Friday, February 27, 2015

February 2015 CFL Power Rankings

If there is one thing Tigercatonia's likes it is power rankings that are not in season. Free agency has opened, so we have more information.

1. Calgary Stampeders
They won the Cup last year (although on a somewhat dubious call), and had the best regular season record. They have arguably the best quarterback in the CFL, who is still young and not at all washed up. They have lost some talent on the offensive line, but I'm sure they can compensate. The Stamps at this time of year are a safe bet to be at the Grey Cup in Winnipeg this year.

2. Hamilton Tiger-Cats
The other team in the Grey Cup, the Cats made some signings at the start of free agency, signing import receiver Luke Tasker, receiver and return man Brandon Banks plus linebacker Taylor Reed. The Cats may have problems signing all their import receivers, however the Cats have shown ability to find them the past few years. The Cats look good at running back if Gable can come back healthy, the return of guard Peter Dyakowski should improve the line and help with the ratio and the Cats are strong with starting Canadian defenders (especially at defensive tackle). As long as quarterback Zach Collaros doesn't get his bell rung too often in the season, the Cats are looking good.

3. Edmonton Eskimos
The Eskimos had a great regular season, but petered off towards the end with quarterback Mike Reilly being injured. Assuming that Reilly becomes healthy over the off-season, the Eskimos should still have a good team, especially on offense. 

4. Saskatchewan Roughriders
I'm making the assumption that the Riders will have Darian Durant back as quarterback and he will be healthy. However the Riders picking up Kevin Glenn is a smart move for them. I'm a bit concerned about turnover this year, but the team still has talent and seems to benefit from being a place players want to play.

5. Montreal Alouettes
The Als were terrible in the first half of the season and then made an impressive turnaround in the second half, ultimately losing to Hamilton in the Eastern final. The emergence of Jonathon Crompton at quarterback was the main turning point for Montreal. His stats aren't particularly impressive, but combined with a strong defence and receivers like S.J Green and Duron Carter, the team was good. Carter's gone, but GM Jim Popp has always had a good pipeline of import talent.

6. Toronto Argonauts
The Argos barely missed the playoffs, mainly due to Ricky Ray being injured. Ray should be back and is consistent and good. There's concerns that the Argos ownership woes will affect the team next year.

7. BC Lions
I'm not sure what to say about BC. They have talent, but without a healthy Travis Lulay, they aren't very good. I think the era of GM Wally Buono fielding strong teams is ending.

8. Winnipeg Blue Bombers
The Bombers were great at the beginning of 2014 and ended up terrible. The Bombers off-season moves haven't impressed me that much. In a tough Western conference, they will be in tough.

 9. Ottawa REDBLACKS
I still think that Ottawa has the highest chance of finishing last, but they definitely will be better this year. However last year they had two wins, so improving by four wins would still leave them at six. Certainly the receiving corps has vastly improved, with the signings of Jackson, Price, Sinopoli and Ellingson. However they appear to still be going with Henry Burris, who was ineffective last year. Maybe a healthy DeMarco can do something.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Dan LeFevour Signs With Als and Nic Grigsby Re-Signs with the Ticats

I had really expected Ticat free agent quarterback Dan LeFevour to sign with Ottawa. They have cap room and Henry Burris isn't getting any younger. But is reporting that he has signed with Montreal.

That isn't totally surprising. With the emergence of Zach Collaros as the Cats starting quarterback, LeFevour wasn't going to get a chance in camp to compete as a starter. Certainly he would have been valuable to the Cats as a backup, especially for sneaks, which he excelled at, especially compared to Masoli and to mix things up. And of course if Collaros gets injured, LeFevour is a credible backup in the CFL. The Cats do have a horde of backup quarterbacks that Kent Austin must think are up to the job. They're obviously cheaper

For Montreal, the move makes sense since starter Jonathon Crompton by no means has been statistically brilliant. LeFevour likely has a better chance to start over Crompton sometime in 2015 than Collaros. Hopefully LeFevour doesn't burn us next year too badly. Hopefully LeFevour has recovered from his season ending knee surgery from last year.

In other Ticat news, running back Nic Grigsby re-signed with the Cats. Grigsby who came late last season after playing in Winnipeg played well in relief of injured starter C.J. Gable. Grigsby played pretty well for the Cats and has decent ability receiving out of the backfield, which is a key requirement in today's CFL. I'm a little surprised the Cats could sign both to be honest, although running back salaries aren't usually that high considering how fungible they are.

Potentially the Cats could play them together occasionally in the backfield, provided a couple of Canadian receivers are in. That opens some interesting possibilities in terms of plays and defending teams having to scheme against both. Or the Cats could have one line up in an import receiver slot spot.

A good signing for the Cats, as they now have excellent depth in the backfield and an injury to one of them won't be a big deal.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Ticats Sign Running Back C.J. Gable Through 2017

The Ticats announced on their website that import running back C.J. Gable has been signed through 2017. Certainly I like Gable, but he certainly was injury prone last year. Gable only had 30 rushes in 2014 for 138 yards and two TDs. He had 18 receptions for 224 yards in 2014. Likely Gable will be fully recovered by the time training camp rolls around.

The Cats seem to be hard up against the cap this year. I'm curious how much Gable re-signed for. Decent import running backs generally aren't that hard to find (example Nic Grigsby).

Friday, February 13, 2015

Wide Receiver Greg Ellingson Signs with Ottawa

In a widely predicted move (including by me), the REDBLACKS did end up signing former Hamilton import receiver Greg Ellingson. His last year's stats were mediocre, but he had a good 2013 with current REDBLACK quarterback Henry Burris. It will be interesting to see how Ellingson bounces back from 2014 and if there's still any synergy with Burris. 

