Thursday, 29 November 2012

Adios Casey Creehan

And now we can say it is official. The Hamilton Tiger-Cats are in the market for a new defensive coordinator as Casey Creehan is off to Winnipeg.

When the rumours started to swirl back in November, I touched on some of the guys I thought would be candidates for the job. The list included Greg Marshall, Gary Etcheverry, Mike O'Shea, Orlondo Steinauer and Chip Garber. We can now add Jeff Reinebold to the list as well.

I won't go into detail on each of them, but I will say that Marshall, Etcheverry, O'Shea and Steinauer would be fine candidates. All of them have coordinating experience and that is something I would like to see in the next defensive coordinator. The last two hires the team has made, Casey Creehan and Corey Chamblin, cut their coordinating teeth with the Ti-Cats and neither had much success. I would pass entirely on Reinebold and Garber. They may have experience, but they haven't had success.

And if Dee Webb has his way, Orlondo Steinauer will be the guy. Webb took to Twitter earlier today to stump for the Argos defensive backs coach.

"Bring Orlondo Steinauer back to the jungle," Webb tweeted out at 9:35 this morning.

Of all the possible replacements I've named, Steinauer has the least amount of experience. He was the Argos defensive coordinator in the second half of the 2011 season after the Argos fired Chip Garber and moved back to DB coach when the Argos hired Chris Jones. I think Steinauer would make a great defensive coordinator and would support his hiring fully. He may lack the experience of the other potential candidates, but if you look at the work he did with Toronto's secondary this season, you can't help but be impressed.

Another name to remember is Tim Tibesar. He was named the defensive coordinator in Montreal last year before abruptly leaving that position to take up the same one at Purdue University. But with the firing of Purdue head coach Danny Hope, Tibesar is free. He might be a long shot, but he has CFL experience, so keep his name in the back of your mind.

Unlike last year's head coaching search, I don't expect this coaching search to last almost six weeks. The Ti-Cats will do their due diligence, but they probably won't drag this out. I don't know when a new defensive coordinator will be named, but I'd be surprised if we didn't know who he was before Santa comes down the chimney.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Renewing Seats for Guelph

By now, Tiger-Cat season seat holders have had their renewal information mailed to them regarding what the procedure is for renewing season seats for the 2013 season in Guelph. This information has been out there for a while, but I wanted to wait until I received my annual renewal form in the mail before commenting on the rumours.

The rumours are now indeed true: Tiger-Cat fans will be paying an extra five dollars per game for seats next season. The surcharge is to help offset the cost of erecting temporary seats at the Alumni Stadium.

There has been a lot of uproar about that, with many angry that they will be paying higher prices when promised no increase and that they will pay more for worse facilities. The increase when none was promised bugs me a but, but not all that much. I understand why others would be angry, since the team promised one thing and gave us another, and that does anger me, but paying the extra five dollars does not. The idea that fans will pay higher prices for worse facilities is, to me, a non-issue. I didn't pay my money, and I doubt any of you did either, at Ivor Wynne Stadium because of the world-class amenities. I paid my money so I could watch a football game live in person. I paid more money to watch games in Moncton and Montreal, and neither of those places had great facilities. Moncton was a bunch of portable toilets and food tents, while McGill's bathrooms and concession lines were no better than Ivor Wynne's. So paying more to get less isn't a big deal for me in this situation. If others are bothered by paying these prices at Guelph, I understand; however, it doesn't bother me.

That said, there are a couple of things that do bother me, and bother me quiet a bit. The first thing is asking us to renew by December 14th to ensure 2012 prices for our seats. That falls 10 days before Christmas, which is not exactly a time when many people have extra cash floating around. But that's just a small quibble about the timing. The bigger one is that they are asking for our money before we know when the games will be played. I know that is standard operating procedure, but nothing is standard about this upcoming season. The team should have given fans a chance to see the schedule before forcing anyone to make a commitment. With the extra commuting time, some who will put down money might wish they hadn't when the schedule is released sometime in February.

The other thing that bugs me is the tiered access to seats at the new stadium in 2014. When we all reupped in 2011 for 2012, the promise was that 2013 would have no impact on 2014; now they've pulled a bit of a bait and switch and are now tying 2013 purchases to 2014. This annoys me on a couple of levels. For starters, newer season seat holders could jump the queue over those that have held season seats for decades simply because they have no problem travelling 10 times to Guelph. Secondly, I sit in a large group, so if one or more of us do not decide to purchase seats for 2013 (which I am still on the fence about) we cannot be guaranteed seats with one another the following season. I'm more annoyed by the former than the latter, because I will simply not buy tickets in 2014 if my group cannot sit together. But people who have been loyal patrons of the Tiger-Cats for three, four, five decades shouldn't need to worry about whether or not they will have their seat in the new stadium.

I have been pretty supportive of the Ti-Cats in every stage of the stadium mess, but this I cannot support. The tiered access to 2014 seats and forcing fans to pay before knowing what the schedule will look like is just wrong. The promise going in to 2012 was that those purchases, not any potential 2013 purchase, would be the determiner for 2014 seats. Now they are saying something else. And by making fans pay six months in advance, they are treating this season as if it is no different than any other season. The problem is, that 2013 is completely different. I understand that paying for seats before the schedule is out is standard operating procedure, but there is nothing standard about this upcoming season in Guelph and the team needed to recognize that and adjust for it.

I am disappointed in the Tiger-Cats for what looks like outright lying to their fan base last season. When they didn't know what 2013 held, they were fine with making promises to their fans; now that they know where they will play in 2013, it seems is if they are fine with breaking those promises. They are acting as if this season is like any other when it is very clearly not. Circumstances changed and the team needed to be more flexible when asking for season ticket commitments. They did not and I find that very disappointing.

Monday, 26 November 2012

My Grey Cup Weekend

When it was announced that the Grey Cup would be in Toronto, I knew I was going. When tickets went on sale in May, I got them immediately. And when this past weekend rolled around, I was excited to take in some of the Grey Cup festivities more than I was to go to the game.

I attended events on two days, Saturday and Sunday. My weekend kicked off by going to Nathan Phillips Square for the pancake breakfast. A pancake and sausage round was given to everyone in line (and a cool paper cowboy hat, that I wore with no hesitation). It was exactly what you'd expect, but it was still good.

