Wednesday, April 30, 2008

CFL Draft Day Blogging

Here’s my up to the minute thoughts on the first round and part of the 2nd round. Here we go…

10:15 – Hamilton takes Dylan Barker 1st overall – no brainer, apparently there was no deal Obie couldn’t refuse

10:20 – Edmonton trades 2nd overall pick to Calgary in exchange for Jon Comiskey, Kevin Challenger and Cal’s 3rd and 4th Round picks. The draft plot thickens…

10:30 – Calgary takes Dmitri Tsoumpas – good for them to improve their o-line but can’t say I’m shocked about not improving the defense. Why did Calgary trade an established lineman for a college kid?

10:42 – Calgary takes another lineman, Jesse Newman. Good thing Burris can run since Calgary just traded a veteran o-lineman to draft 2 rookies… toss in Jermese Jones at tackle(who’s not the greatest pass blocker). Dickenson better hope he never has to come in.

Alright now the important stuff, Riders are on the clock.

10:53 – Riders take Keith Shologan. Love it! May be a while before he dons the green but he will be an impact player once he does. Good move by the Riders as we can afford to take a flyer pick since we have no immediate needs.

11:00 – BC take Justin Sorensen. O-linemen are certainly the flavour of the day. I can only assume that Sorensen must be a dirty player if he attracted BC’s attention. If not I guess he can learn from the best (or worst I guess) guys in the league.

And now for something we haven’t seen since the turn of the century… the Bombers will make a first round selection for the first time since 2000. How the hell did they manage to get so good without any first rounders in 8 years?

11:10 – No word yet maybe Taman panicked and is making a last minute deal…

11:11 – In a shocking turn of events Winnipeg actually picks! They select Brendon LaBatte. A good ol’ Regina Ram and the 4th o-linemen in 6 first round picks. I guess given the fact that they still only have 2 QBs they are still thinking they have to stockpile linemen and desperately hope to protect Glenn.

Montreal is up next… I love the fact that Montreal violated the cap and still get to pick ahead of Toronto who adhered to the cap. Come to think of it the Riders did too… So who exactly got punished under the salary cap?

11:21 – Montreal takes Shea Emery. Hopefully he pans out as well for the Als as Henri Childs (who the Riders traded this pick for) turned out for us.

Now Hamilton gets their magic bonus pick under the Salary Cap provisions. I’m guessing they take a flyer on Giguere. They were high on him before and he managed to slide this far due to signing with the Colts.

11:30 – Hamilton ends the first round by taking… Samuel Giguere. Booyeah!!! Guess that’s why they call me the Prophet

Nothing earth shattering in Round 1. On to round 2, where BC picks first after trading with Hamilton last night. Got Markeith Knowlton and kicker Ara Tchobanian in exchange. I guess Knowlton’s parents couldn’t decide between Mark and Keith. That kicker must have had a hard time at school when learning to spell his name.

11:38 – BC takes Rolly Lumballa, FB. Good pick up by the Lions. Too bad I was hoping we’d get a shot at him. Now I just hope he sticks in Miami. And given how bad the Dolphins are I like those odds.

Riders second pick is next…

11:44 – Riders take Jonathan St Pierre, OL. Didn’t really need an o-linemen but I guess it’s never a bad idea to nab one (especially one that can play centre). I’m so-so on this pick. But given how loaded we are on O-line me-thinks a trade is on the way

11:52 – Edmonton uses their first pick in this draft for… you guessed it an o-linemen, Greg Wojt. Given how bad Edmonton’s O-line is they really didn’t have to think too hard about this pick. Thing is Wojt will likely play one more year of college so don’t look for an immediate improvement.

That’s it for now, I will summarize the rest of the draft later.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Draft Preview

It’s finally here... After weeks of speculation and discussion on how things will play out, the CFL Draft is only 2 days away. I must say I’m as excited as a hillbilly at a family reunion. Not just because this represents the first significant CFL news story in over a month but because the draft itself should be exciting. The landscape of the draft seems to be changing more often than a Bomber fan changes clothes (which means it has changed twice in the past week) and I expect a few more changes in the next 48 hours (changes in the draft that is, not the Bomber fan, having changed twice this week already they are set until Mother’s Day).

