The 2013 season is six months away. Let's punch fate in the face and make wild assumptions about what could be the best 20 teams in the country next year.
Important People: Jeremy Noble (M); Chase Carraro (M/FO); Wes Berg (M); Eric Law (A); Cam Flint (M); Jamie Faus (G); Ryan LaPlante (G)
Formerly Important People: Mark Matthews (A); Alex Demopoulos (A); Henry Miketa (D); Patrick Rogers (M)
Final 2012 Poll Positions: Media: 6; Coaches: 13
2012 Record: 9-7 (3-3, ECAC)
2012 Snapshot: Hey, good lookin'!
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The cold sweats come to Denver in two ways entering 2013: (1) Faus and LaPlante are expected to be locked in a goalie battle for the starting spot; and (2) Matthews and Demopoulos have graduated, navigating the real world in unwashed t-shirts, hoping that a steady diet of grilled cheese sandwiches is somehow acceptable to the United States Surgeon General.
The underlying issue of the Faus-LaPlante cage match isn't that neither is capable; it's that they're both capable. If Faus hadn't gotten a flat tire against Notre Dame last year, LaPlante may not have seen the field throughout the 2012 season. Goalie battles and rotations aren't good things to have (Cf., Syracuse 2012), and if the Pios can't quite settle on a first-choice starter post-fall, there could be some uneasiness at Peter Barton Lacrosse Stadium.
The concerns about a potential goalie rotation is muted when set against the other circumstance out in the mountains: Denver's attack-based offense is ripped apart with the departures of Matthews and Demopoulos. The tandem accounted for about 34 percent of the team's goals last year, 36 percent of Denver's assists, and 35 percent of the team's total generated points. These guys weren't just cogs; they were cogs, pistons, grease, and whatever else makes machines work. You can't replace guys like Matthews and Demopoulos. You need to re-invent what you have to try and fill that void, and that isn't always an easy charge.
A Thousand White Doves
I'm not completely sold that there is a better midfield in the country than what Denver is going to roll on the field in 2013. Noble, Berg, Flit, and Carraro constitute so much complementary and individual value -- Carraro gives as many possessions to his team as any player in the country due to his man-work at the dot; Noble and Berg are as adept at dodging and releasing as they are at letting the bean fly (both shot well above 40 percent last season); and Cam Flint -- a 5-11, 190-pound tactical nuclear weapon -- is a nightmare for opponents regardless of where he is on the field. This kind of depth is likely the reason that Denver moves toward a midfield-based approach in 2013 from its attack-heavy tendencies in years past, but -- and this is the best part -- the move shouldn't render the attack useless: Law, Harrison Archer, and Eric Adamson are more than capable at canning the bean. The attack won't be asked to lead from the front; rather, they'll be able to integrate themselves into the offense, and with the midfield assets that the Pioneers have, may actually excel in their roles in 2013. The Pioneers offense -- its strength, once again -- probably won't approach what it accomplished over the last two seasons, but it should be pretty damn good.
Plus, you know, Bill Tierney is still in charge. Never bet against Tierney (or get involved with a woman with a tattoo of a dagger on her body).