After that I headed down to the Royal York to attend Mark Cohon's Fan State of the League address. It was an hour and a half sit down with the commish, hosted by Rod Black. The place was packed and Cohon said that this was the most well-attended of his four Fan State of the League addresses. For the most part, Cohon seemed to have fun and the questions were mostly good – save one really odd one about keeping the footballs at a certain temperature – and Tom Higgins, the head of officiating, even came up to answer a question about the refs (and he made a comment that will definitely come back to bit him in the ass today, at least from my perspective). I had a question to Cohon about new media (Facebook, Twitter, blogs, podcasts, etc.) but didn't get to ask it. This might have been my favourite part of the weekend because this was the one thing that was most hardcore football thing there. The rest of the stuff was fun, but it was more geared towards the casual fan or families, whereas Cohon's powwow with fans was about the nitty gritty of the CFL.

After that finished, I went to the Metro Toronto Convention Centre to see the Scotiabank Fan Zone. This wasn't bad, but it was very obviously set up for families. That doesn't bother me, but it wasn't football-y enough for me. I checked out all three floors and the Hall of Fame memorabilia was probably the coolest stuff I saw. The stuff in and around the convention centre would have been great if you had little kids, and that is exactly what I saw there Saturday afternoon.

I didn't, as originally planned, hit any of the team parties. As much as I hate to admit it, those things just aren't my bag. I'm not much of a party guy. I don't drink, I don't really like the style of music that these places play and I'm not much of a mingler. It just isn't my thing. From what I've read and heard, people who went had a blast, which is great.

So Saturday ended and Sunday arrived, which meant heading to my old stomping grounds at the University of Toronto to take part in the Grey Cup Fan March. While I was milling around before things got started, I was interviewed by CityTV. I was asked a couple of questions and answered them as best I could. I was caught off guard and maybe stammered a bit (I was literally tapped on the shoulder and interviewed live on TV), but being interviewed on TV was pretty cool. I also got a chance to get a picture taken with Steve Paikin (as you can see above). Everyone knows him mostly from moderating the federal leaders' debates, but I found out something that people might not know (or at least I didn't): he's a huge Tiger-Cat fan. He was wearing a blank gold jersey underneath his jacket (again, as you can see) and opened it up to take a picture with me. He chatted with me for a couple of minutes and he couldn't be a cooler dude.

Then it was the march itself. When I saw how many people were there, I didn't think there was any chance I'd get to hold the Cup and I was OK with that. It was still cool to be involved in something so massive (there were a ton of people there). But around the ROM, a man approached me and handed me a wristband to go hold the Cup. That was where the fun of the march ended for about an hour. The march was very unorganized and getting to the front to to hold the Cup was ridiculous. You needed a wristband in order to hold it and they didn't make that well known, so people were pushing to the front without wristbands in the hope of carrying the Cup. And you were trampled, pushed out of the way and you basically needed to be a jerk in order to actually get your turn. Lucky for me, I am a jerk and got to the front to hold the Cup. Another friend of mine got to as well, while the two other people I was with were constantly thrown around by security and other fans. It was a complete mess, and as cool as it was to carry the Cup down Yonge Street, I wouldn't do it again. The people at Sun Life (who organized the event) really need to do a better job in future years of organizing things. It was a mess and took a lot of fun out of actually getting to carry the Cup. Not all the fun of course, but the abuse I took and knowing the abuse that others took really put a downer on what should have been one of the coolest things I will ever get to do.

And that was it for the festivities for me and I headed to the game. And boy was it a let down. I was bummed that Calgary didn't win, didn't like that Toronto did, but I was disappointed more by the sheer dullness of the game itself. It was sloppy football all around and it looked like neither team wanted to actually win the thing. Calgary's play calling left a lot to be desired, and the Argos continued their year-long campaign to be considered the biggest goons in the CFL. Seeing the biggest buffoon of them all, Adriano Belli, get kicked out of what is hopefully his final CFL game was a highlight for me. I have made it no secret that I despise everything about Belli and think he is everything that is wrong with professional sports. He gives the league and the sport a bad name and no one deserves the ignominy of being ejected from the Grey Cup more than that a-hole.

But my biggest beef was with the absolutely terrible job the officiating crew did. I made mention of a quote from Tom Higgins at the Fan State of the League address and how it would bit him later. This is that later. During a question about how bad the officials in the CFL are, Higgins said that the crew that would do the Grey Cup were "the best of the best." If Sunday's crew is the best, I'd hate to see the worst. Not watching at home makes it hard for me to comment on certain penalties, like a facemask call on a dump-off pass to Chad Kackert in the first half that I didn't see (the facemask was obviously not on the guy who tackled Kackert), but there were two that will stick out in my mind as horrendously botched calls, both of which benefited the Argos. The first was a non-roughing call on the big Nik Lewis catch and run. Lewis was tackled by his neck and had his helmet ripped off his head, yet no call was made. Later in the game, a similar tackle took place on Jon Cornish and the refs did call it. I am fine with mistakes, but inconsistency has always bothered me. Usually, it is game to game, but this was within one game. Either they missed the first one or incorrectly called the second one, but it is clear that they did not get both calls right and that is something I cannot stand.

The second missed call still boggles my mind almost a day later, and that was the controversial Dontrelle Inman catch. Inman caught the ball and landed at the one-yard line. Toronto challenged that he crossed the goal line before being down, but the call was upheld. The problem with that call, however, is that Inman didn't catch the ball. He never had control of the ball and when he hit the ground, the ball came loose and landed on the turf. That's an incomplete pass and I don't understand how it could be ruled any other way, yet it was. The officials in this game should be embarrassed by their performance and if I hear Tom Higgins ever say that the CFL's refs are the best in North America, I will find a way to smack him in the mouth.

And because I was so disgusted by the product on the field, both by the two teams and by the officials, I did something I had never done before: I left the game early. I walked out of the Rogers Centre SkyDome at the three-minute warning as a personal protest to the garbage that took place on the field during the game. And my walking out early paid off as I was interviewed once again, but this time by a radio station that I could not identify (if you heard a guy blasting the officials, but praising the way Toronto hosted the event, that was me).

And I'd be remiss if I didn't touch on maybe the worst part of the whole weekend (and I think this will be universal): Burton Cummings' rendition of O Canada. That was probably the worst national anthem I have ever heard (yes, worse than the O Tannenbaum guy). He held the end of the French part way too long and he messed up the words! "We stand on guard, we stand on guard for thee"? No, you egotistical idiot, those aren't the words. He forgot "God keep our land, glorious and free" as well. The crowd was singing along and that is not the time to decide to take liberties with the anthem. Check that, there is never a time to take liberties with the anthem. Sing it the way it is supposed to be sung. Burton Cummings was a complete disgrace last night.

