“Friday Night Football” – East Division Preview

I’m soooooo excited.  Why?  Because it’s…
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‎Why yes it is – and it’s about time!
After what felt like an interminably looooooooooong off season, CFL training camps are underway. And that means three four things:
1. The hockey season is almost done.
2. Summer is (supposedly) here.
3. Your email inbox will be filled with CFL-centric missives for the next 6 months.
4. I will spend an inordinate amount of time writing said CFL-centric missives and finding appropriate pictures to send with them.
‎Montreal Alouettes
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Your inability to win the Grey Cup last year indicates otherwise.

I was hoping Les Alouettes would fail soooooo hard last year. And it looked so promising at first as Anthony Calvillo finally retired, Tom Higgins (aka ‘Flanders’) took over as coach and ‎the team got off to a 1-7 start. Alas, they managed to climb out of the basement and walk all over the hapless Lions in the East Semi-Final before ultimately losing in the East Final.
Jonathan ‘Goldilocks’ Crompton will begin his first full season ‎as starting QB. The Als’ receiving core was revamped with the loss of Duron Carter to the NFL and the acquisitions of Fred Stamps and Nik Lewis. And when I say revamped, I don’t necessarily mean revamped for the better, as both Stamps and Lewis are likely past their best before dates.
Last year the Als survived in large part due to their solid linebacking core. Chip (Cheap Shot) Cox and Kyries Hebert return, and with the emergence of Bear Woods (real name – Jonathan – so much less scary) last year, the linebacking core will likely remain the Alouettes’ strength.
The key for the Alouettes will be keeping their focus on football, as the signings of Michael Sam – the CFL’s first openly gay football player – and Khalif Mitchell – whose Holocaust-denying Twitter rants got him in trouble this off-season (and who knows what else he may come up with during the year) may provide Flanders, er Tom Higgins, with more off-field challenges than on-field ones.
Prediction: 2nd in the East
Toronto Argonauts

A picture of all of the Arblows’ players.  Who thought that this was a good idea??

After missing the playoffs last season due to the crossover (HA!), the Arblows appear to have entered a rebuilding year – just like MLSE’s other franchise (there will be oh so many Leafs jokes this year).
The key for the Arblows, as usual, will be the health of Ricky Ray. After missing only one game during the 2014 season, Ray underwent off-season surgery to repair a tear in his throwing shoulder. He is expected to start the season on the six-game injured list, which means the Boatmen will likely begin the year with Trevor Harris (who?) at QB.
The rest of the Argos’ ‎roster contains few recognizable names. Ricky Foley returns after being traded back to the Double Blue by the Riders. Chad Owens and Andre Durie (if he can stay healthy) are now the only receivers that will strike any type of fear (albeit rather limited) in the hearts of opposing defences. And Brandon Isaac and James Yurichuk are two of only a handful of veterans in the Argos’ backfield.  The Arblows will need to rely on their defence early in the year while their offence gets on track, but given the lack of experience on the defensive side of the ball, this will be more than a little problematic.
Prediction: 4th in the East
Hamilton Tiger-Cats

This moment was so awesome.

Grey Cup 2014 was a tough game for this sports scribe. While I wanted the Stumps to lose, it was more than enjoyable to watch the Kitty Cats lose their second Grey Cup in a row – and in rather spectacular fashion.

Suck it, Kent!

Early in the year, the Ti-Cats looked nothing like the team that earned a Grey Cup berth in 2013. This gives us the opportunity to revisit my favourite picture from the 2014 season (although we’re mostly revisiting it because this is my column):

Sad Sack Zach.  CLASSIC.

Zach ‘Sad Sack’ Collaros enters his second season ‎as the Cats’ starting QB. All of his receivers return, including Andy Fantuz, Luke Tasker and Bakari Grant, along with CJ Gable and Nic Grigsby in the backfield. And then there’s near-Grey Cup hero Brandon Banks.
The Ti-Cats’ defensive line is once again anchored by Justin Hickman, the affable Simoni Lawrence (whose web series where he plays board/card games with various CFL players is kind of entertaining) leads the linebacking core and a relatively young backfield is led by veteran ‎Brandon Stewart.
With few changes, the Kitty Cats are looking to start the season strong and get back to the Grey Cup. And given their competition in the East Division, it’s quite probable that they’ll succeed. BOO. 
Prediction: 1st in the East
Ottawa REDBLACKS

This really should say “The Ottawa REDBLACKS: In Training Camp since June 2014”

                    
In 2014, the Ottawa REDBLACKS played football just like Rod Black calls football games: blissfully unaware that they had no idea what they were doing.
And that is why they will hereintofore and forevermore be referred to as the RODBLACKS.
The RODBLACKS’ biggest‎ problem in Year 1 of a projected 5 year franchise life (their season ticket base diminished by 20% this off-season) was that their receivers couldn’t catch.
Thi‎s is a problem in a game where you essentially only have two tries to move a ball ten yards.
So what did the RODBLACKS do? They spent all of the money they didn’t spend on Weston Dressler (AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!) on free agents, spending freely and at whim, just like our Ottawa-based senators. But unlike the Canadian taxpayer, the RODBLACKS might actually get some bang for their buck as they acquired Maurie Price and Chris Williams. Signing Williams is particularly interesting given his all-star play before he became a divo (the male form of diva), sat out the 2013 season due to a contract dispute (see 2013 ONSC 5483 – for real) and went to the NFL for one fruitless season.
But a few receivers won’t solve all of the RODBLACKS’ problems. They still need an o-line, a d-line, linebackers and a secondary. In other words, there are still a few holes to fill.
Luckily for the RODBLACKS, though, Ricky Ray is hurt and Henry Booris can at least throw a football – and sometimes even to the right team.
Prediction: 3rd in the East
That’s it for my East Division preview.  The West Division preview is next!
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