Sunday 7 November 2010

Blogskee Wee Wee's Most Outstanding Player Awards (Tiger-Cats Edition)

Earlier in the week, the Tiger-Cat nominations for the end-of-the-year player awards were announced. I was going to rush and make sure my picks were out before the official ones to see how close mine were to the actual selections made by actual writers. (After all, I'm not a professional, I just play one on the Internet.)

But the more I thought about it, the more I didn't quite understand why the picks were made before the regular season ended. Sure, one game will not drastically change many selections (and, in fact, I probably would have been able to make these picks on Labour Day and stuck with them), but this is the CFL and anything can happen.

So I made the decision to wait until the Tiger-Cats played their final game of the regular season before I published my picks.

Most Outstanding Player
In my mind there were really only two players who legitimately had a shot at this award: Kevin Glenn and Arland Bruce.

Kevin Glenn is becoming to this generation of fans what Danny McManus was to me when I was a teenager. McManus was the man; Glenn is quickly becoming the man.

Glenn has put together a season for the ages by throwing for 5,100 yards and 33 touchdowns. Glenn also completed a career-high 64.5% of his passes. Glenn had one of the best seasons a Tiger-Cat QB has ever had. This has been Glenn's masterpiece season. He was very good in 2007 when he was with Winnipeg (and was the East nominee for MOP), but Glenn has been even better in 2010.

The trade that brought Arland Bruce to Hamilton in 2009 might go down as the greatest trade in Hamilton Tiger-Cat history. He was the team's 2009 nominee for MOP, and he put together a fantastic season in 2010. His numbers are all great: 86 receptions for 1,303 yards and eight TDs, and all of those numbers were achieved with Bruce missing two whole games and most of a third. I wonder what kind of numbers Bruce would have put up had he been healthy all season.

Both guys have put together great campaigns, but the QB is always the most important player on the team, so it's especially hard to ignore what Glenn has done in 2010.

Most Outstanding Player: Kevin Glenn

Most Outstanding Defensive Player
At the beginning of the season, I predicted that Jamall Johnson would win Most Outstanding Defensive Player. He had a stellar 2009 campaign, and only didn't get the team nomination because it went to his fellow Linebacker, Markeith Knowlton. I thought Johnson would eclipse his numbers from '09 and make it near impossible for anyone to consider someone else for MODP.

Saying JJ would take home the award was not a slight on Knowlton, who is probably the most underrated player in the league (even if Kevin Glenn did win that title earlier this week). Knowlton continues to put up fantastic numbers, and he makes plays week in, week out. I think I, like many, underrate Knowlton's impact. But watching him closely this season has allowed me to really appreciate what he brings to the team.

But before I go crowning someone, there is one other player that deserves mention: Stevie Baggs. Baggs has not been back in the CFL long enough to be a legitimate candidate for MODP, but I would be remiss if I didn't make note of his great play since joining the Cats. I don't think I need to enumerate what he's done. If you're reading this, you are well aware of how great Baggs has been since donning the Black & Gold in September. Again, this is not a knock on Knowlton (or Johnson), but Baggs is already my odds-on favourite for MODP in 2011.

But this is 2010, and the best Defensive player on the team (and, in my opinion, the entire league) is none other than Markeith Knowlton.

Most Outstanding Defensive Player: Markeith Knowlton

Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman
Picking an award for an Offensive Lineman is very difficult. The best ones are the ones whose name you never hear. The life of a great O-Lineman is a life of near anonymity.

When it comes to being anonymously good, the man for this award is Marwan Hage.

I have been a critic of Hage's in the past. He is not the perfect Lineman, but he is a damn good one. Hage, having played for some terrible Tiger-Cat teams, mostly gets recognized for his humanitarian work (which is second to none), but only recently has he been getting recognized for his play on the field.

The Tiger-Cats' O-Line has been phenomenal all season (minus the terrible Week 1 contest versus Winnipeg), most notably by giving up the least sacks, which has allowed Glenn to put up the numbers he has.

As a former Centre, I tend to give a little more love to the men who patrol the middle of the Line. But Hage deserves credit for having a great season.

Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman: Marwan Hage

Most Outstanding Canadian
I have to be honest, I cannot think of a reason not to give this to Dave Stala; can you?

Since coming to Hamilton last season, Dave Stala has turned himself into one of the most reliable and durable players in the CFL. When Stala was with Montreal, he fought the injury bug; since coming to Hamilton, he has been the model of health.

Stala has been the best Canadian Receiver since Mike Morreale. While not a speed demon by any stretch of the imagination, Stala has been as clutch as they get when it comes to picking up first downs. The nicknames "Sticky" (because he rarely drops a pass) and "Second-down Stala" (because all he seems to do is pick up first downs on second down) are not just cute alliterations.

Stala set personal highs in catches (86) and touchdowns (6), while notching his second 1,000-yard receiving season.

Stala has become one of the most beloved members of the current Tiger-Cat roster. With Stala being a Hamilton boy, some will say it's because of that that Stala is so popular. But unlike the last guy who was proclaimed a "Hometown Hero," Stala backs it up on the field.

Most Outstanding Canadian: Dave Stala

Most Outstanding Special Teams Player
Should I even bother to make an argument? I mean, we all know this award is going to Marcus Thigpen.

However, since I don't need to regale everyone with what Thigpen has meant to the Special Teams in 2010, I'll spend some time giving another underrated player some publicity.

Since arriving in Hamilton at the beginning of August, Eric Wilbur has been up there with the best Punters in the CFL.

After the disaster that was the Justin Palardy experiment (but much respect for him becoming a damn fine Kicker for the Blue Bombers), Wilbur provided the Tiger-Cats with exactly what they needed in the punting game: accuracy and distance.

Wilbur seems to get better and better each week. I hope that he gets to come back next season and prove that 2010 was not a fluke. Using an import spot on a Punter is not something most teams like to do, but with Wilbur I think the positives outweigh the negatives.

That said, Marcus Thigpen still gets my vote.

Most Outstanding Special Teams Player: Marcus Thigpen

Most Outstanding Rookie
The Wilbur-Thigpen debate could be carried over to this award as well. Since I spent the entire section of Special Teams Player on Wilbur, I'll spend this one on Thigpen.

What Thigpen has done in the return game is nothing short of brilliant. Why the Roughriders ever let this guy go is beyond me.

But recently, Thigpen has also been establishing an offensive identity as well. Thigpen has become that Weapon X-type player, where he is a threat no matter where he lines up. Hm, perhaps his nickname should be Weapon X? Maybe I'll throw that out there and see if it sticks.

Thigpen is the first and only player in CFL history to score a touchdown in five different ways (rushing, receiving, kick return, punt return and missed field goal return) in one season... and he did it before Labour Day. It is kind of incredible to think that someone like Hall of Famer Mike "Pinball" Clemons never accomplished that feat.

Perhaps the best rookie in the entire league, he is most definitely the best rookie on the team.

Most Outstanding Rookie: Marcus Thigpen

Had I posted this prior to the unveiling of the actual team nominees, I would have gone six for six. Maybe I can be a professional? (Please note the sarcasm.) Hey, Drew, next year, pick me, will ya?

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