So while there were both highs and lows, I think my first Grey Cup experience was an overall enjoyable one. I think Toronto did an excellent job of hosting the event and if the Argos winning sparks new interest in the CFL in that city, then I guess that's a good thing. If the game had been better, I'd likely not be as negative as I am likely coming off, but it was a fun weekend and one that I will happily do again when the Cup is played in these parts (Hamilton, Toronto, Ottawa, maybe even Montreal) in the future.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Williams Named Top Special Teamer

In what should come as a surprise to no one, Chris Williams was named the CFL's Most Outstanding Special Teams Player for 2012.

Williams was outstanding in every way in 2012 and he was especially so on special teams, where he set a league record for return touchdowns in a season with six. He is the first Tiger-Cat to be named the league's top special teamer.

Williams was thrice named the CFL's special teams player of the week and twice named the special teams player of the month. Picking Williams was a slam dunk... except for one person.

Williams received 56 of a possible 57 votes, which means just one person voted for BC's Tim Brown. I am curious who the joker was that voted for Brown. No offense meant to him, but seriously? Williams was the best special teams player by a wide margin (and I'd argue that the second best played on the same team, Tiger-Cat kicker Luca Congi). This strikes me as the same silliness as when a baseball player isn't named on 100 per cent of Hall of Fame ballots even if they are undeniably a Hall of Famer. Whoever didn't vote for Williams knew that Williams would win, so instead cast a pity vote for Brown. If there was ever a player who deserved to be an unanimous selection, it was Williams this year.

The league handed out their other awards as well. JC Sherritt was named the league's top defensive player, Jon Cornish was named the top Canadian, Chris Matthews took home the top rookie prize, Jovon Olafioye was named the best offensive lineman, Brian Bratton won the Tom Pate Award and the most overrated player in the CFL (whose name will no longer be mentioned here) was undeservedly named the Most Outstanding Player.

While Williams was great on special teams, I'd argue that he should have also been named MOP (instead of you know who). The argument against Williams has been that he played on a 6-12 team that didn't make the playoffs, but I don't think that criticism has a lot of merit in an MOP race. An MVP race, absolutely, but not an MOP one. Williams was more outstanding in every measurable way to the guy who won (and to Cornish) that it is stunning he wasn't the winner of the award. The guy that won the award put up a paltry six touchdowns to Williams' 17, had just 11 more catches and 30 more receiving yards than Williams, and only got as much publicity as he did because he broke what is one of the most meaningless records I can think of (after QB wins): a total yards record.

That player had over 3,800 total yards, but a whopping 1,588 came on kick returns. Getting a lot of return yards is not impressive. All that record proved was that the Argos gave up a lot of points and that allowed that player to put up those numbers by returning so many kickoffs. He had more kickoff returns than any other player, so even if he had a mediocre year returning the football (which he did, since he had no return touchdowns) he had more opportunity to put up yards. Yet somehow he is the MOP and Williams is not.

There is no question in my mind that Williams was the most outstanding player this year and I honestly don't believe that No. 2 was even close.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Panthers Cut Medlock

After missing his last three field goals, Carolina Panthers decided to part ways with former Tiger-Cat kicker Justin Medlock yesterday.

Medlock started the year going seven for seven after beating out incumbent Olindo Mare in training camp, but a sputtering Panthers offense rarely gave Medlock a chance to be a difference maker. Of his seven field goals, five came in one game against the Chicago Bears. Medlock's recent misses were the least of the Panthers' worries, but it is far easier to cut a first-year kicker making than it is to release expensive running backs and quarterbacks.

Now the inevitable questions will come up as to where he will kick next. One place we can rule out: Hamilton.

You will find no bigger fan of Medlock's than myself, but there is no way that he ends up back in Hamilton. Another CFL team, sure; maybe even another NFL team. But he won't be the Tiger-Cat kicker/punter in 2013.

The team moved on from Medlock last season by replacing him with Luca Congi and Josh Bartel. Congi had an all-time great season and Bartel was named the team's top rookie. Both filled Medlock's shoes extremely well and the team has no reason to replace either player. Both being non-imports helps as well. As much as I'd like to see Medlock back booting kicks for the Ti-Cats, we can put a pin in that right now. It ain't gonna happen.

So where Medlock ends up next is anyone's guess. But even if he doesn't land another NFL gig and does come back to the CFL, he won't be doing it as a Tiger-Cat.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

We're Going to Guelph

Nothing officially official yet, but if Drew Edwards says it's happening, it's happening: the Ti-Cats will play next season in Guelph.

Alumni Stadium on the University of Guelph campus will be the stadium that plays host to as many as 10 Tiger-Cat games next season. Yes, that's right; every game next season could be played in Guelph. No Moncton game, no game in London at Western and no Labour Day game in Toronto. It could all be in Guelph. I still believe that Labour Day will be in Toronto because the crowd size, something I think could be as high as 35,000, might be too much to pass up.

Obviously this solution isn't perfect and won't appease everyone (I've already seen some backlash, which was to be expected), but I do believe it is the best the team could do once McMaster told them no. Western, thought to be the front runner, is just too far from the Tiger-Cat base, whereas Guelph is less than an hour away. This allows the team stay close enough that most of their current fan base can make it to games.

With only 15,000 or so seats available, the team is aware that not everyone will make the trek to Guelph for every game. That will allow them to possibly pick up new fans in that region, expanding their fan base in the process. Once the Ivor Wynne site was chosen, we all knew the 2013 season would be different and that any plan would likely anger some and be met by indifference by others. But I truly believe this is the best possible solution for the fans.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Go Get Yours, Kevin Glenn

I have never made it a secret about being a big Kevin Glenn fan. I have been ridiculed, insulted and laughed at for being a staunch Kevin Glenn defender. And while I still wish he was a Tiger-Cat, I couldn't be happier for his success this season in Calgary.

And now that he has led the Stamps to the Grey Cup, I will finally get so see him get the Grey Cup ring he should have won five years ago.

Sorry Rider fans, but a Glenn-led Bomber squad would have beaten Saskatchewan. But Glenn had his arm broken in Toronto against the Argos in the East Final and missed the Grey Cup. So Glenn will get his ring at the scene of the crime and against the team that robbed him back in 2007.

While I wish he would have been able to do it in Hamilton, I will still be happy for Kevin Glenn when he finally hoists the Grey Cup next week in Toronto. Some Ti-Cat fans might find it bittersweet, but I'll just find it sweet.

There are a number of ex-Cats that I will be happy for, but I will be happiest for Glenn. Discarded by both Winnipeg and Hamilton because he was deemed unable to win the big one; benched for Drew Tate just last week, despite leading Calgary for most of the season. But an injury to Tate put Glenn back in charge of the Stampeder offense and all he did was throw for 303 yards and three touchdowns in a win over BC in the West Final.

