Shawn Evans changes the personality of the Vancouver Warriors’ offence.
The 36-year-old, who signed a one-year deal as a free agent with the National Lacrosse League club earlier this week, is a 5-foot-8, 175-pound spark plug, a guy capable of dragging teammates into the battle with his energy and edge. His perpetual pesky play makes him a nuisance when he’s a member of the opposition and an easy guy to root for when he’s on your side.
Evans is also accustomed to winning. He captured his eighth Mann Cup Senior A national title when his hometown Peterborough Lakers beat the Langley Thunder 13-9 in the seventh and deciding game of his year’s Canadian club championship on Saturday.
That tied John Tavares for most Mann Cup wins as a player. Evans had already surpassed Tavares for the all-time scoring lead in the series with his 204th career Mann Cup point in Game 5. He’s now at 208 points, with 48 goals and 160 assists, in 47 career Mann Cup games.
The Warriors are adamant about needing to take a step this season, with even some “playoff or bust,” talk coming out of their camp. The franchise has made the post-season just once in the past eight years.
“He brings us leadership. He brings us winning leadership,” Warriors coach Troy Cordingley said. “He will do whatever it takes to be successful.
“You want to change the culture you need bring in guys with that winning culture. We don’t want players who are just interested in winning. We want players who are obsessed with winning. Shawn is like that.”
NLL free agency opened on Aug. 15, so teams have had a chance at cutting a deal with Evans for some time. He’s a two-time league MVP, most recently in 2015, seven seasons and five teams ago.
He finished 32nd in league scoring last year with his 13 goal and 65 points in 16 games split between the Rochester Knighthawks and Halifax Thunderbirds.
Those are all fair points. Also fair is the fact he produced in the most recent Mann Cup. He had four goals and 26 assists in six games against Langley before a twisted ankle sidelined him for Game 7.
“He’s a winner and he makes guys around him better,” Warrior general manager Dan Richardson said of Evans. “I think guys are going to feed off him.”
For his 13-year career in the NLL, Evans has 457 goals (10th in league history) and 1,295 points (sixth in league history) in 254 games. He helped Rochester to the NLL title in 2007.
“After the Mann Cup, I felt better and that I was getting my groove back. I’m not ready to hang it up just yet,” Evans said. “I think I have a little bit left to give.
“If I can’t do the things that I need to do to be successful, like going to the dirty areas, I’ll stop. Once I I lose that compete level and that willingness to take punishment, I’ll stop.”
The Warriors have had an up-and-down off-season. Marquee free agents Curtis Dickson (formerly of the Calgary Roughnecks) and Kevin Crowley (formerly of the Philadelphia Wings), who are both originally from the Lower Mainland, opted to sign with the San Diego Seals.
And Vancouver took heat on social media when it added Chase Scanlan, who had been kicked off the Syracuse University field lacrosse team following his arrest for domestic dispute.
And the goaltending situation, which wasn’t settled coming out of the season, is even murkier now with veteran Alex Buque signing with Saskatchewan Rush as a free agent. He was Vancouver’s starter for most of 2021-22.
On the flip side, the Warriors could have made simpler decisions than getting an eastern coach in Cordingley and an eastern free agent in Evans. There’s added costs, added logistics. It speaks to how the ownership — the Vancouver Canucks — want to get Warriors trending in the right way sooner than later.
The club starts training camp in late October, and their first league game is a Dec. 3 road matchup with the Toronto Rock.