Thursday 30 June 2011

Exciting New Things

It's halftime in the opening game of the 2011 season, so I figured I could take the time to update you on some cool stuff I've been involved in over the last couple of days.

First, I have added two new sites to the sidebar in CFL Insider and Bastard Bomber Fan. Normally I wouldn't link to the site of a team that isn't the Ti-Cats, but the site is well run and a lot of fun, even if you don't like Winnipeg.

However, the main reason I linked to BBF and CFL Insider is because this past Tuesday, I participated in a fantasy draft through Fantas-Eh with the two gentlemen that run those sites, as well as with the men that run Canadian Football Talk (who organized everything, and where you will find the results for the league), No Yards and Rouge Radio.

It was an absolute blast and should be a ton of fun. If nothing else, it was great to participate in something with fellow CFL fans. Based solely on the draft, this is going to be a good group of guys to play fantasy football with, and I can't wait to gain bragging rights over my fellow CFL scribes when I take home the title.

Preview: Blue Bombers at Tiger-Cats

This is the day I've been counting down to since I was sitting in a hotel room in Ottawa in February when the schedule came out.

I can't think of a better way to celebrate the 144th birthday of this great nation than by sitting in Ivor Wynne Stadium watching the Tiger-Cats battle the Blue Bombers.

These two teams met in the season opener last season, and the Bombers beat the stuffing out of the Cats in Winnipeg. Hamilton will be looking to return the favour.

Both teams experienced changes in the off-season. The Cats brought in some big-name players – Avon Cobourne, Rey Williams and Justin Medlock, most notably – with the hopes of finally getting over the hump. The Offense is loaded with weapons, starting with Quarterback Kevin Glenn. Glenn will once again be tossing passes to Arland Bruce, Dave Stala and Maurice Mann. Adding Cobourne to the mix makes this Offense downright lethal.

Winnipeg shipped out former starting Quarterback Steven Jyles, so this team is now firmly in the hands of the oft-injured Buck Pierce. But Winnipeg does return the league's leading rusher in Fred Reid and second-leading Receiver in Terrence Edwards. Winnipeg has the ability to light up the scoreboard, so Hamilton's revamped Defense will have its work cut out for it.

Getting off to a good start will be imperative to both teams. Hamilton would like to win their first season opener since 2004, and Winnipeg would like to put last year's 4-14 record behind them. Should make for one helluva contest.

If you can't make it to the game, TSN will have the game for you on television, and AM900 CHML will have it for you on the radio.

Smitty's Selections: Week 1

Back, because I love nothing more than opening myself up to criticism every week, is my weekly column of game picks, Smitty's Selections.

Last year, I went a respectable 40-37. Sure, that's barely above .500, but this was my first time picking CFL games, and I was happy with the outcome.

But like any endeavour, you must get better with experience. So this year I am aiming for 50 wins. Will I get there? Stay tuned to find out.

Before I get 50, I have to get one. Here are my picks for Week 1 in the CFL:

British Columbia at Montreal

I think the Lions will be a very good squad this year, but winning at Percival Molson Stadium isn't easy for any team. Not to mention that the Als will be celebrating their Grey Cup win from last season. While I believe the Lions will win a good number of games, one of them will not be this one.

Winner: Montreal, 36-24

Winnipeg at Hamilton

Simply put, the Cats have to win this one. Last year, these two teams met on opening weekend and Winnipeg throttled the Cats 49-29 in Winnipeg. The Cats had huge expectations coming into that game and proceeded to lay a giant egg. History, however, will not repeat itself. Winnipeg keeps it close for a bit, but the Cats pull away in the fourth quarter.

Winner: Hamilton, 31-20

Toronto at Calgary

These two teams also met last year in Week 1, with Calgary winning 30-16, but the score does not indicate how close that game actually was. Toronto surprised a lot of people last year in posting a 9-9 record en route to the East Final. Toronto will not sneak up on anyone this year. Having said that, I have the sneaking suspicion that there will be at least one upset this week... and this will be the one. The Argos escape Calgary with a close win.

Winner: Toronto, 27-21

Edmonton at Saskatchewan

Week 1 ends with a clash between the Eskies and Riders. These two teams are the only two that hired new coaches in the off-season: Edmonton hired Kavis Reed, and Saskatchewan hired Greg Marshall. (Side note: both men are former Defensive Coordinators for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.) Edmonton is in a rebuilding mode, and growing pains are expected for them. Saskatchewan is just the better team out of the two, despite some of the changes to the Roughriders' roster. I expect Saskatchewan to handle the Eskimos rather easily.

Winner: Saskatchewan, 38-18

Montreal, Hamilton, Toronto, Saskatchewan

Season Record: 0-0

Wednesday 29 June 2011

TSN's Top 50 Current Players

I finally got around to watching the highly scrutinized list of TSN's top 50 players. With all the hubbub over the list, I expected to eviscerate the list myself, but while there are some serious flaws with it, it wasn't that bad.

But there were some flaws.

The first flaw was how the list was compiled. I didn't like it. The idea that players were picked based on right now didn't make any sense. How can you judge someone without taking into consideration past performance or future projections? It just didn't make much sense.

They set out the rules, but there were still plenty of noodle scratchers. Cory Boyd is the fourth-best player after one season? Chad Owens is the eleventh-best player after one season? But Fred Stamps is only the thirtieth-best player after his years of greatness? That needs to be explained to me.

Speaking of making no sense, on what planet, right now, is Darian Durant the third-best player in the league? And how in the hell is Kevin Glenn only 17th, and ranked behind Ricky Ray? Look, I like Ray, but right now, Kevin Glenn is better than Ray.

Now, the list did have some positives.

Markeith Knowlton as the top Defensive player is perfect. No one is more important on the defensive side of the ball, so his tenth-place finish is fitting.

Anthony Calvillo at #1 was a no-brainer. As was Henry Burris at #2. You can't really debate either of those picks.

So the list was flawed, but not horrendous. These lists are subjective, and they are put out to spur debate. So with me writing this, I guess they accomplished their goal.

So what do you think? What did you agree with? What did you disagree with? If the point is to start a debate, I'd love to hear what anyone out there has to say, so have at it.

Blogskee Wee Wee's 2011 CFL Preview

This looks to be one of the closest seasons in CFL history. I look at all eight teams and I don't see one truly dominant squad that will run away from everyone. Each team has its strengths and weaknesses, and it will be accentuating the former and disguising the latter that will dictate who wins the divisions and ultimately the Grey Cup.

2011 CFL Regular Season
(Links provided to each team's individual preview)

1) Hamilton Tiger-Cats, 12-6
2) Montreal Alouettes, 11-7
3) Toronto Argonauts, 8-10
4) Winnipeg Blue Bombers, 6-12

It will be a vicious battle all year between Hamilton and Montreal. With four games against one another, the hate-on these two teams already have for one another will only grow. It won't be easy, but I think that the Cats will just get by Montreal to secure first in the East. Toronto will have to develop a QB before they can be taken seriously as a Grey Cup contender. They are definitely a playoff team, but I think they take a small step back before they go all-in for 2012 (when the Grey Cup is in Toronto). Winnipeg will go as far as Buck Pierce takes them. With his injury history, it's hard to bet on him to stay healthy. The Bombers are still at least one year away.

1) BC Lions, 11-7
2) Calgary Stampeders, 11-7
3) Saskatchewan Roughriders, 9-9
4) Edmonton Eskimos, 4-14

The Lions are motivated by the fact that the Grey Cup is in Vancouver. If the Leos can win the West, that means they stay home for the entire playoffs. They will be in tough with the Stamps, but they will edge them out by the slightest of margins. Calgary is still a top team, but with the losses on defense, it's likely they falter a tad at the start of the season, which allows BC to leapfrog them for first. Saskatchewan needs to replace a slew of go-to players and will find it hard to replicate their past success, so they will slip a bit. Even Edmonton fans would tell you they aren't there yet. Maybe next season.

