Power Rankings: 2021 Season Recap

November 23, 2021
By Adam Ruffner

Canada Cup

3. Ottawa Outlaws
Offensive scoring rank: T-10th
Offensive efficiency rank: 9th
Defensive scoring rank: 19th
Defensive efficiency rank: 19th

Capable of explosive outbursts, the Outlaws offense lived and died by the longball this season, completing 10-plus hucks in five of eight Canada Cup games; Ottawa completed 22 hucks combined in the other three games. Handlers Nick Boucher and Geoff Bevan were the main howitzers in the backfield, but nearly every Outlaws player seemed to have a green light with the disc. When it was working, the Outlaws were dangerous. But in four separate games Ottawa failed to complete 90 percent of their throws as a team, and all four resulted in losses. 

The Outlaws defense is inexperienced and prone to surrendering big plays. But despite lacking much of a system, they can be disruptive: Ottawa finished a surprising sixth in takeaways, averaging more than 10 blocks per game. 

2. Toronto Rush
Offensive scoring rank: 12th
Offensive efficiency rank: 12th
Defensive scoring rank: 15th
Defensive efficiency rank: T-11th

One of just two franchises in AUDL history to have more than 90 wins, Toronto went through the first real transition of the franchise’s eight-season tenure, as veterans phased out of primary roles and younger players took up the mantle. The flux led to wildly variable performances for the normally business-like Rush, who suffered a Canada Cup high six losses, but were still just one goal shy of winning the whole dang tournament.  

After years as one of the most interesting defensive prospects, Mike Mackenzie exploded as a receiver in 2021, finishing with five games of 300-plus receiving yards while averaging nearly six total scores per game. Phil “Thrill” Turner was the premiere downfield defender in the Canadian series, finishing first among all AUDL players this season by averaging 2.33 blocks per game.

1. Montreal Royal
Offensive scoring rank: 9th
Offensive efficiency rank: T-6th
Defensive scoring rank: 11th
Defensive efficiency rank: T-11th

After years of cultivating a youth farm system in Montreal, the Royal are beginning to reap the fruits of their efforts with one of the most impressive crops of young talent in the league. At nearly every level on offense and defense, Montreal rosters a homegrown player that is in the process of breaking out. The two highlights this season were Jakob Brissette and Christophe Tremblay-Joncas, who were crucial playmakers throughout the season, and especially in the Canada Cup finale; Brissette showed off an ambidextrous throwing repertoire, while CTJ has transformed into one of the most imposing defenders in the air. 

And aside from those two, the Royal could rattle off another 10 prospects that contributed to their wins this season. But interestingly enough, two foreigners—Captain Kevin Quinlan and Sacha Poitte-Sokolsky—have been responsible for anchoring much of the team’s offensive success. Now in his fifth year with the team, Quinlan looks as comfortable as ever quarterbacking the Montreal offense, and remains one of the best pure power throwers, tossing the game-winning 40-yard hammer in the Canada Cup championship. Poitte-Sokolsky had a career year in 2021, leading the league in goals per game (4.78) while also operating as a supremely potent continuation thrower.

2021 AUDL Season

19. Detroit Mechanix
Offensive scoring rank: 22nd
Offensive efficiency rank: 22nd
Defensive scoring rank: 22nd
Defensive efficiency rank: 22nd

Looking slightly past the 50-game losing streak and league-worst team rankings, the Mechanix finally found a semblance of an offensive identity. Detroit averaged over 10 hucks per game in 2021, and completed exactly half of their 128 attempts, with handlers Bryan Walsh and Joe Cubitt often looking to hit Andrew Sjogren on deep routes. All three players had career years, and each finished in the league’s top 25 in total yardage this season. 

But Detroit’s reliance on just three players to carry much of their offensive load made the Mechanix one dimensional for opposing defenses; Detroit scored a league low 15.6 goals per game, and failed to score at least 20 goals in 11 of their 12 contests. 

