Now that the 2012 CFL season has come to an end and I have recovered from Grey Cup (minus the annual cold I get when I come back), I thought I’d just ramble on a bit about Grey Cup and some of the news that’s happened since the final whistle blew on the season. I hope it promotes some discussion!
Congratulations to the Toronto Argonauts on their championship season, and also to the city of Toronto who put on a great party for CFL fans from across the country. Certainly it would have been nice to see more locals involved in the fun, but the fans that do support the Argos are just as passionate as any in the country and I’m pleased to call many of them friends. Here’s hoping the fun and the passion that invaded their city converted a few more into fans of the league and of the Argos.
I thought the game itself lacked drama but full credit to the Argos who were certainly ready to play, while the Stampeders looked as though they left their game in BC Place following the Western Final. Chad Kackert was an easy choice as the MOP and Ricky Ray showed his poise and experience as well. As a neutral fan it was nice to watch a stress free game, but as a Lions fan I was certainly left wondering what might have been.
Everyone knows about the great party rooms at Grey Cup, but some of the lesser known events often tend to be the best. This year, I was pleased to attend the CFL Fans Fight Cancer fundraiser at Joe Badali’s. The event was organized by the eastern chapter of the national fan group and led by Jen Mulder who did a fantastic job organizing a silent auction, raffle prizes, a 50/50 and a live auction. Prizes were donated from businesses and fans from across the country. At last count over $8000.00 was raised for the Wellspring Centre in Toronto, a facility that provides various levels of help and support for people living with cancer and their families. Congrats to all the organizers of this event on its huge success.
The 4th annual Official CFL Grey Cup Tweetup was held at Shoeless Joe’s Sports Bar. The event has become a staple since the original tweetup in Calgary in 2009. Fans that use twitter gathered together to get social and put faces to the Twitter handles. There were lots of prizes and great food, as well as a visit from a few players, the commissioner and the Grey Cup itself.
New this year was the “Grey Cup Fan March” where fans gathered at Toronto’s Varsity Stadium and carried the Grey Cup through the streets of downtown Toronto and onto the Rogers Centre. I was fortunate enough to be asked if I wanted to carry the Grey Cup for a segment near the beginning of the march, and I gladly accepted the chance to do so. It was a great experience, and the march itself was a success. Fans chanted “CFL” and sang the national anthem with CFL commissioner Mark Cohon marching right along with them. Imagine that, Gary Bettman.
Lions News and Notes
Speculation has begun about how the Lions roster will be altered this off-season. So far it has been reported that Solomon Elimimian has reportedly asked for his release to pursue another opportunity in the NFL.
Jovan Olafioye will also entertain offers from south of the border but has indicated he won’t be auditioning for teams like he did last season. Olayfioye told the Vancouver Sun that if a decent offer with a solid signing bonus doesn’t come his way, he’ll have no problem staying in Canada.
Wally Buono will wait for personnel reports and recommendations from head coach Mike Benevides and will have his work cut out for him when he returns from his annual Hawaiian holiday. He’ll attempt to get Shawn Gore’s name on a new contract, and will have tough decisions to make regarding the secondary, the receivers and the offensive line, which is likely to look quite different next year, especially if Angus Reid retires and Olafioye heads south.
For the first time, people are questioning the role of Geroy Simon who had a subpar year that was plagued by nagging hamstring injuries. Simon is not making any noise about retiring, so one of the biggest decisions the club has had to make in years is looming. Personally I’d like to see him back, possibly in a reduced role and likely a reduced contract as well. Whether that is something he would entertain is another issue. Regardless, Simon is one of the greatest to ever play the game and he certainly deserves some say in what his future holds. I doubt Arland Bruce will be back, and the Lions have shown they have some good talent waiting in the wings in Nick Moore, Ernest Jackson and Courtney Taylor.
Then there is the kicking game, where Paul McCallum showed signs of his age in 2012. His punting, which was his strong suit suffered this past year and his kickoffs and field goal range are starting to deteriorate as well. With Hugh O’Neill looking good the last two seasons in training camp and at practice, the Lions may feel it is time to pass the torch before they lose another kicker they have taken the time to groom. Last time the club chose McCallum over Sean Whyte, now with Montreal, but it could be a different story next season.
