Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Little Tidbits From Around the League

A few pieces of news from around the CFL on what turned out to be a very busy Wednesday.

First, Jesse Lumsden is confident he will play football this year in the CFL. My disdain for Lumsden is well known. I do not like him, and I am glad he is no longer a part of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. I don't doubt for one second that he will sign with a team prior to the start of the season. My gut feeling is that he will be wearing the Double Blew Blue in 2010. As long as he doesn't return to Hamilton, I'll be happy. Also, how much fun would it be to boo him out of the building on Labour Day?

Second, the Boatman signed another QB today, former University of Miami star Ken Dorsey. Dorsey seems genuinely excited to be coming to the CFL. This is the fifth QB that the Argonauts have inked this off-season. If seems like only yesterday that they had no QBs on their roster. While none of them have any CFL experience, at least they all seem excited to be given the opportunity to compete for the starting job in Toronto. I wonder which one we'll be booing on Labour Day.

Thirdly, and finally, the Saskatchewan Roughriders have signed two QBs themselves. One is former Grey Cup starter for Winnipeg, Ryan Dinwiddie; the other is former Kansas Jayhawks star Todd Reesing. Dinwiddie is best known for filling in for current Tiger-Cat QB Kevin Glenn when he was injured in the East Final in 2007. Dinwiddie started the game, and Winnipeg lost the Grey Cup to Saskatchewan. Had Glenn, who was an MOP finalist that year, played in that game and won, he might never have left Winnipeg, and the Ti-Cats wouldn't have him right now.

Reesing is very proficient in the spread-style offense, which bodes well for his chances in the CFL, which is a shotgun-heavy league. He is one of those players that if given time could become a very-good-to-great player in the Canadian Football League. He might not become that player for the Riders seeing as they already have a darn good QB in Darian Durant, but he might develop in that system and then go elsewhere to play.

For the last 10 days or so it has been slow going as far as news is concerned; you may have noticed a dearth of posts, but it looks like with training camp about to open, things are heating up in anticipation of the start of the 2010 season.

LABOUR DEAL REACHED!

The CFL and the CFLPA have reached a tentative agreement on a new four-year labour contract. Terms have not yet been disclosed, and the deal has not been ratified by either the Players' Association or the Board of Governors. Ratification will likely occur before the 2010 CFL season kicks off on Canada Day.

The CFL and the CFLPA, to the credit of them both, avoided a work stoppage (something that seems unlikely south of the border with the NFL), and fans will not be deprived of Canadian professional football in 2010.

With this messy little piece of business out of the way, we can now concentrate on what really matters: where to put the new Tiger-Cats stadium the games themselves.

With the pre-season opener less than three weeks away, we are oh-so-close to the return of the best football in the world.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Porter vs. Glenn: Who Ya Got?




vs.




With training camp on the horizon, I thought it was time to discuss a topic that is always of interest to football fans around the globe: starting Quarterback.

They say the backup Quarterback is always the most popular guy in town, and Hamilton is no exception to that rule. Over the years I have seen many Ti-Cats games and heard many a fan holler for the backup to be put into the game. Danny McManus, Jason Maas, Casey Printers and Quinton Porter have all dealt with the fans wanting Marcus Brady, Timmy Chang, Richie Williams and Kevin Glenn, respectively, to replace them.

Last season, a battle played out between Quinton Porter, who was anointed the starter before the season began, and Kevin Glenn, who was signed to add insurance and veteran know-how. Porter played well early, amassing a 4-2 record as the team's starting QB, and at the time things looked bright for the former Boston College starter. During the middle and late parts of the season, Porter struggled with both injury and effectiveness, and the calls for Glenn to replace him grew louder.

During the entire season, when Porter played ineffectively, the coaches inserted Glenn to provide a spark on offense. It worked against the Bombers in Week 3 at home, but it didn't work against the same team on Thanksgiving, again at home. It wasn't until after the debacle on Thanksgiving that the Cats turned to Glenn the rest of the way.

After a 41-38 loss to Montreal, a game that saw Glenn throw for over 500 yards, the Cats reeled off three straight wins (against Toronto, Saskatchewan and Winnipeg) with Glenn behind centre, to secure their first playoff game since 2004 and their first home playoff game since 2001. Glenn played fantastically during the final month and was named the CFL Player of the Month for October.

Now, the question remains, who should be the QB to lead the Ti-Cats into the 2010 CFL season? In Glenn, the Cats have a proven winner and a man that led his former team, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, to a Grey Cup appearance in 2007. In Porter, the Cats have a great, young QB who could be the next star of the league. As I've said plenty of times, I see a lot of Matt Dunnigan in Quinton Porter. Both Glenn and Porter have shown they can lead this team to victory, but one gives them a better chance to win the Grey Cup in 2010:

Kevin Glenn












As I said when the team announced the re-signing of both QBs, I think Glenn provides the Cats with the best chance to win now. I still believe that Porter is the guy for the future, but as the team is constituted currently, it would be beneficial for the Tabbies to begin the season with Kevin Glenn under centre.

I must stress that I am not writing this in the hopes of dividing Tigertown on the Quarterback issue. I sat in the stands last season and had to endure the deluge of deluded fans thinking that we could only like one of these players. Starting Kevin Glenn is not an indictment of Quinton Porter, just a realization that a former MOP candidate is better suited to lead a team to a Grey Cup than a 3rd-year player. Also, if the team decides to hand the reigns back to Porter, it is similarly not an indictment of Glenn, just that the team has decided it would rather focus on the future at the expense of the present. That mode of thinking is fine by me, so long as it sets the Cats up for success for the next 5-10 years.

