Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Ivor Wynne, Bulldogs Outdoor Game

Here's a photo I took of Ivor Wynne during the recent outdoor AHL game between the Bulldogs and Marlies. You can't see the rink, but you can see some of the fans sitting on the North side.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Dylan Barker Retires

Sad news that Ticat safety Dylan Barker is retiring due to back injuries. Barker didn't play at all last year, so in a sense the Cats don't have a huge hole this year. He was a non-import starter on defence, who the Cats replaced in 2011 with an import, which did cause ratio problems last year (i.e. Stevie Baggs not playing in the Montreal playoff game).

Perhaps the Cats now look to draft a safety in June, although I'm not sure what's available and how high a pick the Cats would use. Barker was the first overall pick in the 2008 draft, so this is certainly not great for the Cats.

Friday, January 13, 2012

CFL 2012 Grey Cup Odds

Never to early to prognosticate on the possessor of Lord Grey's drinking vessel in November. The head coaches are set, assumed starting quarterbacks in place and a splash of arbitrariness and we have the odds.

1. BC Lions 20%
Sure they'll lose a few players for a while to the NFL and Wally Buono isn't the head coach any more, but Travis Lulay is the only reputable quarterback who isn't a relic.

2. Montreal Alouettes 17%
Anthony Calvillo is another year older, but in his last playoff game he certainly didn't look done. The Alouettes still have a lot of talented players on both offence and defence. Sooner or later Calvillo will hang up the cleats, but looks like he's back for one more year.

3. Winnipeg Blue Bombers 15%
Awesome defence and a gutsy quarterback in Buck Pierce. He could explode into a million little pieces at any time, so the Bombers can't really be ranked higher.

4. Hamilton Tiger-Cats 14%
An aging Henry Burris, plus Quinton Porter is actually fairly decent in terms of two quarterbacks in the CFL. Offence should still be good and maybe better scheme wise with offensive guru George Cortez running the ship. Questions remain about the defence, especially the secondary.

5. Edmonton Eskimos 11%
Can't really get that excited about a team going with Steven Jyles as their starting quarterback. If they can assemble an awesome team around him, sure they could do well, but I don't have that much confidence in the Eskimo's GM.

6. Calgary Stampeders 11%
Pretty much the same as for Edmonton, I'm not that excited about Drew Tate as a starting quarterback in 2012. I'm not going to say he's going to suck, but he hasn't really shown that much and 2012 may be a year for grooming him for better things.

7. Toronto Argonauts 7%
Having Ricky Ray as the quarterback will help. Not having any good receivers to throw to won't.

8. Saskatchewan Rough Riders 5%
This team was bad last year and while they will likely have a better record than last year's 5 and 13, I don't see them getting a sniff of the cup. Another rebuilding year.

Monday, January 9, 2012

January Power Rankings (Extremely Arbitrary)

Who says you can't have CFL power rankings in January? There's been coaching changes and quarterback flips galore, so there's enough info to base a half-assed ranking system.

1. BC Lions
I was tempted to have the Grey Cup champs lower, with some players leaving for the NFL, but they still have quarterback Travis Lulay and some decent young Canadian offensive talent (i.e. Andrew Harris). Wally Buono is now concentrating on the GM's role, but I don't think that hurts.

2. Montreal Alouettes
Still have Anthony Calvillo who is still consistent compared to the usual flock of mediocre to shitty quarterbacks most CFL teams have to deal with (why hello Cleo Lemon). Probably will lose some players to free agency, but most of them don't seem to do a lot after leaving Montreal. GM Jim Popp always seems to find some diamonds in the rough when training camp rolls around. Montreal could be in tougher this year in the East, but there's no guarantee any of the other teams will necessarily kick ass. So pretty safe to say Montreal will be decent, until Calvillo finally explodes.