Odds and Ends
Anyone find it odd that the furor over Adriano Belli’s move that got him tossed from the Grey Cup game got very little mention from the media compared to Khalif Mitchell? Belli has played on the edge his whole career, but it looks like his penchant for kissing people and his forays into the media world got him a pass. The CFL fined Belli, who is expected to retire but we certainly didn’t hear the comments about “disgrace to the game” from the people that persecuted Mitchell. Speaking of Mitchell it remains to be seen if the Lions will be willing to take a chance with him for another season.
Locker Room Sale
The Lions held their annual locker room sale on December 1st and while there were some good deals to be had it was disheartening to see the prices on game worn jerseys and helmets. These items ranged in price from $250 to $750 depending on the player. Reports from similar events in other CFL cities had these items much cheaper. It’s always sad when the diehard fan ends up getting shut out because the prices are set so high. In 2004 I bought Antonio Warren’s Grey Cup game worn jersey for $150.00. That’s just a pipe dream today.
Thanks to Monique Gendron who provided us with some great videos this year, and I hope she’ll be back to help us out again next season.
Thanks to Lowell Ullrich who approached this blogger two years ago with an idea to add a fan perspective to the Province.com. I’ve had a blast doing post game reports and I look forward to doing it again if they’ll have me.
It was also a pleasure as always to work with Kristina Sinclair and our friends at the Rosedale on Robson and we hope to continue that relationship in 2013.
Most of all, thanks to all of you who followed along with me during the 2012 season. Whether you read the blog, my post game stuff on The Province.com of just follow me on Twitter or Facebook, I appreciate you doing so and always enjoy the feedback.
I’ll make every effort to keep your informed and promote Lions discussion this off-season and hope you continue to check our social media platforms out. I’ll be thinking of ways we can be better and hope to add some quality features and a few more people to our team next season.
Until then, enjoy the off-season and as always, roar you Lions roar!
Lions fans were given some more good news yesterday when it was announced that Geroy Simon had signed a contract extension with the team through the 2013 season. As Lowell Ullrich pointed out, the event has pretty much become a yearly one in which Superman calls his own shots and who are we to are argue? Simon is of course on the verge of becoming the league’s all-time leader in receiving yards and with another two full seasons to come, all things willing, it will be a long time before anyone challenges the new mark he’s likely to set early in next year’s campaign.
Simon has indicated he has some coaching aspirations as well, but that he won’t pursue those goals until after his playing days are done so that he can continue to play at a high level. Simon will tell anyone who asks that he feels as good now as he has at any time during his career. That’s great news for BC Lions and CFL fans, but certainly bad news for the defenders that try and cover the man of steel.
Now if they can just get that guy throwing him the ball signed to a new deal…
The Lions have officially replaced defensive line coach Randy Melvin, who left for a job with the Tampa Bay Bucaneers. They will soon announce the hiring of Carl Hairston, who will begin work with the club next week with an impressive resume that includes a Super Bowl ring as a coach in St. Louis and 15 NFL seasons as a player.
The BC Lions could be a very hard team to pass the ball against in 2012. After a productive 48 hours that saw the defending Grey Cup champions sign Lin-J Shell and re-sign their own free agents, Ryan Phillips and Dante Marsh, the team has confirmed the signing of three time division and league all-star Byron Parker, formerly with the Toronto Argonauts.
The signing leaves BC with a secondary to be envied by the rest of the league and one that just oozes with experience. It will be interesting to see how the Lions utilize all this DB talent when things get going and it certainly means that a few DB’s on the roster today likely won’t be on opening day. If the Lions can have James Yurichuk step in at middle linebacker the Lions could go with an all-import secondary.
Regardless, it’s a luxury that every coach in the league would drool over. After retaining pretty much their entire Grey Cup winning offensive roster, they are now loading up on defence. The loss of Solomon Elimimian and possibly Aaron Hunt will be felt, but the Lions already have some nice pieces to try and plug in with the likes of Rajon Henley, Yurichuk, Joash Gesse, Adam Bighill and Adam Leonard.
“Stu is a capable running back who can provide us with some depth behind Andrew Harris as well as on special teams. We’ve been aware of his ability for some time and this is a very good addition.” said GM Wally Buono.
Foord leaves Regina after coming up through the junior ranks, playing for the Regina Thunder and spending the last four seasons with the Riders where he saw very limited touches and spent most of his time on special teams.
Word on the Aaron Hunt front is that there is interest out east for the popular Lion defensive lineman, but Lowell Ullrich of The Province also indicated on Thursday that the door may not quite be closed yet on a return to BC.