I'll admit that I am backing the horse who already has a head start. I'd be surprised if anyone but Kevin Glenn is the starting QB for the Cats on July 2nd, when the team travels to Winnipeg to start the 2010 CFL season.

Now I shall leave the floor open to you, my faithful readers. I've made my decision, now you can make yours. Who do you want to see start at QB for the Tiger-Cats in 2010?

RELATED: Glenn, Porter Get Extensions

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Season Ticket Pick-up Party

This past Sunday I took the final step and officially became a Hamilton Tiger-Cats season ticket holder. The team threw a party at Ivor Wynne Stadium for all the fans to come pick up their tickets, eat a free Swiss Chalet meal (yes, I drank the Chalet Sauce) and play various games. There were players there to sign autographs and cheerleaders there to ogle. Pretty fun afternoon.

The event was about what I expected. Nothing too Earth shattering, but it was a fun afternoon of reconnecting with a couple of people (shout out to Adam and Pops), and it was such a gorgeous day outside that only the most miserable person on the planet would've been upset.

The lack of beverages was bothersome, but we went out for our customary post-game (or in this case post-party) Slurpee, and all was right with the world. During this Slurpee run, I saw that 7-11 is selling giant Tiger-Cat mugs, so I will have to pick one of those up sometime soon.

All in all it was a fun day, and I can now officially consider myself a season ticket holder. Now, if the season would just start, that would be awesome!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Odds and Ends

League-wide there have been some moves this week, but none of them really warranted their own post, so I've lumped everything in one convenient location.

First, we had the Blue Bombers sign Queen's WR Chris Ioannides. Normally I wouldn't comment on such a signing, but a co-worker of mine is a high school friend of Chris's, so I figured I'd give him a little publicity. My understanding is that Chris is a heck of a player and should fit in nicely with the Blue Bombers. I'm a little surprised that the Argos wouldn't try and target Ioannides for a couple of reasons. First, he's a local product. Second, the Argos signed his QB Danny Brannagan, and linking up the QB and WR from a Vanier Cup winning team only makes sense. I guess the Argos' loss is the Blue Bombers' gain.

Second, the Riders have inked 2010 first overall draft pick Shomari Williams (also from Queen's) to a contract. It's unlikely that Williams will play anything other than Special Teams to begin his CFL career, but he might see time on defense later in the season.

Third, the only piece of Tiger-Cat player news from this past week was the official signing of 2009 second-round draft pick Ryan Hinds. The term "ratio buster" is thrown around a lot when people talk about Hinds, since it is expected that once he cracks the lineup he will play the wide-side Corner position, which is a spot usually played by an American.

Next, we have the Stampeders getting their 2010 first-round draft pick Rob Maver signed on the dotted line. Maver now enters the Stampeders' training camp as the man to beat for the kicking job. Maver replaces Sandro DeAngelis, who signed with the Tiger-Cats this past winter.

Finally, we have two pieces of news from Montreal. First, Alouettes General Manager Jim Popp has received some interest from NFL teams, most notably the Washington Redskins. Popp has been the GM for the Als since they returned in 1996, and has been the best GM in the CFL since then. The Als have gone to seven Grey Cups in the last ten years, winning two. His player moves have the kept the Als at the top of the CFL for over a decade.

The other Als story is that Ben Cahoon has informed the team that he will be returning for the 2010 season. This is good news for Montreal fans, as the core from the 2009 Grey Cup Championship team is now intact. It would seem to me that this will be the proverbial "one last kick at the can" for some of these aging players. I still think Montreal is the team to beat, but age has to catch with these guys sooner or later, right? Right? RIGHT!?

Friday, May 14, 2010

Matchmaker, Matchmaker, Make Me a Match

Find me a find, catch me a catch.

With the required Fiddler on the Roof reference out of the way, I can move on to my actual point, which I promise will include no more show tunes.

With a little over three weeks until players report to training camp, there is still a handful of good players without homes. Of all the good players still left looking for work, which of them would be good fits for the Tiger-Cats? Let's see who is still available (all of the names are courtesy of CFL.ca, so if there is a problem, blame them), and decide from there.

First, we have Jonathan Brown, long-time Defensive End for the Toronto Argonauts. He's getting a little long in the tooth, so he might not be best the player to add. He's played his entire CFL career with the Argos, so a jump to the Tabbies is probably not in the cards. Should the team go after him? Probably not.

Next, we have Jesse Lumsden. Pass.

Fred Perry is the same as Jonathan Brown, except older. A pass on this front as well.

What about Kelly Malveaux? Much like Brown, Malveaux's best days are behind him. The Ti-Cats still need to make sure that their defensive backfield is improved over last year, and adding Malveaux, as a backup and veteran presence, might be a good idea. I'm not entirely sold, but Malveaux, if he has anything left, could be a nice addition.

Troy Westwood, who might have played in the first ever CFL game, could be someone the Tabbies bring in to compete for the Punter's job. The Cats drafted Justin Palardy earlier this month, but adding a veteran leg to the kicking race might not be a bad idea.

Now we come to Zeke Moreno. What to do with Zeke Moreno. He's a former Ti-Cat and was quite the fan favourite during his tenure in Steeltown. While it would be nice to see Zeke And Destroy back in Black & Gold, there really is no spot for him. We already have the best Linebacking group in the CFL, so Moreno wouldn't really add much.

Siddeeq Shabazz presents an interesting case. He was spectacular during the early portion of 2009, but injuries derailed his season in Winnipeg. Unfortunately, like Moreno, Shabazz's chances of playing in Hamilton are practically nil because of him being a Linebacker. Our talent at that position renders a Shabazz signing unnecessary.

There are two other names I'd like to mention, neither of whom will be available for training camp, but who might be interesting to consider: Stevie Baggs and Rickey Foley.