2011 CFL Playoffs
East Division Semi-Final
Toronto at Montreal

The East Division Semi-Final is an unfamiliar place for the Als. They haven't been there since 2007, haven't hosted one since 2005, and have only been in it six times since their return in 1996. Montreal will be disappointed at not winning the East, and they will take it out on Toronto in a big, bad way. The Als romp to the East Final for a date with the Ti-Cats at Ivor Wynne Stadium.

Winner: Montreal

West Division Semi-Final
Saskatchewan at Calgary

Calgary and Saskatchewan stage another epic playoff battle in 2011. However, unlike the last two seasons, the Stampeders will emerge victorious and march into BC with the hopes of getting back to the Grey Cup.

Winner: Calgary

East Division Final
Montreal at Hamilton

The game that the Ti-Cats (and Ti-Cat fans) will want all year. Every move the team made was in preparation for this showdown. Avon Cobourne will prove that letting him walk was a big mistake, and in the biggest game of his Ti-Cat career, he will lead the Tabbies past the Als and into the 99th Grey Cup.

Winner: Hamilton

West Division Final
Calgary at BC

BC will have visions of hosting the Grey Cup... and they will do what Toronto did in 2007 and fail. The Stamps will have found their rhythm by the time this game rolls around, and they will take down the Lions, setting up a rematch of the 87th Grey Cup.

Winner: Calgary

Hamilton vs. Calgary

If will feel like déjà vu as the Ti-Cats and Stampeders dual in the Grey Cup in Vancouver once again. The last time these two teams met on the CFL's grandest stage was in Vancouver in 1999. The Cats, coming off a disappointing loss the year prior to Calgary, hammered the Stamps en route to their 15th championship. This will be one of those classic back-and-forth contests, with the winner being decided by who has the ball last. In the end, the Cats will find a way to pull it out. Once again, Hamilton will beat Calgary in Vancouver for the championship.

Winner: Hamilton

2011 CFL Awards

Most Outstanding Player
West Nominee: Henry Burris (Calgary)
East Nominee: Anthony Calvillo (Montreal)

In a rematch of sorts from last season, both Anthony Calvillo and Henry Burris will represent their respective divisions as nominees for the Most Outstanding Player award. Last year, Burris took home the trophy, denying Calvillo a third straight MOP. This year, with several league records about to be broken by the Als' pivot, Calvillo will win the fourth MOP trophy of his career.

Winner: Anthony Calvillo

Most Outstanding Canadian
West Nominee: Jon Cornish (Calgary)
East Nominee: Dave Stala (Hamilton)

This award could have been dominated by Andy Fantuz for years to come had he stayed in the CFL. Picking someone to replace him as the West's nominee proved rather difficult. I went with Cornish because I think he will get more work in Calgary's backfield in an effort to keep Joffrey Reynolds fresh for the post-season. Dave Stala could eclipse his career numbers if he stays healthy. The only Canadian who outperformed Stala last year was Fantuz. With Fantuz no longer around, Stala will take home the trophy.

Winner: Dave Stala

Most Outstanding Defensive Player
West Nominee: Solomon Elimimian (BC)
East Nominee: Chip Cox (Montreal)

Probably the hardest award to narrow down to two players. You could easily make a case for Juwan Simpson, Markeith Knowlton, Stevie Baggs and Jamall Johnson, to name just a few. In the end, I went with Elimimian and Cox. Elimimian won the Most Outstanding Rookie Award last season, and he will have to have a big year for my BC prediction to come true. Cox could have easily been the nominee for the East last season, but was beat out by Knowlton, who eventually won the award. As much as I'd like to pick one of the Ti-Cat defenders, I think they will end up canceling each other out, allowing Cox to split the middle and take home the nomination. In the end, though, Elimimian will have one of the best years a Linebacker has ever had in the CFL, and because of that he will take home the award.

Winner: Solomon Elimimian

Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman
West Nominee: Patrick Kobongo (Edmonton)
East Nominee: Marwan Hage (Hamilton)

Probably the second-hardest award to pick nominees for, because the best O-Linemen are the ones that make the least amount of news. Hage was last year's East nominee, losing to Calgary's Ben Archibald (now with BC). Kobongo is a behemoth of a man who can dominate if he puts his mind to it. I'm going to select Hage as the winner. He has been viewed by many as one of the best Linemen of his time, so he'll finally get his due in 2011.

Winner: Marwan Hage

Most Outstanding Rookie
West Nominee: Anthony Parker (Calgary)
East Nominee: Perry Floyd (Winnipeg)

By far the hardest award to name nominees for, especially at the beginning of the season. It's hard enough trying to find out who qualifies as a rookie, let alone pick one from each division to be recognized. In the end I simply selected two players who I think could have productive years by rookie standards. Chances are that neither of these two individuals will pick up the hardware. So I'm picking Anthony Parker because I think he's the most talented rookie entering the CFL in 2011. Returners tend to get a lot of praise, especially when they come from out of nowhere. So I'm taking a flyer on Winnipeg rookie return man Perry Floyd. He could be the surprise player, like Thigpen and Owens were last year. In the race between the two, I'm going to take Floyd. Floyd will have more opportunities to touch the ball than Parker, and with one or two dynamic returns, Floyd could capture the imagination of CFL fans.

Winner: Perry Floyd

Most Outstanding Special Teams Player
West Nominee: Rob Maver (Calgary)
East Nominee: Marcus Thigpen (Hamilton)

Believe it or not, this is not a homer pick. I fully appreciate what Chad Owens did last year for Toronto. In fact, from one perspective, he could have been the Most Outstanding Player, period, in the CFL last year. The reason I don't think he'll take it this year is because I believe that he will be more featured on Offense for the Argos, which would lessen his impact on Special Teams. That is why I chose Thigpen. In the West, I went with the best Kicker in the division in Rob Maver. Maver led the league in scoring in 2010, and a repeat performance will land him on the awards podium accepting his first CFL award.

Winner: Rob Maver

Coach of the Year
Nominee #1: Wally Buono (BC)
Nominee #2: John Hufnagel (Calgary)
Nominee #3: Marcel Bellefeuille (Hamilton)

Coach of the Year nominees boil down to two categories: (1) coaches who take bad teams and make them respectable, (2) coaches of the Grey Cup finalists. Since I don't expect Winnipeg or Edmonton to make much noise, Wally Buono would fit the first criterion. The Lions were 8-10 last year, and I expect them to be the best team in the West during the regular season, so that covers Buono. Hufnagel and Bellefeuille fit the second criterion, since Calgary and Hamilton are my picks to make the Grey Cup. When all is said and done, Marcel Bellefeuille will walk away with the CFL's Coach of the Year Award.

Winner: Marcel Bellefeuille

I'm not going to lie: making these predictions was a lot tougher this year than it was last year. The top six teams – Montreal, Toronto, Hamilton, Saskatchewan, Calgary and BC – are all so even that picking one over the other is difficult. They aren't all created equal, but if one of those six teams took home the Grey Cup, no one would be surprised.

So what do you think? What are your predictions for the 2011 CFL season? Are the Cats ready to take the next step? Will the Lions make the jump? Will Winnipeg or Edmonton surprise everyone? Are the Argos being underestimated? Are the Als poised to repeat yet again? Can Calgary gel in the defensive backfield quicker than expected? These are just some of the questions that will hover around during the season. The only thing I can guarantee is that we will have one heckuva season in 2011. That is the only prediction I am confident in, but one that I think is shared by fans of all teams.

Tuesday 28 June 2011

Power Poll

In trying to come up with another fun, weekly article to write, I decided to do a Power Poll. TSN, Sportsnet and the CFL's own website do power rankings, so I figured I could get in on the fun as well. Each week, on Tuesday, I will rank the eight teams 1 to 8 and give a reason for their ranking. There is no complex math involved, and I won't be using algorithms or any of that nonsense to determine things. This will strictly be based on the good old-fashioned eyeball test.

