Overview: This will be the third or fourth year I have sat down and taken the time to analyze the CFL landscape and put words down on how I think teams will do and how they will go about getting there. I think that one of the major things I have learned from doing this the last couple of years that a teams largest weapon and one of the biggest measurring sticks to use to see where a team will end up through the regular season is personnel continuity. That includes everyone from front office managment down to the special team player that only gets on the field somewhere between 10-20 plays a game. This year for sure that will be one of the big things I''ll look to while judging the teams. Teams need yearly growth and can also go backwards if they don't have any change over. It will be the teams that balance their personnel decisions best that are likely to see the most success through the regular season. However playoffs are a totally different story but one thing at a time. I've had some moderate success in my predictions in past years so I'll see what I have this time around. As always let me know what you think.
East Division (going 4th to 1st)
4. Toronto Argonauts: Record 4-14
Key Additions: Having Jim Barker as coach will be a great thing for this franchises sinking ship. In no time at all he put his fingerprints all over this team and blew out the entire quaterbacking trio and brought in four fellas to compete for the position. Add to that a very strong draft and you can tell Barker is a good football man that will quickly help bouy this team. Following him from Calgary is Jermaine Copeland, while Copeland is aging he will bring some competitive fire and leadership to squad that is lacking both. Also this blogger will be watching with interest if Barkers Canadian QB experiment in Danny Brannigan will bear any fruit.
Key Deletions: There are what I would consider to be three major player losses for The Double Blue. They are QB Kerry Joeseph, RB Jamal Robertson and K Justin Medlok. Which subtraction will have the largest impact on the 2010 Argos? That's a tough call but I'll go with Medlock while Robertson would have helped them immediately balance the loss of the other two I just think it's harder to find a good, acurate, kicker with enough endurance and staying power to kick for your team over the length of a career. RB's by comparison are a dime a dozen and are garunteed to have a shorter shelf life any how.
Analysis: With Barker as coach and builder of this team their future is bright much in the same way when Bob Obilivich took over in Steeltown but the results likely won't show till the end of the season if at all this year. Look for The Argos to progess next year instead. The road bumps will be many this year as the offense gets comfortable with the system. There may be a little more light on the defensive side of the ball with Adriano Belli anchoring the defensive line and returnee Byron Parker back patrolling the secondary but I just fear this unit will be asked to be on the field more than other teams Defences. And like I said above with Medlock gone I would suspect the special teams to suffer as well. Field goals and field position will be harder to come by. Argo fans it will be long season but your teams success will be meassured more on player growth than where you end up in the standings
Continuity Rating: 3 out of 10 I have never ever in all my football watching time seen a franchise jetison their coaching staff and every Quarterback at the position in the same season this alone greatly affects this offense and this team. Add the WR crew to the purge and this offense is going to struggle and considering that the other two phases of a team are all symbiotic everything on down the line will suffer as well.
3. Winnipeg Blue Bombers: Record 5-13
Key Additions: Another year another coach for The Gold and Blue this time at the helm will be Paul LaPolice. I think this a good hire Paul has been apprenticing for a number of years with The Riders and I think it will be a good fit for both him and the team. He also brought a tag along with Steven Jyles and from all accounts the QB battle between Jyles and also new comer Buck Pierce is as good as any at the postion in Bomber land for quite sometime.
Key Deletions: As amazing as it was to see one team blow out their coaching staff along with their QB's in the same year The Bombers were the second team to do so. But much like Toronto's situation this is likely going to be considered addition by subtraction. Winnipeg's QB trio weren't good enough to make the playoffs and there's just no denying that Mike Kelly was a constant source of distraction to his team. They also lost the majority of their Linebacking core and those weren't the only personnel moves on the D side of the ball so hopefully they can fill the gaps.
Analysis: Winnipeg is also a team in transition and will likely spend most of the season competing The Argonauts for The CFL basement. Coach LaPolice though has a good base of CFL knowledge but one of his biggest decsions will come at the pivot postion. Will he go with his guy Jyles or give the oft-injured Buck Pierece the starting job. If I had to guess I would bet that we will see both men take the starting snaps at various points of the season due to either health or performace will be the only question. On Defence it's Kavis Reed's squad now and it will remain to be seen if he can over come the huge dissapointment that he shared along with all The Rider faithful as he was one of the people at the center of that contraversy being Saskatchewans Special Teams Co-ordinator. The other thing to keep an eye on will be the crossover spot. The West is still stronger than The East and it will be up to The Bombers if they can stop the Western crossover trend but I'm almost thinking they will again spend the post-season on the outside looking in.
