The Rush report

SCOTT ZERR -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:42 AM ET

No one expected the Edmonton Rush to be in the hunt for the National Lacrosse League title in their first year.

But it was thought they could reach a certain level of accomplishment in Year 1.

Standing with a 1-8 record at the midway point of the season isn't what they had in mind.

The Rush have seven games left to salvage something, though they'll pretty much need to run the table to have any hope of a playoff spot - a plausible ambition when the season began in January.

There are signs of development and hope for the future. There are also indications that some butts need to be kicked - either in gear or out the door.

With that in mind, it seemed the right time to scribble a mid-season report card.

THE A-TEAM

JIMMY QUINLAN - This hometown boy is a good story in the making. In only his second NLL season, Quinlan is leading the Rush in scoring (28 points) and continues to build a reputation as one the league's most effective agitators. Quinlan has scored a handful of highlight-reel goals, pestered and dropped the gloves. If he'd get more help up front, his numbers could skyrocket. Grade: A

PAT CAMPBELL - Even though he had a rough night in Colorado, Campbell has been the Rush's MVP during the first half of the season. He sports the second-worst GAA (12.09) and is ninth in save percentage (.769), but on many nights Campbell has made several incredible stops and kept the Rush within range of the opposition. He's also become one of the key leaders in the dressing room and on the floor. Grade: A

CAM BERGMAN - The B.C. import scored the biggest goal in Rush history - the last-second tally to give them their only win. But he's also been the club's most consistent defender and thanks to his tremendous speed, Bergman is the first option on a quick breakout. He drew into the all-star game as an injury replacement and scored a beauty. Grade: A-

THE B-LISTERS

KEVIN HOWARD - Other than Quinlan, Howard is probably the Rush forward most-watched by opposing defenders. For that reason, the Edmonton product has had some quiet nights, but has been a hot shooter on other nights. He isn't likely to get back into the 40-goal stratosphere, but with more help, Howard could be a more potent triggerman. Grade: B

RANDY DALY - Although hurt for much of training camp and the first month of the season, Daly has become a solid contributor. He also plays with a reckless abandon that's either going to put him in the hospital or turn him into one the Rush's most dynamic players. At worst, he'll be a fun sparkplug to watch. Grade: B

MAT GILES - The hulking veteran joined the Rush in a trade with Toronto and quickly showed both leadership skills and a big body up front. He's creating room for the team's shiftier forwards and is bound to find his scoring touch that was stunted in the stint with the Rock. Grade: B-

DWIGHT MAETCHE - He's doing exactly what a veteran backup goaltender should do - provide leadership. Maetche was strong this past weekend (in relief on Friday and as the starter on Saturday) and remains the measuring stick of how pro lacrosse players should approach their fitness regimens. Grade: B-

RORY GLAVES - A member of the NLL all-rookie team last season, Glaves has been effectively steady for the Rush. He's contributed only three points, but he's the type of player that when unseen or unheard, it usually means he's going about his business the right way. Grade: B-

PAUL DAY - The Rush's GM/head coach had two options when assembling his group and rightly chose to go with youth and develop over the long term, rather than spend on free agents and bid for immediate success. But it's reasonable to suggest Day expected more from some of his recruits. Day, regarded by many insiders as the best bench boss in the league, may have to dangle draft picks to get some quality in return before it's too late. Grade: B-

FAIR TO MIDDLIN'

Andrew Turner - Last year, Turner was the NLL's top defensive player. The Rush captain was picked to attend the all-star game again this season, but admitted he wasn't the best choice from his team. His biggest downfall has been getting fingered by referees - 26 penalty minutes already and his career-high is 44. Grade: C+

JAMEY BOWEN - The veteran hometowner has had some magical moments - including scoring the franchise's first goal and a few stunning goals along the way. But at age 36, Bowen simply can't be a major force every night and during a three-game stretch was largely invisible. Grade: C