With that out of the way, here are my first Power Rankings of 2011:

1. Montreal Alouettes (Last Week: N/A)

Not much to say, really. The Als enter 2011 as the two-time defending Grey Cup champions. That pretty much speaks for itself.

2. Calgary Stampeders (Last Week: N/A)

Yes, the Stamps lost the West Division Final to the Riders last November, but I think Calgary, heading into the season, has fewer question marks than Saskatchewan.

3. Saskatchewan Roughriders (Last Week: N/A)

The Riders have lost the last two Grey Cups, but the fact that they got there has to count for something. I'm not sold on Saskatchewan this season, but until they falter, they get the benefit of the doubt.

4. Hamilton Tiger-Cats (Last Week: N/A)

The hardest part was deciding where to put Hamilton and Toronto. When everything is fairly even, give it to the team with the better QB. Kevin Glenn is worlds better than anyone the Argos will put on the field.

5. Toronto Argonauts (Last Week: N/A)

If the Argos find a bona fide starter, they could do some damage. Until that happens, I remain skeptical.

6. BC Lions (Last Week: N/A)

The Lions have all the players to make a run, but their most important player – Quarterback Travis Lulay – is relatively inexperienced. Once he gains that experience, watch out.

7. Edmonton Eskimos (Last Week: N/A)

Eskies, Bombers. Bombers, Eskies. Neither team is particularly good. But the Eskimos have Ricky Ray and Fred Stamps, which trumps pretty much anything Winnipeg has.

8. Winnipeg Blue Bombers (Last Week: N/A)

The Bombers sit at the bottom, which is more than fair. They had the worst record last season and are an injury to Buck Pierce away from once again residing at the bottom of the standings.

Monday 27 June 2011

How to Act

When Jack Julsing's father decided to rant like a raving lunatic on Drew Edwards's blog, I lit into him. Not once, but twice.

Well, it looks like Jack didn't take too kindly to Poppa's words and issued an apology on his and his father's behalf.

In an e-mail sent to Drew Edwards, Jack Julsing said the following:
I would like to issue a heartfelt apology for the unfortunate comments, which were made by my Dad. It was an emotional day for our family and he did not have all the information. I am very grateful for the opportunity to play with the Hamilton Tiger Cats and the CFL. I did not learn of his full reaction until today, as I was traveling home yesterday. Again, my sincere apologies to all the Hamilton Tiger Cats and CFL fans and thank you for the opportunity.
It takes courage to own up to a mistake, and Jack Julsing wasn't even owning up to his own mistake. He should be commended for his forthrightness.

I truly do wish him the best in the future. A future that hopefully, if he so chooses, includes playing football. Best of luck.

Hage, Stala Named to Duane Forde's Top Canadians

Duane Forde named his top ten Canadians tonight, and the list looks as follows:

10. Davis Sanchez (BC Lions)
9. Marwan Hage (Hamilton Tiger-Cats)
8. Kevin Eiben (Toronto Argonauts)
7. Ricky Foley (Toronto Argonauts)
6. Josh Bourke (Montreal Alouettes)
5. Paris Jackson (BC Lions)
4. Dave Stala (Hamilton Tiger-Cats)
3. Doug Brown (Winnipeg Blue Bombers)
2. Shea Emry (Montreal Alouettes)
1. Jon Cornish (Calgary Stampeders)

I am a little surprised by where each Tiger-Cat player ranked.

Forde ranked Ricky Foley two spots ahead of Hage, and I just can't agree with that. Foley is very talented, but didn't do much last year. Going into this season, I'd rather have Hage at Centre than Foley at Defensive End.

Stala, who was last year's runner-up for Most Outstanding Canadian, was ranked lower than I expected. Ranking Stala behind Brown, Emry and Cornish is debatable.

But I guess the fun with these lists is that they spark debate. Forde is entitled to his opinion, and his list isn't "wrong," but I just don't agree with it entirely. He probably nailed the best ten – though I think I would have put Chris Getzlaf on this list somewhere – but his placement is what I find myself not agreeing with.

8 Teams, 8 Days: Hamilton Tiger-Cats

Last Season: 9-9, 2nd in the East (Lost East Division Semi-Final 16-13 to Toronto)

How far have the Tiger-Cats come in just two seasons when a playoff appearance is simply not good enough?

In 2009, a 9-9 record was an achievement; in 2010, it was a gross underachievement.

With any measure of disappointment, change is soon to follow, and there were changes aplenty for the Ti-Cats over the winter. Gone are both Offensive and Defensive Coordinators; gone is former first-overall pick Chris Bauman; gone are former Offensive Line stalwarts George Hudson and Alex Gauthier; gone is Linebacker Otis Floyd; gone is Kicker Sandro DeAngelis; gone is Running Back DeAndra' Cobb.

The Cats have retooled in a number of areas, and the team that takes the field will be familiar – Kevin Glenn, Arland Bruce, Dave Stala, Markeith Knowlton, Jamall Johnson and Marwan Hage remain – but different.

The biggest news of the off-season came with the signing of Running Back Avon Cobourne. Cobourne brings a championship pedigree to Hamilton after having won the last two Grey Cups with Montreal.

Rey Williams has been tapped to replace Otis Floyd. Many are saying that the 30-year-old Williams is Floyd, but younger. If everything pans out, the Cats will once again field the best triumvirate of Linebackers in the CFL.

Like last season, the Secondary is still a question mark. With a new DC in Corey Chamblin, no one knows what to expect or who will play in the defensive backfield.

The Tabbies made a number of moves with the hopes of knocking the Als off their perch atop the East Division. If these moves don't pan out, it'll be another off-season of changes in Steeltown. But if the moves do pan out, the Cats could easily be playing in Vancouver in late November.

Sunday 26 June 2011

8 Teams, 8 Days: Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Last Season: 4-14, 4th in the East (Missed Playoffs)

If Winnipeg didn't have bad luck, they'd have had no luck at all in 2010.

It has been covered ad nauseum, but it bears repeating: Winnipeg lost nine games last year by four points or less. If they win even half of those games, the team finishes 9-9. The line between being a playoff team and selecting first overall in the draft is a fine one.

Quarterback is a huge concern for Winnipeg again this year. The team will rise and fall based on the health of Buck Pierce. If Pierce can stay healthy for a full season for the first time in his career, the Bombers have a shot. If not, they will likely miss the playoffs for a third season.

Elsewhere, the Bombers are dealing with the loss of last season's sack leader, Philip Hunt (who fled to the NFL), but do bring back last year's leading rusher in Fred Reid and second-leading pass catcher in Terrence Edwards. The Bombers also have an emerging player in Receiver Cory Watson. Watson could easily replace stone-hands Brock Ralph, who was released in the off-season.

The Bombers spent most of the winter acquiring and stockpiling draft picks, and it seems they have decided to rebuild around a core of young Canadian players, like their first-overall selection, Linebacker Henoc Muamba. The Bombers also grabbed two Receivers in Jade Etienne (fourth overall) and Kito Poblah (supplemental draft). The Bombers have a lot of promising, young Canadians that the team can build around.

For the Bombers to make the playoffs, a lot will have to go right. First and foremost, Buck Pierce will have to play at least 14 games. Also, many of the younger players will have to step up and fill the void created by the loss of so many veterans. But Pierce's health is paramount. Without Pierce, the Bombers don't stand much of a chance. With Pierce, it'll be easier, but still a struggle. This will probably be another playoffless year for fans in the Manitoba capital.

Saturday 25 June 2011

How Not to Act, Pt. 2

Earlier today, we had John Julsing, father of recently released Ti-Cat Jack Julsing, shoot his mouth off after his son was cut from the team.

