The National Lacrosse League kicks off in December. The Seals’ inaugural season starts with a home opener against the Buffalo Bandits on December 8th at 7:00 PM PST. Leading up to the opening face-off, I will be providing you with an in-depth breakdown of San Diego’s newest professional team.
It doesn’t always matter how much talent you have on the field as a team. We’ve seen two of the most successful teams in pro sports history go down to teams who simply outcoached them. The Giants of 2007 upset the 18-0 Patriots, who came into the game as 12+ point favorites. In 2016, the Golden State Warriors powered through the regular season with the best record in NBA history, powered through the playoffs, then jumped out to a 2-0 lead against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Not only did they jump out to a 2-0 lead, but they did so with a record-setting 48-point margin of victory (both games combined). With that being said, I wanted to start this roster breakdown off with the San Diego Seals’ inaugural coaching staff.
Head Coach and General Manager
Patrick “Mad Dog” Merrill is coming off of his last season as a player in the National Lacrosse League (NLL) and his first season as a member of the front office staff as head coach and general manager. Merrill was drafted number one overall by his hometown team, the Toronto Rock, in the 2002 NLL Entry Draft. Mad Dog played 15 seasons in the NLL with just two different teams, Toronto Rock and the New York/Orlando Titans.
Coach Merrill was involved in an interesting situation during the confusing 2008 NLL season where he was drafted number one overall, again, in the expansion draft. However, due to a collective bargaining agreement deadline not being met, NLL.com reads:
The original schedule for the 2008 season was lost when the league cancelled the season back on October 16th, when a deadline to reach a new Collective Bargaining Agreement with its player’s association was not met. On October 24th, it was announced that a new seven-year CBA had been reached, and that a new schedule would be created for the 2008 season, subject to availability of dates at each team’s home arena.
After the agreement came to be, a dispersal draft was held to replace all the players who had originally been drafted in the 2008 expansion draft. In this draft, Merrill was selected second overall by the New York Titans who, two seasons later, came to be the Orlando Titans.
During his time as a player, Merrill won three NLL titles in the 2003, 2005, and 2011 seasons. He also scored 18 goals, dished out 65 assists, and won 818 face-offs during his 15-year career.
According to the San Diego Seals’ official website, Coach Merrill won four Mann Cup (Canadian Senior ‘A’ national) Championships, was a part of the silver medal-winning Team Canada in the 2010 World Field Lacrosse Championships, and brought home the gold FIL World Indoor Lacrosse Championship all as a player.
It’s safe to say that not only are the Seals starting out with an experienced coach and general manager, but one who has been a part of many successful teams during the course of his career. It will be exciting to see how “Mad Dog” Merrill can turn his experience and success as a player into a plus for his team as a coach and general manager.
Offensive Coordinator and Dir. Player Personnel
Josh “Shooter” Sanderson, who is also an Ontario native, will take the reins of the Seals’ offense this season. Shooter earned his nickname due to his crazy amount of success on the offensive side of the field in the NLL. According to SealsLax.com, he ranks second overall in NLL history in three categories; assists (908), assists per game (3.39), and games played (268).
Sanderson started out his 19-year career with the Rochester Knighthawks back in 1998. He was later drafted by his father, Terry Sanderson, GM for the Albany Attack, during the 2000 NLL expansion draft. He went on to lead the Attack in scoring for four straight seasons. He first broke the record for most assists in a season with 68 in 2002. After being traded in 2005 to the Toronto Rock, where he was rejoined with his father and teamed up with current head coach Patrick Merrill, he broke his own single-season assist record by racking up 71 assists. After falling short to the Toronto Rock in three previous championship games, it was with the Rock that Sanderson finally got his first Champion Cup.
Josh Sanderson is a six-time NLL All-Pro, was named a starter in the 2009 NLL All-Star Game, won a total of two championships (2005, 2009), and was a first-ballot Hall of Fame player.
The San Diego Seals’ defensive coordinator is another retired player who spent a significant amount of time in the league. Bill Greer played in 190 career games where he racked up 59 career goals and 99 career assists. According to SealsLax.com, Greer played in and won his only Champions Cup in 2007 where he scored the game-winning goal for Rochester. He also played for Team Canada during the 2011 World Indoor Lacrosse Championships in which they won it all, bringing home the Gold.
Greer was also teamed up with Josh Sanderson and Patrick Merrill on the Toronto Rock from 2011 to 2016. Sanderson and Merrill have a total of eight years experience together as players, Merrill and Greer were teammates for one season (2011) before being joined by Sanderson in 2012, where the three then spent the next five seasons together.
It’s interesting, to say the least, to see how the chemistry between these three coaches will play a part during the Seals’ inaugural season.