The first big change in the landscape came when the CFL released the 2007 financial information for all teams and officially announced the penalties that would be assessed under the new Salary Management System. Now if you’re a faithful reader of this blog, none of this should come as a surprise to you. To summarize: Als lose 4th overall pick; Riders, BC, Winnipeg and Montreal move up; and Hamilton gets the 8th overall pick (for reasons I still don’t understand).

Another wrench that was thrown into the mix was the NFL. While no Canadian prospects were drafted this weekend, a few notable names signed free-agent deals: Samuel Giguere (Indianapolis), Keith Shologan (San Diego) and Rolly Lumbala (Miami). All 3 were arguably the top prospects at their respective positions and were all expected to be 1st round selections. Now I still expect these 3 to get drafted but they may slip a spot or 2 based on the possibility of them sticking in the NFL. As history has shown, picking a player that the NFL has shown interest in can be risky - quite often they eventually make their way to north of the border, but there are also cases such as Toronto's 2005 first round selection of Nick Kaczur, now a starting lineman with the New England Patriots. That pick worked out about as well for Toronto as the "I'm a Colt" defense did for Kenton.

There are still a group of highly touted prospects led by Dylan Barker, Jesse Newman, Shea Emery and Dmitri Tsoumpas (by far the best name in the draft, I hope we draft him so I get to say it a lot). There’s also a bunch of other prospects that I’m sure are very talented but quite frankly I know nothing about. It’s not that I’m lazy, it’s just that I’m a joke writer, not a scout. Well okay, laziness is part of it too.

Traditionally the draft is a chance for teams to load up on linemen and pick up that token receiver. What's great for the Riders this year is that we already have a lot of depth at those positions and so we can look at drafting talent at other positions. Ken Miller has listed Defensive Backs and Defensive Linemen as a priority. He also mentioned that they aren't looking for starters for this season given our current strength at those positions.

The First Round Order is as follows:
1. Hamilton
2. Edmonton
3. Calgary
4. Saskatchewan
5. BC
6. Winnipeg
7. Montreal
8. Hamilton

After that the Riders have 3 more picks - a second rounder (10th overall), a third rounder (20th overall), and a fifth rounder (40th overall).

One way or another, it appears that Dylan Barker will be the first overall pick either by Hamilton or someone who trades up for the pick. Sorry to burst the bubble of any of you who thought there was a chance Barker might slip to #4 for the Riders to grab. Yes Hamilton is loaded with non-import DBs and yes Danny Maciocia is an idiot and yes Calgary does not seem to believe in investing in their defense but all of that considered, Barker still will not drop that far.

I’ll leave you with some random draft notes:
- Winnipeg still has a first round pick. I can’t remember the last time they held on to a first round pick… mainly because I’m not sure I had even been born the last time it happened.

- Some people are wondering about Regina Rams’ QB Teale Orban. IF (and this is a big if) he gets drafted it won’t be before the 5th or 6th round. And I guarantee it won't be the Riders who take a chance on him. I have nothing against Orban and hope he catches on somewhere, but Canadian QBs are about as coveted as a William Shatner music CD - sure, someone somewhere might be interested but not most people.

- One Saskatchewan product to watch is DB Paul Woldu who attended Rider training camp two years ago as a junior. He’s small but very talented.

Check back for my post draft thoughts on Wednesday.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

So it's come to this...

When Rob Vanstone doesn't have enough material to write an entire column on, he does a series of random thoughts that he calls Robservations. Its Rob... making Observations. Robservations, get it? This brings me to Rod Pedersen and his ridiculous “Rodservations” schtick. For the record, if someone can tell me what an 'odservation' is, then I will gladly retract this criticism. But enough about this, I have Prophetservations to make...

- The recent news stories involving the Riders have me checking my calendar to make sure I haven't inadvertently gone back in time... Trevis Smith is in court, KK got arrested, Riders sign Kyle Mitchell and Brandon Lynch. I swear I've seen this all somewhere before. Not to mention, Rush, Mötley Crüe and Iron Maiden will soon be making stops here... maybe we're in some sort of time warp.

