Rabil, Cannons at Crossroads

By all accounts Paul Rabil is a great player and is the unquestioned face of Major League Lacrosse. Sponsorship deals with Warrior and Red Bull make him the most visible and highest paid player in the history of the sport.

His resume is outstanding. He holds NCAA, MLL, NLL and International World Championship titles as well as numerous MVP accolades. However, with the Boston Cannons facing a must win game in the second to last game of 2013 versus the lowly Ohio Machine his stat line read 0G, 0A, 0 pts. That 16-12 loss ensured the Cannons and the league’s marquee player would not be making the trip to Philly for MLL Championship weekend. No cheese steak for you! I know by all accounts Rabil had a nagging injury and was far less than 100% that evening. He should be applauded for playing hurt. But the fact remains the Cannons and Rabil were the biggest disappointment in MLL in 2013.

Rabil had a similar game last year in the MLL Championship Weekend versus Chesapeake (0g, 2a) in the Semi Final which the Cannons also lost. This made me wonder, what has Rabil done in crunch time in the MLL anyway?

The answer is startling. In five playoff games with the Cannons, Rabil has a total of 2g and 6a! For the face of the league to give performances like that it needs to be pointed out. Just think for a moment if a Tom Brady, a Sidney Crosby or LeBron James ever had such a miserable post season record. These players would be crucified in print, sports radio and internet on a daily basis. Meanwhile Rabil is lauded by the lacrosse media and 14yr old lax bros for being the game’s top player with a 110 MPH shot and great flow.

To be fair the Cannons did bring home the title in 2011, but Rabil should be ever grateful to Max Quinzani for a last second miracle goal in the Championship game. Otherwise we would be talking about a team that always comes up empty at MLL Championship weekend. I know lacrosse is a team game and Rabil faces constant doubles and triples. But, let’s be serious, so do other great players in other sports and Rabil has had for the most part a good supporting cast around him during his time in Boston.

This is the beauty of the MLL for Rabil. The lack of mainstream attention and the lack of pointing out this horrible postseason record by the relatively small lacrosse media give Rabil a pass. Someone with his talent and all of the advantages he has playing lacrosse full time, he should be performing at a much higher level when the money is on the table. His performances for the most part have been good, he did finish 3rd in points and 5th in goals this season. But this is Boston, the Cannon supporters want titles not good stats and hype.

I must say it was refreshing to see Chuck Jaffe of NE Lax Journal examine the case pro and con for actually trading Rabil! He didn’t actually give a final opinion I will: Trading Paul Rabil is not the answer.

Rather Rabil should make the Cannons his number one priority in 2014, not the Philadelphia Wings. With the NLL playing longer this year there is a possibility he will miss even more games to begin the season. He is an average box player who didn’t even rank in the Top 30 NLL point scorers this past year. His power, athleticism, alley dodges and shooting on the run don’t translate in the indoor game. Warrior (his major sponsor) is the driving force behind MLL, the face of their league needs to be in 100%!, not a moonlighter in the NLL.

The Cannons also have a lot of soul searching to do this off season, with an aging roster (Boyle, Poskay, and Sweeney come to mind), a subpar defense and a star player that hasn’t gotten it done in crunch time. The Diogo Godoi and Brodie Merrill trades are steps in the right direction as the Cannons defense last year had way too many LSM types and not enough toughness in front of Jordan Burke. It would also great to see Rabil play some more attack, John Tucker tinkered with this toward the end of the season. Rabil almost always draws a pole anyway, not to mention double teams. Playing attack may also open him up for some transition opportunities.

One thing still holds true, the Cannons have a lot of support and great fanbase. Trading Paul Rabil isn’t the answer, putting a defense and a strong supporting cast around him is. That along with a 100% commitment by Rabil the Cannons will get back to where they should be, hoisting the Steinfeld Cup!