(Teams will compete in 1 division, with top 4 making the playoffs)
Last season's record: 21-31. Finish: Last in Eastern Division. Coach: Kenny Cooper. Returning players: 5. Newcomers: 11.
Outlook: It's hard to make bold forecasts for a team that has lost 6-time All-Star D Bruce Savage; M Tim Wittman, who trails only Stan Stamenkovic on the team's all-time points list; G Scott Manning, regarded by many as the MSL's top goalkeeper; and F Dale Mitchell, fourth on the MSL career points list (361 goals, 246 assists for 607 points). But Cooper has revamped his defense and goalkeeping with newcomers and hopes to win with a team-oriented offense and a strong defense. Two new defenders each from the Comets (Iain Fraser and Doug Neely) and Storm (David Eise and Emil Dragicevic) are expected to lead the defensive charge and intimidate. G Cris Vaccaro, starting his 12th season, will replace Manning. Newcomer M Waad Hirmez, from the Sockers, is expected to provide scoring help for F
Domenic Mobilio and M Billy Ronson. Last season's record: 29-23. Finish: First in Eastern Division. Coach: Trevor Dawkins. Returning players: 13. Newcomers: 3.
Outlook: Cleveland discovered how to play as a team last season when Trevor Dawkins replaced Kai Haaskivi as head coach with 31 games remaining. The Crunch bolted from last to first under Dawkins and has almost everybody back from the team that went to the MSL championship series before losing to the Sockers. F Zoran Karic (73 goals, 48 assists for 121 points) and F Hector Marinaro (63, 44 for 107) became the second twosome in league history to each score 100 points or more in a season. The first 2 players to do it were the Sockers' Steve Zungul (68, 68 for 136) and Branko Segota (66, 40 for 106) in the 1984-85 season. Karic and Marinaro return along with F Michael King (46, 17). Defensively, P.J. Johns is back in goal behind D George Fernandez (85 blocks) and D Greg Willin (71 blocks). The most significant newcomer is D Chico Moreira (92 blocks for the Wings). Last season's record: 20-32. Finish: last in Western Division. Coach: Gordon Jago. Returning players: 9. Newcomers: 7.
Outlook: Like the Crunch and Wings, the Sidekicks made a coaching change during last season while stuck in last place. Jago replaced Billy Phillips. But things didn't get any better for Dallas, which had some dissension between scoring star F Tatu and veteran D Doc Lawson. Lawson has retired, but the rest of the Dallas defense (Wes McLeod, Troy Snyder, Mike Uremovich and Mike Powers) remains intact. On offense, there's Tatu (78, 66 for 144), who led the MSL in scoring last season, and newcomer F Jan Goossens from the defunct Kansas City Comets. Goossens (53, 58) has been among the league's top scorers for 8 years. MF Richard Chinapoo returns to Dallas for a second stint after not being re-signed by Baltimore. Last season's record: 32-20. Finish: Second in Western Division. Coach: Don Popovic. Returning players: 8. Newcomers: (16-man roster not complete).
Outlook: The Storm will have 2 of the top stars in the history of the league, F Preki and MF Branko Segota. Preki (68, 53) returns and Segota, second behind Steve Zungul on the MSL career scoring list, was acquired from San Diego in a trade that sent M Thompson Usiyan to the Sockers. Segota has 416 goals and 353 assists in 10 seasons. Zungul had 652 goals and 471 assists in 11 seasons. On defense, the Storm has lost David Eise and Emil Dragicevic to Baltimore, but it still has plenty of talent in Mark Frederickson (108 blocks), Daryl Doran (93 blocks) and Fernando Clavijo (91 blocks). Also, G Zoltan Toth (career-best 25 wins) returns. Last season's record: 34-18. Finish: First in Western Division. Coach: Ron Newman. Returning players: 7. Newcomers: 4 (16-man roster not complete).
Outlook: The departure of Segota was prompted by differences with coach Ron Newman over how much Segota should be paid this season (Segota missed 19 games with injuries last season). But Newman quickly acquired some scoring punch to replace Segota in a former Blast star, M Tim Wittman (30, 24 in 33 games). Also missing from last season is M Paul Wright and M Waad Hirmez. Both had contract disputes. Wright was placed on waivers and picked up by the Blast but refused to report to training camp and has been placed on the suspended list without pay. Hirmez has signed with Baltimore. The word out of San Diego is that Wright will win his grievance case against the Blast (he says Baltimore failed to uphold his contract from San Diego) today and be traded back to the Sockers. There is no word on whom the Blast might receive from San Diego. In any case, San Diego will be strong again, with the likes of G Victor Nogueira, M Paul Dougherty, D Kevin Crow and F Wes Wade. There also is a possibility that Newman will sign M Brian Quinn, a longtime team leader, to play in half the games (Quinn signed with the U.S. national team last summer and would be available only on a part-time basis).