2023 Record: 4-6, 6th in the PLL, lost in Quarterfinals
2024 Draft Picks: 3rd overall, 17th overall, 27th overall
Offensive Efficiency: 27.8%, 4th in the PLL
Defensive Efficiency: 31.1%, 7th in the PLL
Pending Free Agents:
James Barclay (Holdout List)
The Whips have been the class of the PLL through the first four years of the league’s existence. They won the first and second title, and were a favorite to win the third but were upset by the Chaos. Last year was their first year without making the title game, but they did have the league’s best record. A below .500 season and a quarterfinal exit is uncharted territory for the Whipsnakes. No dynasty lasts forever, but this year was the first where the Whips truly looked vulnerable. Their mantra of “hit singles” on offense and play excellent team defense was on display, but not consistently, and that was the difference this year. When they could execute, they delivered what we were used to seeing from them. Methodical, clean, efficient play that ground opponents into dust.
Injuries were a major problem for the Whips this year. After drafting Tucker Dordevic, the offense looked like it had a wide array of dodging threats, enough that someone should always have a mismatch, with Dordevic joining Brad Smith, Matt Rambo, and Zed Williams as primary initiators. Smith had a knee injury causing him to miss significant time early in the year. Williams was late to the party as he wrapped up the NLL season with Colorado. It all added up to that foursome not being in the lineup together until after the all star break, with the season half over. Michael Ehrhardt remained far and away the best LSM in the league, but missed two games this year with injury. Matt Dunn, one of the best defenseman in the world, missed two games with injury. Kyle Bernlohr’s elbow injury forced him out of 4+ games. Joe Nardella missed the entire season.
There was a silver lining to the rain cloud this year. Bernlohr’s injury meant Brendan Krebs got an opportunity to start, and played his way to what comfortably looks like the “goalie of the future” spot for this team. Whipsnakes were the only club to carry three goalies this year, and Krebs made it clear why he was worth the roster spot. Dordevic won Rookie of the Year, handling the added pressure of needing to create with players like Smith out very well, and led the league in two point goals. Connor Kirst further grew into his role as a two way midfielder, logging several outstanding games and getting individual praise from Ehrhardt after the season. Roman Puglise also looked very good in his first full healthy season.
The Whips are still great at multiple spots, they may just need to start getting younger. They began doing that this year with players like Dordevic and Krebs. Both look like PLL stars in the making, and the type of player you can call the foundation and core of the team. But further reinforcements are going to be needed. It’s possible Ehrhardt, Jake Bernhardt, and Mike Chanenchuk all move on next year. It will be Joe Nardella’s 10th year as a pro next summer, coming off a major knee injury. Will Manny will be entering year 12 as a pro. There are solid young players who will get an opportunity, like Garrett Leadmon who the Whipsnakes drafted a year ago. Midfield depth is every team’s priority, but it’s especially important for the Whipsnakes. If the Whips decide to move on away from their Hounds era players, they may have to face the decision of just ripping the bandaid off and moving on from them all at once.
Should they go that route, they’ll have needs in the midfield and at LSM. They have Garrett Leadmon, who they drafted last year and likely moves into a more prominent role. Elijah Gash has a sky high ceiling should he develop his game between now and next season, and Brett Kennedy could have an expanded role.
That’s a very short list of pending pending free agents. But there are no easy decisions. Coach Jim Stagnitta, as he said following the Quarterfinal loss, has been with a lot of these players since they were on the Charlotte Hounds. The only quick and easy decision on that list to me is Brendan Krebs. He looks like, and Stagnitta has called him, potentially the future of the team in goal. Brian Phipps just wrapped up year 14 in the pros. Should he decide to hang it up, multiple teams would, and should, be interested in having him on the sideline. The Whipsnakes winning play in the sub game was in no small part due to the scheme of Phipps. Michael Ehrhart spoke at length after the quarters about weighing a very difficult decision, having just wrapped up his 10th year. He’s a first ballot hall of fame player, and frankly a legit candidate to be the new name on the LSM of the Year award. He’s getting married soon, has a demanding job during the week, and has been dealing with injuries for basically a couple years at this point. Jake Bernhardt is entering year 13, Chanenchuk is entering year 11. LSMs to watch may come from the Redwoods, who suddenly have a logjam at the position between Owen Grant, Ryan Kennedy, and John Sexton. Nat St Laurent likes to dress six poles, but both Kenney and Sexton will hit the market this March. I also consider the Whips to be a possible landing spot for Bryan Costabile, who could step right into the Mike Chanenchuk role and add another threat to pressure a defense.
The Whips never pick this high. They’re always in the back half of the draft. Being in the top three means one of Brennan O’Neill, Connor Shellenberger, and Pat Kavanagh will be there. If they let Morrill walk after trading for him, they could look to take Shellenberger or Kavanagh to play a similar role. If Ehrhardt decides to hang it up, Jake Piseno will be a name to watch for them as a natural LSM who also causes havoc between the lines and is a threat in the sub game and in transition. If they target midfield to add another young player to join Brad Smith and Tucker Dordevic, Graham Bundy will be at or near the top of the midfield prospect list. Retirements will probably be the thing that most dictates what the Whips target in the draft.