18. Indianapolis AlleyCats
Offensive scoring rank: 15th
Offensive efficiency rank: 13th
Defensive scoring rank: 16th
Defensive efficiency rank: 14th

From division champions in 2019 to rebuilding upstarts, the AlleyCats were feisty but never fearsome this year due to heavy roster turnover. The offense was hit hardest by departures, as the Indy O-line fell from sixth in efficiency in 2019 to 13th this season; the ‘Cats failed to score 20 goals in each of their last six games, averaging 17.7 per game and going 1-5, with their lone win coming against Detroit. 

But with one of the youngest rosters in the league and a committed coaching staff, Indy has a lot of growth potential. Travis Carpenter, Rick Gross, and Levi Jacobs all shouldered massive usage rates while the team went through transition—Carpenter and Gross both dealing with injuries throughout 2021—and could be poised for breakout seasons in 2022 if one or two more young AlleyCats continue to develop. 

17. Tampa Bay Cannons
Offensive scoring rank: 21st
Offensive efficiency rank: 21st
Defensive scoring rank: 21st
Defensive efficiency rank: 21st

Outside of their two wins against Pittsburgh and Atlanta, the Cannons struggled to remain competitive in their 10 losses, with an average margin of defeat of 9.1 goals per game. Injuries and a constantly rotating lineup eroded any chance for consistency or rhythm on offense, but whenever Bobby Ley and/or Andrew Roney were in the lineup, it felt like Tampa Bay had a puncher's chance; Ley finished with his third 45-plus assist season of his career despite playing in just nine games. 

The Cannons looked most comfortable when playing uptempo, big throw offense, using hucks from the midfield to isolate receivers in the endzone. ​​Billy O'Bryan, Unmil Patel, and Tannon Hedges all showed a knack for making plays in single coverage, both as receivers and throwers, and could be a solid foundation for the O-line going forward.

16. Pittsburgh Thunderbirds
Offensive scoring rank: 17th
Offensive efficiency rank: 19th
Defensive scoring rank: 20th
Defensive efficiency rank: 20th

Put simply: Pittsburgh did not value the disc in 2021. The Thunderbirds have plenty of playmakers in Max Sheppard, CJ Colicchio, and Thomas Edmonds for a one win squad. But Pittsburgh as a team had seven games—all losses—where they failed to complete 92 percent of their passes, which is bottom-of-the-barrel pass efficiency; only Tampa Bay and Detroit finished with sub-92 percent team completion rates in 2021.

It was just the second time in six seasons as a franchise that Pittsburgh missed the playoffs, and both times the Thunderbirds defense finished in the bottom half of the league. If the T-birds bolster their D-line rotations and improve a takeaway rate that was fifth worst in the league in 2021, they could return to contention sooner than later.

15. Philadelphia Phoenix
Offensive scoring rank: 20th
Offensive efficiency rank:  T-17th
Defensive scoring rank: 17th
Defensive efficiency rank: 18th

I was high on Philly heading into the year, and while there is still much to like about their roster and its development potential, there’s more possibility than reality and winning for right now. And despite rostering Sean Mott and Greg Martin, the Phoenix finished with a bottom three scoring offense for the second straight season; Philly hasn’t finished outside of the bottom six in scoring since 2013.

The Phoenix were league average in turnovers and team completion percentage, but dead last in defensive takeaways, which magnified Philly O-line mistakes; the defense converted more than four breaks in a game just twice in 2021, both wins. If the young Phoenix defense can improve to even league average in blocks and converting break chances, this team could become a lot more dangerous.

14. Seattle Cascades
Offensive scoring rank: 18th
Offensive efficiency rank: 20th
Defensive scoring rank: 14th
Defensive efficiency rank: T-7th

After five straight seasons in the bottom third of the league in defensive ratings, the three-win Cascades had a disruptive D-line in 2021. Seattle finished seventh in takeaways per game—Shane Worthington, Nick Mahan, Garrett Martin, and Aidan Lopez-Escarez all had double-digit blocks—and had six games where they converted five or more break scores. 

Offensively, Seattle struggled to stay in rhythm, finishing with six games with a sub-90 percent team completion rating. They have the pieces to compete at a playoff level, as they showed in their Week 7 win over Dallas in primetime, but their O-line handler rotation has to solidify first. 

