimeter. This will be a new-look offense after losing four dodging threats to the Waterdogs. The Whips will miss Drenner’s dodge-to-shoot game from X, but Carlson’s hands on the inside might complement Rambo’s game even better.