- The Rider fans seem to have turned into a real life version of the movie Groundhog Day. I challenge anyone to have a Rider related conversation without uttering the words Shivers, KK, stadium, Barker or Crandell

- The draft can't come soon enough

- The '09 Grey Cup will be in Calgary. I hope the Calgary residents take full advantage of this opportunity as this is the closest they will come to the Cup in the foreseeable future.

- So the Montreal Canadiens win a first-round playoff series and people feel compelled to riot and destroy 16 cop cars. By contrast, the Riders won the league championship for the first time in 18 years and the only thing damaged was work productivity in the month of November.

- The Argos signed former pro-bowler David Boston. Boston is a steroid using, oft injured, NFL cast-off whose best days are behind him... yup he's a perfect fit in Toronto's offense.

- Word is the green colour of our jerseys will be changing this season. Some say this is a ploy to suck more money out of us. My guess is that the trainers accidentally put the old jerseys in the wrong laundry load which resulted in fading and this is just a clever cover-up.

- Finally, one of my fellow bloggers has recently run into some legal trouble due to allegedly disparaging comments that were made online. Now I think all of you know that my comments are meant to be all in good fun, but in light of this news, the Prophet legal team has advised me to apologize to the following: Marcel Bellefeuille, Danny Maciocia, Jason Maas, Garth Brooks, James Johnson, Henri Childs, AJ Gass, Ryan Dinwiddie, Wally Buono, the Baha Men, Andre Proulx, Jim Popp, Lindsay Lohan, Colin Scrivener, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, Cupid, Davis Sanchez, Tristan Clovis, Rob Vanstone, Rod Black, Hamilton Cheerleaders, Madonna, Anthony Calvillo, Ben Cahoon, Mexicans, Mormons, the BC Lions offensive line, Rita McNeil's seamstress, Henry Burris, Chip Cox, Helen Keller, the residents of Winnipeg and all of their attractive cousins.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Upgraded Draft Pick

Two weeks ago, I posted that the Montreal Alouette's were rumoured to be over the salary cap and would be forfeiting a draft pick. Turns out I was right, they are losing a pick (honestly, I'm as surprised as you are about being right). Their loss is the Riders gain - with their forfeiture, our 5th overall pick will be upgraded to 4th overall, which is awesome news!

As per a deal signed off by the GMs, Montreal would lose the 4th overall pick. Saskatchewan, BC, Winnipeg and Montreal's other pick would be bumped up a spot. Nothing in Rounds 2-6 would be affected. So far it all makes logical sense... but logic and sense seem to stop there. For some reason, Hamilton will be awarded the 8th overall pick due to waiver priority... I don't understand why you wouldn't just skip Montreal's first round selection and proceed as normal. Why should Hamilton be just awarded this bonus pick? Because they finished in last place? Well guess what... they were already rewarded for their futility with the first selection in each round. I thought the idea was to punish Montreal, not reward Hamilton. While the bonus pick does not negatively affect any of the other teams it does seem to unnecessarily favour the Ti-Cats.

To express my disgust towards the situation, I've developed a list of things that make about as much sense as giving Hamilton an extra first round pick because another team went over the cap: a Baha Men comeback tour, Schindler's List: The Musical, a 50th Anniversary Edition Ford Edsel, a canoe with speed holes, a two-story outhouse, America's fascination with NASCAR, re-useable toilet paper and the Stampeders defensive schemes.

I guess, the one thing I do like about this whole situation is that everyone benefits except the two Alberta teams and Toronto. The Riders, Lions and Bombers all have their pick upgraded, Hamilton gets a bonus pick, and heck, even though they lost a pick, Montreal benefits somewhat as their other 1st round selection is moved up a spot. The Stamps and Esks get nothing as their draft picks are too high to benefit from the bumping and Toronto is an afterthought since they don't even have a 1st round pick. As much as I don't like the idea of Hamilton getting a bonus pick, I must say that I find some comfort in the fact that the 2 "centres of the Canadian universe" don't get a damn thing.

Apparently the Als are trying to fight this with the league. The dispute boils down to whether Steve Charbonneau's salary should count against the cap. Charbonneau developed an illness in training camp and was unable to play football, but rather than cut him the Als decided to keep him on the roster so he could maintain medical benefits. So the Als apparently want an allowance made for the extenuating circumstances. I agree with the Als on this one... if only there were some way to keep a player on your roster but not have his salary count against the cap... Oh wait the league already has such a thing; - it's called the 9 game injured reserve! So good luck trying to get this exemption when you're "extenuating circumstances" essentially boil down to the fact that your GM is a moron.

