Monday, July 13, 2020

Monday Morning Sentimonies: The Greatest 80-89

After a brief hiatus, we are back. I took a couple weeks’ vacation… it’s one of the few work benefits I was successfully able to negotiate when I signed on for this gig. I spent the time researching the effects of whether or not beer and fishing increase the effectiveness of social distancing. I can conclusively say I found no evidence to disprove my theory.

The 80s are all about receivers. The lists starts and ends with some of the best receivers in the history of the franchise. The middle of the list proves that, much like the franchise itself, the mid-eighties leave a bit to be desired.

80 – We start off with a hall of famer and record holder for most consecutive games with a catch (a mark that will likely never even come close to be being in danger of being broke). WR Don Narcisse. Narco’s patented celebration dance is as legendary as his career itself.

81 – Though about going Geroy here just to rile people up but I’ll play this one straight. Arguably the best Canadian to ever play for the green and white was WR Ray Elgaard. He is the franchise leader in receiving yards and TDs, is top 10 all-time in CFL history and did most of it with a smoke pressed between his lips. He’s so legendary that any decent football fan will be able to tell you the meaning of the “Elgaard rule”

82 – I know there are a number of people that would want me to put Clermont here. But let’s face it, while Clermont is a Rams legend and a CFL all time great, his years in Saskatchewan where little more than a promotional tour… except that game winning TD in the playoffs that one time. No here I’m going with a recent player, WR Namaan Roosevelt. He arrived amid some pretty terrible years and almost didn’t get the chance he so clearly deserved. Once he got on the field he was productive and showed a willing to sacrifice his body for pretty much any catch.

83 – Roy Shivers does not exactly have the greatest CFL drafting record. But he nailed in in 2006 when he picked WR Andy Fantuz. Probably the best Canadian receiver to play for us since Elgaard. I still marvel at the things he did during that ’07 playoff run. Do yourself a favour and go back and watch those highlights.

84 – This is where things get a but dicey. Top contenders included Elijah Thurmon and Cary Koch. Finally landed on WR Eric Gulliford. Not a long career here but amassed 1800 yards and 12 TDs between 1999 and 2001.

85 – We continue along the dicey train. I refused to give this one to guys like Prechae Rodriguez and Karsten Bailey (both leading candidates at a very weak number). Briefly considered Willis Jacox but eventually landed on WR Kyran Moore. Small sample size but in his 2 years he’s shown he could be one of the greats if he keeps it up.

86– Honestly the best/only option I could find here was WR Demetris Bendross. It was him or Nathan Hoffart.

87 – The last of the week numbers. I had to go with WR Yo Murphy here. Yes his best years came before he arrived here and his he had a minimal role even when he was here but he takes this one unless you can suggest someone more deserving.

88 – Ok back to some quality options. Runner up here is Curtis Marsh. The winner is WR Matt Dominguez. People forget just how dominant a receiver he was up until his injury in ’07.

89 – Some great names pop up here, Jamel Richardson, Duron Carter, Curtis Mayfield. But one name rises above the rest. Look I know I make a lot of fun about his inconstency but stats don’t lie and WR Chris Getzlaf is #5 all-time in the franchise in receiving yards and only 5 people have caught more TDs in green and white then him. He was a hell of a receiver… I will just always wonder how much higher he could have risen had he been able to catch on a consistent basis in stadiums other than McMahon.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Monday Morning Sentimonies: The Greatest 70-79

I figured that this would be one of the most difficult sets of numbers in this series. These days numbers in the 70s are reserved for training camp fodder and practice squad players who hope to someday graduate to a “real” number… with a few exceptions. But it turns out that the 70s has a very rich history and features some of the all-time franchise greats.

70 – The franchise may have been around for a long long time but like most things, it was a long wait for the first player to be named Rookie of the Year. It took until 1981 for a young LB Vince Goldsmith to become the first. He would go on to rack up 130.5 sacks over his career. 7th all time in CFL history.

71 – Speaking of prolific pass rushers… the great one in franchise history just happened to wear #71. He holds the team record in sacks, sits 3rd all-time in CFL history with 140 and his rising sun bandana is one of the all-time iconic looks in the league. I’m talking of course about DL Bobby Jurasin.

72 – Another famous defender checks in here. LB Cleveland Vann. 5 seasons with the team and had an interception in the 1976 Grey Cup… it remains one of the few aspects of that game that people from Saskatchewan are willing to talk about.

73 – Prior to tragic plane crash that killed 3 of his teammates DL Gordon Strutridge was a 3 time all-star and viewed as an important piece of the puzzle for a team trying rise to the top of the CFL.

74 – More competition here than you might expect. Keith Shologan wore the number, as did Chris DeFrance, but few embody the heart and soul of the prairies quite like LB Dan Rashovich. He was never an all-star or award winner but was one of the glue guys that worked hard on special teams and stepped on D when needed.

75 – 7 seasons as a Rider, 3 all-star nods and a Grey Cup ring. DL Garner Ekstran takes this number.

76– This is the part of the list where things start getting a bit sketchy. The only notable 76 I found was LB Tyson St James. Who? You might ask. 1st overall pick in 2000, the very first draft pick of GM Roy Shivers. Viewed as a key build block in the new look Riders… and not longer with the team just 2 season later.

77 – Rakim Cox wore the number, and we all know I find that name hilarious. Dan Clark wore 77 when he scored that iconic diving TD reception. Even Dwan Epps wore it. But this one goes to LB Wally Dempsey who spent 7 years with the team over 2 stints and was part of the 66 team.

