The Work Horses and Night Owls did some off-season dealing that should benefit the Horses in 2013.
This is part five in an 8-part series leading up to the 2013 Kronum regular season. You can also check out parts one, two, three, and four.
2011 Results: 0-10 Regular Season, 0-1 Playoffs, 6th Place
Key Losses: Bill Zane (to Night Owls), Bob Zane (to Night Owls), Brett McGlensey (to Night Owls), Ray Hunter, Jeff Yetter (to Evergreens),
Key Additions: Phil Cavalcante (from Night Owls), Luke Dougan (from Night Owls), Matt Sola (from Night Owls), Derek Clouser (from Night Owls), Matt Kump (from Nimble Jacks)
Coming off a 2nd-place regular season finish the year before, the Work Horses had high expectations going into last season. Shockingly, those expectations went entirely unrealized as they failed to win even a single contest throughout the season. The closest the Horses came to victory was a 106-105, Round 9 loss to the Night Owls, a game that remained undecided until the final whistle as the players scrambled for a loose ball in the wedge zone. It wasn’t quite on the level of the Philadelphia Eagles’ ‘Dream Team’ missing the playoffs, but the season was a huge disappointment nonetheless. Clearly, change was on the horizon and it arrived in a big way, as the Work Horses and Night Owls exchanged seven players in the biggest swap in Kronum history. To examine how the new roster affects the team going forward, we first have to look back.
By far, the main issue for the team last season was scoring the ball as the Horses actually performed fairly well on the defensive end, allowing the second-fewest points in the league. It’s one thing to slow the game down, which might lead to some low-scoring totals, but a team also needs to score when they have the ball. However, the Work Horses owned far and away the worst team shooting percentage at 33.8% (second-lowest was the Throwbacks at 36.9%). This problem stemmed primarily from poor shooting from the flex zone where they shot just 34.2%; the next lowest percentage from that area was 38.6% and elite scoring teams shot greater than 45%.
How does a team go about turning around such a weak offensive attack? A great place to start is by bringing in two of the top 5 leading scorers from last season, which is exactly what the Horses have done with new captain Phil Cavalcante (25.7 ppg) and Luke Dougan (23.5 ppg). Aside from the raw numbers, these two players bring a level of toughness to the Horses’ offense as the pair fought through contact to tie for 2nd in the league in penalty shot points behind the Jet Sets’ Jeff Regensburg. Dougan does a great job stretching the defense, as he ranked 2nd in the league in cross zone scoring, behind MVP Kevin Clark. However, the biggest of the all of the Horses’ offseason acquisition is definitely Phil Cavalcante.
Cavalcante, along with Joe Petrino, was the most impactful off-season roster move among returning professionals across the league. The league’s 2nd-leading scorer, he not only scored in bunches but efficiently as well, shooting 56.7% to rank 5th in the league (min. 3 attempts per game). With good efficiency from both the flex and cross zones, the veteran unsurprisingly ranked fourth in the league in points per shot at 1.37 (see down below). Cavalcante is the type of player that demands attention from the defense and will make the rest of his teammates better by allowing them to receive higher percentage looks at the net. Defensively, Cavalcante is by no means the quickest player in Kronum, but he understands defensive positioning as well as anyone in the league. As a result, he led all players in blocks at 3.0 per game and ranked 8th in steals at 1.1 per contest.
Obviously, a team can not gain so much talent without giving something in return, as the Horses lost their top two wedgebacks to the Night Owls in the Zane brothers, Bill and Bob. However, they received back former Night Owls, Matt Sola (9.3 saves per game) and Derek Clouser (8.2 saves per game), who will join incumbent netminder Ryan McGlensey in a unit that should hold its own on the back line. A rookie of the year candidate last season, Sola should be an especially valuable player both in net and offensively, where he averaged 12.2 ppg on 45.0% shooting last season. Sola publicly butted heads with Owls’ captain Kyle McGrath on a couple occasions last season, and it will be interesting to see if a new team environment will help further expand his game.
Moreover, the stable was not empty on the Horses’ squad prior to the roster turnover. A mid-season free agent acquisition last season, Dave Slusser greatly improved the Work Horses’ offense and was instrumental in their near-upset of the Night Owls. Slusser led the league in points per shot (min. 3 attempts per game) last season at 1.44, helped greatly by his four 8-point kronums in just five games, which tied Kevin Clark for the league lead. Slusser was not a one-dimensional player on offense, either, as his 5.0 assists per game ranked 7th in the league. In his first full professional campaign this year, Slusser should continue to improve and wreck havoc on opposing defenses from the cross zone.
A trio of rangers round out the notable returnees for the Horses. Leading scorer Mike Small will be back for the upcoming season; at 6’7″, Small is anything but, and features a strong arm that whips the ball in at a difficult angle for opposing wedgebacks. Matt Urglavitch was second in the league in wedge zone points behind the Jet Sets’ Nick DeLuca, and provides an additional dimension to an otherwise arm-heavy Horses’ squad. Finally, Kosta Nikolos averaged 12.6 points per game last season and owns one of the most unique shots in Kronum; his pump-fake off his set shot from the flex area has made opposing defenders look silly on more than one highlight reel.
The Work Horses tie with the Nimble Jacks for most returning pros with 12, but are only bringing back 6 players from last season’s roster. It will be up to Cavalcante as captain to merge the Work Horses old and new together and maximize the talent throughout the roster.
Regular Season Prediction: 6-4 (2nd Place)
The Horses have added some elite scoring options and should excel in an area that was a huge weakness for them last season. Even on top of his on-field performance, Cavalcante commands a level of respect as a team leader that should draw out the best in his teammates. Look for the Work Horses to have a bounce-back season and return to the upper half of the league standings.