Well, Poppa Julsing decided to shoot his mouth of again on Drew Edwards's blog by posting the following:
The bottom line is the CFL is bush league and continues to drag itself down and shows a poor respect for its fans. As a former Calgarian and having been asked out for the Stamps on numerous occasions I can COMMENT truthfully. The reason that I did not go out for the Stamps and my teammate (you may remember him as your "old player"- Miles Gorle-spelling)was the same issue money!I was making more as an engineer than I could have as a Pro- Player. In ending the top High Schools in this nation could beat some CFL teams. Certainly every Division 1 NCAA schools could. Sour grapes-No- Reality is that the practice squad is nothing more that "crash test dummies" for the starters. By the way according to my relatives and friends in Canada that watched the game he did very well- his age held him back and unlike CFL crowds he has played in front of up to 80000 fans. Well I guess he will have to go back to his job on Monday and make 2 times more than he could have gotten from the Ti-Cats. Didn't. stand a chance walking in.............Bye Bye
I said earlier that Mr. Julsing was an idiot. Now I'm unsure if there is a word in the English language to describe John Julsing's stupidity.

This guy is a world-class moron who has made himself look even stupider with this second comment.

I don't understand how the CFL "shows poor respect for its fans." Being a fan, I think the CFL is the most fan-friendly league in the world.

Then he starts talking about how high school and college teams in the US could beat some CFL teams, which might be the most idiotic thing I have ever heard. It is also insulting to the hundreds of players who play this game.

Also, isn't that kind of an insult to your son, who clearly wasn't good enough to play on a team that some US high schools could beat? Doesn't say much about your son's skill set, now does it?

Mr. Julsing, if your son will make twice as much not playing football, why did he bother to try out? And of course your friends and relatives will tell you your son did a great job; I'm sure they tell you that your spelling, grammar, punctuation and sentence structure are top notch as well. Just because someone tells you something, that doesn't mean it isn't a lie.

If Jack Julsing ever gets another shot at playing in the CFL – though, why would he want to, since the league is apparently so terrible – there are going to be an awful lot of players that will looooooove to take a shot at him.

As I said before, there is a way to react when you get released and a way not to act. This should be in the players handbook for how not to act. All John Julsing has done is make himself, and by extension his son, look like the biggest idiots on the planet.

John Julsing, you are nothing more than a condescending prick who has no clue what he is talking about. I feel sorry for your son, and I wish him the best. You, however, can take a long walk off a short pier.

I have wasted enough of my time on this insignificant buffoon. Hopefully, we can move on to real football matters from here on out.

How Not to Act

It is understandable in my eyes that tensions run high when a player is released. One wonders whether or not they are good enough or if they were given a fair shot.

But there is a right way to leave town and a wrong way to leave town.

Eric Wilbur went about it the right way. He did not vent his frustrations at not making the team. He simply said thank you to the organization and wished the team the best of luck in 2011.

Jack Julsing, or should I say, Jack Julsing's father, John, went about it the absolute wrong way.

As everyone knows, Drew Edwards is the Tiger-Cats beat reporter for the Hamilton Spectator, and he runs The Scratching Post, a blog dedicated to the Ti-Cats. He uses it to get the news that is happening to fans more quickly than traditional news outlets allow.

Drew quickly posted the story of who the Tiger-Cats cut to trim the roster down. One of the players released was Jack Julsing.

In the comment section, someone posted as 'John Julsing' and claimed to be Jack Julsing's father. The reason I am not saying it was him is that anyone can claim to be anyone else on the Internet.

But if it was in fact John Julsing, he should be absolutely ashamed of himself for what he wrote. If he were my father, I'd be embarrassed beyond belief. Here is what John Julsing had to say, unedited, in the comment section:
Drew- My son Jack Julsing was not “released” by Hamilton as we felt that it was not in his best interests to be on a practice roster financially crippling himself and potentially possibly injuring himself without medical insurances or other team benefits. After efforts to trade him to Edmonton failed we asked that the Ti-Cats let him go. This was our choice. In ending the CFL is out of touch with progressive football as I grew up around the CFL and can make this comment. They do not understand that “youth” means young not (2) 32 year old O-Tackles. No one in the NFL has that kind of age on their teams. The trend is to draft youth at O-Tackle notably this year our home town Moreno Valley California boy Tyron Smith (USC) 20 years old overall draft choice #9, our friend Ryan Clady 2 year starter at Denver (started at 23 years old), Joe Thomas starter at Cincy (23) and Blind Side Michael Oher starter at Baltimore at 24 years old. The kids coming out of High Schools are starting for the college teams at 18 years old also. There is not a singular Canadian High School kid that is stronger or more athletic that the top 500 American college recruits on the O-Line and as time passes the Canadian kids will fall further behind. The CFL was lucky that the NFL was on lock out otherwise all the CFL teams would not have had the talent in their camps this year. The downside the agents will be sharing stories among themselves of the players and how they were treated in the CFL. Sincerely John Julsing.
John Julsing looks like a bigger idiot with each passing word. Not only does he seem to be making facts up out of thin air (no NFL team has 30-plus-year-old players on their team?) and, for the record, Joe Thomas plays for Cleveland, not Cincinnati, Mr. Julsing.

In the future, if your son gets cut from a professional football team, it doesn't look good when daddy goes on the local website and trashes the team and the league. What is the old saying? Better to stay quiet and have people think you're a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt? Mr. Julsing would be wise to take that into consideration the next time he decides to open his big mouth.

The Roster Is Set

The roster is set. After releasing players on Thursday and earlier today, the Ti-Cats have shaped their roster to what it will look like when the season opens in less than a week against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

The team got its roster down to the mandatory 53 (42 active, four reserves, seven on the practice roster) by 4:00PM today and did so in a multitude of ways. Some players were released outright, some placed on the injured list, and others put on the practice roster.

Out of the guys released, the only real surprise is Defensive Tackle Demonte' Bolden. Bolden will likely be picked up, at some point, by another team.

The other cut of note is the release of Kicker-Punter Eric Wilbur. Wilbur and Justin Medlock staged an epic battle for the kicking position, which neither player seemed to want to cede to the other. It was an all-time great Training Camp competition that saw Medlock prevail as the better man. Wilbur has nothing to be ashamed of, and I hope he finds a job somewhere. He was a class act all the way, and you root for players like that. If something ever happened to Medlock, I would love nothing more than to see Wilbur back in Black & Gold.

And with that, Training Camp is done. Now it's time to focus squarely on the start of the 2011 CFL regular season.

8 Teams, 8 Days: Toronto Argonauts

Last Season: 9-9, 3rd in the East (Lost East Division Final 48-17 to Montreal)

The Argos were the surprise team of 2010, and much like in 2010, everything will be dependent on the Quarterback.

Entering last season, the Argos had no CFL experience at the most important position on the field. Cleo Lemon, Dalton Bell, Ken Dorsey and Danny Brannagan began the season with zero CFL starts to their credit. One year later, the Argos will field a bevy of Quarterbacks with experience, with former Blue Bomber Steven Jyles added to the returning triumvirate of Lemon, Bell and Brannagan (Dorsey has since retired).

Running Back Cory Boyd was a revelation last year, finishing second in the league in rushing yards. Boyd plays in a way that makes him susceptible to injuries, but he is by far the team's best offensive weapon, so the Boatmen will rely heavily on Boyd once again in 2011.

Receiver Chad Owens made a name for himself in the return game. The former star from Hawaii unanimously won the league's Most Outstanding Special Teams Player Award and will try to give the Argos a repeat performance in 2011. Jeremaine Copeland is a veteran Receiver that whoever Quarterbacks the team will be able to rely on, but outside of him and Owens, the Argos don't have much in the way of Receivers. The return of P.K. Sam could help, but he hasn't shown much in his three-year CFL career.

The Defense has always been a strong point for even the worst of Argos teams, and last year was no exception. Toronto allowed the fewest points per game of any team in 2010, at 24.6. Even with the departures of Adriano Belli (retirement) and Eric Taylor (free agency), the Argo Defense will still be one of the top units in the CFL.

The success or failure of the Argonauts will be tied entirely to their Quarterback. Whoever makes it out of camp and the preseason as the starter will have to produce better than Lemon (last season's starter) did in 2010. As the QB goes, so go the Argos. The cat is out of the bag: the Argos are pretty good. Now they will have to take the leap from pretty good to great. The only way they will be able to do that is to get top-notch production out of the Quarterback position.

