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Lyle’s MVP case

Presenting the case for why Lyle should be crowned NLL MVP once again

280 players dressed and played for an NLL team in the 2018-19 season. With all the talent that is spread across the continent, it may seem like a difficult task to narrow down that list of 280 players to the one player that can be considered the Most Valuable Player, but fortunately we’re here to help.

If someone asked you right now who the best lacrosse player in the world is, we’d put money down that Lyle Thompson’s name jumped into your brain. And that shouldn’t come as a surprise, especially if you paid attention to Lyle’s 2018-19 season. In a season in which he finished with 105 points (43G, 62A), Lyle continued to showcase his talents on both sides of the floor as the most complete player in the league.

With the announcement that Lyle is once again a finalist for the National Lacrosse League’s Most Valuable Player alongside Calgary’s Dane Dobbie and Buffalo’s Matt Vinc, we’re hitting the campaign trail for the 2017 NLL MVP and pleading his case for why he deserves that second MVP trophy on his mantle. While Dobbie and Vinc both had phenomenal seasons, this article will focus solely on why Lyle proved he was the best player during the 2018-19 season (that and it’s kind of hard to compare a forward and a goalie).

THE STATS

First, let’s lay out what Lyle did this season:

Lyle Thompson 2018-19 Regular Season Statistics

GP

G A PTS PIM PPG PPA SHG SHA LB TO CTO S SOG S% SOG%

FO

18

43 62 105 6 8 13 1 1 94 32 16 220 158 .195 71.82% 4-9

Lyle led the Swarm in goals, assists, points, goals for per game, points per game, and was tied for the most power play goals on the team. He was second in assists for per game, loose balls, caused turnovers, and shooting percentage among forwards.

Compared to his MVP season, Lyle’s shooting was particularly effective. He set a new high in shooting percentage while taking less shots, and his shots-on-goal percentage was better by 2.5%.

Among NLL forwards, the University at Albany product was third in goals and points, eighth in assists, fourth in loose balls, and led in caused turnovers.

The hustle | Photo Credit: Kyle Hess

MVP COMPARISON

How does Lyle’s season compare to previous MVP winners? Pretty solidly:

WINNER YEAR GP G A PTS PIM PPG PPA SHG SHA LB TO CT S SOG S% SOG% FO
Mark Matthews 2018 18 32 84 116 6 10 33 2 0 67 66 7 222 150 .144 .676 0-0
Lyle Thompson 2017 18 45 71 116 8 10 27 3 1 126 62 15 232 161 .194 .694 21-44
Dhane Smith 2016 18 72 65 137 9 16 13 1 2 111 43 12 337 247 .214 .733 0-0
Shawn Evans 2015 18 47 83 130 39 4 31 5 3 96 77 10 254 184 .185 .724 0-0
Cody Jamieson 2014 18 36 72 108 26 8 11 1 4 70 58 3 200 140 .180 .700 0-0
Shawn Evans 2013 16 32 80 112 25 12 29 0 3 69 61 15 186 139 .172 .747 0-0
John Grant, Jr. 2012 14 50 66 116 24 19 20 2 1 57 54 2 219 192 .228 .877 0-0
Jeff Shattler 2011 15 29 46 75 20 5 6 4 1 93 51 12 142 107 .204 .754 0-0
Casey Powell 2010 14 44 36 80 12 10 8 1 1 53 199 166 .221 .834 0-0
Dan Dawson 2009 16 30 74 104 8 2 24 3 1 54 207 158 .145 .763 0-0
Athan Iannucci 2008 16 71 29 100 35 17 10 5 0 138 352 253 .202 .719 0-0
John Grant, Jr. 2007 15 51 60 111 40 14 22 5 6 81 272 199 .188 .732 0-0
Colin Doyle 2005 16 42 69 111 21 14 31 0 3 94

(A couple quick notes: we only have statistics going back to 2005, faceoffs weren’t tracked until 2006, and turnovers and caused turnovers weren’t tracked until 2011. Hence those empty cells you see. All the math below accounts for these discrepancies. Also, every MVP since ’05 has been a forward, except for when Steve Dietrich won it as a goaltender with Buffalo in 2006. He’s obviously missing from the above graph.)

Average all that out, and you get:

G A PTS PIM PPG PPA SHG SHA LB TO CT S SOG S% SOG%
44.7 64.2 108.9 21 10.9 20.4 2.5 2 85.3 59 9.5 235.2 174.7 .190 .746

Lyle’s just under the averages for goals, assists and points. He’s surpassed the loose balls total by a health margin, has a healthier gap between the average turnover rate and his 32 this season, and is nearly double in the caused turnover category. As noted earlier, his shooting percentage is higher than when he won MVP in 2017 and is .5% above the average.

Also of note is how Lyle’s six penalty minutes matches the low mark set by Mark Matthews last season when he won MVP. And finally, Lyle’s the only player on here to participate in faceoffs, helping showcase all he can do on the floor.

TWO-WAY PLAYER

While we unfortunately do not have a wealth of defensive statistics to pull from, we all remember a time where Lyle played an offensive shift, transitioned to defense, then went right back to offense like it was nothing. Not many players have the motor that Lyle has to play as much as he does, and fewer still can be a dynamic offensive threat and play some shutdown defense.

And that shutdown defense is the real reason why we know Lyle’s the best player in the world. Like a shark sensing blood in the water, Lyle knows when to strike and get the ball back for his team, and the efforts he goes through to help the Swarm regain or extend a possession are unmatched.

Forwards sometimes get caught playing a defensive shift, and coaches tend to hold their breath hoping they aren’t taken advantage of and scored on. With Lyle, there’s no such fear. He plays cerebral defense and will go after a loose ball like his life depends on it.

Season after season, we’ve seen Lyle elevate his game and remain the game’s most complete player no matter what side of the floor he’s on. His 2018-19 campaign was no different as Lyle terrorized both zones.

And when you have a player make an impact both offensively and defensively, something few in the NLL can claim, well, that seems to us to be the definition of a Most Valuable Player, no?

The people agree | Photo Credit: Kyle Hess

Georgia Swarm Pro Lacrosse Team