2023-24 NLL Preview: Can the Mammoth Weather the Absence of Ryan Lee?


Zed Williiams will be asked to do even more in 2023-24 with the absence of Ryan Lee.

With the 2023-24 National Lacrosse League season set to begin Dec. 1-2, USA Lacrosse Magazine is going team by team in the days leading up to the opener. Today, we take a deep dive on the Colorado Mammoth.


2022-23 Record: 9-9
Head Coach: Pat Coyle, 10th year
 Assistants: Jason Bishop, Joel Raether

Additions: Paul Dawson, D (Rochester); Connor Kelly, F (Albany); Nate Wade, D (Panther City)
Departures: John Lintz, D (Colorado)


How impactful will the absence of Ryan Lee be?

The Mammoth announced in October they will be without one of their top right-handed weapons, Ryan Lee, due to a surgery required to address complications from a previous surgery on his knee. Lee originally went down during the 2022 playoffs, a blow that didn’t slow Colorado in its journey to the NLL Cup.

Lee returned for six regular season games last season, totaling 33 assists in that period, and led the Mammoth with 35 points during the postseason run.

Now, the Mammoth will put more on Zed Williams (72 points last season) and Tyson Gibson (24 points) in addition to Connor Kelly, who they acquired in a trade with the Albany FireWolves. Kelly is coming off a career year, having led Albany with 68 points.

Only three teams in the league scored less often than the Mammoth in 2022-23, and their last time on the floor saw the squad muster just four goals in a decisive NLL Finals game. Will the remaining pieces be enough to improve that total, or will the defense be able to withstand enough of the load to continue the success the franchise has experienced in recent years?

Can the Mammoth achieve their goal of getting meaner on the back end?

Mammoth general manager Brad Self told Jake Elliott on Lacrosse Classified in October there was a clear strategy in building up the team’s back end. Since he arrived in Denver in 2020, he has had conversations with others in the organization about making Colorado a tougher team to play against.

“That’s not necessarily fighting, but a physical presence where people left games, win or loss, and said, ‘That wasn’t easy,’” Self told Elliott. “It’s one thing that we’ve wanted to continue to address.”

And what better way to do that than sign former Knighthawks captain Paul Dawson, a man ranked No. 5 all time in penalty minutes? Self said the Mammoth have been eyeing the 6-foot-5 defender for a few years now, even inquiring with Rochester about a trade. Now they’ve landed the 17-year veteran a season after he nearly matched his career high in loose balls.

On the younger side of things, Nate Wade also joins the defensive corps after a year spent in Fort Worth. Back are the team’s two leaders in caused turnovers, Robert Hope and Warren Jeffrey, as well as Jordan Gilles, who has accounted for a combined 192 loose balls in the last two seasons.

Colorado allowed more goals than any other Western Conference playoff team last season. Will the additions help bring that number down?


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