Now here's some other notable Rider news...

Rider AGM
The Roughriders held their Annual General Meeting this past weekend. The meeting mainly highlighted the team's financials successes this past season but there were also a few bits of information that were noteworthy. First off, Board of Director's Chair Rob Pletch revealed that one of our conditions for approving the conditional franchise in Ottawa is that they couldn't use the name "Rough Riders". Good move on the part of the board. Second, Eric Tillman made a point of saying that he has notified Hamilton that's he's interested in the 1st overall pick in the draft. Now Tillman has been trying to swing a deal for the pick for a month now so this isn't really news, but the fact that he made a point of saying it at the AGM should tell you something. ET isn't a guy who talks because he likes the sound of his voice, he means everything he says. Like remember when he said that we could win with Marcus Crandell at QB? He wasn't just saying that to make small talk, he was saying that because he intended to trade Kerry Joseph and start Crandell. So when ET makes a point of saying publicly that he's interested in the #1 pick, it says to me, he has every intention of getting it. So with the draft only 9 days away, don't be surprised to see him swing a big deal in the near future.

KK Kuffed... Again
Former Rider Kenton Keith was arrested Sunday morning outside a club in Indianapolis. He was released from jail this morning but was charged with misdemeanor counts of disorderly conduct, resisting law enforcement, public intoxication and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Apparently this all stems from KK refusing to leave the parking lot of a club at the end of the night when asked by security, as well as helping a 19 year-old get into the bar. While I don't think this is as big a deal as it will be made out to be... it's yet another run in with the law for a guy who was supposed to have cleaned up his act and a sign that KK hasn't yet learned his lesson.

Things are going to be different this time around for KK. Last time he had a run in with the law, he was our all-star running back and nearly impossible to replace, so he had the team's support. Now's he's a run of the mill back-up RB in the NFL where there are dozens of possible replacements at a moments notice, so the Colts likely won't offer the same level of support. Now I like Kenton and think he's a phenomenal talent but just ask Pacman Jones how far talent will get you if you're constantly in trouble with the law.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The New Head of the Zebra Herd

Officiating... There are few CFL topics that will arouse as much heated discussion. If you even mention the word reffing in the presence of a CFL fan, be prepared for a long winded rant that is probably not suitable for younger listening audiences. While fans of different teams can't seem to agree on much, they seem to be unanimous in their opinion that officiating needs drastic improvement... they also seem to agree that Rod Black sucks at announcing anything that doesn't involve axels and lutzes but that's beside the point.

Last year wasn't exactly a banner year for CFL refs. It seemed that a week of CFL action wasn't complete without a league apology for a blown call or a league imposed fine for questioning a call. I'm not saying the refs have an easy job or that I expect perfection from them but I don't think it's too much to ask for them to see punches that are thrown right in front of them or to know that when 2 opposing players simultaneously touch the ball they do not cancel each other out and the event did, in fact, actually happen. But such was life in the CFL last season.

To their credit, the league (unlike some of its refs), saw the problem and decided that action was needed. The first part of the change saw George Black step down as Director of Officiating. So the question since the position was vacated in December was: Who would be the chosen one to lead officiating out of the punch lines of my jokes and into respectability? Well yesterday we got our answer...

The chosen one, the great leader is none other than... Tom Higgins.

Higgins is of course the obvious choice given his vast array of experience as a referee. While he has no football officiating experience, he has refereed some amateur wrestling, which will come in handy when the BC Lions play. Higgins also brings to the table decades of experience in the CFL both as a coach and a player.

Now, people have been saying to me "Prophet, there had to be someone else out there." My reply is: "Not likely."

Director of CFL Officiating isn't what many would call a dream job, or even a desirable one. Basically, the position requires you to become one of the most hated men in the country. No matter what you do, you are guaranteed to garner the wrath of some team/fans. And don't expect a pat on the back when you do good. The only position in Canadian sports that faces a similar level of public scrutiny is the GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs... well maybe that's not a fair comparison. The Director of Officiating is at least in charge of a group of people who succeed some of the time. So I really don't think Mark Cohon had to weed through stacks of resumes or interview dozens of potential candidates. Seriously, you would have to be somewhat masochistic to willingly subject yourself to this.