There has been a lot of CFL news of late with the release of the 2011 schedule and the opening of the free agency period.
The BC Lions added key pieces to both their offensive and defensive lines in signing import left tackle Ben Archibald (Calgary) and defensive tackle Eric Taylor (Toronto).
The signings addressed two areas where the the Lions had hoped to improve. Not since Rob Murphy left for Toronto two season ago have the Lions had two solid tackles on the offensive line. With the emergence of rookie Jovan Olafioye, who will move to right tackle and now the addition of last years most outstanding offensive lineman, the hope is that QB Travis Lulay will be well protected from the get go this season. The two import bookends leaves the Lions with some decisions to make on the offensive line and my signal trouble for Justin Sorensen who has struggled to impress when filling in for injured players the last two seasons.
Eric Taylor will be slotted in on the defensive line to team with Aaron Hunt on the inside and bring experience. The 29 year old Taylor signed a 3 year deal with the Leos.
Egg on my face
A rumour making the rounds Wednesday originating from a tweet by Sportsnet’s Perry Lefko (one that he’s since deleted) suggested that Lions DB Stanley Franks would not be playing in 2011 due to a family issue and would be released by the Lions proved to be false. I found the tweet by Lefko odd since earlier that day The Province’s Lowell Ullrich had written the 24 year old Franks had signed an extension with the team.
Priding myself as a blogger that likes to get things right, I sent Lowell and other media people I trust a message on Twitter, asking if he had heard the rumour and he replied saying he would would post something later. He did and labelled the report as false.
When I originally read the post, I took issue with this paragraph:
“As for whether Franks is coming back at all, which made the rounds in cyberspace Wednesday, two words: Paper shuffle. Players receiving contract extensions, by definition, need to be released before their new deal is registered. Teams must wait until the legal stuff is done for making announcements. Bloggers aren’t under quite the same conditions.”
What? I didn’t post anything about the rumour! I tried to do the right thing and check my facts! Another shot at the blogger! How dare he!
I sent Lowell another message asking “Why the shot at bloggers?” Again he replied…”You shouldn’t be so defensive. I am a blogger too. I am referring to myself.”.
I crawled back into my blogger hole, rather red faced, after an apology to Lowell of course.
Great start to Grey Cup ticket sales
Reports also surfaced this week that the Lions have sold 22,000 plus Grey Cup season ticket holders so far, with tickets yet to go on sale to the general public. With the renovated BC Place in the picture, you can be sure the game will be a quick sell-out so get your tickets fast when you get the chance. It’s going to be a helluva show! Tickets to the general public are expected to go on sale in late spring.
Camping in Kamloops
The Lions will once again be holding training camp in Kamloops. Camp will open June 5th at Thompson University. BCLionsDen.ca will once again be up at camp for a few days and will attempt to bring you as much of the action as we can.
Lowell Ullrich of The Province newspaper sports department joins us for a little BC Lions chat during this Western division bye week, a break that couldn’t come too soon for the struggling Lions and their fans. In this blogger’s opinion Lowell is the best in the business when it comes to reporting on all matter BC Lions, so we thought it would be a nice way to fill the bye by getting his thoughts on the Lions season to date and what’s to come in the future.
Q: Lowell the season has been a disaster to date and not many people have an up close and personal look at the club like you do. Is there anything that you see that gives you hope the Lions can turn things around after the break?
A: Thanks for the kind words. Things will get turned around; the question becomes how long will it take and whether all the problems are fixed at the same time. It’s probably not the response many people want but my thought is that we’ll see bits of improvement which, if it all happens on the same night, result in a win or two. Before everyone tosses out Casey Printers like we seem to have done with Travis Lulay, I’d like to see him play more than six quarters while healthy to see where this offence is headed.
Q: Here in the “blogosphere” as you often refer to it, there is a lot of heat being directed at the coaching staff and in particular Jacques Chapdelaine. The Lions offense has struggled for the better part of three years now, so what is to blame in your opinion? Coaching? Personnel? Schemes? All of the above?
A: You certainly have to think there’s enough for everyone to go around. Defensively, I think Mike Benevides had a real hard look at the shortcomings everyone saw on run defence and made changes. It has not obviously been as apparent on offence. It is our nature these days to get out the bazookas, or laptop in some cases, assess blame and move to the next topic. What has happened is not easily defined, other than to state the three-year period you cite coincides with the release of Dave Dickenson.