Friday 24 June 2011

More Changes

I decided to make a couple changes to the site, and, as always, I have decided to let everyone know what those changes are.

First, in addition to being able to follow me on Twitter, you can now like me on Facebook. If you, like many in this world, are a habitual Facebook user, you will be able to get all your Blogskee Wee Wee updates via Facebook now.

I have also added another site to the sidebar in No Yards: A Canadian Football Blog. It is my hope that people will read the sites that I recommend because anyone writing positively about the CFL deserves to be recognized. (You can also follow No Yards on Twitter.)

Finally, just recently a podcast called 3rd and Long launched. As an avid podcast listener, I subscribed to these guys right away. There are not many CFL-related podcasts out there, but this is probably the best one I have listened to. (You can also follow 3rd and Long on Twitter.)

There could some more changes coming soon as well. Stay tuned.

8 Teams, 8 Days: Montreal Alouettes

Last Season: 12-6, 1st in the East (Won Grey Cup 21-18 over Saskatchewan)

The two-time champs look to be the favourites once again to hoist the Grey Cup.

The Als enter the 2011 season with very few question marks. Anthony Calvillo is still taking snaps, so that means they still have the best QB in the CFL. Calvillo is likely to surpass Damon Allen as pro football's all-time leading passer near the end of the season. Calvillo is 4,221 yards away from breaking the record, and barring injury, he'll likely put himself atop the list sometime around week 15.

The one glaring hole on offense is at Running Back, where All-Star Avon Cobourne took his talents to Steeltown to play for the rival Tiger-Cats. In his place, the Als will choose between Brandon Whitaker, Yvenson Bernard and DeAndra' Cobb. Whitaker has the inside track, but one of these three will have to step up as a reliable option. If the Als can't run the football, they could be in some trouble.

The other area that sees changes is on Special Teams, with Sean Whyte and Sandro DeAngelis battling to see who will be the Kicker/Punter for the Als in 2011. The difference between a win and a loss can sometimes be found on the foot of a Kicker, so getting a reliable option following the departure of Damon Duvall is of the utmost importance.

The Als still have to be considered the team to beat in the CFL. Two consecutive Grey Cups and a team with few question marks means the Als are still the odds-on favourites to hoist the Grey Cup at year's end.

Thursday 23 June 2011

8 Teams, 8 Days: Calgary Stampeders

Last Season: 13-5, 1st in the West (Lost West Division Final 20-16 to Saskatchewan)

When it comes to the West Division, I think it is safe to say that it's Calgary's to lose.

Last year I made a fool of myself saying that Calgary would finish last in the West and fail to make the playoffs. So what did they do? Nothing but finish with the best record in the CFL at 13-5.

The team that Calgary will field in 2011 is not much different than the one it fielded in 2010, with two big exceptions.

Both Brandon Browner and Dwight Anderson have moved on. Browner is with the NFL's Seattle Seahawks, and Anderson went east, signing with the Montreal Alouettes. The reason Calgary's defense was so effective last season was because Anderson and Browner could cover anybody and basically take them out of the game. Those will be big shoes to fill, and the Stampeders signed former Ti-Cat Geoff Tisdale to try and fill that void.

Other than that, the team is rock solid. They return the reigning Most Outstanding Player in Quarterback Henry Burris, who has shown no signs of slowing down. He finally got his well-deserved MOP trophy last season, and it would not be a surprise if he picks up the hardware for a second year in a row. Burris is one of the best QBs in the CFL, and another stellar season from him is all but guaranteed.

Joffrey Reynolds is back to run the football, and with Jon Cornish spelling him, Reynolds will be fresh at the end of the season. Reynolds had his lowest totals since he became a full-time starter, but Head Coach John Hufnagel made it a point to ease Reynolds's workload to keep him healthy for the playoffs. Reynolds should still produce like a top Back in 2011.

The Stamps also return some of the best Receivers in the CFL in Ken-Yon Rambo and Nik Lewis. They mouth off a lot, but they back it up.

The Defense is anchored by Linebacker Juwan Simpson, and aside from the loss of Browner and Anderson, Calgary should be very formidable on the defensive side of the football.

The story of Calgary's season will unfold based on who replaces Browner and Anderson and how those replacements perform. If the Stamps get even half the production out of their new DBs, they will easily be the team to beat in the CFL's West Division. Barring any catastrophic injuries, the Stamps are the odds-on favourite to represent the West in the Grey Cup.

Hamilton 57, Montreal 20

No, that score is not a typo. The Cats really did beat the Als by 37 in each team's final preseason matchup. Before we all go planning the parade route, remember that this was a preseason game. While I am as excited as anyone to see the Cats thump the Als, I'm not going to go overboard. But while there are a couple of areas that still need to be addressed, there was a lot to like tonight's performance.

There are many places I could start, but I'm going to kick things off by heaping a world of praise onto Quinton Porter. He played magnificently! He had a command of the Offense the likes of which I haven't seen from him in his entire time with the Cats. He played superbly and looks poised to become the player we all hoped he would be. Kudos to Quinton on a stellar performance.

The entire running game was like a breath of fresh air. All the Running Backs hit the hole hard. There was very little hesitation from any of them. It was awesome to see Cobourne in his new threads. He is going to be a difference maker for this team. I also think Terry Grant won the battle with Glenn Milner. Grant was phenomenal tonight, and I would be stunned if he wasn't named to the squad – with Milner probably going on the Practice Roster – when final cuts are made this week. Great job by all of them, but especially Grant and Cobourne.

The return game looks to be deadly again. Not only did Marcus Thigpen take one to the house on a kickoff, but newcomer Chris Williams took a punt all the way home as well. If those two line up on kickoffs together, it will truly be a pick-your-poison scenario for the opposing team.

I have to give major kudos to both Bakari Grant and Aaron Kelly. Both players, vying for a position in the stacked Hamilton receiving corps, played extremely well. Bakari Grant laid out for a catch near the end of the game that showed just how much he wants to make this team.

Eric Wilbur and Justin Medlock are not making it easy. Wilbur did miss a chip-shot 21-yard field goal tonight, but he also made a 49-yard field goal as well. Medlock went a perfect four-for-four, with a long of 34 yards. It was a fairly even performance from both men. It is going to be hard to choose one.

I liked the focus that seemed to be put on stripping the football. Two fumble recoveries not long after one another – one on Special Teams and one on Defense – is a good sign. Creating turnovers and cashing in on them is key. When you win the turnover battle, you usually win the game. The emphasis that seems to have been put on stripping the football can only help the Cats.

The interior of the Defensive Line is worrisome. The Als, on many occasions, ran up the gut almost at will. If that trend continues, the Cats could be very susceptible to power running and quite vulnerable during those tough, grind-it-out type games. Hopefully this gets straightened out sooner rather than later.

The Secondary played well, but it is still very clearly a work in progress. I liked what I saw out of rookie Chris Rwambukamba, but I also believe he sustained an injury tonight. I hope it is not too serious, as he has been one of the bright spots of an otherwise suspect Secondary.

Final Thoughts
Tonight's win will mean nothing if the Cats don't win on Canada Day. It was nice to get a very convincing win, but in a week's time, the result won't matter.

But the Offense seems to be in fine form, and this team looks like it will be able to score with anybody in the league. The addition of Avon Cobourne looks to have added that special element that was missing the last couple of years.

It was fun to be at Ivor Wynne again, and witnessing a butt-kicking extravaganza, even if it was only the preseason, was fun nonetheless. Preseason or not, it is rare to see one team score 57 points on another. While it doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things, it is still mighty impressive. It was fun to be on the winning side of a whooping like that. Hopefully the confidence that the team gained from pounding the Als will carry over into next week when the results mean something.

Tonight was a very nice way to end the preseason. Now, let's get ready for Canada Day.