13. San Jose Spiders
Offensive scoring rank: 16th
Offensive efficiency rank: 16th
Defensive scoring rank: 12th
Defensive efficiency rank: 9th

The Spiders were solid if unspectacular in 2021, taking care of business in favorable matchups, but registering zero upsets against the two divisional playoff teams in Dallas and San Diego; it’s San Jose’s third straight season without a playoff appearance. Keenan Laurence and Jordan Kerr emerged as one of the most exciting downfield playmaking duos in the division, with each player averaging over four scores (assists plus goals) and 300 total yards of offense per game.

But San Jose as a whole struggled with possession, and finished in the bottom six in turnovers per game and team completion rate. A team of runs, the Spiders showed their youth and inexperience when they couldn’t mitigate mistakes; they gave up a six-goal lead to Los Angeles in the season finale. But a correction here and an improvement there, and San Jose could be jockeying for a wild card spot if the playoff field expands back to three spots in 2022.

12. Madison Radicals
Offensive scoring rank: 8th
Offensive efficiency rank: 14th
Defensive scoring rank: T-4th
Defensive efficiency rank: 1st

Despite a winning record and a top 10 ranking in a slew of team categories, 2021 feels like another failed season for a Radicals franchise predicated on divisional dominance and making the playoffs—look no further than Madison’s 0-3 record against Minnesota this year. But it can’t be forgotten that this is the Radicals’ youngest roster in their nine-year history, they were within a game of a playoff spot in the Central in late July, and they’re one win away from franchise victory number 100.

Any lineup with Kevin Pettit-Scantling captaining a top five defense feels like a playoff-level team, and if the offense can get healthy next season, Madison might eliminate the consistency woes that plagued their 2021 campaign. Victor Luo was one of the best handlers in the division in his first year on the O-line, and Rami Paust had a breakout season in year two.

11. Los Angeles Aviators
Offensive scoring rank: 19th
Offensive efficiency rank: 15th
Defensive scoring rank: 10th
Defensive efficiency rank: T-16th

This year snapped a four-season playoff streak for Los Angeles, who were 0-4 against teams from Texas, and 5-3 against their normal West Division foes. Sean McDougall continually made highlights to keep this team competitive, Danny Landesman and Calvin Brown are two of the brightest young stars in the league, and the Aviators picked up some sneaky great free agency additions in Sam Cook, Sam Fontaine, and Marcel Osborne.

But Los Angeles committed far too many turnovers while generating far too few takeaways. Among LA’s top nine throwers by volume, none of them finished with a completion rating above 95 percent; no other team in the AUDL accomplished such a, uh, feat. 

10. Boston Glory
Offensive scoring rank: 2nd
Offensive efficiency rank: T-6th
Defensive scoring rank: 18th
Defensive efficiency rank: 15th

The Boston offense kicked off their inaugural season with a 29-goal win in Pittsburgh and never really slowed down, registering 20-plus goals in nine of their 12 games as an expansion team. And while Glory certainly had big receivers in Tanner Halkyard, Orion Cable, and Tannor Johnson to support a robust deep attack, Boston excelled offensively because of their efficiency in the red zone; Glory were one of just four teams to convert 10-plus red zone scores in every game this season.

When in rhythm, Boston has one of the most dynamic handler rotations with Ben Sadok, Henry Babcock, and Willie Stewart. All three are excellent passers, but it’s their ability to become potent receiving threats that makes this Glory attack so hard to defend; Johnson and Topher Davis are both dangerous as continuation throwers, giving Boston the ability to attack and score from almost any position on the field.   

9. Austin Sol
Offensive scoring rank: 7th
Offensive efficiency rank: T-17th
Defensive scoring rank: 13th
Defensive efficiency rank: 4th

The upstart team of 2021, the Sol might sit ninth in these rankings, but they were a top-four team in terms of watchability this year. Whether it’s league leader in blocks Mick Walter anchoring an Austin defense that ranked first in takeaways, or the tandem of Evan Swiatek and Eric Brodbeck becoming one of the most productive offensive batteries in the league, or their deep and talented group of rookies, the Sol certainly look like they are rising. 