3. Hamilton Tiger-Cats
Sure this is a bit of a homer pick, but after the first two, things become interchangeable. Burris to me is mostly meh, but having George Cortez as the new coach should get the most out of him and maybe something out of Quinton Porter too. Secondary is still weak and the defensive line could get worse if Justin Hickman leaves for the NFL or another CFL team. Maybe they shouldn't be this high. Linebackers are still good, although I've been wondering if they're a bit overrated. Still assuming that kicker Justin Hickman is back too. If he's not, ouch. I still remember Sandro DeAngelis.

4. Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Didn't really want them this high, mainly because of the strong statistical possibility of quarterback Buck Pierce getting injured in any game, but he made it to the Grey Cup this year, so what do I know? Well maybe that we'll be reading an article in the Globe and Mail in 15 years about how Pierce has the intellectual capacity of a lobotomy patient, but that doesn't affect this month's power rankings. The Bombers still have a good defence and continuity with the head coach and defensive co-ordinator and that will win you at least a few games.

5. Calgary Stampeders
Not a massive fan of new starting quarterback Drew Tate. I don't think he's bad, but I'm not convinced he's the second coming of Doug Flutie either. If he struggles, the Stamps are in trouble. Hufnagle is a good coach, so that counts for something.

6. Edmonton Eskimos
Pretty much the same deal as Calgary. I don't think Steven Jyles is bad, but I would hardly guarantee an MVP season out of him next year. How Jerome Messam comes back from a late season knee injury will be important too. Edmonton last year without Messam would have been pretty smelly. Fred Stamps is still great.

7. Toronto Argonauts
The Double Blue are clearly better after getting Ricky Ray, however the Argos had crappy receivers last year and I'm not convinced that the Argos will have better receivers next year (unless they sign Andy Fantuz somehow). Ray struggled last year when Fred Stamps was injured so don't expect miracles out of him. The Argos still have a decent defence and pretty good special teams. Could get into the playoffs, although that's not saying much in the CFL. Not sure if Cory Boyd is used up either.

8. Saskatchewan Roughriders
There probably will be some regression to the mean this year for the Riders, but why the Riders would be good this year with Durant as quarterback while they were crap last year hasn't really been answered. If Andy Fantuz comes back and fellow non-import receiver Rob Bagg can come back from injury, the Riders can start three non-import receivers including Chris Getzlaf and gain the benefits from starting more imports elsewhere. If Fantuz signs elsewhere look for mass suicides in Saskatchewan.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

George Cortez New Hamilton Coach

Well it's official, Buffalo Bills quarterbacks coach George Cortez is the new Ticats head coach. I suppose the fact Cortez has experience with Henry Burris in Calgary is good, although I'm skeptical for now. I remember the Charlie Taaffe hiring.

No! Not Thigpen!

The Spec is reporting that Tigercat uberman Marcus Thigpen has signed with the Miami Dolphins. Even if he doesn't make the team, it will be a long time before Thigpen would be back with the Cats.

Thigpen is of course famous for scoring a TD in five different ways: reception, running play, kickoff return, punt return and missed field goal return. Thigpen had 382 yards receiving on 28 for a reasonable 13.6 yard average. Conversely Thigpen had 82 receiving yards in 2011 on 23 rushes for a mediocre 3.6 rushing average. Sadly I can't find Thigpen's kickoff and punt return stats which are a lot more pertinent.

Certainly Thigpen can be replaced, but he had a lot of uses, had awesome speed and was really useful in injury situations as he could swap in for running back or receiver. Hopefully the Cats have somebody to emerge in training camp, but Thigpen was a big part of the excellent performance of the Ticats special teams in 2011.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Where's the 2012 CFL Schedule Watch

So we begin the watch for the release of the 2012 CFL schedule. Last year the CFL schedule took longer than usual, not being released until February. The Major League Baseball schedule has been released since September, so the league should know what is going on with Roger's Centre.
Looking back on some previous posts, last year's schedule came out on February 18th, but it has come out earlier in previous years.

Of prime concern to the Cats this year is whether the Argos will be back on Labour Day. Also will Moncton hold a game in 2012? If so, I doubt the Cats would play and I doubt there will be a game at all.