78 – I scoured for this number and the best I found was DB Jim Cooper… who played 5 games with the Riders in 1999. He makes the list thanks to the 2 sweetest words in the English language: De Fault.

79 – We end on a higher note here. Could have gone with Turell Jurineak but instead going with a different D-lineman, DL Gary Lewis. 2 time western all-star and part of the 89 team.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Monday Morning Sentimonies: The Greatest 60-69

The 60s feature an impressive cast of some of the best Riders ever. It included many of easiest choices in this entire feature. But as always it also featured some questionable inclusions due to a lack of competition

60 – We start today off with the man who has played more games in Green and White than any player in history. With a resume that features 7 straight west all-stars, 5 CFL all-stars and back to back CFL Most Outstanding lineman, he is arguably the best O-lineman to ever play for us. He also has one of the biggest heads in franchise history. OL Gene Makowksy

61 – One of the first big name defensive linemen in franchise history. In his prime he was a force and a game changing presence. DL Ed McQuarters. He had 3 straight CFL all-star nominations and even continued playing years after losing an eye!

62 – 10 year career in green and white manning the tackle position. OL Vic Stevenson was a important piece in the 89 team. He actually won 2 more Grey Cups after leaving the Riders.

63 – So turns out that good players don’t wear 63. There’s Rene Brassea (the greatest Mexican national to ever dress for the green and white). There’s Derek Dennis (who is worthy of recognition… just not for his time here). I was about to give up and declare my first N/A but fortunately I came across OL Scott Hendrickson. His career spanned some pretty bad years for the franchise but at least he has a career worth mentioning.  

64 – This number appears to be for people are great O-lineman but have their best years with teams other than us. Both Dan Comsikey and Dan Goodspeed (aka Dan Badslow) whore 64.  So out of pure necessity I’m giving the nod to OL Dakota Shepley.  I'm sorry there was no one else (something I'm sure one of my readers will correct within minutes of this post going live). I mean… he was in Deadpool.

65 – Okay, back to the super deserving players. One of the best nicknames in Rider history and his play definitely befit his name. DL Bill Baker “the Undertaker”.

66– Another one of the all-time great Rider OL and another local success story. OL Mike Anderson played for 11 years and in additional to being a steady presence in the middle of the OL, his resume includes a Grey Cup ring and an all-star nod in 1994.

67 – Anyone who suggests Dan Clark is getting slapped. Look, he’s great story, junior to all-star OL. And who knows, if he keeps playing like he did in 2019, he may yet become deserving of being included here. But for now this one goes to another OL… OL Clyde Brock. A dominating offensive tackle who was an all-star in 4 consecutive seasons. Ask George Reed how much he liked playing behind Brock.

68 – Looking back on the Rider O-line in the Shivers era, the level of talent was unreal. Gene Makowsky, Jeremy O’Day, Fred Childress and OL Andrew Greene. 3 of those guys won CFL Most Outstanding lineman awards, 1 would have had he not been playing alongside such big name guys…. And the other guy was Charles Thomas (cue sad trombone music). For all his greatness, Greene was commemorated by Wisers with this outstanding bobblehead.

69 – If you didn’t just pause for childish laughter after reading this number, I’m not sure we can be friends. Fred Childress (the Big Chill) was a consideration but his best years were in Calgary. So I’m ending today’s list instead with a guy who was named a west all-star in 3 of his 5 Riders season… and  was a professional wrestle who fought Jake the Snake Roberts at WrestleMania 2. DL George Wells.

Monday, June 8, 2020

Monday Morning Sentimonies: The Greatest 50-59

We have hit the halfway point of our journey through the greatest players by number. My hope is that at some point I’ll be able to transition to talking about real football but I guess we’ll just have to see.

We are into the 50s which means we are starting to talk about a lot of linemen (something this franchise has a proud history of).

50 – Starting off with a controversial one. Any Rider historian or fan over the age of 45 will point immediately to Wayne Shaw. Not to diminish what a great career Shaw had but this one has to go to LB Jerrell Freeman. Simply put he was one of the most talented players I have every watched. He would fly around the field and always find himself around the ball. He went from an unknown Div 3 player, to a outstanding Rider to an NFL starter. He was unreal to watch.

51 – First name that came to mind was Chunky Adams. Now, I like Chunky for a lot of reasons but had a hard time calling him the greatest. The bar didn’t go a lot higher but OL John Terry gets this one. He was named an all-star twice in his 5 year tenure with the Riders.

52 – Cliff Shaw was an option but I’m sticking with the O-line theme and going OL Wayne Smith. He did not have a particularly long Rider career but he was a top end starting OL that helped put this team over the hump in 2007. He is also part of one of the greatest trades in Rider history… when the Ti-Cats just gifted us everything we needed in exchange for Rocky Butler.

53 – This one was a no brainer. It goes to one of the most unique combinations in all of sports… that being the combination starting O-lineman/Placekicker. Yes you heard me right! OL Jack Abendschan. Not only did he play O-line at an all-star level he also kicked field goals. I don’t think we will even see anything even remotely similar again.

54 – I’ll give him minor demerit points for not being able to kick a FG but for 10 years OL Jeremy O’Day was a rock solid presence in the middle of our OL. He’s arguably the best centre in franchise history.

55 and 56– Doing this in combination as the story is the exact same. Both Mario DeMarco and Ray Syrnyk were top end OL who had their careers ended much too early in a tragic plane crash.