The key for this team will be managing expectations. After starting 2-0 this season, Austin hit a big snag in Week 4 by dropping both games on their Seattle-to-San-Jose road trip, giving up 56 goals in two games, and effectively losing a playoff spot in the process. It’s easy to see this young and energized team continuing to improve along a linear path, but there’s no easy wins out West. 

8. Dallas Roughnecks
Offensive scoring rank: 14th
Offensive efficiency rank: 11th
Defensive scoring rank: 6th
Defensive efficiency rank: 6th

The Roughnecks’ 2021 season was marred by injuries and an ever-changing lineup—Jay Froude, Abe Coffin, Dalton Smith, Kevin Richardson, Carson Wilder, Zach Marbach, and Kai Marshall all missed four or more games—and Dallas still made the playoffs for the fifth straight season. Ben Lewis and Mason Wuensch led a stingy defensive unit that allowed fewer than 20 goals in six games this season; 2021 is the fifth straight season Dallas has finished in the league top eight defensively.

But with San Diego’s ascent in the past two seasons, along with a burgeoning Austin squad, Dallas’ normally solid place in the postseason is starting to seem precarious. The Roughnecks entered this year as a presumed championship favorite, and exit it with a lot of questions amid a potential rebuild—is there more player movement to follow after Kyle Henke’s recent re-signing with Austin?

7. Minnesota Wind Chill
Offensive scoring rank: 6th
Offensive efficiency rank: T-6th
Defensive scoring rank: 3rd
Defensive efficiency rank: 2nd

For the first three quarters and nearly eight minutes in their Central Division playoff game against Chicago, the Wind Chill disproved my doubt about their offensive inconsistencies as Nick Vogt and Cole Jurek paced a thriving Minnesota deep attack against one of the league’s best defenses. Then whatever demiurge that determines Minnesota’s starcrossed sports fates opened its maw and swallowed the Wind Chill’s hopes whole, as Chicago won the game on a miraculous 5-0 run. 

But Minnesota is positioned as well as any team entering 2022. Rookies Andrew Roy, Rocco Linehan, and Will Brandt played great in high usage roles this year, and a fully healthy Josh Klane, along with the return of the Winnipeg contingent post-lockdown, could make the Wind Chill loaded in the near future. Minnesota is still searching for their first Championship Weekend appearance.

6. Atlanta Hustle
Offensive scoring rank: T-10th
Offensive efficiency rank: 5th
Defensive scoring rank: 8th
Defensive efficiency rank: T-16th

The Hustle returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2016 behind a huck happy offense led by Austin Taylor’s MVP-level season. Atlanta had five games with 10 or more completed hucks, tied with Ottawa for the most of any team this season. And Draco led the league in yards per completion while finishing third in assists (62) and fourth in throwing yards (4687).

But Atlanta lived and died by the longball. When it was working, the Hustle looked like a championship contender; when the offense struggled to connect on deep looks, it became one dimensional, and the team as a whole struggled. The Hustle held a five-goal lead on the reigning champion Empire in the playoffs before New York made adjustments and clawed out the overtime victory; Taylor threw for 498 yards and seven assists, but just one other Hustle O-line player finished with more than 150 throwing yards.

5. DC Breeze
Offensive scoring rank: 4th
Offensive efficiency rank: 2nd
Defensive scoring rank: 1st
Defensive efficiency rank: 5th

The Breeze finished top five in virtually every major team stat category—add blocks, turnovers per game, and team completion percentage to the list above—and had home field advantage throughout the playoffs, and still they came up short of their first semifinals appearance. And while Rowan McDonnell descended a bit from his MVP performance level of 2018 and 2019, AJ Merriman is making The Leap, and leads one of the youngest and fiercest defenses in the AUDL. 

There’s whole lines of Norrboms and Bergerons to be excited about, Joe Richards becoming a legit WR1 option, not to mention Jonny Malks’ emergence as an elite thrower and All-AUDL Second Team member; DC has a very high ceiling over the next few seasons. But without a postseason win since 2017, the Breeze have some work to do before potential becomes Championship Weekend reality. 