DARREN HILLIER - To some surprise, Hillier, another local product, has played in every game so far this season - a testament to the off-season work he did to make his way back into the league. The Rush could probably use a little boost in offence from his transition game, but Hillier has been solid. Grade: C

BRAD DAIRON - If only Dairon would score half the time on the number of quality scoring chances he's had (only seven goals on 93 shots). He battled through some butterfingers to start the year and might not become the scoring threat the Rush had hoped for. But he's contributed enough to stay in the mix. Grade: C-

BUCK STOBART - He hasn't yet become the imposing physical presence that was expected from him, but Stobart has been sidetracked by injuries and a slight concussion. He's got good stick skills and can move the ball better than most big men. Stobart should flick the aggression switch on more often. Grade: C-

CHRIS MCELROY - The first of three Rush defenders who have all been middle-of-the-road performers from start to midpoint. McElroy hasn't done anything to hurt his cause, but other than flashes of speed, he hasn't done a whole lot to impress. There's a good chance his second half with be stronger than his first. Grade: C-

PETER GUT - The Edmonton native's adjustment from the college field game to indoor has had its ups and downs. Like McElroy, Gut should improve over the latter portion of the year and at least provide the Rush with some depth out the back door. He did score a beauty against Arizona. Grade: C-

CHRIS STACHNIAK - First, Stachniak survived the free-agent camp and then made his way through the main camp to make the squad. Most importantly, he bucked up and escaped with his head still on his shoulders in a fight with Calgary's Ryan McNish. More guts than talent, but his willingness to battle is a bonus. Grade: C-

TEDDY JENNER - A popular guy with teammates and fans, Jenner hasn't found his stride with the Rush and was dropped for a game after not meeting the coaching staff's expectations. He gets a bump after picking up his intensity on transition breakouts recently. Grade: C-

IN THE DOGHOUSE

TRENT SMALLEY - No one expected Smalley to light the lamp like an all-star, yet with only one goal his first half can't be thought of too highly. There isn't a more likable guy on the team, and he'll get dirty in the corners, but the Rush need more offence out of him. Grade: D

TYLER HEAVENOR - None of the Rush's free-agent pickups had a better start to the year than Heavenor. Unfortunately his good fortune has dwindled away since the second game. He sat out three straight, but got back in and scored Saturday, although he looks to be more of a depth player now. Grade: D

JORDAN CORNFIELD - The Edmonton native was a key free-agent signing following a breakout year in the B.C. summer league. Cornfield came into the year as the coaching staff's pick to be among the NLL's top rookies, but he has mustered just three points and become a project for next season. Grade: D

"THE LITTLE THINGS" - One night, the Rush seem to have them in place. Then the next three games, they vanish. The glaring weakness many times is team toughness. There's no need to brawl it up, but too often the Rush let the opposition get in free shots. And with a struggling club, not sending a message is a bad sign. Grade: D

FALLING BEHIND

KERRY SUSHESKI - Last season's B.C. summer league MVP was counted on to bring some offensive firepower. He played his two best games of the season this past weekend, netting three goals in the transition spot, but his lack of production still qualifies him as a first-half bust. Grade: F

THE RUSH SPECIAL TEAMS - The power play (last at a miserable 25% clip) was going to lack some punch with the limited guns in the arsenal, but too often the ammunition has been nothing stronger than a BB. The PK (a league-worst 51.4%) has been inconsistent and during the visit to Colorado, it went in the tank - so badly that the coach even used a naughty word to sum up the performance. Grade:F

JORDAN SUNDHER - A sports hernia has knocked him out for the year, which nearly qualified him for an incomplete. But even before the diagnosis, he was largely ineffective and his prowess in faceoff circle dropped off badly. Grade: F

INCOMPLETES

KYLE MCEWEN - The big forward was picked up on waivers during training camp and then broke his foot in practice. He's a good bet to become a physical factor next season.

SHANE PEDERSON - The third-round draft pick is the only roster player who hasn't played yet this season. But he could be in the mix next year.

COLIN SHERBANUK - The local product has been in three games and has a great shot. He may have more of a role in 2007.


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