Q: In your opinion, how big of a blow was it to this organization to lose Bob O’Billovich and has Roy Shivers done enough as a replacement?
A: Bob’s loss was enormous, and not only for the obvious reasons. Also lost by the Lions was once of his associates. Richard Wade, who also went to scout for Hamilton. He does a lot of digging. Roy has his sources but you would like for the Lions to have a succession plan for scouting in play. Neil McEvoy and Barron Miles could be put to better use but in a limited-budget world of a CFL team, they are needed in other ways during the season. Personally, and this is only a guess, Barron will go elsewhere if not given a bigger role.
Q: Losing often can lead to division. You’re around practice every day and you talk to the players and the coaches. Is this team all pulling in one direction or are you starting to see frustration and division?
A: Best answer to give right now would be to look at Edmonton and compare. It comes out here and there to be sure. Most players are aware their comments can make the rounds in public forums, including this one, so are careful with what they say. Most frustration shows when you would figure it to be seen, which is after games.
Q: Lions fans can be described as fickle. Is the team in danger of losing fans with this record, or will the draw of Empire combined with the new and improved BC Place stadium and hosting the 2011 Grey Cup give them a grace period to get things turned around?
A: Obviously the draw of Empire wasn’t what core fans or the club thought it would be, but what will bring fans back is the thing that attracts everyone, success.
Q: In your opinion, is this Wally’s last year as a head coach and if the team doesn’t turn things around will he make changes to his staff?
A: The evidence represented in losses would lead you to believe as most, and this would be the last year in a coaching capacity. That would leave it to a successor to make changes.
Q: What in your mind is the single biggest thing holding this team back?
A: I’d be tempted to go with consistent quarterbacking and offensive line play and throw out the other trendy answers (coaching/scheme) It isn’t the biggest problem, but you’d also like to see the Lions draft better; you can’t keep missing the boat year after year. It’s seems like forever since Paris Jackson was drafted and another Canadian receiver was moulded into a 1,000-yard candidate.
Q: Obviously some big games are to come. Two dates with the Bombers and one with the Eskimos may decide whether this team makes a post-season appearance in 2010. Of the three teams which one do you think has the best chance to play in November?
A: Pretty amazing to think that way but true. It’s hard to think the Eskimos are going anywhere. Neither is Winnipeg without consistent quarterbacking. On that score, you have to still like the Lions because of who they have collectively behind centre.
Q: Stefan Logan is in tough in Pittsburgh by all reports. His performance last year could get him a look elsewhere if he’s cut, but do you think the Lions would go to the wall to sign him if he became available?
A: Lots would have to happen if he gets cut, not the least of which would be he’d have to escape the attention of every other NFL team which now has film on him. So, no, I don’t think they’d go through the wall, though they might give it a nudge to see what happens.
Just two seasons ago the Lions appeared solid at the tackle position on their offensive line. Now, with the departure of Rob Murphy last season via free agency and the release of Jason Jimenez for philosophical differences this off-season, the Lions find themselves in a bit of a precarious position heading into 2010.
It’s been reported that the Lions have inquired about the possibility of bringing Murphy back to the west coast. The Lions have last year’s Murphy replacement Daren Heerspink and Damane Duckett penciled in at the tackles at the moment, and while Heerspink was adequate last year, Duckett spent the season on the practice roster and saw limited action. Perhaps that experience will be useful as he competes for the job this year, but the Lions have yet to announce any new signings that will compete. Of course they have Justin Sorenson, who played the position in college. There is also Jon Hameister-Ries who could step up provided he can avoid the injury bug, something he hasn’t been able to do after his first two CFL camps.
Regardless, the Lions need to address the issue. They have a more mobile quarterback in Casey Printers to start the year and early indications are the team would like to passing the ball and stretching the field the primary focus of their offense. They’ll need solid play from the tackles if they hope to be successful and keep Printers healthy.
Murphy was a popular player in the Lions room, but he left mainly for family reasons. After another year gone by he and his family may be willing to move back to the west coast, but any such trade is going to bring more microscopes to the relationship between the Lions and the Argos who are both owned by David Braley. The carrot the Lions seem to be dangling in front of the Argos is quarterback Jarious Jackson, but as reported by Lowell Ullrich of The Province last week, the veteran QB has not even began throwing after a tear in his rotator cuff sidelined him at the end of last season.