While I wouldn't call Higgins the ideal choice, I don't think he's an awful choice either. I mean if you think about it, they could have passed on Higgins and promoted Andre Proulx, which likely would see benalties across the league increase tree-fold. Repeat turd down.

So welcome aboard Tom, I look forward to making fun of you in the upcoming season.

In other CFL news...The Winnipeg Blue Bombers agreed on a contract extension with Kevin Glenn today. The 2 sides were at odds during negations, with Glenn wanting a raise and the Bombers saying they couldn't afford it. While no financial terms were released you have to assume this will constitute a raise for the East Division's nominee for Most Outstanding Player. So this means 1 of 2 things happened: 1 - Brendan Taman had money all along and was merely posturing to try and get Glenn cheap or 2 - They really don't have money and could be in some cap trouble. I think option 2 is more likely. While the team did get rid of sizeable salaries such as Davin Bush, Keith Stokes and Kyries Hebert (NFL), I would guess that the savings were more than used up in the contract extensions of Tom Canada, Dan Goodspeed, Matt Sheridan and now Glenn. Maybe they use the same accounting firm as Wally Buono...

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Quarterback of the Future

Last week the Argonauts cut Rocky Butler and Anthony Davis. This got me thinking... Why would the Argos cut a running back they just traded for a few months ago? Apparently, now that they have Kerry Joseph they simply have no need for a running back. But more importantly, it also got me thinking about the status of back-up quarterbacks and how it's been years since the Riders have developed one.

Rocky Butler arrived in Saskatchewan in 2002 as the 4th string quarterback. No one knew anything about him or really cared (whereas 6 years later, people know slightly more about him and care slightly less). He won the big Labour Day game that year (due entirely to brilliant play calling rather than anything Rocky actually did himself) and people started to get excited that maybe we'd found the next great one. But he spent the next 4 years with a clipboard surgically attached to his hands and, a short resurgence in 2006 aside, faded away into the background again. Then all of a sudden we're headed into the 2007 season, Rocky is now 28 years old, never did develop into that next great quarterback, so Tillman ships him off to Hamilton. Not even a year later he's already been through Hamilton and Toronto, and has now been cut for possibly the last time. Such is often the life of a CFL back up.

For years, the CFL just kept bouncing all the same names around the league at starting quarterback. In the 90's it was Allen, McManus, Ham, Dunigan, Flutie etc. All those quarterbacks were getting older (with the exception of Damon, who apparently doesn't age), and there was no real answer as to who was going to take over for them. Then the next round of guys stepped up, and in this decade it's been guys like Burris, Dickenson, Calvillo, Khari. But now we're getting to the point where it's once again time for the changing of the guard, and the search is on for the next crop of elite quarterbacks.

In recent years, we've seen players such as Ray, Pierce, Glenn, Printers and Bishop step up from unknown back-up status and grab the spotlight. Those are going to be the guys that are getting the attention as the league goes into the next decade. But the thing with everyone on these lists, all the way back to the guys in the 90s, is that none of them were developed in Saskatchewan.

Our philosophy on QBs has always been to acquire rather than develop. In 2000, we needed a QB - acquire Burris. 2002 - trade for Nealon. 2006 - trade so we can draft Joseph. Our most promising QB prospect in recent years, Kevin Glenn, was shipped off before his development was complete.

But this year we are seeing some pretty strong signs that our philosophy is shifting. All our acquired starters are gone: Burris skipped town for more money, Joseph was shipped off for similar reasons and Nealon... well he's fallen off the face of the earth which suits me just fine. While I do miss his musical stylings, his football skills often made me envious of Helen Keller's inability to see and hear.

We have 3 young QBs who are all highly touted (good word "touted") and who management have high hopes for. The expectation is clear... one of them will step up and win the back-up spot - A prize package that also includes being our starter come '09 and, depending on how things go, maybe even sooner.