Aside from Argo fans, I have to think that everyone will be cheering for Calgary because of Glenn. Glenn will get the monkey off his back next week and perhaps he will finally get the respect he has long deserved.

Kevin Glenn, go get yours.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Option Years and Glenn Gets His Chance

A couple of interesting tidbits came out this week that I believe deserve some comment. The first is the possibility of the league reviving the option year, and Drew Tate's injury thrusting Kevin Glenn back into the starter's role in Calgary.

We'll start with the possible return of the player option. There are apparently some who would like to see the player option, which allows players to try to find work in the NFL while in the final year of their CFL contract, return. The player option was eliminated in the last CBA, signed in 2010.

There are some that believe the lack of a player option has stopped talented American players from heading to the CFL because they don't want to commit for a minimum of two years. Wally Buono is one of those individuals, believing that players will choose the financially troubled UFL over the CFL. I don't believe that to be true. For starters, what great players has the CFL missed out on that went to the UFL and then signed in the NFL? I can't think of any, but I admittedly don't follow the UFL at all. Secondly, if a player has to choose between two years in the CFL or giving up entirely on playing professional football, I think they'd opt to sign in two years in the CFL. I don't believe the loss of the player option has hurt the ability of any of the eight franchises to sign talent.

From a Tiger-Cat perspective, the lack of a player option is probably the only reasons Chris Williams will be a Tiger-Cat next season. Having said that, next year will be Williams' third in the CFL, not his second. So he had no qualms about signing a longer deal than required before potentially trying his hand one more time in the NFL. Williams is without question the best player to come to the CFL since the elimination of the player option and instead of losing him after last year or this year, we get to see him do his thing for at least one more season. If other American players really are worried about what signing longer term with a CFL team, they just have to look at what Chris Williams has done in his first two seasons, and is likely to do in his third season, and see that being in Canada for more than one year isn't a detriment to future NFL prospects.

Next up is the news that Drew Tate suffered a fractured forearm in the third quarter of the West Division Semi-Final and will miss the rest of the season. It has been a tough season for Tate, who was expected to be the starter in Calgary, but was hurt in the second week of the season. Kevin Glenn will take over just like he did during the season. The Stamps went 10-5 with Glenn as the starter.

Everyone knows I am a big Kevin Glenn fan and I think he got a bit of a raw deal when Tate was named the starter for last week's game against Saskatchewan. I get Calgary's, or more accurately Jon Hufnagel's, want to start Tate; Tate is the future in Calgary and Glenn is not. But Glenn led the Stamps all season and deserved to be the guy to succeed or fail with this team this year. Next year, give the reins back to Tate no questions asked. But Glenn gets his chance now that Tate is hurt again and the hope on my end is that he leads the Stamps all the way to a Grey Cup championship.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

The Next DC

It is looking more and more like Hamilton will have a fourth different defensive coordinator in as many seasons. If the rumours are to be believed it is a fait accompli that defensive coordinator Casey Creehan will head back to Winnipeg to take up the same position on Tim Burke's staff. With the Bombers firing de facto defensive coordinator Chip Garber, it looks more and more likely that Creehan will head west sooner rather than later. That goes against what I said when Burke was retained as Winnipeg's head coach – and in my defense, I was looking at it from Hamilton's perspective, not Winnipeg's – which means it is highly likely that the Ti-Cats will be in the market for a new defensive coordinator once again.

So we might as well start speculating now on who that could be.

There are a number of qualified candidates and one popular among the Tiger-Cat faithful is former defensive coordinator Greg Marshall. Many wanted Marshall to take over for Creehan at the midway point of the season. It was a ridiculous notion at the time – Marshall is still getting paid handsomely to not coach the Roughriders – so him jumping into the fray at midseason never made sense to me. But that changes now, not only with the off-season here – which means Marshall would have all the time he would need to find the right players for his defense – but also because Marshall has expressed a desire to return to coaching. Marshall is probably at the top of the wish list for many, but whether he would want to return to Hamilton, however, is another matter entirely. But Marshall is hardly the only qualified candidate.

What about Gary Etcheverry? He flamed out as the head coach at the Univeristy of Ottawa, but the guy is still one heckuva defensive coordinator and was the man in charge of the Rider defense that went to two consecutive Grey Cups. Etcheverry is a bit unorthodox, but that might be just what this team needs.

Some other possible candidates are Mike O'Shea and Orlondo Steinauer, both currently coaching with the Toronto Argonauts. O'Shea is still public enemy No. 1 in Hamilton, but he has grown in his three years as special teams coordinator in Toronto and could be in line for promotion. Steinauer was defensive coordinator with the Argos for the last half of the 2011 season when the team fired Chip Garber and went back to being the team's defensive back coach when the Argos hired Chris Jones from Calgary.

And perhaps Garber himself could find his way to Hamilton to replace the man that many believe will be replacing him.

One thing I think is near certain is that Hamilton will hire an experienced coordinator for 2013. The days of experimenting with unproven talent is over (I don't consider O'Shea or Steinauer unproven talent seeing as they have both been coordinators); there will be no hot shot young coordinator coming in. I think the team will want a relatively old hand, one that is capable of getting the most out of the players on the roster. Believe it or not, there is talent on the defense, it just has to be harnessed correctly. That will be job No. 1 for whoever the team hires should, as believed, Creehan bolts back to Winnipeg.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Climbing Aboard the Grey Cup Train

When the Grey Cup Tour was announced the first thing I did was go through the schedule to find out when the train would be stopping in Hamilton and today was that day. So I headed down to check out the train this morning and man did it not disappoint.

For starters, the place was packed. It was nearly impossible to find a parking spot and I got there just after 10:00AM, which was when the thing started. By the time I left, people had decided to make makeshift parking spots and began parking on the grass above the parking lot. It was a huge turnout and shows just how much the people of Hamilton love the CFL.

And all those people who went were very satisfied. There were things to do other than see the train – like get autographs from Tiger-Cat legends, get a penny pressed with a Grey Cup insignia, have your picture taken with the Grey Cup – but the train itself was the main event.

For anyone who fancies themselves a CFL fan, but especially those that love the history of the league, the train is a must see. Old trophies, equipment from years gone by, stories about major moments in league history and Grey Cup rings were all there for fans to appreciate. There were so many cool things to see that you really need to check out the train to really appreciate it.

