This week I would like to drag out the crystal ball and pick the CFL East in order of finish from first to last, despite the handicap of limited information gained from exhibition experiments. Then you have to throw in an 800 lb gorilla named injuries and the crystal ball gets pretty cloudy. Good thing that I’m not smart enough to walk away from early season predictions.
I have to pick the Montreal Alouettes to take top spot in the East because they have a solid track record beating up 98 lb. weakling East Division opponents who have trouble with the elderly Als on a football field. Montreal is blessed by geography as much as anything as an eastern team in a division where the Als find more challenges in intra-squad scrimmages than against their eastern opponents.
The giant x factor is the senior citizen duo of Anthony Calvillo and Ben Cahoon who both played with Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble during their football careers. Calvillo is the quarterback in Montreal and a long list of nameless wonders have sat on a bench behind him over the years. Alouette fans do not want to know the back up quarterbacks’ names because that will mean an injured Calvillo and an instant swan dive into the basement.
I had a great deal of trouble with number two in the East, but I settled on Hamilton. The ‘Cats have a nucleus of good players including quarterback Quinton Porter who has a clear shot as the No. 1 guy. I might even be delusional enough to believe that the Ticats could challenge for first this year.
They have added a few solid veterans on the O-line who will keep Porter in one piece long enough to reach his 30th birthday and develop as a legitimate star. The expensive circus act of Printers and Lumsden has left town and the football smarts of defensive guru Greg Marshall have arrived in Steeltown. The ‘Cats will surprise a few this year if the gods of consistency smile upon them.
Third place in the East was an even bigger question mark because of all of the variables in both cities. I decided that Winnipeg might slide into the coveted number three spot in the CFL East despite the oddball behavior of their new head coach Mike Kelly. I suspect that Kelly is a silent partner in a moving company or travel agency because more than half of the 2008 squad no longer have a job with the team. The Bombers clearly sucked last year but that is an enormous amount of change in Winnipeg.
The biggest addition in ‘Peg is quarterback Stefan LeFors, a lefty who finally gets an opportunity to start after a 3rd string gig in Edmonton. LeFors has an amazing corps of receivers from last year to build his confidence, but I worry about the protection he will get from his O-line. It’s a good thing he’s young and a fast healer because the prospect of Steve Morley as his left tackle should give him sleepless nights.
The Argos in the basement is a distinct possibility if new head coach Bart Andrus and his predominately NFL coaching staff fail to adapt to the CFL. Andrus brings a high level of preparation to the Argonauts, but will he win games? Only time and overrated Kerry Joseph will tell.
Next week: the West
Jim Sutherland’s column runs every Friday in the Advocate throught the CFL season.