Pick a Coach

George Cortez or Tim Burke. Make a decision. If Cortez wants to stay in Buffalo let him. He gives me bad memories of Charlie Taaffe.

Best Road Drawing Teams 2011

Here's the statistics for the 2011 season for the best road drawing teams in the CFL. The number is the average fans drawn over the home team's average attendance. Big change from last year.

Edmonton was really helped by the big crowd BC had for the reopening of BC Place. That drove up the average attendance for the Lions and thus decreased the numbers for other teams at BC Place.

Montreal also did surprising well, mainly because of two big crowds in Hamilton and a big crowd in Edmonton and good crowds for two Winnipeg games.

Hamilton suffered from small crowds in Edmonton, BC and Calgary.

Winnipeg suffered from relatively weak crowds in BC, Edmonton and Calgary.

Obviously doing these statistics for the CFL should come with some big caveats. The Riders pretty much sell out every game, although Montreal didn't have sellouts this year. Hamilton played a home game in Moncton with small attendance. The biggest factor was the Lions moving mid-season back to BC Place.

I included the numbers from last year in parenthesis. Obviously a massive turnover from last year, with Edmonton going from worst to first. Hamilton went from second to last. I suppose I could average these results over two years, maybe another time. Here's last year's post, if anyone is interested.

Eskimos 2599.2 (-1558.7)
Montreal 1748.3 (-469.54)
Stampeders -165.73 (-313.75)
Riders -278.88 (3506.5)
Lions -297 (-1385.9)
Toronto -1080 (-47.296)
Winnipeg -1149.5 (-1073.9)
Hamilton -1377.5 (112.21)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Ticats 2012 Draft, Austin Pasztor? Frederic Plesisus

Do the Cats still have their first round pick in this year's draft, or did they trade it away for some magic beans? I'm not sure. I'm assuming they still do, and that with their 8 and 10 record they have the third pick overall.

Here's a list of ranked draft players on cfl.ca. For the Cats, that would project to Virginia offensive lineman Austin Pasztor, 6'7" and 305 lbs. Apparently he's a guard and a senior so he could be available to play next year. I'm not sure if he'll draw any NFL interest (his high ranking could be influenced by the fact that he won't draw NFL interest), but perhaps by the end of next season he could take over guard Simeon Rottier's starting spot on the line. Here's an article about Pasztor with some good background info.

Ranked fourth is Frederic Plesisus, a linebacker out of Laval. Listed at 6'1" and 245 lbs., the Cats could always use good Canadian linebacking talent. Who knows whether Ray Mariuz will retire again? Probably wouldn't do much next year except special teams, but they're important too.

Or the Cats could trade it before the draft for some magic beans (some loser secondary player that gets cut before Labour Day).

No Mac players on the list, which seems a bit weird.

Glenn Burris Trade Thoughts

Still not entirely why the Cats made the trade if they wanted Henry Burris? Why not wait until the Stamps release him and then pick him up?

Beyond that, perhaps Burris is just a one season thing, with the Cats hoping to transition to Porter and Boltus through the year.

The Cats don't have a bad set of offensive weapons going into next year besides the quarterback. Receivers Bakari Grant and Chris Williams had excellent rookie campaigns and should hopefully have good sophomore seasons. Dave Stala's performance tailed off a bit as the season went on, but he's still a good for a TD or first down when needed. I think Matt Carter should emerge next year into a serious non-import receiver with at least 500 yards receiving. The rest of the receivers I'm not that keen on, but the Cats should be able to find a decent rookie in training camp. Running back Avon Cobourne is still a talented veteran back.

Burris' running ability could open up the offence in ways that Glenn never could, including the easy run for a first down. Then again, Porter has running ability and that didn't do that much for him. We will see what happens.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Well We've Got Burris

Well the Cats traded Kevin Glenn for Henry Burris. I'm not happy about it, but what is done is done. Quinton Porter is still on the roster so must be considered the heir apparent.

Glenn leaves Hamilton, with pretty much a 500 record. Better than Jason Maas I guess.