And time is running out to see it. There are only a couple of stops left, so if you haven't checked the train out yet, you don't have many opportunities left. The tour ends in Toronto next Saturday, so if you couldn't make it out to this Saturday's Hamilton stop, I suggest you take a trip down to Toronto to catch a glimpse. It is well worth time.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Michael Young's Story

Any Tiger-Cat fan knows the story of Michael Young, Bob Young's brother, and him being the reason Bob Young bought the team. If you don't know the story, Bob Young shared it in a video that aired on Sportscentre earlier tonight. The video is narrated by Paul Osbaldiston. If it doesn't bring a tear to your eye, you are a better man than I.

Cats Take Seven All-Star Positions

Off-season accolades continue to roll in for the out-of-the-playoff Tiger-Cats with six players taking up seven spots on the East Division all-star team. Avon Cobourne, Peter Dyakowski, Chris Williams (at both receiver and kick returner), Rey Williams, Luca Congi and Josh Bartel were selected for the team on Thursday.

The most unlikeliest of all stars has to be Cobourne. He didn't sign with the team until a week into training camp and was a healthy scratch for pretty much the entire first half of the season. But once he got onto the field, he was like a man possessed. His numbers were excellent, especially his 5.9 yards per carry, and you just saw it when he had the ball that he wasn't going to be stopped. I have been a fan of Cobourne's for a very long time and 2012 was just more proof that the guy is one of the best backs in the CFL. Now, let's just hope he comes back for a second encore performance in 2013.

I was a little surprised to see that Peter Dyakowski was named, but part of being selected as an offensive lineman is reputation. Not that Dyakowski had a bad season, far from it, but he missed the final month of the season with an injury and wasn't a world beater when he did play. Perhaps being named Canada's Smartest Person helped his cause because his was a name that people knew. Still, Dyakowski deserved an all-star nod the past couple of years, so it is nice to see him get one.

Chris Williams, at both receiver and kick returner, might have been the easiest selection for anyone to make. He had no challengers for kick returner and he was one of the best and most dangerous receivers in the entire league this year. Picking Williams was the no-brainer of all no-brainers.

There are a lot of people that aren't fans of Rey Williams. They point out that he is out of position a lot of the time and that his tackle numbers are skewed. Those are fair and valid criticisms, yet he still managed to be named an East Division all-star for the second year in a row. It was surprising that anyone from Hamilton's defense would be selected (though I think one person should have been and wasn't, but more on that later) but it doesn't surprise me that Williams was. His numbers were good, he led the East in tackles, and that goes a long way with voters.

Another more than deserving selection was Luca Congi. There was a lot of understandable concern over signing Congi this year. He was coming off an injury that saw him miss the entire 2011 season – though he was healthy enough to kick later in the season – and he was never a guy with a booming leg. He was also replacing fan favourite Justin Medlock, so Congi had very big shoes to fill. All he did was go out and have one of the best seasons a Tiger-Cat kicker ever had. Congi was perhaps the team's mos consistent player in 2012.

Punters often go unnoticed, and it is hard to figure out just who the best is at the position. Clearly Josh Bartel did enough in his rookie season to earn the recognition as the East Division's top punter. I'm not going to go on about him too much, but if this is just the beginning for Bartel, the future could be bright for him and the Tiger-Cats.

Of course, when all-star selections are announced there are always snubs and this year is no different. One curious snub is Henry Burris. I have been critical of Burris this season, but I recognize that he put up some outstanding numbers and normally that is enough to get a spot on the team. I was somewhat surprised to see that Anthony Calvillo was selected instead of Burris. Calvillo had a decent season, but I still thought Burris would (and maybe even should) have been named an all-star.

I was also surprised to see Dee Webb not make the team. I know it would be hard to select too many players from the worst defense in the league, but Webb put together a solid season despite the team's terrible defense and some of the players selected instead of him, such as Jovon Johnson and Jonathan Hefney, hardly had all-star seasons. A lot of the time, guys get all-star nods because of their reputation (think offensive lineman) and sometimes guys don't get them because of their lack of a reputation. I think the latter is the reason Webb was left off the team. (And before Winnipeg fans get their knickers in a twist, I don't mean any disrespect to Johnson or Hefney, but neither player had what you would call an all-star worthy season in Winnipeg.)

This is just the first all-star step. There are also the league all-star selections. Chris Williams will likely garner two spots once again. He will definitely be the kick returner, but he has a darn good shot of being named at receiver as well. Cobourne, Rey Williams and Dyakowski have little-to-no shot at the league selection. Congi and Bartel are in tough, but I give both a better than 50-50 shot of being named league all stars. I wouldn't be surprised if both were named, one were named or neither were named. The league will announce the CFL all-star selections in December and there will at least be one Tiger-Cat on that list.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Williams To Add to Trophy Case

In what should amount as a surprise to no one, Chris Williams has been named the East Division nominee for the Most Outstanding Special Teams Player award.

Williams was by far the best special teams player in the league this year and second best wasn't even close (and was probably his teammate Luca Congi). There is no chance that Williams loses the award to BC's Tim Brown, the West Division nominee. That is no slight to Brown, who had an excellent season in his own right, but no one who played special teams in 2012 was as outstanding as Williams.

The other award nominees were also announced and most of them should come as no surprised.

In the Most Outstanding Player category it will be Toronto's Chad Owens going up against Calgary's Jon Cornish. To be honest, there really wasn't a slam-dunk candidate this year like in past years. It was obvious that Lulay was going to win it last year, Calvillo the year before and Burris the year before that. This year was a more wide open field and that is probably why two non-QBs were named. I say Cornish wins the award (or at least he should). I have made my feelings known on Chad Owens (he's highly overrated and his record is essentially meaningless), but aside from that I do think Cornish had an excellent season and deserves to be named MOP.

Top defensive player is between Edmonton's JC Sherritt and Montreal's Shea Emry. Sherritt should and will win this award. He broke Calvin Tiggle's record for tackles in a season and he didn't get caught punching another dude in the balls during a game. This won is going, rightfully, to Sherritt.

Cornish is also up for top Canadian against Emry. If Cornish is the best player overall, he is also the best player from Canada. This one is a no-brainer.

Top rookie is between Winnipeg's Chris Matthews and BC's Jabar Westerman. Westerman had a nice rookie campaign with the Lions, but Matthews should win this one in a walk. He finished the season with 81 catches, 1,192 yards and seven touchdowns. Matthews was near unstoppable at the start of the season, but he slowed down a bit later in the year. But it still won't matter come announcement time. Matthews will be the man accepting the award.

Finally, top offensive lineman is the same as last year. Montreal's Josh Bourke was the East Division nominee and BC's Jovon Olafioye was Bourke's West Division counterpart. Bourke won the award last year and I think the reverse will happen this year. I thought Olafioye should have won it last year, but you can't really say picking Bourke was wrong. I feel the same way this year; I think Olafioye is the best lineman in the league and should win the award.