57 – One of the toughest choices of this whole thing. Two Saskatchewan Products. Two talented linemen. Two Grey Cup Champions. Two tough SOBs. Bob Poley is probably more iconic but I’m given I slight edge to OL Brendon LaBatte. He is a 5 time all-star and has won Lineman of the Year. He also had to overcome getting that Winnipeg stink off of him… which is no small accomplishment.

58 – Shonte Peoples anyone? Come on, he was in Frontlyne. Plus he made things interesting off the field. Ok fine. I’ll go with someone who played alongside Labatte. OL Xavier Fulton. In his prime, I don’t think he got credit for how good he was at tackle. Fun fact: we acquired him from Edmonton for a 6th round pick.

59 – I did want to give this to Jocelyn Frenette for being a solid long snapper and excelling as the designated “fake an injury after the convert on a defensive or special teams touchdown so the guys can catch their breath" guy. But OL Ralph Galloway takes this one. 5 straight western all-stars and 2 time CFL all-star.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Monday Morning Sentimonies: The Greatest 40-49

After a brief 1 week hiatus, we are back continuing our look at the greatest Riders by number. I’d offer an explanation for my lack of posting last week but… screw it we are in quarantine I don’t think my lack of effort on any particular day requires an explanation. I'm just impressed I'm wearing pants.

We are now into the 40s.

40 – If you are one of the 8 players in franchise history to have your number retired, you are worthy of being up on the list. Mel Beckett was one of the 4 Rider players to die in a plane crash coming back from the all-star game in Vancouver. It was a tragedy that set this franchise back many years on the field.

41 – Some notables here such as Fred Perry who did some great things aside from getting into business with Marcus Crandell. Of course recently Tyron Brackenridge set a pretty high standard. But this one has to go to DL Ron Atchison. A dominating defensive player for an amazing 17 seasons as a Rider. Also one of the few guys whose most infamous stories involves a pair of hush puppy shoes.

42 – This one was a tough one. Larry Bird was an option (the lineman not the Celtics great). Just spend 3 seasons watching Derrick Moncrief dominate. But even an impact player like Moncrief isn’t quite up to the standard set by LB Eddie Lowe. 9 years as a Rider including a Grey Cup ring and an all-star nod in 1989.

43 – One thing the Riders have in spades is a history of great O-linemen. OL Ted Urness was one of the forerunners in that legacy. He was an all-star at centre for 6 straight years! He has also been inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.

44 – No brainer right here… OL Roger Aldag. A local Saskatchewan product who went on to play in 17 season, the second most games in franchise history, a 5 time all-star, a 9 time team nominee for top OL and 2 time CFL Most Outstanding OL. One of the best players in the history of the franchise.

45 – While some would disagree, an argument could be made here for Mike McCullough. He is one of 3 players in franchise history with 2 Grey Cup rings as a player. But I think if you look at impact on the franchise, this one has to go to QB Glen Dobbs. He was a big part of the early rise of the Riders' popularity in the province.

46 – Going to go with a completely personal choice and give it to LB Kitwana Jones. He was never a star but he remains one of my favourite players ever. Just one of those high energy high effort guys that are a staple of any great team. Great on special teams, rotational depth at LB. Hell he even happily took on being a defensive tackle when Etchverry stupidly lined him up there. While looking back on his career I was reminded of how we traded him to Edmonton in 2009 for QB Juan Joseph. That really worked well.

47 – Out of principle I wanted to give this to Mo Lloyd purely to piss off my buddy Rob. While Lloyd is certainly a worthy candidate based on his play in ’06 and ’07. I’m actually going to give this one to a different linebacker. I really don’t think we fully appreciated how good LB Sam Eguavoen was. An impact player who is deservedly now playing in the NFL.

48 – The trip down linebacker memory lane continues with LB Rey Williams. Played his early CFL years here and came back to be a key part of the defense in the 2013 championship year. Dude could fly around the field.

49 – The first name that came to mind for me was Jeff Knox and while I was a Knox fan I assumed that if I kept digging, I would find someone to supplant him… I did not.  So LB Jeff Knox it is. He was one of the few bright spots on some dismal teams in 2015 and 2016.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Monday Morning Sentimonies: The Greatest 30-39

We are back with the newest installment of the Greatest Riders by numbers. We are into the 30s this team. This is a weird set of numbers. It contains some of the greatest Riders ever and some guys I was forced to include because they were somewhat noteworthy at a number that not many were noteworthy at.
30 – Sentimentally I wanted to give this one to Jamie “The Juggernaut” Boreham. But as much as I love punters who hit like safeties, that doesn’t exactly qualify as greatness.  Have to go with DB Bruce Bennett. He sits third all-time in interceptions for the Riders and until they start counting rotations that kick returners make after getting hit by punters as an official stat, that’s good enough to lock down 30.

31 – Sean Lucas is certainly a candidate here. He played solid for a number of years at that cover LB spot. But there are a number of reasons why people would object to that. I don’t care to count those reasons but trust me. Besides, 31 more deservedly goes to WR Hugh Campbell anyway. In 1966 he hauled in 17 receiving TDs, a franchise mark that remains unchallenged to this day.

32 – Guys like Milson Jones and Terry Irvin come to mind but this one was decidedly between two very deserving RBs: Neal Hughes and Mike Saunders. Saunders sits 3rd in rushing. Hughes doesn’t have the lofty stats but was a key special team/depth guy and an important part of 2 Grey Cup championships. I’m giving the edge to RB Neal Hughes, he is part of a very select group in franchise history… he’s one of just 3 Rider players to win 2 Grey Cup rings as a player.

