Power Rankings: 2019 Recap


November 13, 2019
By Adam Ruffner

As we wind down to the close of 2019 and the cold really starts to set in, it's a good time to look back on the year that was. The New York Empire became the seventh franchise in eight seasons to win the AUDL championship, but other than their solid perch atop the list, these rankings have been anything but steady over the past several months. 

21-15

21. Detroit Mechanix
2019 record: 0-12
Highest ranking: 21
Lowest ranking: 21
Average ranking: 21

After beginning the year by scoring 22 goals in two of their first three matchups of the 2019 season, the Mechanix offense finished with a whimper, tallying single-digit scores in two of their final three games. Their 14.50 goals per game mark is the lowest team scoring average for a single season in league history, and the offense's anemia has been a main factor in the team's current 38-game losing streak that dates back to April 2017. Detroit finished with a league-low 91.00 percent completion rating as a team—the third straight season the Mechanix finished dead last in that category—so fortifying offensive possessions and valuing the disc more could be a great place to start for 2020. 

20. Seattle Cascades
2019 record: 2-10
Highest ranking: 15
Lowest ranking: 20
Average ranking: 18

With the league's worst scoring defense in 2019, the Cascades were often faced with early deficits, and resorted to playing a high risk, high reward brand of offense. The unit finished sixth overall in scoring despite a challenging mix of youth and newcomers. But for as feisty as this made Seattle in certain matchups—they played the division leading Growlers as well as anyone in 2019—it could also lead to blowouts, as the Cascades fell by a combined 21 goals in their final two games of the season. Seattle moved the disc quickly and efficiently, completing the most passes per game in the AUDL. If Seattle's defense can evolve and figure out a way to slow opposing offenses down a bit, their offense has a chance to put the team back in playoff contention for the first time since 2016. 

19. San Jose Spiders
2019 record: 3-9
Highest ranking: 7
Lowest ranking: 20 
Average ranking: 16

No team experienced a fall from grace in 2019 like the Spiders. Pegged as a darkhorse title contender to start the season, San Jose quickly doused any of their championship hopes, losing four of their first five games in the opening month of the regular season. The Spiders finished with just three wins, a franchise low for the AUDL's only team with two league champion trophies. But despite their struggles as a team, the Spiders offense quietly improved throughout the season, tallying 118 goals in their final five games, and finishing the 2019 season ranked fifth in scoring. 

18. Austin Sol
2019 record: 3-9
Highest ranking: 7
Lowest ranking: 20
Average ranking: 14

A year after qualifying for their first playoff appearance as a franchise, the Sol experienced major setbacks due to injuries and a rising tide of talent in the South Division. Just three Austin players completed more than 200 passes on the season, a sign of the team's inability to have consistently healthy rotations, especially at the top of their lineup; for comparison, 2019 semifinalist Indianapolis had seven different players with 200+ completed passes. All-Star Kyle Henke went from leading the team in goals in 2018, to leading the Sol in assists this past season, showing off his continued development as an all-around weapon on offense. Returning big thrower Chase Cunningham and defender Mick Walter—the latter was leading the league in blocks before suffering a season-ending injury midway through 2019—will make a world of difference in 2020. 

17. Ottawa Outlaws
2019 record: 3-9
Highest ranking: 16
Lowest ranking: 20
Average ranking: 18

The Outlaws began the 2019 season mired in a four-game losing streak, but finished in a much more competitive form, winning three of their final eight games and keeping the final margins at five goals or fewer in each of those contests. The loss of throwing legend Derek Alexander early in the season may have had some positive impacts on the team's development as a whole, as Ottawa was forced to diversify their attack and utilize more players in the handler position than ever before. And with wins against every divisional foe save for Toronto and New York this year—the Outlaws lost on a walk-off huck to the Rush in Week 6—Ottawa could rise in the East in 2020 with a few tweaks. 

16. Tampa Bay Cannons
2019 record: 4-8
Highest ranking: 12
Lowest ranking: 19
Average ranking: 15

Losing a slew of top playmakers after the 2017 and 2018 seasons, the Cannons had to rebuild their rotations in 2019. Longtime defender Bradley Seuntjens switched to offense and had a career year as Andrew Roney's favorite target, finishing tied tenth in the AUDL with 42 goals and establishing one of the better one-two offensive punches in the division. Defensively, the Cannons relied heavily on unproven young talent, with mixed results; Tampa Bay had four games where they allowed 20 goals or fewer to opponents, but they also allowed 25+ goals four separate times in 2019. Roney has led the team in takeaways in each of the past two seasons despite being their offensive workhorse.

15. Montreal Royal
2019 record: 4-8
Highest ranking: 11
Lowest ranking: 17
Average ranking: 14

Career years for Kevin Quinlan and Quentin Bonnaud. An injection of fresh French talent led by the shining offensive duo of Sacha Poitte-Sokolsky and ambidextrous throwing phenom Quentin Roger. And still the Royal finished well outside the playoff picture for the third time in four seasons. It's hard to pinpoint Montreal's specific struggle, but with three one-goal losses in 2019, it could be as simple as executing down the stretch in close games. From a talent and lineup perspective, on paper, this Royal team can compete with anybody in the division. New Head Coach Stève Bonneau's job will be to finally capitalize on Montreal's untapped potential. 