We'll find out who wins the awards when they are handed out in Toronto on November 22nd.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Burris Wins POTW Award

The week of hollow victories continues. First, it was the Ti-Cats claiming the first pick in the 2013 CFL Draft and now it is Henry Burris being named the offensive player of the week for Week 19.

This is the fourth time that Burris won the award in 2012. He was named player of the week following a 360-yard, four-touchdown performance against the Montreal Alouettes in July, a 356-yard, four-touchdown performance against the Saskatchewan Roughriders a week later and a 326-yard, five-touchdown performance against the Alouettes in September.

Burris had a marvellous first season with the Ti-Cats, and finished the season leading the league in passing yards, passing touchdowns, quarterback rating, attempts and completions. He broke the team record for passing yards, set by Danny McManus in 1999, and touchdowns, set by Kevin Glenn in 2010. But he also led all quarterbacks in interceptions and fumbles. So it wasn't all good for Burris this season.

But all of Burris' gaudy stats mean little in the wake of a 6-12 season that has the Tiger-Cats not playing in the postseason for the first time since 2008. And that lack of postseason action is what makes it tough to celebrate what Burris did, both this week and during the season. It is almost unfathomable to think that Burris could have the season he had and the team could win just six games. But that's life sometimes and the Ti-Cats will have the next seven months to regroup and figure out how to make the best of what will be an odd, and probably tough, 2013 season.

10 Things I Learned... In Week 19

And with that, we bid adieu to the 2012 CFL regular season. Once again, it was a season that showed that as much as we think we know, we really don't know all that much. Aside from BC being the team with the best overall record, did anything play out like expected? Hamilton was supposed to be a Grey Cup contender, not the team with the top pick in next year's draft. Winnipeg was supposed to be a contender and play in a new stadium, not finish with four fewer wins and play the whole season at Canad Inns. Saskatchewan and Edmonton were supposed to struggle, not both make the playoffs. The East was talked about as possibly crossing over into the West, not the other way around. Montreal was old and ready to fall, not win another division title. Calgary was supposed to take as step up with Drew Tate, not Kevin Glenn. And Toronto was supposed to light the league on fire with Ricky Ray, not struggle to get to .500. Basically, it was just another typical season in the wild and crazy (in a good way) CFL.

(1) Parity or mediocrity
Parity is what most professional sports leagues strive for in the 21st century. Most leagues want to have as many teams in the playoff chase as possible and the CFL is no different. But does this hope for parity just bring out mediocrity? Just three teams (BC, Calgary and Montreal) finished the season above .500, while the one (Toronto) finished at .500 and four (Saskatchewan, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Hamilton) finished under .500 and two of those teams made the playoffs. The salary cap probably plays a role in this as well, but it seems as if the more equal the team are, the worse the football is. There was some great action this year, but I believe the parity that leagues strive for hurts the product more than helps.

(2) Record breaking weekend
Three CFL records went down in the final weekend of the season. JC Sherritt broke Calvin Tiggle's record for tackles in a season, Jon Cornish broke Normie Kwong's record for rushing yards in a season by a Canadian and Chad Owens broke Mike Clemons' record for all-purpose yards. Cornish, who also finished the season as the league's leading rusher, probably had the most impressive record-breaking year. Kwong's record stood for over 50 years and any time a record that old goes down, it is impressive. Sherritt was a beast on defense and it is fitting that he would break Tiggle's record, but it felt less than impressive when he did it on a play that netted the Stampeders a first down. I am not at all impressed with Owens' record because I think picking up a lot of kick return yards is essentially meaningless. But three records went down on one weekend and I can't recall the last time that happened.

(3) Chad Owens celebration was ill-timed
The Argos stopped the game when Owens broke Pinball's record and I am getting a little sick of teams doing this during a game. Owens broke the record near the end of the second quarter, and the game was stopped to honour the feat. I have no problem with teams celebrating the achievements of their players, but do it at a more appropriate time than in the middle of the game. Ceremonies for record-breaking performances should be held after the game, not during it. I didn't like when the game was stopped for Damon Allen, Ben Cahoon or Anthony Calvillo, and I didn't like that it was stopped by Owens. There is a time and a place to recognize records being broken and that time is not with four minutes left in the second quarter.

(4) Allen's rushing record probably safe
Staying on the topic of records, if there is one record that I think is safe, it is Damon Allen's record for rushing yards by a quarterback. Allen is the league's third leading rushing, regardless of position, with over 11,000 rushing yards. For a QB to top that mark, they would have to rush for over 1,000 yards for 11 straight season. I just don't see any QB breaking that mark. Records are made to be broken, but I bet Allen's stands for a very long time.

(5) Damon Allen: the most under-appreciated player in CFL history
Sticking with Allen, it was great to see him finally get into the Hall of Fame (he was eligible last year and was not voted in for some inexplicable reason). I believe that Allen is one of the most under-appreciated players in CFL history and I can't think of a more deserving player to make it into the Hall than Allen. The rest of his induction class was pretty good too (as much as I hate Milt Stegall, the guy was one of the best to ever play the game), but Allen deserved to be in last year and was denied. I can't imagine another player with the résumé of Allen having to wait one second longer than necessary to get into the Hall of Fame. I'm glad he is in now, but this was one year too late.

(6) Lulay's streak ends lamely
Travis Lulay's streak of games with a touchdown pass came to end on Saturday night when he failed to throw a TD in his one quarter of action. Lulay played in what was a meaningless game for the Lions and it was surprising to see BC not play him until he had his streak-continuing touchdown. I know players aren't supposed to play for records, but if Lulay wasn't going to be able to extend his streak, then there really was no point in playing him. There was nothing to gain for playing Lulay, and it was kind of disappointing to see his streak end in such a lame fashion.

(7) Winnipeg says goodbye to Canad Inns
Last week, it was Ivor Wynne Stadium; this week, it was Canad Inns Stadium. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers said goodbye, for real this time, to their long-time home. The Bombers will move, for real this time, into a new stadium next season. Like the Ti-Cats the week before, the Bombers sent their fans home happy with one final win. It is an exciting time to be a CFL fan as new stadia are being built across the league. Winnipeg's will open next year, Hamilton's and Ottawa's the year after, and Saskatchewan will get a brand new facility in 2017. Seeing new homes built shows that the CFL is moving in the right direction.