For years, the mere thought of a young quarterback starting for the Riders (Butler's dominance of Hamilton notwithstanding) had me thinking the Riders would have about as much chance at sustained success as Hanson. That's a situation that isn't unique to the Riders - all one has to do is recall Higgins' "No, but he's going to have to" when asked whether Akili Smith was ready to start last year for evidence of that - but it seems that other teams have put themselves in positions where they have the chance to get lucky and find a young quarterback that can be effective in the Canadian game much more regularly than we have. Somehow the Edmonton's and BC's of the world seem to be able to bring together that ideal combination of natural skill, effective coaching and valuable in-game experience that translates into success any time it is needed.

Eric Tillman seems to be committed to building the future of his team around the belief that at least one of his young quarterbacks will be the next great CFL quarterback - a strategy similar to jumping out of an airplane based on the rumour that your backpack contains a parachute. But I think Tillman’s plan will pay off given how good a motivator he can be for Jyles, Tate and Durant. If you show you’ve got what it takes to make it in the CFL, Tillman will reward you with the reigns to the team. If you come up short you’ll be rewarded with a one-way plane ticket and new coloured jersey.

It’s all or nothing, which is going to make for one heck of a training camp.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

CFL News - The Price of Mediocrity

Slowly but surely the financial statements from teams across the CFL are starting to emerge. First, we found out that Edmonton managed to stay under the cap. Then, we found out that the Riders were slightly over the cap. Now it's the Montreal Alouettes turn, but don't expect words like "under" or "slightly" in their news release. Reports indicate that the Alouettes are at least $100,000 over the salary cap. If this turns out to be true the Alouettes would face a hefty fine of and would forfeit the first of their two first round draft picks.

Montreal fans may have been willing to forgive such massive over-spending, if Jim Popp and his crew had something to show for it. You know like a championship, a home playoff game or a winning record. Instead, the Als appear to have managed to invest big money in a team with a losing record and no post-season success. For the investors among you, this is akin to paying a 200% premium for shares in a company that makes VCRs.

And the Alouettes don't appear to be in a hurry to change their spending habits. Other than Dario Romero, they really haven't gotten rid of any big contracts. Toss in the fact that they gave Chip Cox a raise, brought in Reggie Hunt and are prepared to offer $100K+ to Corey Holmes. They seem to be spending like there's no tomorrow. Of course for Jim Popp that just may be the case. If nothing else, the Als financial situation might explain the hiring of Marc Trestman. Maybe they simply couldn't afford a reputable coach.

I seem to remember not too long ago when there were accusations that the Riders "bought" the Grey Cup. If that's the case I'd say we got a steal of a deal. A cup for $54,000 when 3rd place in the East cost over $200,000 and draft pick... I'd say chalk up another shrewd business move to Eric Tillman.

We'll have to wait until the Als release their official financial statements to see if the reports are true.

Here's what's happening elsewhere in the league...

In: Gary Etcheverry (hired as defensive assistant)
So who here remembers the year 2000? It was the beginning of a new era for the Saskatchewan Roughriders. A new GM, a new head coach, and a young gap-toothed gunslinger of a quarterback guiding a talented offense that put up a healthy 26.7 points per game. Ain't nobody goes one on one with the homey!

But all of that offense could not overcome being paired with a defense that gave up 32.4 points per game. And who was the mastermind behind this defense? Why none other than Gary Etcheverry, a defensive revolutionary that served as the stop-gap between two well respected coordinators, Greg Marshall and Richie Hall.

The Riders took a trip down memory lane this week by adding Etcheverry to the defensive coaching staff - but fortunately for Rider fans, he will not be calling the plays. If you're anything like me, you still have the occasional nightmare of the Etch-a-sketch defense, as it was less-than-lovingly known by many. This (allegedly) defensive scheme relied on putting heavy pressure on the opposing quarterback, often blitzing as many as 9 players. With experienced players, this might not be a bad idea. But when many of your defensive starters, including the entire defensive backfield, are rookies, to say that this strategy leaves the team a little vulnerable is the equivalent of saying that Bill Gates is doing okay financially. Plus, you have to consider the circumstances - sending 9 sounds impressive when you're dealing with the likes of John Chick, Kitwana Jones, Maurice Lloyd, Scott Gordon and 5 of their buddies, but when you consider that the 2000 defense included such notables as Trevis Smith, Colin Scrivener and Marcus McDavid, the reality of the situation at the time was a little less intimidating. In fact, I'm pretty sure there were times when the quarterback had time to make a 4th or 5th read before dumping off to his fullback, who got tired of waiting to pick up the blitz and instead decided to just leak out into the flats.