14-11

14. Philadelphia Phoenix
2019 record: 4-8
Highest ranking: 11
Lowest ranking: 16
Average ranking: 14

Philly has one of the longest playoff droughts in league history, having not made the postseason since 2013. But the Phoenix now sport one of the youngest and fastest developing rosters in the AUDL, and their reinvigorated lineup showed signs of true competitiveness down the stretch of the 2019 season. A road win in Toronto and a gutsy double overtime victory to close out their season in Montreal were both notable performances, as the team showed its ability to adapt midgame and close out tough. Philly has a stable of dynamic throwers who haven't hit their prime, led by Sean Mott and Ethan Fortin, and the defense is sneaky good and getting better.

13. Minnesota Wind Chill

2019 record: 6-6
Highest ranking: 8
Lowest ranking: 16
Average ranking: 12

In 2019, Minnesota had the problem of being their own worst enemy. In Week 6, they went on the road and secured a historic, franchise-first win in Madison, only to turn around the very next week and lose at home to Indy by two. Similar in energy: The Wind Chill ranked third in the league in takeaways, but were sixth worst in turnovers per game, often times giving the disc back as quickly as they generated a block. Minnesota's talent at the skill positions is undeniable, and the addition of Matthew Rehder coupled with the return of their Canadian contingent has Wind Chill eyeing a return to the postseason in 2020. 

12. Madison Radicals
2019 record: 6-6
Highest ranking: 2
Lowest ranking: 12
Average ranking: 6

A year after their top three offense carried them to a championship in 2018, the Radicals struggled to establish any kind of offensive rhythm, finishing middle of the pack in scoring and offensive efficiency in 2019, and missing the playoffs for the first time in team history. The champion's hangover and lineup inconsistencies were a major reason for Madison's downturn. But the team also seemed to lack definitive playmakers in the downfield space on offense; only Colin Camp had 20+ goals for the Radicals this past season, and there was little in the way of big play potential for the reigning champs. Madison is set for its largest roster overhaul yet this offseason, so it will be interesting to see what emerges from this franchise in 2020. Even with the changes, though, expect a perenially great Radicals defense led by Sterling Knoche and Kevin Pettit-Scantling to finish at the top of the league once again. 

11. Atlanta Hustle
2019 record: 5-7
Highest ranking: 11
Lowest ranking: 20
Average ranking: 15

For a franchise that does such a good job of maximizing their strengths while minimizing mistakes—the Hustle had the second fewest turnovers per game in 2019—it's odd that Atlanta has not qualified for the playoffs since 2016. The Hustle had wins against two semifinalists in 2019 (Dallas and Indianapolis), and their strong core of young talent headlined by speedster Elijah Jaime packs a lot of prospects. If 24-year-old handler Parker Bray can return to form with the offense, and add a second big arm alongside Player Pierce, the Hustle will suddenly be flush with weapons in 2020. 

10. Chicago Wildfire

2019 record: 7-6
Highest ranking: 6
Lowest ranking: 10 
Average ranking: 9

From 2018 to 2019, the Chicago Wildfire trimmed nearly three goals per game off their average, finishing seventh in defensive scoring this past season. Losing Matt Rehder this offseason to their division rivals in Minnesota hurts, but the coverage core led by Ross Barker and standout rookies Seth Weaver and Drew Swanson have Chicago well positioned for 2020; the Wildfire finished third overall in defensive efficiency in 2019 with a relatively untested unit. Even though the Wildfire ended last year with back-to-back, home-and-away losses to Pittsburgh that had the emotional equivalent of this, it's difficult to not get excited about Chicago's future with the potential return of a healthy Kurt Gibson

9. Los Angeles Aviators

2019 record: 9-4
Highest ranking: 7
Lowest ranking: 15
Average ranking: 10

2019 marked the fourth straight season the Los Angeles Aviators have qualified for the playoffs, tying Dallas and DC for third longest active streak in the league. What makes the Aviators so potent is their ability to capitalize on opportunities on both sides of the disc; Los Angeles was the only team this past season to rank in the top four in both offensive and defensive efficiency. They did a stellar job as a team at producing turnovers from opponents while limiting their own, ranking first in the AUDL in blocks-to-turnover ratio despite not having a single player ranked in the league's top 30 in blocks. 

8. Pittsburgh Thunderbirds

2019 record: 9-5
Highest ranking: 8
Lowest ranking: 20
Average ranking: 15

With 119 assists and 88 goals the past two regular seasons, Max Sheppard is charting new territory as an offensive force. Between his high velocity throws and even faster legs, Sheppard has been folding opposing defenses in the Midwest like origami and transforming the Pittsburgh Thunderbirds from cellar dweller into a team with Championship Weekend aspirations. But Sheppard isn't alone in running the resurgent Pittsburgh offense: Thomas Edmonds and Jonathan Mast finished third and fifth, respectively, in the AUDL last season in total completions, completing 1300 throws combined at a nearly 97 percent rate. The balance the three throwers and their complementary styles provide gives the T-birds a relative advantage against almost any defense. 