(8) The Anthony Calvillo bye week
An interesting stat that I saw this week was about Anthony Calvillo and his lack of playing time in the final week of the regular season. Calvillo has thrown a grand total of 17 passes in Week 19 since 2007, and all of those passes came in last year's finale. Calvillo sat out this week's game in Winnipeg and also sat out games in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010. This speaks to the success of the Als over the past six years. It also makes me wonder where Calvillo's records would be if he played in those games.

(9) Playoff predictions
I didn't do game predictions this year, part of it was forgetting in Week 1 and part of it was just not wanting to do it (hence me forgetting), but I figured I might as well put out how I think the playoffs will play out. In the West, I think Calgary beats Saskatchewan and then beats BC to head to the Grey Cup. In the East, I like the Eskimos to upset the Argos and then the Als to steamroll the Eskies. That sets up a Calgary-Montreal Grey Cup and I will take the Stamps to win it all. I'm sure I'll be wrong, but that's how I see it all playing out over the next three weekends.

(10) Players of the Week
As much as it is hard to give a guy who threw two interceptions, one which went for a touchdown, and fumbled once, you simply cannot ignore the near 500 passing yards and four touchdowns that Henry Burris threw against the Argos. You don't throw for 497 yards all that often and Burris did just that last Thursday. If the CFL handed out an offensive player of the year award, Burris would win it in a landslide. They don't, so he'll just have to accept being the final player to win offensive player of the week in 2012.

Picking up 11 tackles and one sack is impressive, but when one of those tackles sets a record for the most in a season by any player in CFL history, it is more impressive. JC Sherritt did just that in Calgary on Friday night. Sherritt was a machine all year and will likely be named the top defensive player this year. He made a strong final case for himself by being the best defender on the field this past weekend.

Hit all five field goals and nail a 51-yarder to knock your biggest rival from playoff contention was all in a game's work for Swayze Waters. Waters was huge in Toronto's win over Hamilton and is more than deserving of being name the final week's top special teams player.

The top Canadian was none other than Winnipeg linebacker Henoc Muamba. The top pick in 2011 draft picked up 10 tackles and one sack against Montreal. Muamba has been getting more and more involved on the defensive side of the ball and this type of performance could be a harbinger of things to come for Muamba. Expect big things from this week's top Canadian next season.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Ti-Cats Are On the Clock

With Winnipeg's win over the Montreal Alouettes on Saturday afternoon, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats officially finish with the worst record in the CFL this season, thus giving them the first overall pick in the 2013 CFL Draft.

Getting the first pick is a little like a backhanded compliment. It's great to be able to draft first, but it also means you stunk the year before. Also, this fifth time since Bob young purchased the team that the Ti-Cats have had the first overall pick. Those top picks have been: Wayne Smith (2004), Chris Bauman (2007), Dylan Barker (2008) and Simeon Rottier (2009). They also had the top pick in 2006, but traded it to Edmonton.

One thing you'll notice about all of those previous No. 1 overall picks: none of them are still with Hamilton. Perhaps the worst thing about the Ti-Cats, even when they were decent the last few seasons, has been their drafting. They have whiffed on picks or just plain not made them; Hamilton hasn't selected in the first round since 2009 because they've traded the pick (2011, 2012) or used it in the supplemental draft (2010). Hamilton's poor draft record is one of the reasons the team has non-import depth issues.

It is a little early to be wondering who the Ti-Cats will take (the draft isn't until May), but where the Ti-Cats should place their focus is pretty simple: along the lines. Whether it be the offensive or defensive line, the Ti-Cats need to be only look at the trenches with their top pick. This team needs an infusion of non-import talent along the lines and this is there chance to grab a player that could be a stalwart along one of the lines for a decade. This is an opportunity that cannot be squandered.

Tiger-Cat management, the ball is in your court. Oh, and you are now on the clock.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Tillman Out as Eskimo GM

The off-field moves continue as we head into the final couple of weeks of CFL action in 2012. First, the Blue Bombers announced the return of Tim Burke (and Joe Mack) for 2013 and now the Edmonton Eskimos, a week before they play the Toronto Argonauts in the East Division Semi-Final, have fired general manager Eric Tillman.

The timing seems a little odd, but this seemed like a move that was going to be made sooner rather than later. After the blunder that was the Ricky Ray trade, the clock was ticking on the Tillman era in Edmonton. He gambled and pretty much lost. The Argos may not have ripped up the league with Ray, and Edmonton did make the playoffs without him, but is their really any doubt who won that deal?

Now the speculation will start up as to where Tillman will land (because with his three Grey Cup rings as a general manager, he will land somewhere). Some say Ottawa and others say Toronto. Dave Naylor squashed the Ottawa part by saying the expansion Ottawa team will not want to look to the past – Tillman was the Renegade GM from 2002-2004 – for their general manager.

The Toronto rumour was slightly squashed by Naylor, but not entirely. he said he spoke to Argo president Chris Rudge and that they haven't had any discussion about hiring Tillman. That doesn't mean that aren't having those discussions right now, just that they hadn't when Naylor talked to Rudge. There are rumours that Jim Barker will not return as Toronto's GM, so Tillman would be an obvious replacement. But if Tillman somehow lands in Toronto, the Ray deal begins to look highly suspicious. I'm not one prone to believing conspiracy theories, but the optics of the Argos hiring Tillman just a year after he gift wrapped Ray to them wouldn't be good.

There is also another team, one near and dear to my heart, that is kind of in the market for a general manager: the Ti-Cats.

Tiger-Cat president Scott Mitchell said in Septmeber that Bob O'Billovich would be leaving his post as VP of Football Operations before the start of the 2014 season. Teh rumours of Obie retiring have come up the last couple of years, but a GM with the the success of Tillman could make the Ti-Cats move up their succession plan. Tillman's track record is impressive, three Grey Cup wins in 14 years as a GM with four different teams. Tillman does make some curious moves – such as trading Ray and, prior to that, trading reigning MOP Kerry Joseph in 2008 – but his Grey Cup rings speak for themselves. While I am not 100 per cent sold on Tillman being the guy to run the Ti-Cats, the team could do a lot worse than him in picking the man to replace Obie.

Wherever Tillman ends up, I don't expect him to be out of work for very long. We'll probably know sooner rather than later where Eric Tillman will cal his football home.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Five Ti-Cats Named in TSN Player Poll

One of the few bright spots in an otherwise miserable season continues to get praise heaped onto him. Chris Williams was named the fastest player and the biggest threat to score in TSN's third annual CFL player poll, released earlier today.

Williams finished with 57 per cent of the vote for fastest player and 68 per cent of the vote for biggest threat to score. Williams' blazing speed help him set a CFL single-season record for return touchdowns and he scored 17 total touchdowns in 2012, which set a single-season Tiger-Cat record.