Wednesday 22 June 2011

8 Teams, 8 Days: Saskatchewan Roughriders

Last Season: 10-8, 2nd in the West (Lost Grey Cup 21-18 to Montreal)

You don't normally see a lot of change coming from a team that goes to two straight Grey Cups, but Saskatchewan will enter 2011 much differently than they did 2010.

Following his second consecutive Grey Cup loss to the Montreal Alouettes, Ken Miller stepped down as Head Coach and moved exclusively into the role of General Manager. Miller hired long-time Defensive Coordinator Greg Marshall (late of Hamilton) to be the team's new Head Coach. Marshall quickly hired Richie Hall (formerly of Edmonton) to be his Defensive Coordinator.

The biggest loss for the Riders is that of Receiver Andy Fantuz. Last season, Fantuz led the CFL in receiving yards and was named the league's Most Outstanding Canadian. Replacing his production will not be easy.

One man expected to fill Fantuz's void was Rob Bagg, but Bagg suffered a setback in his return from a devastating knee injury, and it is unknown when he will be able to resume his playing career.

Despite the losses, the Riders return a bulk of the players from last year's club. Darian Durant is back behind Centre; Weston Dressler and Chris Getzlaf are still around to catch passes; Running Back Wes Cates is coming off his best season; and Barrin Simpson is still around to man the middle of the Defense.

With all that being said, the Riders look like a team that will take a couple of steps back in 2011. As talented as this team is, you don't just replace the league's leading Receiver, especially when he is a Canadian. A lot of questions surround this Roughrider team, and I don't think a third straight trip to the Grey Cup is in the cards. This is still a playoff team, but this doesn't look like a championship team.

Tuesday 21 June 2011

Preview: Alouettes at Tiger-Cats

Next to nothing was learned about either of these teams last week, as was to be expected. We won't know everything following this encounter, but the picture will become a little bit clearer.

Both teams will use this game to get their starters some playing time before their respective season openers the following week, and they will use it as one last chance to evaluate the players.

For the Als, Running Back and Kicker are the two areas the team is still looking to solidify. As of right now, it is looking pretty good for Brandon Whitaker and Sean Whyte.

For the Cats, it will be interesting to see how the Secondary will hold up with a better pass rush. The Cats barely blitzed and got no pressure on the Argo Quarterbacks in the last game, which allowed the Boatmen to pick apart the Hamilton Defense.

As with all preseason games, the outcome is immaterial. But we will all have a much better feel for how these teams will look following the game.

8 Teams, 8 Days: British Columbia Lions

Last Season: 8-10, 3rd in the West (Lost the West Division Semi-Final 41-38 to Saskatchewan)

The BC Lions are coming off another subpar season, but one that may have been the beginning of something special.

After the Casey Printers experiment was aborted late last season, Travis Lulay emerged as a potential star at Quarterback for the Leos. Lulay looks to have all the tools necessary to take the Lions to a championship, and his skills remind me of a young Dave Dickenson. Lulay could be the breakout star of the 2011 season.

Geroy Simon provides a nice target for the young signal caller. Simon enters his 13th season in the CFL on the verge of breaking Milt Stegall's all-time receiving-yardage mark. Simon has recorded at least 1,000 yards receiving in each of the past eight years, but last season was his lowest output since he failed to crack 1,000 yards in 2002.

There were not a lot of major changes for the Lions, but they did sign last season's Most Outstanding Lineman, Ben Archibald, from Calgary, as well as picking up Defensive Tackle Eric Taylor from the Toronto Argonauts.

The Lions have the ability to compete for the Grey Cup this year after back-to-back campaigns that saw the Lions squeak into the playoffs. If everyone stays healthy, and Lulay plays the way he seems capable of playing, it is entirely possible that the Lions will get the chance to be the first home team to win the Grey Cup since the Lions themselves did it back in 1994.

Monday 20 June 2011

8 Teams, 8 Days: Edmonton Eskimos

Last Season: 7-11, 4th in the West (Missed Playoffs)

There are a lot of questions regarding the Edmonton Eskimos entering the 2011 season, and it's not all about the on-field product. The Eskimos have a new General Manager in Eric Tillman (who was hired near the end of last season) and a new Head Coach in Kavis Reed (who replaces the fired Richie Hall). Making changes to the two most important areas in the front office and coaching staff makes it look like Edmonton will be in a rebuilding mode in 2011.

The team also let go of a number of veteran players, such as Defensive Tackle Dario Romero, Receivers Kelly Campbell and Kamau Peterson, Linebacker Mo Lloyd, and return specialist Tristan Jackson.

Tillman spent most of the off-season concentrating on building up Edmonton's Canadian talent base. The Eskimos picked up Receiver Chris Bauman and Defensive Tackle Jermaine Reid from Hamilton and selected two solid players in the draft in Receiver Nathan Coehoorn and Offensive Tackle Scott Mitchell, as well as grabbing Defensive Tackle Ted Laurent in the supplemental draft.

One constant is Quarterback Ricky Ray. Ray is coming off one of his worst statistical seasons of his eight-year CFL career, and injuries and age might be catching up to him. In no way is Ray done, but his days as one of the league's top pivots might be coming to an end.

With all the changes, I think Edmonton will be hard-pressed to make the playoffs in 2011. The building blocks are there, but this team is at least another year away, maybe two. I expect the Eskimos to compete in every game, but wins will be few and far between. It will likely be another rough year for fans in the City of Champions.

Saturday 18 June 2011

Toronto 31, Hamilton 12

It's hard to take a win or loss in the preseason too seriously, but there were some things that were really good about this game and some things that were not so good. Like every game that the Cats play in Toronto, I was in attendance and got to witness things first hand. I am by no means an expert, but my take might be different than someone who just listened to the game on the radio. I'm not saying that I'm right and everyone else is wrong, but here is what I liked and didn't like from this week's game.

First and foremost, the biggest positive is that football is back. I don't think anyone will disagree with me on that one.

In my game preview I wrote about some position battles that I would be looking at, one of which was Running Back. Glenn Milner and Terry Grant are in a battle to see who will back up Avon Cobourne; today, both men made the choice that much more difficult. If I had to choose one based on today's performance, I'd probably go with Grant. Both players performed very well, and Milner was just a hair beneath Grant today. I don't envy the coaching staff when they decide who to keep.

Another area I covered was the competition between Eric Wilbur and Justin Medlock. I think, barring something big in the next game on Wednesday, Medlock will get the spot. Both played well, but Wilbur barely outperformed Medlock on punts – Wilbur shanked one, but then had an absolute beaut – so while I like Wilbur immensely, I suspect that Medlock will be the guy.

While he only saw very limited action, I really liked what I saw out of Quinton Porter. He looked poised, confident and in control as he led the Cats' offense during the first quarter.

Finally, all the talk about Chris Williams being fast were correct. The guy has some serious wheels on him. The team has to find a way to keep him around in some capacity. If Marcus Thigpen gets a greater role on offense, Williams would be more than an adequate replacement in the return game.

There are lies, filthy lies and statistics. Statistically, Jason Boltus had a great game with over 280 yards passing, while throwing one touchdown and one interception. However, since I sat at the 35-yard line at the Rogers Centre SkyDome I got to see Boltus's performance first hand. He looked tentative, and his lone interception was a product of his tentativeness. He also gained a lot of his yards in garbage time when the game was well out of reach. His favorite pass seemed to be the dump off, as he rarely tried to stretch the field. Before people pile on, I don't think Boltus was terrible; he did engineer a very nice drive that began on the Cats' seven- or eight-yard line and ended with a touchdown pass to Matt Carter. However, all the chatter about how he should unseat Quinton Porter for the primary backup spot needs to stop.

The Cats' defense showed me nothing all day. They gave up a whopping 536 total yards, and it seemed like everyone forgot how to tackle. The Argos busted many plays because the Cats' defenders simply didn't wrap up. It was a putrid performance, and the defense cannot be pleased one bit.

