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.