But all of that aside, welcome back to Saskatchewan Gary... and here's to you never having to call the defense.

In: Jamie Stoddard (re-signed)
I decided not to waste much time writing about a guy who amassed a mere 110 yards receiving last season. 110 yards receiving is a good game, but when spread out over a season, it's not that impressive. To his credit though, his total yardage is roughly double that of Montreal's notable receiver Anwar Stewart.

In: Aaron Hunt (contract extended)
Hunt is one of 7 BC players to be named Outstanding Rookie in the past 10 years, which speaks volumes about BC’s scouting and player development. With this signing BC has secured a key piece of the best defensive front in the CFL. They have also renewed debate as to their financial situation. While most teams are cutting high priced veterans to stay under the cap, BC is merrily signing all-stars at virtually every position. It reminds me of when Homer Simpson got his jaw wired shut and actually gained weight.

In: Keith Stokes (free agent)
This move makes me confident that Edmonton will continue to dwell in the West Division cellar this season. Not because Stokes is a bad player... no I'm confident because Edmonton has decided to invest in a returner/receiver rather than in their sorry excuse for an O-line or their non existent run game. Don't get me wrong, gaining good field position on special teams is important but if you get good field position and then lose yards on a combination of QB sacks and runs for negative yards that good field position doesn't do you much good.

In: Randy Chevrier (re-signed)
Hold the press! Calgary actually made a transaction involving a defensive player... Oh wait... No need to hold the press, it's just Randy Chevrier. Sorry, but I just don't consider re-signing a guy who has 6 sacks over a 5 year career "bolstering your defense". The good news for us is that Calgary does.

Out: Pascal Cheron and Roger Dunbrack (released)
Did you know that prior to their football careers Cheron and Dunbrack were accomplished professional wrestlers who competed as the feared tag team "The Masked Assailants"? No?... Well that's most likely because it's not true at all. I made it up in an attempt to mask the fact that there's really nothing interesting to say about these 2. I had you going though...

Monday, April 7, 2008

Riders Release Financials

For the first time ever, and likely the last time, I uttered the phrase "Thank You Jim Hopson" this weekend. It was shaping up to be another slow week news-wise in the CFL and I was getting dangerously close to having to pull a Rod Pedersen and simply copy and paste an article from another site. But Jim came through for me by releasing the Riders financial information for the 2007 season.

The big question on everyone's mind was "what was our salary cap situation?" Eric Tillman confirmed a while back that we were going to be over the $4.05 million salary cap that came into effect this season, we just didn't know by how much. Speculation ran wild. Were we way over the cap? Would we lose a draft pick? Could it be that a team that had been in favour of implementing the cap to level the playing field would be the biggest offenders? Could the Leafs pull off a miracle and make it to the post-season? Fortunately, the answer to all of these questions was no.

In the end, we exceeded the cap by $54,330, which isn't really that bad when you consider that we were rumoured to be as much as $1 million over before the '07 season. Last offseason, Eric Tillman went on a payroll cutting venture that would put the Florida Marlins to shame but it appears to have paid off. Plus, despite enduring more injuries this past season than any other team, we managed to be over the cap roughly by the price of one back-up player. So this leads me to the obvious conclusion that being over the cap is entirely Henri Childs' fault. Had he not been on our roster we likely would have been better off (both financially and athletically).

The end result is that we have to pay a fine of $54,330, which is a small price to pay since we posted record profits of $1.7 million this year fueled by 8 sell-out games, a home-playoff game and strong merchandise sales. Times sure have changed. 10-20 years ago, the only way we would have been able to pay a fine of that size would have been to organize a provincial bake sale/charity polka marathon. But now... Ha! Big Jim just whips out his wallet and asks if the league wants 50s or 100s.