The main area that did nothing was the Defensive Line and, to a lesser extent, the Linerbackers. There was no pressure on any of the Quarterbacks. They made Cleo Lemon and Dalton Bell look like Damon Allen and Matt Dunigan. I know that the starters didn't play, but if that is the kind of pass rush this team will have during the season, the Cats are in trouble.

Then we have the Secondary. They also did not look good. I don't even know how to put it into words, but guys were getting beat very frequently. It was not the best day for that group. They are still very much a work in progress, and I will have my eyes keenly on them on Wednesday.

Final Thoughts
It was the first preseason game, so no one should panic, even though the Cats got outplayed for most of the game. The Argos played a vast majority of their starters for long stretches of the game – Andre Durie, for instance, was still in the game late in the third quarter – and the only star players that I didn't see were Chad Owens and Cory Boyd. That's not an excuse; I'm just stating facts. The Argos deserve full credit for their effort today. They were clearly the better team.

But there were a lot of bright spots for the Cats as well. The running game looks to be in good hands. If today is any indication of what we will see when Cobourne gets on the field, the rushing attack could be deadly.

The kicking game looks to be in solid hands regardless of who wins the battle. Both Wilbur and Medlock seem more than capable of handling the duties.

That said, there are still areas of concern. Hopefully, these things will be addressed this week in the run up to Wednesday's preseason encounter with the Alouettes.

Irrespective of what happened today, it's just nice to be back talking about and watching football. With the first one in the books, it's a mere 13 days until the games matter. That, my friends, is very exciting.

Friday 17 June 2011

Preview: Tiger-Cats at Argonauts


Well, folks, we're back.

For the first time since the Cats suffered the worst defeat imaginable – a home playoff loss to the Toronto Argonauts – the Tabbies take the field. They get to play those same Argos, this time in Toronto at the Rogers Centre SkyDome in preseason action.

Many of the team's starters will be held out of this game, but there are a few areas of the team that I will have my eye on: Secondary, Special Teams, Running Back and Receiver.

I am very curious to see who plays and where in the Ti-Cats' new-look Secondary. There have been a lot of changes, so it will be interesting to see how the players perform in their first real action.

I am also curious to see how Justin Medlock and Eric Wilbur perform at Kicker. Medlock did not take part in the scrimmage in Burlington last weekend, so Wilbur handled all the kicking duties. I still believe that this is Medlock's job to lose, but Wilbur looked very good on punts and decent at field goals last Saturday, so the race is close.

I will also be looking at the remaining Running Backs to see how they perform. The Cats have a stud in Avon Cobourne, but I'd like to see what Terry Grant and Glenn Milner have to offer. Both impressed me during the Black and Gold Day scrimmage, so I'm looking forward to seeing what they can do.

Two new Receivers, Bakari Grant and Aaron Kelly, have received (no pun intended) a lot of press for how they have performed at Rookie Camp and Training Camp, but I was not overly impressed with either of them at the Black and Gold Day. With many of the starters sitting out, Grant and Kelly will have plenty of opportunities to show their stuff.

If you can't make it to Toronto for the game, you can listen to the game on AM900 CHML or TSN Radio 1050 starting at 1:00PM EST.

I know it's just the preseason, but I couldn't be more excited that football... real football... Canadian football... is finally back!

Sunday 12 June 2011

Site Changes

With a new season quickly approaching, I have decided to make some additions to the blog.

First, I have brought back the countdown clock. I figure it's a fun way to mark the time until the next game. I put it up top, so one of the first things you will see when you come to the site is how long until the next game.

Secondly, I have set up an e-mail address and I have a link to my Twitter feed. I was advised that having these things available to visitors would be a good idea since it would allow people to contact me without having to post comments on the site itself. Makes sense to me.

Thirdly, I have added two new website links to the sidebar: Oski-Oui-Oui's End Zone and Canadian Football Talk. These are two sites that I frequent for CFL news, and I figured fans out there might not know of them. Also, if there are any guys and gals out there with CFL sites that would like me to add them, just send me an e-mail or hit me up on Twitter. I'll be glad to help out any aspiring blogger who wants to get their name out there.

Finally, I brought back the "Follow" button as well. No real reason, but for those that want to follow, it's an easy way to get updates. It's all about making things easy for the reader.

Sorry that this isn't a football article, but when I change things around, I think it is helpful for you, the reader, to know. With this out of the way, we can get back to talking about football. The season is just around the corner and I can't wait!

Saturday 11 June 2011

Black and Gold in Burlington

What a great afternoon. The weather held up nicely, the play on the field was excellent and meeting the players afterward could not have been more fun.

The 2011 edition of the Black and Gold Day was a huge success. The crowd was fairly large. I don't want to speculate at size, but it was a very healthy turnout.

The scrimmage itself was decent as well. From what I saw today, the Offense looks extremely sharp. Kevin Glenn, Arland Bruce and Avon Cobourne all looked to be in mid-season form.

Justin Medlock didn't kick, which is unfortunate because I was hoping to see him boot a few. Eric Wilbur looked OK. His punting was extremely sharp, but his field-goal kicking leaves a bit to be desired. I still favour Medlock, but Wilbur's punting will probably keep him in the running until the bitter end.

After the scrimmage, the players did an autograph signing on the field. The group of guys (and gal) I went with mingled with some of the players. All the guys were great. We chatted with Avon Cobourne, Arland Bruce, Markeith Knowlton, Dave Stala and Marcus Thigpen, to name a few. I'll say exactly what I said last year: Arland Bruce is one of the nicest people I have ever met. All the guys seemed happy to meet with the fans, but every time I see Arland Bruce, he takes it to another level. A true class act.

This year's edition of the Black and Gold Day was an roaring success, and I'm now even more pumped up for the start of the season.

Friday 10 June 2011

Mustain Cut

Earlier today, the Tiger-Cats released Quarterback Mitch Mustain.

Mustain was brought to Hamilton at the start of rookie camp, but apparently did not show enough to warrant being kept around. He had apparently not been picking up the Canadian game fast enough for the coaching staff.

I didn't expect Mustain to come in and light the league on fire, but I expected him to last longer than this. I at least expected to see him get into the first preseason game in Toronto next week.

Guess that won't be the case.

Conte Cuttino and the Twitter Controversy

Earlier this week the Hamilton Tiger-Cats parted ways with rookie Running Back Conte Cuttino.

Under normal circumstances, this wouldn't be a big deal. Every year during Training Camp a number of prospects get cut for various reasons, such as underperforming.

Conte Cuttino, however, was not cut because he under-performed.

Conte Cuttino was cut for a brand new reason.

Conte Cuttino was cut because of Twitter.

This is not the first time that the Tiger-Cats have had to deal with a Twitter controversy. Last season, Maurice Mann took to Twitter to voice his displeasure at his role with the team, even going as far as telling Marcel Bellefeuille that he was a "whack ass coach."

Mann deactivated his Twitter account not long afterward, and everybody moved on.

I was not on the player's side in that instance. Not because Mann used Twitter, but because Mann had done nothing to that point in the season to warrant calling anyone "whack ass."

That said, I cannot side with the team on this one. The Tiger-Cats need to quit acting like Luddites. The weird part is that Tiger-Cats use Twitter in a variety of capacities, so the coaching staff's outrage at player usage is confusing at best and hypocritical at worst.

Twitter is a way fans can interact with the players they cheer for on game day. Rules put in place to stifle that interaction should no longer be tolerated. We live in a different world, and like it or not, Twitter (and Facebook) are a part of that world.

I understand that teams want to let as little information as possible leak out for fear of giving their opponents a tactical advantage, but this incident that led to a player being released is hardly the same. All Cuttino did was show support to injured teammates. He was being a good teammate, and for that he was released.

Teams want to control the message; in this century, that's simply not possible. A young player should not lose his opportunity because he embraces ways to interact with his fans. That's wrong, and even though he apologized and seemed sincere in his regret, he shouldn't have had to do that. Cuttino even deactivated his Twitter feed in response. Another act of contrition that he should not have had to make.