33 – If I don’t give this to the Canuck Truck I’ll have to endure a barrage of fans chastising me for him not being a big enough part of my blog content. So yes this goes to FB Chris Szarka. He scored 12 TDs in 2003. In his prime he could carry a pile like few others. I personally loved his 2009 season. He was running for city council and each TD he scored that season was more effective than any campaigning or door knocking.  

34 – Possibly the easiest choice in this entire series. George Reed is the definition of greatness both on and off the field. He is the #2 all-time rusher in CFL history (with 309 less than Mike Pringle). Now consider that all of Reed’s stats were amassed before the introduction of the 18 games season.

35 – The recency bias has me thinking Weldon Brown here. He was a talented defender with a Grey Cup ring though his tenure was not very long. Gotta turn back the pages of the history books for this one. DL Bill Clarke played 15 seasons for the Green and White. He was a 2 time all-star and 2 time team nominee for Most Outstanding Canadian.

36 – Another no-brainer. Clearly its Robokicker. K Dave Ridgeway is the best kicker in franchise history. While many have since been broken, in his day he set many of the CFL records in the kicking department. He also may have had a quasi-important role in the ’89 Grey Cup.

37 – Look I apologize in advance for this one. The thing is 37 is not a number that people want. It is a crappy number given to training camp guys and practice roster players who hope one day to be good enough to merit an upgrade to an actual good number. So it wasn’t just slim pickings at this number, it was next to no pickings. The best I could honestly find was DL Terrence Melton.

38 – I am partial to Tristan Jackson who was a solid DB and even better kick returner. Lamar McGriggs also came up in my research. This one has to go to LB George White.

39 – I waffled on this one for a while. Names like Chris McKenzie and Dave Albright are options. But I think I have to go to DL Charleston Hughes. I realize that his best years were as a Stampeder and he has only been here 2 years but he is one of the best pass rushers in league history. Also ask yourself when the last time a Rider lead the league in sacks in consecutive years?

Monday, May 11, 2020

Monday Morning Sentimonies: The Greatest 20-29

After a brief pause to talk about the draft, we return to our look at the best Roughriders by numbers. It’s certainly a more uplifting talk than the increasingly unlikely CFL season and the financial woes of the CFL (I keep telling you, run a telethon, they work).

The 20’s were a set of numbers that were very bipolar. It contained some of the easiest choices possible and some choices that made me die a little inside.

20 – Ken McEachern would be worthy candidate here but I’m going with a more recent player. If you look in the Rider rushing records you will find one name consistently after George Reed. RB Wes Cates. In 2007 we needed a replacement for Kenton Keith and Cates stepped in and solidified the spot. He was one of those prototypical 3 way players: solid runner, receiver and blocker. We shouldn’t also forget that in the 2007 Grey Cup he played on a broken foot that he had frozen.  

21 – There’s obviously some sentimental love for hometown product Paul Woldu. On a personal note I liked Rontarius Robinson, though it’s tough to classify him as a great. As much as I don’t want to do this this one does have to go to RB Al Ford. Say what you want about Al Ford the GM (and I’m sure many of us have) but as a player Ford was a swiss army knife. He could play multiple positions and fill multiple roles.

22 – This number was surprisingly depressing to look into. The first player that came to mind was Stu Foord but I was sure there would be someone better as I looked back further. After uncovering names like Bart Hull (as in the brother of Brett Hull), Dylan Ching and Sedrick Shaw, I came to the unfortunate conclusion that RB Stu Foord is the guy. I have nothing against Foord. His jump from the Thunder to the Riders is a great story. But for a guy with less than 500 career yards to be the best is a bit sad. My favourite Stu Foord story is how a big reason he made the team in 2008 was because Quentin Griffin pulled himself in the final preseason game and refused to play. Griffin was cut at the airport. Foord went on to evidently be the greatest 22 to date.

23 – Clearly the easiest decision on the list. I’m pretty sure that even suggesting anyone but the Little General is the best 23 is a capital offense in Saskatchewan punishable by revoking of your season tickets and a lifetime ban from Wisers, Watermelons and the Coop. QB Ron Lancaster is Rider royalty. He is the greatest QB in franchise history and along with George Reed, the best player in the history of the franchise and a huge reason that the Riders are the team they are today. His career stats are made even more amazing by the fact that he did them all in an era where smoking on the sidelines and in the locker room was common practice.

24 – Some good options here. Recent fans will remember Tad Kornegay throwing up the X as he ran out of the tunnel. Older fans may point to Ventson Donelson. I’m going with another memorable defender: LB Jackie Mitchell. Always like him as an LB and I think every Rider will remember that time he almost killed Dave Dickenson.

25 – This is a player before my time but I think it’s telling that he’s on my radar in spite of that. When you think of rushing in the 60s obviously you think of George Reed. But from 63-67 he shared the backfield with another talented back: RB Ed Buchanan. What sold me on this one was that I recently read George Reed’s autobiography and he spoke glowingly of Buchanan’s talent and impact on the Rider offense. When one of the greatest to ever do it gives praise that carries a lot of weight for me.

26 – This was another surprisingly depressing number to research. Scott Gordon was the first name that popped into my head but I was adamant that there had to be someone one better. I mean Gordon was an adequate at best safety who could deliver a big hit from time to time but there may not have been a less effective safety blitzer than him. So I scoured and I scoured but nothing better came up. That was until DB Larry Dumelie. Statistically he’s actually about on par with Gordon but I’m giving him the edge a) as a local product and b) as I refuse to give it to Scott Gordon.