4. San Diego Growlers
Offensive scoring rank: 13th
Offensive efficiency rank: 10th
Defensive scoring rank: T-4th
Defensive efficiency rank: 10th

WIth the late season addition of Jon Nethercutt, the Growlers looked like true dark horse title challengers, with Nutt’s throwing abilities unlocking the true offensive potential of Travis Dunn, Goose Helton, and company. A tough draw in a windy semifinals against New York stunted San Diego’s offense and aspirations, but this is a franchise that has cemented itself as a winner in the West.

The offense usually garners the headlines, but it was the Growlers defense led by Steven Milardovich that was the backbone for the team’s successes. Khalif El-Salaam, Hunter Corbett, and other free agency additions bolstered and deepened an already solid San Diego D-line rotation that figures to get only better with a year of experience under their belt. Head Coach Kevin Stuart has shown an ability to push this team a step forward each season, so don’t be surprised if they’re sniffing a title again next year.

3. Chicago Union
Offensive scoring rank: 3rd
Offensive efficiency rank: T-3rd
Defensive scoring rank: 2nd
Defensive efficiency rank: 3rd

With all of their offseason signings and rebranding, the Union somehow lived up to the hype, coming just a goal shy of the franchise’s first championship game appearance. Pawel Janas not-so-quietly had one of the most efficient seasons as a passer in league history; 2021 was the first time in four seasons Janas failed to lead the league in assists, instead finishing just second among all AUDL players. Pat Shriwise was a perfect veteran presence for the offense, and Ross Barker was one of the most productive receivers in the AUDL as Janas’ top downfield option.

Chicago also remade large parts of their defensive rotations and remained stingy. Drew Swanson and Nate Goff are two of the best bigs and takeaway defenders in the game, and rookie Tim Schoch’s presence as a handler defender was noticeable. Chicago used a lot of different lineups in 2021, and could benefit from stability now that they’ve recruited top tier talent. 

2. New York Empire
Offensive scoring rank: 5th
Offensive efficiency rank: T-3rd
Defensive scoring rank: 9th
Defensive efficiency rank: T-11th

It goes to show just how high this New York franchise has climbed that back-to-back championship game appearances feels slightly shy of expectations; 2021 is the third straight Championship Weekend appearance for the Empire, and fifth as a franchise. And speaking of back-to-back: Ben Jagt became the third player in league history to win MVP in consecutive seasons, joining Helton and former Empire teammate Beau Kittredge. Jagt led the league in goals and receiving yardage, entering a Shaq-like stratosphere of game-changing dominance.

It took a historically clean performance from a wickedly deep Raleigh team to unseat New York from the throne in this season’s championship. And while Jagt, Jack Williams, Ryan Osgar, and Jeff Babbitt are in their primes and on this roster, that feels like the level the Empire are expected to perform at. 

1. Raleigh Flyers
Offensive scoring rank: 1st
Offensive efficiency rank: 1st
Defensive scoring rank: 7th
Defensive efficiency rank: T-7th

The Flyers finish with not only the 2021 league title, but also the distinction of having the best offense of all time. That’s fitting for a Flyers offensive lineup that is impossible to start naming without listing the whole damn rotation. There’s Rookie Of The Year Anders Juengst; league throwing yardage leader Sol Yanuck and his backfield accomplice Matt Gouchoe-Hanas; the best big tandem in Henry Fisher and Jacob Fairfax; the diabolical midfield duo of All-AUDL striker Allan Laviolette and highlight factory Terrence Mitchell; oh and Eric Taylor, who is arguably the team’s MVP and one of the six most talented players in the league. See what I mean?

Raleigh isn’t just talented. They’re well coached and young, using a handful of rookies in high usage, highly critical roles throughout the 2021 campaign. San Jose is the only franchise to ever repeat as champions, and Raleigh looks like they have a very real shot to join them.

Then again, the same thing was said about New York following their undefeated 2019 run.