Continuity Rating: I think to be fair to The Argos If you make the same offensive purge of QB's and coaching you deserve the identical rating of 3 out of 10. It's really strange I remember last year how much change over I had to cover of both these teams and here I am doing it again. You've got settle that culture down and create some stability or that Grey Cup drought is only going to get larger.
2. Hamilton Tiger-Cats: Record 10-8
Key Additions: Hamilton scored a major coup when they signed free agent Sandro DeAngelis. This transaction won't score them six points it won't sack them any quaterbacks but I think it will do is decrease the number of games they lose by 3 points or less. Also the addition of Maurice Mann should be an upgrade over Prechae Rodriguez but we'll have see if he plays all 18 games. On the O-line they pick up Jason Jimenez a premier CFL lineman for the last couple of years should help increase protection for either QB
Key Deletions: The biggest departure in not only stature but likely in impact will come from Dan Goodspeed. A mainstay along the Hamilton Offensive Line he will be sorely missed but they have worked to fill his spot. Also Nick Setta is released after a couple of subpar seasons
Analysis: The Tiger-Cats have reason for some hope this season. They are in year three with Obie, Marcel Bellefeuille and Greg Marshall and this can only mean good things. It looks early like they are going with Kevin Glenn at quaterback to start the year which I have mixed feelings about. I just don't think you're ever going to get anyhing but an average outing from Glenn cause that's how I would rate him - average. But their push to give Quinton Porter the reins have not been met with the success they've been looking for. It's kind of a bad spot to be in while you're trying to reach the top of The East standings to be a premier team in football you need to have a premier QB and I just don't know if either guy they have fits that mold. What will help these guys be more than average will be DeAndra Cobb. This guy was a force last year and as long as he can adjust to the additional coverage he will recieve I see him bringing more fans to their feet again this season. Defensively they still have Greg Marshall calling the shots and he just might be the best DC since Rich Stubler or Don Mathews They may miss Chris Thompson but Marshall is famous for helping guys make names for themselves.
Continuity Rating: 8 out of 10 This is a situation where changes were made but they were more organic than correctionary. As I've mentioned before every team needs growth the trick is to make the changes necessary before the postions you are filling are in a deficit. Doing that with Maurice Mann and Sandro DeAngleis are good moves and they should large enough changes that it will create a positive ripple effect. How good will Hamiltons Defence be not having to be on the field constantly. How many more field goals will DeAngelis kick to take pressure of the QB's to stay with the game plan. Add the very important fact that both the front office and the coaching staff are the same and Hamilton will indeed challenge Montreal for top spot this year.
Montreal Alouettes: Record 11-7
Key Additions: Other than a few Canadian rookies and some new import talent there really isn't much to comment on for additions to The Als which I'm guessing means they are pretty happy with their team
Key Deletions: There is no where more important to start than Center Bryan Chiu. After snapping the ball for 13 season and capping off last season with a Grey Cup win Bryan Chiu is hanging them up. This is a huge departure for Montreal but you can bet that GM Jim Popp had a good idea this was coming and likely has someone ready in the wings. Davis Sanchez also has left Montreal for the second time likely they felt his legs were aging and I don't see this as something they can't overcome.
Analysis: There are two things that are going to fianlly bring The Alouettes back to the pack in The East. The first thing being age and the second thing being better competition from their division. As for the competition Hamilton will challenge for top spot and as Toronto and Winnipeg have restarted their rebuilds the coaches they have brought in understand the league better and simply put will have their team firing better than the previous coaches. These coaches will not coach any "bingo spot" teams. As for the age factor I am cautious to go big with this point only because many people with better minds and information that me have been acussing these guys that they are too old for probably four years already and they still continue to preform. But with Chiu gone there is a clear chink in that armour. Keep an eye on three guys Calvillo, Cahoon and Anwar Stewart. Marc Trestman can be all the master motivator that he wants but eventually body parts start listening more to mother nature than to good coaching. Watch these guys performance to lag in the third qtr of the season between games 11 and 15.
Continuity Rating: 6 out of 10 I have major concern with a team as old as The Alouettes that don't make alot of changes. I'm not suggesting that you cut Calvillo or Cahoon but you'd better be planning their succession. It is a major problem that Championship teams face after winning it all the previous year. Loyalty and emotions tend to over rule objectivity and strong football reasoning and for that matter some players are guilty of it to. "Oh yeah we just won it all I can still play", that kind of mentality. I read somewhere that even winning teams should force through a 15-20% change over but for the teams that win it all from year to year it's easier said than done. Calgary went through the same thing the year before.
Final Note: So that's the way I see it in The East but living out West it's harder for me to really know how things are going down out there so let me know if you think I'm totally off base.
Yours on the sidelines TheGreyCupTDChicken