27 – I can already hear you grumbling but there is no debate that this has to go to DB Glen Suitor. He’s the franchise leader in interceptions (and up there on the all-time CFL list). I know some people don’t care for him as a broadcaster but that doesn’t diminish his impact on the field. The only thing I find weird is that despite being one of the best DBs in franchise history there are only 2 things that people will remember of him off the top of their head. The fact that he held for “the kick”. And that one time he took a stupid penalty that cost us a game. Seriously, name another Suitor moment off the top of your head.

28 – I was tempted to give this Craig Butler purely for the time he almost decapitated Buck Pierce (between that and the Mitchell hit, I had a fun time researching this post). I know not everyone will agree with this but for me, the best 28 has to be RB Kenton Keith. I know he is a controversial figure (mainly for off field stuff) but on the field this franchise have not had many players with his ability to change a game on any given play. He was electric. Go back and watch any west-semi final during the Danny Barrett era if you to be reminded how good Keith was. Just don’t subject yourself to the West Finals that followed. Barret era playoff football was a maddening repetition of KK dominating the semi and then in the final teams would game plan around him and we had no ability to adjust and quite frankly always seemed shocked that they did.

29 – Ending the 20s with another super easy selection. Hands down the best halfback to suit up for the Riders was DB Eddie Davis. His job day in day out was to cover the best receiver on the field and he routinely did his job so well that his name was rarely mentioned in the game. His arrival from Calgary was integral in the development of the defense of the early 2000’s that became so dominant. What is most amazing about Davis was his longevity. DBs tend to have a very short lifespan. Davis played at the highest level in the most difficult position for 14 years. Bonus points for having spent one year as a Birmingham Barracuda. 

Monday, May 4, 2020

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Assessing The CFL Draft

Thursday we got our first (and possibly only) taste of the CFL in the form of the Canadian draft. As a sign of just how starved we are for sports that are not just re-runs, TSN set record numbers for people tuning into the draft… despite the fact that the large majority of viewers couldn’t tell you the first thing about any of the prospects (and were no less outraged when their team didn’t pick that other guy they knew nothing about but recognized his name). So let’s take a look at who the Riders picked and how their fared in the draft.

A couple things, first given that the Riders only had 1 pick in the top 30 you really can’t say they had a great draft. They got one solid prospect and a bunch of maybes. Anyone at this point who is raving about our draft class is looking through the world through heavily green tinted glasses. I think O’Day did alright given the picks we had but in absolute terms the lack of top end picks makes this a weaker draft class for us. Also, in fairness, when assessing this draft class you need to include OL Jake Bennett as part of the assessment. He is essentially our 3rd round pick after we selected him last year in the supplemental draft.

OK to the picks

Round 1 – Pick 7 – OL Mattland Riley
The Riders went with a hometown hoggie to open the draft, grabbing Riley who is from Melfort and played at the U of S. I like this pick. I don’t think Riley has the highest ceiling of the OL that were available but I think this is a solid, safe pick. If we had a re-do of 2016 do you think we’d draft for potential or someone who is a safer bet to become a regular contributor? We’ve also had pretty good success with O-linemen from Saskatchewan universities.  He’s probably not a guy destined to win Lineman of the Year but I could see him becoming a solid starter and solid Canadian OL Depth is the lifeblood of a successful team.

What I also like is the overall youth movement in the OL. Last year our line was old: Blake (34), Labatte (33), Clark (31), Coleman (34). Clark and Labatte remain but young guys like Shepley, and Cofield are stepping in and our depth guys like Schram, Bennett and now Riley (and to a far lesser extent St John) are all the right side of 30.  

Round 4 – Pick 30 – WR Kian Schaffer-Baker
This is the pick that surprised me. After taking both McInnis and Lenius last year with depth guys like Picton and Lavoie I didn’t see receiver as a big enough need as compared to other positions.  

At 6’4 he’s got size (he also has a 40 inch vertical to go with his size) and Duane Forde did a quite glowing pre-draft profile on him. I think this might be a case of a guy the Riders liked but assumed would be gone by the 4th round. I know the “I can’t believe he was still available” cliché is stupid and overused by GMs but I think that might actually be the case here given that we had no pick between 7 and 30. So certainly not a position of need but if Duane Forde likes him then I’m intrigued enough to give this pick a chance.

Round 4 – Pick 35 – LB Junior Allen
This pick was on point for me. The offseason departure of Alexander Gagne leaves a big hole on special teams. Sam Hurl is also not back and for all his criticisms he was decent on special teams. So Allen will be competing with guys like Jacob Janke (drafted in the 4th round last year) to be that next wave of Canadian special teamers

Round 5, Pick 44 – DB Vincent Dethier
Similar to Allen, Dethier is all about the search for new special teamers. I mean, yes, we do also need to build depth behind Edem at safety but this pick is much more about what Dethier can do on teams. If he shows promise in the secondary as well that is a bonus.

Round 6, Pick 53 – RB Jonathan Femi-Cole
The late rounds of the CFL draft is where you load up on your grit players. Those guys that fill unheralded but important roles in things like blocking and special teams. Femi-Cole is very much in the mold of a Kienan LaFrance, can run the ball if needed but his other skills are more of interest. O’Day noted that they liked his pass blocking which gives him a chance to compete as a fullback.