7. DC Breeze

2019 record: 7-6
Highest ranking: 4
Lowest ranking: 15
Average ranking: 9

With each of their top eight usage players completing at least 94 percent or better on their throws, it's not wonder that the DC Breeze finished third overall in offensive efficiency in 2019. The Breeze are built on disc skills, team speed, and a unique talisman in Rowan McDonnell that supercharges it all. DC can attack from a variety of angles, but their ability to string together full-field blitzing drives is something to behold. The roster is stacked with gems—Nathan PriorCody JohnstonGarrett Braun—but Rowan has found a perfect balance as both a field general and a cog, knowing when and how to cycle between playing his role and taking games over entirely. 

6. Toronto Rush

2019 record: 8-6
Highest ranking: 4
Lowest ranking: 8
Average ranking: 5

This was a year of worrisome firsts for the Toronto Rush. First time not reaching double-digit wins. First time not capturing the regular season East Division crown. First season without a win against each divisional opponent; Philly swept their season series 2-0. And yet, despite getting knocked down a few pegs, this Toronto team was still just three goals from knocking off the undefeated Empire and returning to Championship Weekend for their sixth appearance in seven years. Cameron HarrisAndrew CarrollThomson McKnight, and Isaiah Masek-Kelly have been a collective institution for years, and until their East foes definitively vanquish them from the playoffs for the first time in Toronto franchise history, it feels like the Rush will always have an ability to summon a champion-caliber effort. 

5. Indianapolis AlleyCats

2019 record: 9-5
Highest ranking: 4
Lowest ranking: 13
Average ranking: 8

The past two seasons have rewritten the Indianapolis AlleyCats' legacy, shifting their story from one of unsatisfied underdogs to burgeoning divisional powerhouse. Indy has certainly earned all of their hard fought wins, but the margin between their success and possible failure has been slim: The Cardiac 'Cats were 7-2 in three goal games in 2019, and given the pendulous drama of the Midwest Division, those results could easily have been flipped. And with Head Coach Eric Leonard stepping down after last season's semifinals run, Indy's room for error gets even narrower if they are to keep their position atop the pack.

4. Raleigh Flyers

2019 record: 10-3
Highest ranking: 2
Lowest ranking: 4
Average ranking: 3

The Raleigh Flyers concluded the 2019 season staring down the barrel of their fourth consecutive South Division Championship Game loss to Dallas. The only two teams to beat Raleigh in 2019—Dallas and New York—faced off in the league championship game. But it's little consolation. For Flyers a team defined by their ability to compete against the best, the fact that Raleigh has only one playoff win in the past four seasons is stark. This is a perennial top five team on both offense and defense during the regular season, and their roster is stacked with individual playmakers. Lacking a definitive postseason win, though, the Flyers enter another offseason filled with questions of how to throw the proverbial monkey off their backs. 

3. San Diego Growlers

2019 record: 11-3
Highest ranking: 3
Lowest ranking: 7
Average ranking: 6

The San Diego Growlers trailed Dallas by a single goal in the 2019 AUDL semifinals near the end of the third quarter, before three straight Roughnecks scores in under two minutes of play pushed their lead to an insurmountable four goals. It was an uncharacteristic unraveling for a San Diego team that ranked third in team completion percentage in 2019; five of the Growlers' top six throwers threw multiple incompletions during their semifinals loss. But for their first appearance at Championship Weekend, the Growlers made a great showing. And with the expected full return of their top ranked offensive lineup, led by two-time All-AUDL First Team member Travis Dunn, San Diego should be setting its sights on a return to the final four. 

2. Dallas Roughnecks

2019 record: 10-5
Highest ranking: 2
Lowest ranking: 4
Average ranking: 3

It's odd to call a Dallas Roughnecks franchise that has three championship game appearances in four seasons "scrappy", but it's a term that just fits this team. Following a franchise-worst, four-loss regular season, and a myriad of lineup shifts and tweaks, Dallas did what it does best down the stretch: Lock in and grind out postseason wins. The new era offense led by the throwing of Abe CoffinDalton Smith, and Henry Furuta has been great at getting scores when Dallas needs them most, but it's the Roughnecks defense that really makes this team a perennial championship contender. They stymied two of the best offenses in Raleigh and San Diego to begin their 2019 postseason run, allowing just 35 goals in two games. And were it not for an injury to Jay Froude in the second quarter against New York, the 2019 AUDL Championship Game have had a completely different trajectory. 

1. New York Empire

2019 record: 15-0
Highest ranking: 1
Lowest ranking: 1
Average ranking: 1

The plaque placed below the 2019 New York Empire season should simply read: veni, vidi, vici. The team entered the season with championship sized expectations, and they methodically executed every single week until they achieved them. Sure, they had the league MVP Ben Jagt and the league's most talented lineup. But becoming the third franchise ever to complete an undefeated season takes a lot more than skill or even luck. It takes commitment, like the kind embodied by Empire defender and ironman Matt LeMar, who completes his league-record 111 consecutive games played streak with a trophy.