Both players are currently on NFL rosters, but it is possible that one, or both, could be cut after NFL training camps end in late August. I'm fairly certain that Foley's rights still reside with the BC Lions, so signing him is probably not possible. However, I am equally sure that Stevie Baggs is a free agent. He was a disruptive force for the Green Riders last season and likely would've been a DPOY candidate if he didn't play alongside eventual winner John Chick. If either of these players does become available, the Cats would be wise to at least try to get him inked to a deal.

From the looks of it, it doesn't seem that many of the free agents still available would improve the Tiger-Cats, with the exception of long shots like Foley and Baggs. Maybe bringing Malveaux and Westwood to training camp to see if they have anything left wouldn't be a bad idea.

I know I said no more show tunes, but I lied.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Fiercest Rivalry in All of Sports

Steeltown vs. Hogtown. The Hammer vs. The Big Smoke. Blue Collar vs. White Collar. Oskee Wee Wee vs. Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgoooooooooos. The greatest rivalry in all of sport...

Tiger-Cats vs. Argonauts

This is as intense a rivalry as it gets. The hatred each team engenders in the fans of the other runs deep. These two teams have been playing each other for over a century, yet the fire is still there. Historically, the civic rivalry between Hamilton and Toronto stretches far beyond the football field. These two cities once competed to be seen as the major economic centre of Southern Ontario (then Canada West). Toronto became the big city it is today, while Hamilton was relegated to being an industrial centre. It was that distinction that turned this civic rivalry into what it is and gave each city the character that it still, for the most part, has today. I will admit that I am a proud Hamiltonian, and I do indeed hate most everything Toronto has to offer. But let's keep this focused on the football field.

Labour Day is the apex of the rivalry. Nothing gets the blood boiling more than when the Argos come to "the home of labour" on the holiday created for the working class. Labour Day is the game that means the most to Tiger-Cat fans. Win this game, and the season is a success; lose and... well... that's just not an option.

I do believe that the rivalry is taken more seriously in Hamilton than it is in Toronto, at least on the surface. But with the story I am about to tell you, you'll see that Argo fans hate the Ti-Cats just as much as Ti-Cat fans hate the Argos.

I attended a game in 2007 in Toronto. The Argos were playing the Roughriders. I was fortunate enough, through some connections, to be able to go on the field for a promotion that the Argos were running. Just prior to competing, the Argos in-game MC handed me a live mic – big mistake. After getting the pleasantries out of the way ("What's your name?", "Think you'll win?", etc.) I was asked if I had anything else I'd like to say. This was my moment. The chance of a lifetime. I held the crowd in the palm of my hand and in front of 35,000+ Argo fans I yelled into the mic, "GO TI-CATS!" In that one moment the entire crowd booed me, and I do mean booed me. I stood there, basking in my adulation, content with having set out to do what I wanted. Suffice to say, Argo fans do not take too kindly to a Ti-Cat fan being handed a mic at the 40-yard line of the Rogers Centre SkyDome and yelling "GO TI-CATS" at them. This is the story that I will be telling everyone I meet for rest of my life.

Players switching teams has an effect on the rivalry as well. Many players have seen both sides of this feud. Just last season, Arland Bruce went from hated to beloved when he was traded from the Argos to the Ti-Cats in July. Nothing gave me more pleasure last season than sporting that crisp, new Arland Bruce Ti-Cats jersey when I went to Toronto for a game.

Just as many players have gone the other way. When they come back to Ivor Wynne they are treated as traitors. Guys like Mike O'Shea and Adriano Belli are rarely welcomed back when they grace the field in Hamilton. I still hate both those guys for being turncoats.

Some players see both sides and yet are still welcomed back with open arms. Archie Amerson, Mike Morreale and Joe Montford all went from the Ti-Cats to the Argos and yet were greeted as heroes upon their return to Steeltown. Not being an Argo fan, I can't say if the feeling is mutual. Of course, once you go Black & Gold you never go back into the Double Blue fold.

With there recently being some chatter about a joint stadium, this rivalry could be taken to a whole other level. I still don't entirely like the idea of sharing a stadium with our most hated rivals, but the clashes between the Tabbies and Boatmen could take on an added ferocity should both teams be housed in the same stadium.

I can't completely quantify why the rivalry still resonates after all these years, but if I had to guess I'd simply say it's a clash of cultures. The almost visceral hatred that Tiger-Cat fans have for the Argonauts is unmatched. I started this article with the four "vs." which I think encapsulate everything that the Hamilton-Toronto rivalry is about. It's a rivalry that has lasted for generations, and one that I hope continues well after I am gone. But in the end we all know...

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Shared Stadium

With the large kerfuffle that is currently going on in Hamilton over where to put the new stadium, people are trying their best to come up with innovative and original ideas on how to fix this dilemma.

Dave Feschuk of the Toronto Star has an outside-the-box idea of his own: a shared stadium between the Tiger-Cats and the Argos.

Ideas come in all shapes and sizes. Some are great, like DVDs and HDTVs, and some are terrible, like New Coke and Atari Jaguar. The idea of the two biggest rivals in the Canadian Football League sharing a stadium makes Pepsi Ice Cucumber (look it up) seem like it was hatched by someone with the combined I.Q. of Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking. That's to say that moving the Argos and Tiger-Cats into the same stadium is, perhaps, the stupidest thing I've ever read.

First off, moving the Tiger-Cats out of Hamilton is just a bad idea. Sure, maybe if they played in Burlington it would be alright, but I still wouldn't like it. Moving the team to Oakville or beyond, as Feschuk suggests, is just plain dumb. The Tiger-Cats are Hamilton. It's our one link to major North American sports. It's our team in our city. Leaving Hamilton would take away part of the team's identity.