Round 7, Pick 62 – OL Jesse Lawson
O-linemen that drop this far in the draft tend to be projects that have some flaw. Either they are undersized, or slow or have poor technique. Lawson falls in to the latter category. At 6’6 he’s got size. He played tackle at Carleton but likely moves inside at the pro level. But he will need to develop a fair bit in his technique. Odds are, a lineman drafted this late never pans out but there have been instances of it happening. A guy with Lawson’s size is worth taking a chance on.

Round 8, Pick 71 – DL Neville Gallimore
Odds are we never see Gallimore north of the border. He was just draft by the Dallas Cowboys in the 3rd round. Had it not been for that Gallimore would have gone 1st overall. He’s one of the best d-linemen Canada has produced in a long time. Now some will criticize this pick saying we should have instead used it on someone who will actually come in to camp. I disagree for the following reasons:

Christopher Judge, Christopher Smith and Marc Glaude

These are the last 3 players the Riders drafted in the 8th round. What has their impact been on the Riders? Zero. So yeah using the pick on someone else might get us a body in camp, but its unlikely to ultimately add any value to the team. So we essential gave up nothing to secure the playing rights of a game changing player forever. Most likely he never plays in Canada and then we are out an 8th round pick (no different of an ending then drafting a guy we end up cutting) but in the off chance he ever comes north its huge. Think of it as a lottery ticket. It’s a way better pick then when Chris Jones used a 4th rounder on David Oneymata, you can still find value in the 4th that just isn’t there in the 8th.

For the picks they had, I thought O’Day did a good job on paper. You can’t actually assess the success of a draft class in the days following the draft (despite many people’s attempts to). We will have to see if any of these picks pan out but on paper, O’Day addressed areas of need and avoided making a pick that people can already tell is stupid.

I hope you enjoyed this brief reprieve from our CFL-less existence. It’s now back to a nothingness that I expect to last until 2021. You’re welcome for this uplifting way to start a Monday.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Monday Morning Sentimonies: CFL Draft 2020 Primer

We interrupt our look at the best Rider players by number to discuss some actual football! The CFL Draft goes down this Thursday.

I’m admittedly woefully under prepared for this. Usually by now I’ve been doing team draft previews for weeks. But I have a very valid reason for my lack of preparation this year… I have already mentally checked out on the season.

I hate to be a downer on a Monday morning but while its still possible there might be some kind of CFL season, it is highly unlikely. It ain’t happening people. Just because it sucks doesn’t make it any less true. If you want more on my reasons more making this assertion it can wait until another post. The 2020 season may be a pipe dream but the 2020 Draft is very real and dammit we can’t squander the few sporting events we get.

The Riders hold the 7th overall pick in the draft and following that pick you will have time to grab a snack, call your mom, have a nap, clean your house and run to the store for more beer before they pick again. We’ve got no second rounder (traded to Montreal in the deal for Philip Blake and Patrick Lavoie) and no third rounder (used to select OL Jake Bennett in the 2019 supplemental draft). We start back in the 4th  where we have 2 picks thanks to trading Collaros to Toronto. So the reality is we get one solid prospect and then a bunch of depth guys that you hope one turns into a regular contributor.

Jeremy O’Day is looking to turn the tide on a no so great trend of the Chris Jones era… that being an inability to retain and develop Canadians. For Jones’ 3 years of drafting we have retained 6.5 out of 23 player selected (the .5 is awarded to Josiah St John, who was drafted, didn’t come, then came for a bit then left and is now back). It’s early but 5 of O’Day’s 6 draft picks remain on the roster.   

Let’s look at our current strengths and needs:

Strengths: After using both of last years top picks on receivers we are set their. While McInnis and Lenius had minimal impact in year 1 that’s the usual trend for Canadian receivers. I expect both to take a step forward in year 2. Add in Picton for depth (who may spend a record 73rd season on the practice roster) and guys like Awachie, Lavoie and LaFrance who can sub in. We are set there. Edem and Bouka have us alright at DB. We have all our special teamers. Another strength I would say is we know our starters. Judge is a beast. Edem can can be an impact player. I don’t mind our OL depth. Labatte is old but solid when healthy. Dan Clark is coming of a season where I very rarely cursed his name (quite an accomplishment for him) and Shepley is ready to step in as a fulltime starter and add some youth. I really like Braden Schram for depth and have some hope for Jake Bennett. Evans and Dabire can lock down a DT spot between them (though honestly based on last season, I would even go as far as to rank Dabire ahead of Evans).

Needs: Aside from receiver, depth is needed across the board. Teitz is OK but a big step down from Judge if injuries occur. Last season may have been a one off but if Zach Evans can’t be impactful playing beside a constantly double teamed Micah Johnson, do we really think he will improve without Micah? So another DL prospect would be nice. Also Canadian push rushers are a rarity but given that this franchise has not developed a pass rusher since John Chick it would be nice to find a guy like Kwaku Boateng (for the love of god no one bring up Shomari Williams. Just because that experiment failed, doesn’t mean the next one will). You can honestly never have enough OL depth (especially given that our 2 best OL are a combined 64 years old). One other thing we need is to restock our special teamers. The loss of Alex Gagne is a big one. Reaves being healthy again helps but more is needed.

