It’s that time of year again! The Maple League season begins inless than a week and I’m here to let you know what to expect from the teams this season. Last year my Maple League Predictions and Mid-Summer Rankings were spot on choosing the Helsinki Roosters to win an unheard 5th Vaahteraliga Championship. I was also correct in picking the Seinäjoki Crocodiles to finish 2nd in the league. Everything else was pure malarkey.
THE FAN VOTE
This year I put up a poll to see who the fans thought would win the Maple League this year. If you have not had a chance to vote yet, do so now as I will leave the poll open until after the 2nd week of league play.
THE EXPERTS VOTE
AMERICAN Football in Finland is a new podcast show I am hosting with two American Football Legends, Robert Johnson and Jabari Harris. Last week in our AFF Pre Season Show we each discussed how we though the Maple League would play out this season as well as MVP candidates. So here is a snapshot of our picks.
PERFECT PERVIS VOTE
STARTING FROM THE BOTTOM
7th – Turku Trojans
Last year I overvalued the Trojans as a playoff contender, I won’t make the same mistake this year. From looking at their current roster, the Trojans have lost a lot of key components and I’m not sure if they can just be replaced by imports and newcomers. Former player turned Head Coach Karri Kuttila will have his hands full this season trying to right the ship each week. I’m predicting 2 wins on the season.
6th – Seinajoki Crocodiles
New coaching staff + new imports = new challenges. The Crocodiles organization is a strong one from the Juniors up, but relying solely on new imports and young players against a lot of seasoned imports in the Maple League will lead to more losses than wins . That Air Force offense is no more as most of those players are on opposing teams this year.The Crocs return a decent defense but less than 2% of their total offense from the past two seasons. I’m predicting 3 wins on the season.
5th – Tampere Saints
The Saints were a playoff contender in the beginning of the 2016 season before personnel changes put them in situations they could not recover from. But they were always IN games, whether they won or not. This is an underrated team that could sneak in the playoffs if teams don’t give them the respect they deserve. I’m predicting a 4-7 season for the Tampere Saints.
4th – Porvoon Butchers
I believe with Jimi Roiko as the new Head Coach and a solid foundation of capable Finnish players the Butchers will be a tough out each week. Even though their roster looks thin depth wise, the Butchers have invested in big time playmaking American Imports who could be the difference between an average season and an epic playoff run. I’m predicting a 6-6 season for the Butchers.
3rd – Helsinki Roosters
Yes, for the first time since 2011, the Helsinki Roosters will NOT win the Vaahteraliga Championship. The crazy thing about my prediction is that I’m sure the Roosters will be BETTER than they were last year. Despite the departure of Head coach Juha Hakala, the Roosters have a very strong roster. This includes key additions of Brandon Connette (QB), Timmy Timmy Thomas (WR), Miro Kadmiry (WR), and Pierre Courageux (S) to an already talented team. This roster could be the difference in proving me wrong and grabbing that elusive sixth consecutive championship. I’m predicting an 8-4 season for the Roosters.
2nd – Hämeenlinna Huskies
New to the Maple League, but not new to winning. The team that won the Division 1 Spagettimalja in 2016 will not be the team you see playing in the Maple League this year. Stan Bedwell has worked hard this off season with the Huskies organization to build a 90-man ROSTER! This team will have the top talent, depth, and coaching in the Maple League this year. If this team gels at the right time, they might become unstoppable. I’m predicting a 9-3 season for the Huskies.
1st – Wasa Royals
How could a team get more praise that what I just gave the Huskies? Team President, Seppo Evwaraye, has developed an organization built for winning. Because of the loyal players and active recruitment the Royals are consistently one of the best teams in Finland. Last year the Royals saw their season end in a tough loss to the Seinajöki Crocodiles. Well if you can’t beat em’ . . . join em’! Instead of trying to stop Justin Sottilare, the Royals have added the best quarterback in the Maple League to their team. Oh, and they added one of his favorite targets, Spencer Cutlan, as well. With the Maple League MVP Chris Young returning to anchor a stellar defense, the Royals WILL be in the championship game! I’m predicting a 10-2 season for the Royals.
**DISCLAIMER: After reading this article, please remember that this is all speculation based on my observations. No one can accurately predict how the season will result, but I gave it a shot! **