Second, don't talk to me about the Jets and Giants sharing the Meadowlands in New Jersey. The rivalry between those two teams is almost nonexistent. Sure, they each have different fan bases, but it's not the same as Cats versus Argos. The Giants and Jets play in two different conferences, with one playing in the NFC (Giants) and the other playing in the AFC (Jets). Aside from a Super Bowl matchup – which has never happened – these teams only play each other once every four years. The Cats and Argos sometimes play each other four times per year.

Also, both the Jets and Giants represent the New York metropolitan area. They are each considered "New York's team" by their respective fan bases. You can't find two more different teams' fans than the Cats and the Argos. Toronto and Hamilton are two very different cites, and the football teams represent that difference. Historically, these cities have been rivals for almost 200 years. This is not anywhere close to being the same as the Jets and Giants. If one was from Etobicoke and the other from Mississauga, or if one was from Scarborough and the other from Markham, then I'd say share away. But Hamilton and Toronto? Absolutely not.

I applaud Dave Feschuk for at least coming up with an original idea, but "original" doesn't mean good. The Flowbee was an original idea, and we all remember how that turned out.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Is the 'Big Bust' Coming North?

Quite possibly the biggest NFL draft bust of the modern era could be headed to Hamilton. After being cut by the Oakland Raiders after three horrendously unproductive years, former #1 overall draft pick JaMarcus Russell has been added to the negotiation list of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

Good God, no! While I understand that most players on a CFL team's neg lists never see the the Great White North, just the very idea that the "Big Bust" (my personal nickname for Russell) could possibly, at any time, become a member of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats just makes my stomach turn. Yes, he has amazing physical skills, but that doesn't make up for the one thing he seems to be lacking: heart.

By being taken first overall in the 2007 NFL Draft, Russell was handed a contract with almost $40 million in guarantees. For that $40 million the Raiders got exactly squat. Russell couldn't be bothered to dedicate himself to improving at his craft when he was making $40 million, so why would anyone believe, with $40 million already in the bank, that Russell would dedicate himself when he's making $50,000 or $150,000 or $250,000 playing for the Cats?

Russell had all the physical tools to dominate the NFL. He had the size of Daunte Culpepper and the arm of John Elway. Sure, he was surrounded by terrible players in Oakland, but it's the QB's job to make the team better.

It also doesn't help that Russell has no work ethic. He would show up to training camp drastically overweight and out of shape. He would, according to sources, spend next to no time studying tape. He just never gave his all to his profession. He enjoyed the fame that came along with being an NFL player, but he didn't want to put in the work to be a great NFL player.

It is extremely unlikely that JaMarcus Russell will ever play for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. There is no way he'll take the pay cut, nor will he want to play in relative obscurity compared to the 24-hour-a-day, 7-day-a-week, 365-day-a-year hypefest that is the NFL.

Simply put, JaMarcus Russell plays football to make money. He does not love the game, nor is he willing to put in the effort to be good at the game. He has made his money and can now ride off into the sunset to be forgotten like so many others before him.

At least one person's happy. Thanks to Russell, Ryan Leaf is no longer considered the biggest draft bust in NFL history. I'm sure if Ryan Leaf could say thank you, he would. Now, JaMarcus, can you stay away from Hamilton, please? You could make more than just one person happy if you did that.

Keith Released, Calhoun Signed

So ends the injury-plagued Tiger-Cat career of one Kenton Keith. Today, the team announced that they have released Keith in what many see as a cost-cutting move, due to Keith's exorbitantly high salary.

Keith came in after being cut by the Colts in 2008. He played sparingly in the last half of that season, amassing less than 200 total yards and only one TD. In 2009, Keith never saw the field. He injured his knee on the first day of training camp and spent the rest of the season on injured reserve.

I won't say that Keith's career is over, but it seems like it will be tough sledding for him to find another team willing to give him a chance. Perhaps Toronto, who is still looking for a RB to replace the departed Jamal Robertson, could be a landing spot. Guess only time will tell.

But with an end anything comes a chance for a new beginning. On the same day that Keith was shown the door, the Ti-Cats announced the signing of former Detroit Lion RB Brian Calhoun. Calhoun was the Lions third-round pick out of Wisconsin in 2006, but a knee injured derailed what could have been a very productive NFL career.

Calhoun is atypical of most Wisconsin-bred rushers, where names like Ron Dayne and P.J. Hill conjure up images of bruising backs who plow over people. Calhoun is more of a speed back, with a style of play similar to current Alouette RB Avon Cobourne. Calhoun's skill set usually translates into great CFL success. Calhoun will most definitely be the primary backup to DeAndra' Cobb. I doubt that Calhoun will supplant Cobb as the starter in 2010, but he can help give Cobb a breather and be the second part of a nice 1-2 punch for the Tabbies in 2010.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Bob Young Says No to the West Harbour

Knock, knock. "Mr. Fan, you have a brown package waiting for you."

Bob Young just released a letter today saying that there is no way that the Tiger-Cats will move to the city's preferred new stadium site in the west harbour.

Now we all have to sit back and wait for the fallout.

About a month ago, I wrote about what I have learned about the proposed Pan Am Stadium. I admitted then, as I'll admit now, that I am not the most well-versed on this subject. There are a couple of comments from some people who have spent more time looking at this subject than I have.

From what Bob Young said today, it seems as if making the west-habour site work for the Tiger-Cats is near impossible. If his projections are correct, and the team would be sustaining losses of over seven million dollars per year, then there is no way the team can move there.

For too long the Tiger-Cats have been a charity case, and it's time for that to stop. I love the team, and I want to see them not just survive, but thrive. This new stadium was supposed to be the beginning of that transformation, and it's turned into an albatross that threatens to drag the team down.