Strategy: Normally guys that have signed NFL deals drop down the draft board. This year that includes top prospects like OL Carter O’Donnell, WR Rysen John, DB Marc-Antoine Dequoy and DL Michael Hoecht. But as I mentioned odds are slim to nil that there will be a 2020 season and even if there is it won’t start until September (when the first round of NFL cuts start returning) so for the 2020 draft I would completely ignore NFL interest and take the best player available (obviously excluding Chase Claypool and Neville Gallimore who were 2nd and 3rd round NFL picks).

Outlook: With only 1 pick in the first 3 rounds I don’t see us getting cute. By that I mean, I see us targeting someone in the trenches (either OL or DL). Defensively I could see guys like DE Mason Bennett or DT Michael Hoecht being of interest. Offensively if one of the top OL prospects (like Carter O’Donnell, Thomas Jack Kurdyla or Ketel Asse) drop to #7 we could grab one of them. I honestly can’t see LB Jordan Williams lasting until pick 7 but if by some miracle he does I think he is the only prospect that would make us not take a lineman (he’s being compared to Alex Singleton and Cam Judge).

I then see us using our 4-8th round picks to restock the special teams/depth shelves with some LBs and DBs and probably a developmental OL prospect as well.

The good news is that the relative lack of anything else to do in my life means that for the first time since 2017 I will be resurrecting the Rider Prophet Live Draft Day Blogging. You also have nothing else to do so please join me, we can kill time together discussing some actual football.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Monday Morning Sentimonies: The Greatest 10-19

Welcome to part 2 of my look at the greatest Rider players by numbers. Last week we started with the critically acclaimed feature on numbers 0-9… well it was critically acclaimed in that, to my knowledge, no negative reviews were penned. No news is good news.

We jump back into the list today looking at 10 through 19.

10 – A few options here. Henoc Muamba was solid in his tenure here. There’s obviously a lot of sentimental love for Luca Congi (despite the fact that his girlfriend once called me a horrible person on Twitter… a story for another time). He was by no means great but dammit I loved Steve Miller, purely because I gave him the nickname The Space Cowboy. Really wish he would have lasted longer. But the clear cut winner her is WR Dan Farthing. It’s a shame his tenure with the team coincided with one of their least successful decades.

11 – If we were going purely on how awesome they were off the field then Eddie Johnson would have this number in a landslide. But factoring football performance I have to go with DB Ed Gainey. I was pretty skeptical when we first signed him in 2016 but he has been rock solid which is impressive considering the relatively short shelf life of a DB.

12 – This is a popular number amongst QBs with the likes of John Hufnagel, Steve Sarkisian and Rocky Butler wall wearing 12 at some point. But for this one I’m going with a local boy DB Dale West who is a Grey Cup Champion, Plaza of Honour Inductee and a member of the Sask Sports Hall of Fame.

13 – Relatively recent fans might not know this but prior to stealing the 13th man from Seattle (who in turn had stolen it from college ball), 13 was actually a number worn by someone other than a pantsless gopher. TJ Stancil was the last Rider to wear 13 and I always kinda liked him. But P Ken Clark is probably the greatest to wear 13 (hat tip to those on Twitter who helped me figure that out).

14 – I was a huge James Patrick fan (even before he became a starter) but his amazing 2010 season isn’t enough to seal this one for him. Instead I’m going with a man who played a prominent role in the 89’ championship, RB Tim McCray. He was a true offensive weapon, could run, catch and return kicks.  

15 – I do have a great affinity for Nealon Greene (and if you believe that I have some ocean front property in Kindersley to sell you). I’m sure someone will tell me I’m omitting someone more deserving on this but I’m going with DB Lance Frazier. He brought much needed stability and playmaking to the halfback spot during his tenure.

16 – Tom Burgess is certainly one option here, and one that I’m sure many would support. I’m going back further in time than that and going with DB/FB Hank Dorosh. A versatile, hard nosed player.  

17 – This number seems to have attracted some infamous QBs over the years: Reggie Slack, Michael Bishop and Tino Sunseri.  But since we are looking for actual talent, the hands down choice is WR Joey Walters. Simply put he is one of the most talented receivers in the history of the franchise. He holds claim to the two most receiving yards in a single season with 1715 and 1692 in consecutive years. One can’t help but think about what might have been had his tenure with the team coincided with any talent outside of himself being on the roster.

18 – Before I get to the top #18 I just want to do a brief segue to stay that looking in #18 reminded me about Santino Hall. Remember Santino? Far from an all-time Rider great but I did want to mention him just because. Clearly #18 has to go to WR Jeff Fairholm. 4th all time in Rider receiving yards and part of the magical 1989 Grey Cup Championship.

19 – The old guard would probably like to see Steve Molnar here. Some probably would even argue for 2007 Grey Cup hero James Johnson (who regular readers will know I have a love/hate relationship with… in that I hate everything he did outside of that one glorious game).  But there is really only one option for this RB Corey Holmes. Arguably the best returner in franchise history. He was a 2 time CFL Special Teams Player of the Year. He has the third most combined yards in a season at 3455. He’s one of my favourite players of all-time.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Monday Morning Sentimonies: The Greatest 0-9

In my ongoing effort to produce content on a sports blog in a world with no sports (at least until I can find way to get monkeys delivered to my house and start a monkey knife fighting ring in my basement) I have come up with an idea that will eat up many weeks. Well, truth be told, I stole this idea from someone else and made it my own but lets not dwell on semantics.

Today I launch a series dedicated to chronicling the greatest Roughriders to ever wear every number between 0-99.