Thoughts on the 2015 Ticats Schedule: Sucky

I knew with the Pan Am games that there were going to be some issues with the Ticats this year. But I didn't think it would be as bad as last year. And maybe worse.

The fact the first regular season home game isn't until August, namely on the Civic holiday is crazy. That's a tough start to the season in a league that historically has been quite biased towards the home team. There's actually four home games in August. That's not going to be an easy sell ticket-wise.

The rest of the season isn't so bad. The Cats do get two home games against the Argos, which is nice.

The pre-season home game is also quite early taking place on June 8th. More weirdly, that's a Monday. Not great.

A lot of this stems from the fact that the league is unbalanced with nine teams. Adding a tenth team to the East would make schedule making a lot better.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Ticats Have Resigned Defensive End Justin Hickman

Just saw the Ticats announce that import defensive end Justin Hickman has signed again with the Cats. Hickman's stats the second half of last year weren't that great after a sojourn in the NFL, however combined with Eric Norwood as the other end and a good interior, the Cats have a excellent defensive line.

Getting pressure on the quarterback in the CFL is critical. The Cats look to have that handled next year.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Hamilton Tiger-Cats Sign Argo Receiver Spence Watt At The Start Of Free Agency, Probably Bye Bye to Giguere

Well it looks extremely unlikely that the Cats will resign non-import receiver Samuel Giguere with the free agent signing of Spencer Watt.

Watt had 35 catches for 356 yards in 2014 for the Argos, his fifth year with the team and in the CFL. He also had three TDs.

Will the Ticats play two Canadian starting receivers with five and six receiver sets with Watt? I think so, pairing him with fellow Canuck Andy Fantuz. That leaves space for three or four import receivers in those situations with one also being recently resigned Luke Tasker and also Brandon Banks. In four receiver sets with a fullback, Watt likely comes out for Prime.

One danger is what do the Cats do when Fantuz is injured. The Cats offense was actually decent with Giguere in for Fantuz. After Fantuz and Watt, the Cats are pretty thin at Canadian receiver (although most team's third non-import receiver is quite mediocre).

With the Cats likely playing with three Canadian offensive linemen with Dyakowski returning, that would mean the Cats would be playing five Canadian starters on offense. Considering the Ticats Canadian defensive line strength, the Ticats are well set for Canadian talent next year.

2015 CFL Season Comes Out February 20th

Announced today on the site. Last year the schedule came out on Feburary 12th, so the schedule is out later this year. In 2013 it was March 5th so being this late isn't unprecedented.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Should the Ottawa REDBLACKS Sign Greg Ellingson?

It seems more and more likely that the Ticats are not going to resign free agent import slotback / receiver Greg Ellingson after two years with the Cats. With the resigning of Luke Tasker and the presence of non-import receiver Andy Fantuz, the Cats don't have a lot of money for receivers. The Cats also resigned Brandon Banks who had over 500 yards receiving last year. The Cats could potentially also resign import receiver Bakari Grant, which would really leave Ellingson as the odd man out.

Ellingson was injured a lot of 2014 and seemed to be a healthy scratch at the end of the season. Ellingson had 32 catches for 429 yards compared to a much more successful 2013 where he had 52 receptions for 800 yards. In 2013 his quarterback was Ottawa's Henry Burris. Ottawa likely has way more cap space than the Cats going into the free agency market and needs reasonable players to spend it on. Given that Ellingson has had success in the CFL, it would be worth if for the REDBLACKS to spend a little cash on.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Hamilton or Toronto for the 2016 Grey Cup?

I've already blogged about the Ticats having a good chance of landing the 2016 Grey Cup at Tim Horton's Field. However there's some news and not particularly good. Apparently former CFL commissioner and now Toronto Mayor John Tory made a claim about the 2016 cup coming to Toronto in 2016:

Tory, a former CFL commissioner, may have prematurely awarded the league’s championship game to Toronto next year.
Talking with 590 The Fan’s Jeff Blair, Tory said 2016 is going to be a big sporting year for the city, including hosting the Grey Cup.
“Think about what a great year for sports it’s going to be in 2016,” Tory said. “I was reminded of the fact the Grey Cup is here. We’ve got the NBA all-star game, we’ve got the World Cup of Hockey, and that’s on the heels of the Pan Am Games this year.”
But Tory was forced to back off his declaration a few hours later. Tory’s spokesman Amanda Galbraith said the mayor misspoke.
Considering that Toronto just had the Cup in 2012 that seems to me like going to the well to often, especially considering the lack of interest in the league in the Toronto area. Hamilton hasn't hosted since 1996 and 1972 before that and we have a new, hopefully finished soon stadium. 
I'm wondering if the reason for the Toronto rumours is that the league would like to make the Argos more saleable with the profits from a 2016 Cup baked into the cake. Without that need I would feel more confident about Hamilton's chances. Still I think that four years is too short for Toronto.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Hamilton Tiger-Cats Resign Returner Brandon Banks

Just saw on Twitter that the Cats have resigned kick and punt returner (and almost hero of the 2014 Grey Cup) Brandon Banks. Obviously Banks is the best at his position in the CFL, however he wasn't bad as a fifth or sixth receiver last year either. Overall he had a massive 1968 total yards last year, but also had 42 catches for 529 yards in 2014 along with 5 touchdowns.

His receiving skills magnifies his returner value as he is doing it all with just one roster spot. Banks is fast enough and with OK hands that opposing defences have to respect him when he's on with the offense. It will be interesting to see if he can top his receiving total in 2015

I do wonder how much the Cats had to pay to keep him and how much is left for other free agents. The Cats are probably hard against the cap.