A solution can, and must, be found. The future of the Tiger-Cats depends on it.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Lumsden Cut

The star-crossed CFL career of one Jesse Lumsden may finally be coming to an end. The Edmonton Eskimos announced today that they have released the former McMaster star after doctors would not give him medical clearance to return to football.

People who know me well know that I am not a fan of Jesse Lumsden. Never have been, never will be. This gets me plenty of heat from the Tiger-Cat fans who think very highly of Lumsden.

I have always felt that he had a certain arrogance or sense of entitlement to him that just rubbed me the wrong way. It always seemed like he believed all the hype that surrounded him. A friend of mine just attended a gala event at McMaster where they were honouring the Team of the Decade. Of course with Jesse Lumsden being perhaps the greatest McMaster player of all-time, he was there. Upon seeing him, my friend had this to say:
"He needed a punch in the face. He gave off the air of someone who 'knows' that he's better than everyone else on his team. It looked as though he felt he was doing the rest of the players a favour by being associated with them."
Harsh? Perhaps, but that's how an unbiased Tiger-Cat fan feels about Jesse Lumsden.

Another problem I have with Lumsden is how the hype always exceeded his actual output; his potential was always cited more often than his performance. When he was on the field, he was fantastic. Just look at his numbers:
  • 1,797 yards on 285 carries (that's 6.3 YPC)
  • 9 rushing TDs, 2 receiving TDs
  • 630 yards on 49 receptions
  • 30 career games
He clearly has all the tools. The problem is, those should have been his career-high season totals, not his career totals. The problem is the last stat: 30 career games. That's less than two full seasons. Lumsden has been in the league for five years! Sure, he was in NFL training camps his first two seasons, but it was injuries that limited his game action. I understand that the injuries were not his fault, but neither are the injuries of many professional athletes, yet that doesn't stop them from being labeled as "busts" or "injury-prone."

Lumsden just couldn't stay healthy, plain and simple. Had he stayed on the field it's likely I'd have a drastically different opinion of him than I do now. All I see now is another player who couldn't live up to the hype surrounding him when he left school. Don't get me wrong, I cheered for Lumsden when he played for the Cats. I'll never forget Week 2 of the 2008 CFL season when he ran all over the Argos in Toronto. I was still living in TO at the time; Two friends and I went to the game, and there was this obnoxious Argo fan sitting in front of us who just wouldn't shut up. He danced around like a buffoon and just made a complete ass out of himself. When all was said and done we had the last laugh. The Cats hammered the Argos 32-13, and Lumsden ran wild. I was hoping it was the start of something special, but it once again turned out to be just another tease. That seemed to be par for the course when Jesse was in Hamilton.

Drew Edwards talked to Tiger-Cats General Manager Bob O'Billovich to ask if the Cats had any interest in bringing Lumsden back. Obie had this to say:
"We want to go training camp and see what we have. Who knows what happens down the road if you get an injury and Jesse’s still available, maybe there would be an interest, but right now I would say it’s unlikely."
His answer was both assertive and vague, if one quote can be both. He seemed to say that any Lumsden-to-Hamilton rumours would be false, yet he didn't outright say that the team wouldn't bring Jesse back. One thing O'Billovich is good at is misdirection. Obie said similar things about Sandro DeAngelis days before the Cats signed him. I don't want to say you should dust off those Black & Gold Lumsden jerseys, but...

If Lumsden was to return to Steeltown, I would welcome him back with open arms. I think it is unlikely that he will – and if I'm being honest I see Toronto as his most likely landing spot should he get cleared to play again – but if he does don the Black & Gold again, I will say, "Welcome back, Jesse."

A New Face in Hamilton

The Tiger-Cats have added another former Argonaut to the fold. Today, the team announced that they have traded a conditional 2012 draft pick to the Argos for Tight End/Long Snapper Steve Schmidt.

Until today I had never heard of Steve Schmidt. I went to various websites to find out some info and stats on him, and I came up with nothing. It seems to me that with the release of Robert Pavlovic last week, Schimdt is being brought in to be Pavlovic's replacement.

Schmidt's long snapping could come in handy, but with Jordan Matechuk still with team, it would seem that Schmidt would be a backup at best at that position. It's likely that Schmidt will contribute on Special Teams for the time being. Welcome to Tigertown, Steve.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

So Long, Tre

Buried in all the talk of Marwan Hage's extension comes the news that the team has released Running Back Tre Smith.

Letting go of Smith seemed inevitable. He was out for almost the entire 2009 season and was supplanted by DeAndra' Cobb and Kenton Keith on the depth chart, meaning his only real way to contribute was as a Kick Returner. He had done an adequate job of that in the past, but he was never the spark that is needed in the return game in the CFL, where field position is hugely important.

Smith spent almost the entire 2009 season on the injured list after getting hurt in the Week 1 loss to the Argonauts. The next week, Cobb came in and took the job. Smith wouldn't see the field for the rest of season.

Smith's loss isn't huge considering he was barely used in 2009. For his sake, I hope he finds another job. He has the skills to be a change-of-pace RB, and in the right system he could be a deadly returner. Good luck, Tre.

Hage Hanging Around a Little Longer

Another key player from the 2009 playoff team is staying in Black & Gold just a little longer. The Tiger-Cats announced today that they have inked standout Centre Marwan Hage to a contract extension through 2012.

I have been critical of Hage in the past. Many people consider him to be one of the best, if not the best, at his position. I have seen a lot of from Hage over the years, and I do think he's a very good Centre, but maybe he's just a little over-hyped. That said, I'm still glad we have him.