I've heard the argument that he broke a rule and needed to be punished. The problem isn't that a rule was broken; the problem is that the rule exists.

It is high time that the Tiger-Cats step out of the past and join the rest of us in the present by abolishing this unnecessary and archaic rule.

2011 Black and Gold Day

Tomorrow afternoon the Hamilton Tiger-Cats will be hosting their annual Black and Gold Day in Burlington at Corpus Christi High School. The event gets underway at 2:00PM and ends at 6:00PM.

The team will participate in a scrimmage where, like last year, Head Coach Marcel Bellefeuille will be mic'd up to offer insight into what the team is doing.

Last year's event, aside from the weather, was pretty fun. I expect nothing different this year.

It'll be interesting to see some of the new acquisitions (Avon Cobourne, Rey Williams, Justin Medlock) in action for the first time. I also look forward to seeing the rebuilt Secondary in action.

All in all, I expect a fun afternoon of events in Burlington.

Wednesday 8 June 2011

Ti-Cats Find Farr's Replacement

When Jason Farr was elected to Hamilton City Council, he decided to hang up the mic and resign from his duties as Hamilton's in-game stadium announcer.

Since then, people have wondered who would fill his shoes. Well, now we have the answer.

Enter Mike Nabuurs.

Nabuurs hosts a morning show on 820 CHAM called "Nabuurs and Friends" and has over 25 years of broadcasting experience behind him.

Nabuurs has some fairly big shoes to fill. Jason Farr, in my opinion, did a great job. I know there are those that disliked Farr's style – these people tend to be of the "old fart" variety – but I thought Farr was informative and energetic. I liked him, and I'm not afraid to admit that.

But now the job is Mike Nabuurs's and I'm sure he will bring the same energy and enthusiasm to the gig. In any event, it looks like he plans to have fun with it, and in the end, that's all that really matters.

Welcome aboard, Mike.

Matechuk Released

In what should come as no surprise to anyone, Jordan Matechuk was released today.

As everyone knows, Matechuk was recently busted coming across the border with what can be described as a buttload of steroids and steroid paraphernalia. After the news broke last night, it was a matter of when, not if, Matechuk would be released.

I'm not going to bother speculating about where the steroids were headed, because that would be irresponsible and dangerous, and because I don't know the ins and outs of steroid use. Was what Matechuk had enough for one person? I don't know. If anyone does, feel free to educate me.

In any event, Matechuk likely has bigger concerns than football. Getting busted transporting illegal substances into a country is a very serious crime. But for the time being all we know is that he is no longer a member of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

Matechuk Arrested

Jordan Matechuk was arrested last month at the US-Canada border for possession of steroids.

Very little is known right now, but Matechuk was apparently arrested with the following:
  • 543 anabolic steroid pills
  • 262 millilitres of liquid anabolic steroids
  • 1.25 grams of marijuana
  • 19 syringes
  • 51 replacement needles
I honestly don't know what to say. I am very surprised by this news.

This also brings the Ti-Cats' recent signing of Long Snapper Kevin Scott into perspective. It is entirely possible that the Cats are preparing for life without Matechuk. I can't imagine that a player getting arrested with steroids is going to go unpunished by the team and/or the league.

A very stunning turn of events. Hopefully we can find out more in the coming days.

Tuesday 7 June 2011

Ti-Cats Make Roster Moves

The Ti-Cats made some roster moves today, releasing six players.

Kicker Greg Gunderson; Linebacker Joseph Malaboyuc; Receivers Blaine Krueger, Brandon Owens and James Swinton and Running Back Conte Cuttino are all no longer vying for jobs.

Gunderson's release means that the job of Kicker will be handled by either Eric Wilbur or Justin Medlock.

The weirdest release was that of Conte Cuttino, who was apparently let go because of his use of Twitter. He apparently broke team rules by using Twitter to disclose team injuries that the team had yet to release. I have some thoughts on this, and I'll try to get them posted either tomorrow or Thursday.

The Cats also announced that Ike Brown would be going on the nine-game injured list, and Markeith Knowlton will be placed on the suspended list while he deals with an injury. He can come off that list at any time, but it is expected that he'll miss some practice time to heal his injury.

Sunday 5 June 2011

TSN Training Camp Preview Review

TSN began their 2011 CFL coverage in earnest tonight with their Training Camp Preview show.

To be honest, it was a rather underwhelming effort. Not much insight was gained on any of the eight teams. The show seemed to be used to simply pump you up for shows to come, like the Huddle for Haiti special that will air at the end of the month.

The segment on the Ti-Cats was quite short. Each analyst – Matt Dunigan, Jock Climie and Chris Schultz – talked about an aspect of the team. Climie and Dunigan focused on the running game and Avon Cobourne, while Schultz talked about the Secondary. Nothing much was gained from the segment, as each man pretty much stated what most fans have been thinking.

The show may have been a small disappointment, but it was still CFL talk, and I'll take some CFL talk over no CFL talk every day of the week.

The show was meant to act as a primer for what is to come, and I guess in that respect it accomplished its goal, because I am primed and pumped for the start of the season.

Porter Changes Tune

I was fairly hard on Quinton Porter when he said that he "need[ed] more chances to start" when talking to a Portland, Maine newspaper.

I thought that Porter was rather delusional to think that he should be starting ahead of Kevin Glenn. I also thought that after the season that Glenn had in 2010, it was very disrespectful of Porter to imply that he should be above Glenn on the depth chart. I stand by those criticisms, and I do not think I was out of line in what I said at the time.

However, it seems as if Porter is changing his tune, slightly. He recently told Mark Master of the National Post that he needs to "quit complaining" about his position and just play the game. He still wants to be a starter, but he seems to understand where he stands currently with the Ti-Cats.

The main thing I take away from this is that Porter seems to be taking the next step in his maturation process. His physical tools were always there, but I often wondered about his mental makeup. It seems as if he has grown exponentially over the off-season, and perhaps he is ready to take that next step needed to compete at the highest of levels.

He says he doesn't want to be a career backup, and I have no problem with him saying that, because it shows that he wants to excel. Porter has all the tools to dominate, and I have all the faith in the world that he will one day excel tremendously in the CFL. I just hope when he does, he does so in Black & Gold.

Bo Smith, Matt Kirk Not Ready For Camp

Both Bo Smith and Matt Kirk will begin Training Camp on injured reserve, as neither is ready to come back from injuries that ended their 2010 campaigns.

Kirk suffered a foot injury last season and has been slow to recover. He is a very important cog in the defensive front seven, especially because he's a Canadian.

Smith ruptured his Achilles tendon last year after returning to the Ti-Cats following a stint with the NFL's New York Jets. I have been very critical of Smith in the past, but was pleasantly surprised with his play last season. It seemed his time with the Jets was time well spent. Smith came back a much better player. He had turned into a reliable and solid contributor, and I was unhappy to see him go down.

It is unknown when either player will return to the field. Hopefully sooner rather than later, but unfortunately that doesn't seem likely.

Saturday 4 June 2011

TSN Training Camp Preview Show

Training Camp for all players from all teams begins on Sunday, and TSN is taking full advantage of the start of camp by offering a Training Camp Preview Show of its own.

The show will start at 5:00PM on TSN.

This is the first year for such a show – TSN usually has a season preview show in late June – but with TSN now showing preseason games on the network, a Training Camp preview makes perfect sense to kick off their CFL coverage for the upcoming season.

A myriad of topics will be covered over the one-hour broadcast. I'm most curious to see what the CFL on TSN panel thinks of some of the biggest free-agent signings of the off-season, especially the move of Avon Cobourne to the Ti-Cats from the Alouettes. I also wonder if the off-season feud that has been brewing between the Cats and Als will be covered. It was one of the more interesting developments during the downtime between seasons.

TSN continues to provide excellent CFL coverage, and adding the Training Camp Preview Show is a continuation of that excellence. I know where my eyes will be at 5:00PM on Sunday.