A few notes about this listing. First, its my list and any arbitrary criteria I use to determine who the best at any given number is completely up to me. You don’t like it? Start your blog…. Actually, wait! Please don’t. I don’t need more competition. Second, I will warn you that my choices will be heavily biased to players in the 2000s. Those are the ones I’ve seen play the most and am most familiar with. Third, I’m not big on things like research and effort, so its entirely possible I miss someone obvious and important not intentionally but just because I didn’t think of them. Please direct your corrections and outrage to comments sections.

Alright, enough gabbing let’s get to the first 10 people on the list.

0 – Look, 0 is a stupid number. I get that its people trying to be different and cool but the only way you are being different is by being dumb. 2 players come to mind who have worn 0. One is current Rider Elie Bouka. He’s alright but nothing special but your winner is DL – Tobi Antigha From a sack getting DE to an intercepting safety dude was a swiss army knife with the D-Coordinator perfectly suited to capitalizing on his diverse skillset.

1 – OK onto the real numbers. Lots of great Number 1’s over the years (such as Sandman, Hank before we all hated him). But for me one guy stands out above all the others RB – Kory Sheets. He was dominant. I remember after a solid 2012 season he said he was out of shape and vowed to be better. Turns out he was right and 2013 his quest for 2000 yards was something to behold.

2 – I was extremely surprised to find out what an underwhelming history this number has had. I mean sure, once we get to the 70s they’ll be some weaker choices but number 2? The best options I could come up with were Barrin Simpson, Jason Armstead (circa 2009), Corey Grant and Terryl Ulmer. Now all of these players have some level of merit but none can be considered obvious choices. I’m going to go with DB Terryl Ulmer based purely on longevity compared to the rest.

3 – One of the best CB’s I’ve ever seen was DB – Omarr Morgan. He did where #1 in his second stint with the Riders but we can all agree that his first stint was the best. I’ll never forget his game winning blocked FG to beat Edmonton.

4 – There are 3 very deserving candidates at this number. Kerry Joseph who won a Grey Cup and was the last Rider to be named League MOP. Paul McCallum. Hate him all you want but prior him becoming public enemy #1 in this province he was an outstanding kicker. But for me the winner here is clear. 3 Grey Cup appearances, 1 Grey Cup ring, the most successful Rider QB not named Lancaster… QB – Darian Durant.

5 – This one is an obvious choice and has me getting outside of my 2000s bias. Take a look at the Rider passing records and if any are not held by Ron Lancaster, they are held by… QB Kent Austin. Grey Cup, only Rider to pass for 6000 yards. No question he was one of the best players we ever had… and he would be the first to tell you that.

6 – Obviously the first name that comes to mind is Rob Bagg. But in my mind I was like “sure but there’s gotta be someone better”. I have come to the conclusion, that there is not. Closest I found was Derrick Armstrong, who was arguably more talented but was only around for 2 season. So WR Rob Bagg is it. Heart and soul guy. Over comer of adversity and super brittle knees. Solid Canadian receiver.

7 – Some very deserving options here. Willie Jefferson is hands down one of the most dominant players I’ve seen. Richie Hall also wore #7 and he did alright for himself. But this one goes to a guy even more diminutive than Hall. WR - Weston Dressler. He packed more talent and effort in his 5’7 frame then guys who were twice his size. He burst onto the scene in a game in Hamilton in 2008 and permanently into our hearts.

8 – This number seems to attract a lot of very underwhelming QB prospects from Tino Sunseri, to Ryan “My Eyes will eat your soul” Dinwiddie to Marcus Crandell (though at least Crandell enjoyed some success). My choice is an RB. Before Cates and KK the run game ran through RB Darren Davis who amassed back to back 1000 yard season on not very good teams. I won’t even hold the fact that he was partially responsible for the Nealon Greene era against him.

9 – He was known simply as the Reaper (not to be confused with the Raper). An imposing, physical tackling machine. LB – Reggie Hunt. The one moment etched in my mind is when Clermont came across on a crossing route and he and Hunt collided. Probably the biggest hit I’ve seen from 2 of the toughest dudes playing at the time.

Check back next week from 10-19.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Retro Sentimonies

For today’s Sentimonies we are going to go into the Rider Prophet time machine and resurrect a post from 2011. I did a series of posts saluting the infamous CFL USA expansion. Today’s post was a feature on the very first American CFL team. Enjoy.

Rider Prophet Salutes US Expansion: Sacramento Gold Miners

In 1993, Sacramento became the first American team to join the CFL. They were actually supposed to be one of 2 teams (the other being the San Antonio) to join the League in 1993 but the latter folded before it even really got started when the owner ran out of money (a telling omen of how the whole US expansion thing would go). The Gold Miners came from the remnants of the Sacramento Surge of the World League of American Football.

Years in the League: 1993 – 1994
Overall Record: 15-20-1
Notable Players: QB David Archer (that Rider-hating SOB), WR Rod Harris, DT George Bethune, RB Mike Pringle, RB Mike Oliphant, QB Kerwin Bell


The Good
- They forever etched themselves in the CFL record books by becoming the first American team to defeat a Canadian team… by beating the Saskatchewan Roughriders (pauses to silently shake head in disgust).
- They had some decent talent on their team and showed signs of improvement over their 2 years

The Bad
- Their “stadium” sucked. Most of the seating was grandstands and the closest thing to amenities provided were port-a-potties
- Attendance. They had to give away close to 2000 a game to make the crowds look more respectable you know relatively speaking.

The team relocated to San Antonio following the 1994 season.

Video Evidence:
Here's a clip of a '94 match-up against the Stamps.