When one talks about Marwan Hage, one cannot ignore his philanthropic work in the Hamilton area. His most well-known program is Hage's Heroes. Hage's work in the community is second to none. He deserves nothing but the utmost respect for all the time and effort he has put in to help children in the Greater Hamilton Area. No matter what anyone thinks of Marwan the Player, Marwan the Man deserves nothing less than the highest of praise.

Back to the topic of football: the re-signing of Hage is just the latest in a long line of moves that provide more continuity from last season. Increased stability is a must if a team is to be successful, and with very few departures this season, the Tabbies are looking like they will continue their climb back to relevance that began last season. Re-signing Hage is just the latest example of keeping the key players in town for the foreseeable future.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Tiger-Cats Draft

The 2010 CFL Draft began somewhat disappointingly for the me. With TSN covering only the first two rounds, I would only get to see the Ti-Cats make one selection, in the second round, 12th overall. Then as the Tabbies were "on the clock" what do they do? They deal the pick to Edmonton, denying Ti-Cat fans around the world the opportunity to see the team make a selection.

That may be the only disappointing thing about Sunday's draft in regards to the Tabbies. Losing out on Rob Maver sucked, but no matter what the team did they were never going to get him. The first four picks we swapped, and Maver went off the board to Calgary at #5. The only real deal that was in place was a trade with Winnipeg that would have given Hamilton the #6 pick. Still wouldn't have been enough.

Not getting Maver was made up for with the selections the Ti-Cats did make. We addressed our Punter need later on by taking Saint Mary's Justin Palardy in the fifth round. Palardy can come in right away, which means the team is likely to bid adieu to Jeremy Ito.

The Cats' first pick on Sunday was for Laval RB Samuel Fornier. Fornier will play FB for the Tiger-Cats, paving the way for DeAndra' Cobb and Kenton Keith. Last season, John Williams was the de facto FB, but he became a free agent this winter and was not re-signed. Grabbing Fornier means that Williams definitely won't be back.

Defensive Back Chris Rwabukamba won't be in Hamilton for at least another year, since he still has one more season of eligibility left at Duke. Last year, the Cats chose Ryan Hinds of New Hampshire, also a DB, despite him having on year left in the NCAA. Just last week, Hinds signed a contract with the Cats. Should Rwabukamba not go to the NFL, he and Hinds could become big-time ratio busters at Cornerback. Corner is mostly an American position in the CFL, so to be able to have one Canadian starting in that part of the secondary would allow the team to use an American at another position.

My absolute, 100% favourite pick for the Cats was University of Manitoba Defensive Lineman Eddie Steele. One of the areas I was secretly hoping the Cats would address was the Defensive Line. Don't get me wrong, I love Garrett McIntyre, Justin Hickman, Khari Long, Matt Kirk, Demonte' Bolden, Darrell Adams and Jeremaine Reid, but only Reid and Kirk are Canadians, and the Cats needed more Canadians in the D-line rotation than just those two. Eddie Steele fills that need. He can come in and contribute immediately, and I expect big things out of Steele in the coming years.

Overall, I like what the Cats did on Sunday. Missing out on Maver and not be able to see the Cats select anyone on TSN was a bit disheartening, but seeing the four players the Cats did get makes up for it. I know that no one leaves the draft unhappy with their selections, and as much as the Cats could be sitting on four potential superstars, these players may also turn out to be colossal busts. Right now, it seems as if the team left the draft with four quality players that can contribute now and in the future. The Cats also filled some of the glaring needs they had by taking Steele and Palardy. All that is left is to address Kick Returner (which I assume will be done through free agency prior to camp), and the team should be poised for big things in 2010.

With the draft over and done with, all that is left is training camp and the pre-season before the bullets fly for real. It's time to get pumped. The unofficial start of the 2010 CFL season (as Marc Cohon said today on TSN) has come and gone; before we know it, the official start of the CFL season will be upon us.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

2010 CFL Draft (Rounds Three through Six)

Round Three
16) BC - Joash Gesse, LB, Montreal
17) Calgary - John Bender, OL, Nevada
18) Toronto - Spencer Watt, WR, Simon Fraser
19) Hamilton - Samuel Fournier, RB, Laval
20) BC - Hamid Mahmoudi, DB, Montreal
21) Calgary - J'Michael Deane, OL, Michigan State
22) Hamilton - Eddie Steele, DT, Manitoba
23) Montreal - Marc-Olivier Brouillete, QB, Montreal

My Thoughts
The Ti-Cats finally made a selection, grabbing Laval Running Back Samuel Fournier. While listed as a Running Back, Fournier is a Fullback, meaning that John Williams will likely not be back in Black & Gold in June.

The Cats' second pick was a home-freaking-run with the selection of University of Manitoba Defensive Tackle Eddie Steele. Steele adds much-needed depth to a very potential-laden D-line.

The other pick of note is the Alouettes' selection of Université de Montréal Quarterback Marc-Olivier Brouillete. My interest went down considerably when it was discovered that he will attempt to play WR in the CFL.

Round Four
24) BC - Nate Binder, WR, Tusculum College
25) Winnipeg - Akeem Foster, WR, St. Francis Xavier
26) Toronto - Joel Reinders, OT, Waterloo
27) Hamilton - Chris Rwabukamba, DB, Duke
28) Winnipeg - Christopher Smith, LB, Queen's
29) Winnipeg - Anthony Woodson, RB, Calgary
30) Toronto - Steven Turner, WR, Bishop's
31) Montreal - Ryan Bomben, OL, Guelph

My Thoughts
The Tiger-Cats' third pick was Duke Defensive Back Chris Rwabukamba. Rwabukamba still has one season of NCAA eligibility left, so he won't be in Hamilton this season, but much like with Ryan Hinds last year, the team selected a player with enormous potential. Also similar to Hinds is that Rwabukamba is a Corner, not a Safety, which means if both players live up to their potential they could be ratio busters.

