Monday 11 March 2013

Is Chris Williams Done as a Tiger-Cat?

It was a normal Monday night and then Drew Edwards dropped a bombshell: Chris Williams' days as a Tiger-Cat might be numbered.

Williams has deleted the tweet that was the crux of Edwards' post, but Drew was kind enough to retweet it, so we still have it:That definitely doesn't sound positive.

It is very concerning that Williams appears so angry, but I have no idea what his problem is – O'Billovich's firing? Cortez's? – but it seems to have angered him enough that he is willing to publicly state that he won't be coming back (even if he's since purged his timeline of the tweet).

If Williams does not return, that will be a huge blow to the Ti-Cats. He has been an award winner in both his seasons in the team (top rookie in 2011, top special teamer in 2012) and his presence on both offense and special teams would be almost impossible to replace.

But if he is serious about not coming back to the Ti-Cats, then the team will have to trade him. And if they do, they will have to throw Williams under the bus and state that the reason he was dealt is because he didn't want to play in Hamilton any longer. Otherwise, the team will look foolish for trading an in-his-prime player.

My hope is that cooler heads will prevail, but a divorce could be coming. This is something that Ti-Cat fans, and fans of the other seven teams, will be keeping an eye on.

Saturday 9 March 2013

Cats Make Front Office Moves

The Ticats made four hirings in their front office on Friday, naming Danny McManus the director of U.S. scouting, Drew Allemang the director of Canadian scouting, Shawn Burke as director of football administration and Eric Tillman as a consultant.

McManus, Allemang and Burke have all worked for the team previously, so the big news to come out of these hirings is bringing in Tillman.

To put it mildly, Eric Tillman is a polarizing figure. On the plus side, he has been a general manager for five different CFL teams over the course of his career and has won three Grey Cups in those stints. He is an astute football mind who has helped build winners almost everywhere he has been.

But a lot of opinions on Tillman changed two Decembers ago when he made perhaps the worst trade in pro sports history, sending future Hall of Fame quarterback Ricky Ray to the Toronto Argonauts. He has also had some troubles in his personal life. He plead guilty to sexual assault on a teenage girl in 2010 while general manager of the Saskatchewan Roughriders and was immediately dismissed as the team's GM.

But people shouldn't start worrying that Tillman will trade Henry Burris for a bag of shuttlecocks and $200 in pennies. Tillman is only a consultant and the final say on all matters still rests with Kent Austin. Austin will be the guy pulling the trigger, not Tillman.

And aside from the Ray deal, Tillman has shown he usually is right when dealing a player. The best example is when he shipped Kerry Joseph to Toronto in 2008. Many panned the move because Joseph had just led the Roughriders to their first Grey Cup win since 1989 and was named the league's Most Outstanding Player, but Tillman didn't believe Joseph was worth what he thought he was worth and sent him to Toronto. Joseph never recaptured his 2007 form and the Riders went to two Grey Cups with the team Tillman built (though he wasn't around for the second trip).

There really is no downside to bringing Tillman on as a consultant. He has a history of building teams into winners – say what you want about the Ray trade, but the Eskimos made the playoffs in both of Tillman's season as general manager – and has a good relationship with Austin, and can help the first-time GM navigate the waters in his first season at the helm of the Tiger-Cats.

Tillman brings invaluable experience and a history as a winner. He also has a chance to rehab his image with the Cats. This is a win-win from both sides, with little risk for Tillman and the team. All signs point to this being a successful marriage.

Friday 8 March 2013

Grey Cup Rotation System Fairest for All Teams

The Grey Cup is headed back to the west coast as Vancouver will host Canadian football's biggest game in 2014.

This will be the second time in four years and the third time in nine years that the game will be played at BC Place. The only other bid was from Winnipeg, who pulled out to concentrate on bidding on the 2015 game, so Vancouver was the only option.