The Riders now have to decide what to do with the surplus cash. There’s the usual talk of stadium improvement and increased seating capacity, but there’s also been some outside the box thinking. So let me present to you …

The Top 10 Uses for the Rider Surplus
10 – Some Rider profits should go to the Rider Prophet (it just fits too nicely)
9 – Buy Gainer a pair of pants
8 – Go to the casino, put it all on Red and hope to walk out with a $3.4 million profit.
7 – Bake muffins for all season ticket holders
6 – Put a mob hit out on Andre Proulx
5 – Make excessive use of a “100 Tacos for $100” deal
4 – Tamper with a few players just for fun
3 – Establish a “Tillman Can Say What He Wants In ‘08” fund to pay for fines
2 – Frontlyne Reunion Tour
1 – “First beer’s on Hopson Night” at Mosaic Stadium

Thursday, April 3, 2008

CFL Hall of Fame – Class of 2008

Let’s get you caught up on all the news that is news across the CFL...

Hall of Fame
Doug Flutie, Mike Clemons, Mike Pringle, John Bonk, Tom Shepherd (2008 inductees)
Why is it that when I read this list, I had flashbacks to watching Sesame Street as a kid? Come on, sing it with me - "One of these things is not like the others!" As I had my first look at the list, I was pretty impressed with the selections. First I saw three of the greatest players to step on a CFL field in the last 15 years. Then I saw a versatile Canadian whose only real fault was a long-term affiliation with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. And then there's Tom Shepherd, who will for reasons unknown be enshrined as a builder.

Now, I guess if they were determined to induct Shepherd, builder is the only category they could put him in. After all, he wasn't a player, so he doesn't fit in with the rest of the nominees in their category. I'm told that some categories that were tossed around were "Megalomaniac Ford Defender", "Inebriated Radio Enthusiast", and "What's the Opposite of Builder?" but apparently they didn't want to have to construct a whole new wing down at the Hall.

But in honour of Tom Shepherd and his contributions to the Riders over the years, I'm going to start my very own $100,000 Rider Prophet Lottery. Just send me $100, and I'll send you a ticket. "I have a feeling that someone reading right now will win a major prize!"

Jamal Robertson (re-signed), Jeremy Burnett, Kevin Garrett (free agents)
Eric Tillman has signed another running back with an impressive resume. Robertson was named NFL Europe's offensive MVP in 2002 and also spent time in the NFL with San Francisco and Carolina returning kicks. The combination of Robertson and Quentin Griffin has people pretty excited about our running back situation this year. I, however, will reserve my judgment until training camp. Let's not forget that last year we brought in 2 highly touted running backs by the name of Childs and Russell and we all know how that turned out.

Rob Pikula (trade with BC)
Pikula is being passed around like a doobie at a rock concert. For those of you keeping score at home this is now Pikula's 4th team in 2 years. At this rate, he'll have made the complete league circuit and be back in BC before the Olympic Torch.

Derrell "Mookie" Mitchell (released)
And that should be the last of them... It seems as though the Argos have completed their purge of over-the-hill veterans that were rejected by other teams. This may signal a change in philosophies in Toronto. Instead of trying to improve their offense by signing rejected veterans such as Mitchell, Davis, Edwards and Boerigter, they appear to be trying to improve their offense by trading for players with a history of being injured such as Hoffart, Ebell, Acree and Joseph. Only time will tell if this shift in philosophies will work out.

Wally Buono, LaVar Glover (contracts extended)
Ol' Squinty will remain a fixture on the BC sideline until at least 2010. This extension was kind of a no-brainer for the Lions as the team has been among the league's most successful since Buono arrived in 2003. In that time he's given BC fans: 5 winning seasons, 2 Grey Cup appearances, 1 Grey Cup win, 2 Most Outstanding Players, 2 separate QB controversies and an offensive line that is currently competing with the Philadelphia Flyers for the right to be called the dirtiest group of athletes in sports.

Word is the Alouette's are interested in signing former Rider Corey Holmes, there's just one problem... they can't get ahold of him. Holmes apparently hasn't returned any of their calls. This has lead to a great deal of speculation as to his whereabouts. Some people are even speculating that foul play might be involved. Yeah, because that's the most likely explanation... Let's ignore the likely possibility that Corey's just on vacation and away from his phone. Or the even more likely possibility that Corey has call display and enough common sense not to answer a call from "J Popp".