One of my favourite players heading into the draft was Bishop's WR Steven Turner. Point blank, the kid is fast. The Argos nabbing him with the 30th pick is a downright steal. He still has unlimited potential and will be an explosive Kick Returner.

The Argos also grabbed Waterloo Offensive Lineman Joel Reinders with the 26th pick. Reinders was considered by many to be a player with first-round potential. Him falling into the Argos' lap in the fourth round is an even bigger steal than Turner.

Round Five
32) Toronto - Michael Warner, OL, Waterloo
33) Saskatchewan - Patrick Neufeld, OL, Saskatchewan
34) BC - Cauchy Muamba, DB, St. Francis Xavier
35) Edmonton - Scott Ferguson, OL, St. Cloud State
36) Hamilton - Justin Palardy, Place Kicker/Punter, Saint Mary's
37) Calgary - Karl McCartney, LB, Saint Mary's
38) Saskatchewan - Bruno LaPointe, DL, Buffalo
39) Montreal - Brian Ridgeway, LB, Simon Fraser

My Thoughts
FINALLY! We have our Canadian Punter! With the Cats' final selection in the 2010 CFL Draft, the team addressed the one glaring need left, which was a Punter. The team chose Justin Palardy of Saint Mary's to fill the void. Good pick, a need pick, and I'm glad we got a guy for the job while not giving up any roster players.

Round Six
40) Toronto - Nasser Jamal, OL, UL-Lafayette
41) BC - Adam Baboulas, OL, Saint Mary's
42) BC - Matthew Chapdelaine, WR, Simon Fraser
43) Edmonton - Corbin Sharun, QB, St. Francis Xavier
44) Toronto - Conor Elliot, LB, Western
45) Winnipeg - Christopher Greaves, DL, Western
46) Calgary - Oama Culbreath, OL, UBC
47) Montreal - Justin Conn, LB, Bishop's

My Thoughts
Another QB selected, this time by Edmonton. Unlike the Als' earlier QB pick, I do not know if the Esks will be looking for St. FX's Corbin Sharun to switch positions. My guess would be that he will, but we'll have to wait and see.

My Overall Draft Thoughts
This was my first foray into analyzing the CFL Draft. I will admit that most of my knowledge came from Duane Forde. He is by far the most knowledgeable person when it comes to the CFL Draft, so if he says it, it's good enough for me.

I will have my thoughts on the Ti-Cats' draft sometime tomorrow, so I won't focus on what they did today aside from my blurbs above.

The one team that I have to give major credit to, and it pains me to do so, is Toronto. They hauled in some excellent talent. After trading away the 1st overall pick, they nabbed two potential starters in Joe Eppele and Cory Greenwood with the 2nd and 3rd overall picks. Later on they were able to acquire Bishop's WR Steven Turner (who I have decided deserves the nickname, "The Human After Burner") and Waterloo OL Joel Reinders. One of Jim Barker's assets is that he has a very keen eye for talent. He proved his worth today with the haul that the Argos brought in.

The draft is now in the books. As I said, I will be posting a piece about the Tiger-Cats' draft within the next 24 hours. Once that is up and ready to read, we are off and running towards the start of the 2010 CFL season.

2010 CFL Draft (Round Two)

The Picks
8) Saskatchewan - Jordon Sisco, WR, Regina
9) Winnipeg - Cory Watson, WR, Concordia
10) BC - Shawn Gore, WR, Bishop's
11) Toronto - Grant Shaw, DB/PK, Saskatchewan
12) Edmonton - Saleem Borhot, DB, Saint Mary's
13) Calgary - Taurean Allen, DB, Wilfrid Laurier
14) Montreal - Chima Ihekwoaba, DE, Wilfrid Laurier
15) Montreal - Curtis Dublanko, LB, North Dakota

My Thoughts
The Riders went with a local product in Jordon Sisco from Regina. He adds another Canadian to a great WR corps in Saskatchewan. The Riders passed on other, more highly-ranked WRs to take Sisco.

The Bombers grabbed the second straight WR, and the third overall Concordia player, with the selection of Cory Watson. The Bombers need Canadian talent, and grabbing a WR is a good pick. Maybe he can bump the underachieving Brock Ralph out of the starting lineup in the next year or two.

The Lions took Bishop's WR Shawn Gore, a player they were considering taking in the first round. I have discussed Gore's situation in a previous post, so I'll keep this short and sweet. Gore could be a star if he ever gets to BC.

The Argos used their third pick on a DB/PK/Punter from Saskatchewan in Grant Shaw. This could be a reach pick for the Argos. They need a Place Kicker, but just traded for Jamie Boreham who can fill that role until someone else is found, and they didn't need to use a draft pick on one. Perhaps this was a pick to undermine the Ti-Cats, who finally pick at #12... oh wait.

The Cats traded their second-round pick to the Eskimos for the 19th and 27th picks. The Eskimos used the pick on Saint Mary's DB Saleem Borhot. He played multiple positions at Saint Mary's, so he is a versatile player that could fill many roles for the Esks. His natural position is Free Safety, but he can cover sideline to sideline. He'll be a Special Teams gunner at first. We could perhaps be seeing the next Dylan Barker.

The Stampeders picked Wilfrid Laurier Defensive Back Taurean Allen. His natural position is Corner, which means he could be a ratio buster. Not many Canadians play that position, so if he develops as expected the Stamps have nabbed a great player.

The Alouettes took the second consecutive Golden Hawk with Defensive End Chima Ihekwoaba from Wilfrid Laurier. This is the first of two straight picks for the Als to finish up the second round of the 2010 CFL Draft.