But the CFL is seeing a stadium-building boom right now – Winnipeg opens their new facility in June, Hamilton and Ottawa should be ready by 2014, and Regina will have their new stadium in 2017 – which means the league should change how the Grey Cup is awarded. Instead of a bidding process, the league should institute a simple rotation system. Here is how I would do it (starting in 2017):

2017 - Vancouver
2018 - Hamilton
2019 - Calgary
2020 - Montreal
2021 - Regina
2022 - Ottawa
2023 - Edmonton
2024 - Toronto
2025 - Winnipeg

This is the fairest system not just for the teams, but also the fans. The game isn't held in the same region of the country two years in a row, the games in domes (2017, 2020, 2024) are spread out enough to ensure the game isn't played in the cold too often (for people who care/worry about that kind of thing), and every team gets the game every nine years.

With places like Hamilton soon able to host the game, all nine CFL cities will be viable candidates for the Grey Cup. It makes little sense to continue to have teams bid on the game when the league can just put in a schedule that sees teams get the game when it is their turn. Once all the stadia are complete, we should never see something like BC (or any city) hosting the game multiple times in less than a decade (let alone multiple times in less than half a decade). If every team can host, every team should host. The CFL has a chance to once again do right by its fans and I hope they make the necessary changes to ensure Grey Cup equality amongst their nine franchises.

Wednesday 6 March 2013

Breaking Down the 2013 Schedule

So after months of people complaining, the CFL finally released their 2013 schedule yesterday. The big takeaways from a Hamilton-centric view are no Labour Day Classic and a return to Moncton for Touchdown Atlantic.

So let's start with the big one and that's no Labour Day game. As someone who was furious when the game was altered in 2011, you'd probably expect me to be a little peeved this bit of news. But I'm actually not at all bothered by it. This season was always going to be different, so losing the game for one year is hardly anything to get angry about. And since the two teams didn't meet two years ago, and the world didn't collapse because of it, I think everything will be fine this season. I would have liked to see the game played in Toronto, but such is life.

The return of Touchdown Atlantic comes as no surprise. When it was announced that the Ti-Cats would play there in 2011, I was a little upset because I knew that they would be playing there in 2013. Lo and behold, they're playing in Moncton in 2013. But this is a great way to grow the game, so I hope it is just as successful as the previous two contests. And I cannot recommend enough that people go. Going in 2011 was great and anyone who is thinking of going should go. Trust me, you will not regret it.

There were some other interesting things of note in the schedule. The Ti-Cats will play a lot of back-to-back games. Five times, to be exact. The team has home-and-home dates with the Roughriders, Lions, Blue Bombers, Alouettes and Argonauts, and are the home team in the second half of those back-to-backs all five times. The Ti-Cats have been a decent home team during the last few years, so if they can steal a couple of wins on the road, they could be in line for a few sweeps.

The Cats will end the season with five consecutive games against their East Division rivals. The play the Argos, Argos, Als, Als and Bombers to end the season. Should the team get off to a slow start, they have a chance to make-up ground at the end of the year.

And maybe the most interesting scheduling anomaly is no games at West Division teams after their September 13th game in Calgary. The other three teams in their division all play at least two games out west during that time, with the Argos playing three West Division opponents after Hamilton has made their final trip out west.

There really isn't much to dislike about the schedule, but the schedule is only as important as the team that is one the field. We now know when and where the Ti-Cats will play; all that is left to find out is the how. And we'll have to wait another four months before we get the answer to that.

Monday 4 March 2013

Eiben Retires

Changes continue for the Ti-Cats as linebacker Kevin Eiben has announced his retirement.

The former all-star linebacker took to Twitter earlier today to officially announce that he was calling it quits after 12 seasons in the CFL, 11 with the Toronto Argonauts and one with the Ti-Cats:Eiben wasn't a dominant player anymore, but at his peak, he was hands down one of the best defensive players in the CFL. He was a two-time nominee for Most Outstanding Canadian, and quite possibly the best player to never win that award, a five-time East Division all-star and three-time league all-star. He was also a member of the Grey Cup-winning Argos in 2004.

A lot of great things can be said about Eiben, but maybe the most flattering thing that can be said about him is that he was a player that even Tiger-Cat fans liked (myself included). He was the rarest of players in that respect (you can the number of those on one hand). Eiben was easy to like, even though he mostly wore that hideous blue uniform.

I'm glad Eiben was a Tiger-Cat for one season so I could cheer for him publicly and I wish him nothing but the best in his post-football life.