Chevon Walker, Avon Cobourne, Henry Burris and Dave Stala also made the list. Walker finished second to Williams in the fastest player category and second to Nik Lewis in the toughest to bring down category. Cobourne finished behind Dwight Anderson for biggest trash talker, Burris finished fourth for most accurate passer and Stala finished third in the best hands category.

While this does little to take away the sting of last night's season-ending loss to the Argos, it is a little bit of good news on what is an otherwise painful Friday for Tiger-Cat fans.

Toronto 43, Hamilton 40

So it's over. Thursday's 43-40 loss to the Argos ends the season for the Ti-Cats. It's a disappointing end to a very disappointing season, but if we're being honest, this team really deserve to make the playoffs. I would have cheered them if they did, but being eliminated now let's us all reflect and admit that this team, this 6-12 team, just wasn't good enough. Wherever you want to place the blame – be it on the defense, Burris' turnovers, Cortez's decision-making, all three or something else entirely – the team as a whole just wasn't the team we thought it would be when the season started.

It's hard to look at positives in a game that ended the season. No matter what the team did tonight, they didn't win and that was the only goal for this evening. That said, two players who can walk with their heads held high are Chris Williams and Avon Cobourne. Both guys played their hearts out. Williams had over 100 yards receiving and two touchdowns, including his Tiger-Cat record 16th and 17th touchdowns of the season. Cobourne had 98 yards receiving and one touchdown. The running game wasn't working for the Cats, and it pretty much had to be abandoned the entire second half, but Cobourne found a way to contribute.

There are also a lot of people to kick square in the behind as well, and the list is a familiar one in Tiger-Cat losses: Burris, Cortez and the defense. It's hard to kill a guy who puts up nearly 500 passing yards and tosses four touchdowns, but Burris threw another pick six, his third against the Argos this year and fourth overall, and had another fumble turn into points for the opposition. Those 14 points ended up being a big difference in the game. Like most games this season, when Bad Hank reared his head, the team lost.

Cortez also deserves to be raked over the coals as well. His decision to let the clock run down to two seconds before icing the kicker – a lot of good that did – was the cheery on top of his inedible sundae. It was the latest, and final, rookie mistake he made as a head coach. The team lost more than its fair share of games because of coaching mistakes Cortez made, so it is fitting that the final one would literally end their season.

And of course, we end with the defense. I like to consider myself a patient man, and I even like to consider myself a reasonable man even if I let my fandom take over me on more occasions than I'd like to admit, but this final display from a defense that allowed an astounding 576 points was the straw that broke this camels back. To put that number in perspective, it is the most points given up by a team since the Argos gave up a whopping 627 points in 2008 (the Ti-Cats gave up 598 points that season as well). Nothing about the defense worked this season. Nothing. Aside from a couple of decent outings, they simply could not be relied upon. But the worst part of all is that they gave up 36 points (43 total, but seven came off a Burris interception) to the Argos B, C, and D teams. But based on how the unit played all season, it was unreasonable to expect a repeat performance of last week.

So it is fitting that the three culprits behind most of the Tiger-Cat losses this season – untimely and costly Burris turnovers, baffling decisions by Cortez and a horrendous defense – would be the three main reasons behind this final loss.

So now we go into an off-season without a championship celebration in Hamilton. We head into the off-season trying to figure out where it all went wrong. But that is for later; for now, we simply close the book on the 2012 Tiger-Cat season.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Tim Burke To Remain Bombers Head Coach

News out of Winnipeg today is that Tim Burke has had the interim tag removed from his name and will be the head coach of the Blue Bombers next year. Burke took over the job in August following the firing of Paul LaPolice. Winnipeg, who made the Grey Cup last season, was officially eliminated from playoff contention last week.

Burke was a finalist for the Hamilton head coaching job last winter and word is that if George Cortez had not agreed to come to Hamilton, Burke would have been the man to lead the Tiger-Cats this season. Instead, Cortez was hired and Burke remained in Winnipeg as the defensive coordinator until taking over as head coach at mid-season.

There was a slight hope in me that Burke would not be retained by the Bombers and would find his way to Hamilton as the team's defensive coordinator. But the Bombers have played better with Burke and it comes as no surprise that he will be given a chance to shape the team in the way he wants.

So where does that leave Hamilton? A lot of Hamilton's defensive deficiencies have been blamed on first-year coordinator Casey Creehan, but the defense has recently played very well – not coincidentally, players like Bo Smith and Markeith Knowlton have started to get healthy – and that bodes well for Creehan. In a statement I probably wouldn't have made back in the summer, I think Creehan will be back as Hamilton's defensive coordinator next season.

Preview: Tiger-Cats at Argonauts


And so it has come to this. With the final week of the CFL season here, the Ti-Cats are in a win or else situation in regards to their playoff hopes. Win and the team will still have a chance; lose and the season is over. But just a win tonight won't suffice; the Ti-Cats also need the Calgary Stampeders (quarterbacked by some guy named Kevin Glenn) to beat the Eskimos on Friday night. So if Hamilton leaves Toronto tonight with a 'W', they live for at least another 24 hours.

The Tabbies catch a bit of a break playing an Argo team with nothing to play for. Toronto knows they'll be hosting the East Division Semi-Final on Remembrance Day and a win or a lose will not change that. In fact, these two teams would meet again for that game if everything falls the Ti-Cats way. The Argos are choosing to rest a number of their starters, including quarterback Ricky Ray, running back Chad Kackert and former Tiger-Cat receiver Maurice Mann. Jarious Jackson will get the start, but will only play about one quarter before giving way to Trevor Harris and Zach Collaros. This will basically be a glorified exhibition game for the Argos. But the Ti-Cats can't get too cocky knowing they will be playing a lot of backups. Those guys are looking to prove to the coaching staff that they have a future in Toronto and will be playing hard.

Last week's emotional final game at Ivor Wynne Stadium ended with a Hamilton win, and a rather convincing one at that. The offense did enough in the early part of the game, but it was the defense that set the tone. The object of much scrutiny throughout the season, the Tiger-Cat defense has stepped their game up considerably the last two weeks. They held Winnipeg's offense in check for almost the entire game last Saturday and even managed to find the end zone themselves. Another defensive performance like the ones we've seen the last two weeks will probably be enough to let the Ti-Cats live one more day.

Expect a large contingent of Tiger-Cat fans to make their way to the Rogers Centre SkyDome for tonight's game. Ti-Cat fans always travel well to Toronto, so this could end up being a de facto home game for the Black & Gold. The game gets underway at 7:30PM.