With the second of back-to-back picks the Alouettes selected North Dakota Linebacker Curtis Dublanko. It seems as if the all three of the Als' picks in the first two rounds were project picks.

That spells the end of my up-to-the-minute updates. I will post the rest of the selections later in the day, and since the Cats haven't picked yet I will have a post dedicated to what the Cats did.

2010 CFL Draft (Round One)

The Picks
1) Saskatchewan - Shomari Williams, LB, Queen's
2) Toronto - Joe Eppele, OL, Washington State
3) Toronto - Cory Greenwood, LB, Concordia
4) BC - Danny Watkins, OL, Baylor
5) Calgary - Rob Maver, K, Guelph
6) Edmonton - Brian Bulcke, DT, Stanford
7) Montreal - Kristian Matte, OL, Concordia

My Thoughts
I've already talked about the Williams, Eppele and Greenwood selections in a previous post, so I won't bore you with more analysis on those players.

The Lions were initially pegged to Bishop's WR Shawn Gore, but with the news that Gore will sign with the Green Bay Packers, the Leos went out and grabbed Baylor OL Danny Watkins. Watkins has NFL potential, so he may not get to BC soon. The Lions needed O-line depth and adding Watkins addresses that need.

The Stampeders selected Guelph Place Kicker/Punter Rob Maver. This was a guy I was hoping would land in Hamilton. With Maver being able to both place kick and punt, this makes current Stampeder Burke Dales expendable. Let the Dales-to-Hamilton speculation begin.

The Eskimos and Blue Bombers made a trade. The deal sent the 9th and 22nd pick to Winnipeg in exchange for the 6th pick, which the Eskimos used to take Stanford Defensive Tackle Brian Bulcke. Bulcke will stay one more year at Stanford and won't be available until 2011. It will be difficult to judge this pick until he leaves Stanford.

The Alouettes ended the first round by taking Concordia Offensive Lineman Kristian Matte. Matte, a product of the Quebec football system, has signed with the Houston Texans and probably won't be in Montreal this season, at least until Labour Day. The Als can afford to wait, and usually do. The Als are notorious for taking players who don't arrive right away. But with the success the Als have had over the last 15 years, no one should question their approach.

Draft Day

Today is the day, draftniks. The 2010 CFL Draft is upon us. In just over an hour we will see the first pick selected. That pick now belongs to the Saskatchewan Roughriders and that pick will be Shomari Williams.

Yesterday saw a flurry of action on the trade front heading into the draft. The Riders and Argos agreed to a deal that would send the 1st and 8th overall picks to Saskatchewan in exchange for the 2nd and 4th overall picks, and Place Kicker/Punter Jamie Boreham. The Riders will pick Linebacker Shomari Williams from Queen's (who has already agreed to a contract with the Green Riders) with the top overall pick, and the Argos will take Offensive Lineman Joe Eppele from Washington State with the second pick.

But that wasn't the only trade. The Argos and Lions also agreed to a deal that sees the 3rd, 18th, 26th and 30th picks go to Toronto in exchange for the 4th, 20th, 24th and 25th picks. The Argos will use the 3rd pick on Concordia Linebacker Cory Greenwood, and the Lions will use the 4th pick on Bishop's Wider Receiver Shawn Gore.

You got all that? Good. OK, now for some analysis. Let's look at the Rider-Argo deal first because this swap does a couple of things. First, the Riders get maybe the best player in the draft in Williams. Williams can come in and contribute immediately on Special Teams, before moving to either Linebacker or Defensive End. For the Riders, this deal was a no-brainer.

The Argos, in acquiring Jamie Boreham, have made things a little more interesting. Many assumed that the Argos would be after Guelph Place Kicker/Punter Rob Maver, a player the Tiger-Cats are said to been keen on. Does adding Boreham, who can both kick and punt, take Maver off the Argos' draft board? Probably not, because Boreham is likely going to be only a Punter, but now the Argos seem to be too far down the draft board to select Maver anyway. Adding Eppele gives the Argos a good anchor for their O-line for years to come.

The Lions-Argos deal has some interesting elements to it as well. The Argos get Cory Greenwood, who is similar to Shomari Williams, but with maybe a little less polish. He will also likely be a Special Teams contributor in 2010 while he learns the game from veteran Argo LBs like Kevin Eiben. Jim Barker should be given credit for getting two impact players with his first picks.

It's at the Lions end where things get really interesting. Shawn Gore was at the Green Bay Packers mini-camp this weekend and is now likely to sign a deal with the team. This puts his immediate CFL status up in the air. He definitely won't be available for camp or the start of the season. So will the Lions still pick him that high, knowing it's likely he won't be in BC until Labour Day?

Where does all this leave the Tiger-Cats? Last night there was a rumour floating around that they were going to trade the 12th pick, a negotiation list player and Zac Carlson to the Blue Bombers for the 6th pick so that the Cats could select Rob Maver. The deal didn't happen, because the Bombers rejected it.

I was against this deal for a couple reasons. First, Obie had gone on record during all his pre-draft interviews saying that not having a first-round pick was alright because the team drafted Carlson in the Supplemental Draft last year and he would have been a first-round pick this year. If that is true, why offer him in a deal for another first-rounder? Second, if the reports are true, and this was an attempt to move up to get Maver, I don't like it. I am very high on Maver, and I was hoping he'd be a Ti-Cat at the end of Sunday's draft, but I can't justify trading an every-down player for a Place Kicker or Punter. I know field position is important, and I actually respect Kickers, but to deal a young Offensive Lineman for a Kicker just doesn't sit right with me. I'm still hoping the Cats can get Maver, but I think any deal to move up would involve trading a player that I don't feel comfortable trading in order to select a punter.

And who says drafts can't be exciting?