Through The Grapevine
The Lions may have found themselves an up and coming linebacker prospect. There is word in both local papers that the club is on the verge of signing Solomon Elimimia, a 225-pound Nigerian recently impressed the team at a free agent camp in Los Angeles. Elimimia is the all-time tackles leader at the Univerity of Hawaii.
For more tidbits and scoops, including news on a possible pending contract extension for Geroy Simon, progress in talks between the CFL and the CFLPA, and more confirmation the Lions are close to naming Dennis Skulsky as their new President, checkout this latest piece from the man in the know, Lowell Ullrich of The Province.
In a new feature here at BCLionsDen.ca, we’re going to try and help keep you up to date on recent happenings from the Lions Den and around the CFL. We’ll gather the top news items of the week and compile them here for your convenience. So let’s get started!
Simpson off to Riderville
Former BC Lion linebacker Barrin Simpson signed with the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Friday. The signing had been rumoured for about a week, but was made official. The Lions had been kicking the tires on Simpson, who I know was very interested in a return to BC. However, on his Fifth Quarter blog, Lowell Ullrich reports that after considering bringing the nine year veteran back to where he began his career, Wally Buono perhaps decided that the risk to the chemistry of the locker room would be one too great to take.
“Nobody would ever come out and say so for public consumption, but the clear message was that the Lions feel that Simpson would be some kind of distraction in the locker room. Chemistry is a big thing with Buono, and you can debate if you choose whether that has always been the case.”
The Lions do need linebackers, but with the trade to acquire the younger Dennis Haley from Hamilton earlier this month it appears they will look to free agent camps and possibly the draft to add more depth behind Haley and Anton McKenzie.
Robertson Runs With The Lions
Free agent running back Jamal Robertson signed with the Lions this week. The 33 year old former back of the Toronto Argonauts will had some veteran depth to the lineup that currently features young prospects Jamal Lee and Andrew Harris. Both are promising backs, and both have Canadian passports. Robertson is a hard runner, similar in style to the departed Martell Mallett, but he’s also capable catching the ball out of the backfield. From the sounds of things, new offensive coordinator Jacques Chapdelaine will be designing an offense that is pass heavy, so adding Robertson would compliment that style. The Lions also feel that they let Mallett get worn out last season, and there is a good chance the team will rotate backs a lot more this season in an attempt to keep guys fresh, give teams different looks and build some experience for Lee and Harris.
Competition For Logan?
On the way out there front, there has been speculation from fans that former Lion Stefan Logan could be in trouble in Pittsburgh with the return of Antwaan Randle-El this week to the steel city. If he were to return to the CFL however, he would be a free agent, and it remains to be seen if the Lions would throw their hat in the bidding war his return would create. Before that happens however, Logan will have to be cut, and would likely get looks from other NFL teams before ever considering a return to the CFL. Randle-El hasn’t been very productive of late and Logan set a new Steeler kick return record last year. I’m banking on the little man.
One of the best signings the Lions have made this off-season was the one of new defensive line coach Rich Stubler. To say the man is over qualified for that job would be an understatement. Stubler has a long history in the league and will bring a wealth of experience to the table. There is also talk the move my be a part of a plan for if and and when Wally Buono decides to move upstairs and assume the GM role full time. The idea being that Mike Benevides is being groomed for the head job, while Stubler would take over the defensive coordinator role. For now Stubler, who lives in the Pacific Northwest is thrilled to be back in the league and back with the Lions.
Wanna Go Camping?
The Lions posted details of the first week of their 201o training camp on BCLions.com this week. The first week’s preliminary schedule has been posted, and as in past years the Lions will practice twice a day, once on the morning and once in the afternoon. The will be located at Hillside Stadium adjacent to campus of Thompson Rivers University.
Lions rookie camp will go June 2nd to the 5th, and the first day of the main camp will be the 6th. The Lions will remain in Kamloops until the 12th, when the travel to Regina to play the Riders on the 13th. They will return to Kamloops on the 14th for more sessions, before heading to Vancouver to take on the Edmonton Eskimos on June 20th at their temporary home, Empire Fields. The club opens the 2010CFL season on July 4th in Edmonton.
Tweet @Coach_Brillo (Wally Buono)
Join Head Coach and GM Wally Buono on Twitter on Monday, March 29th between 11:00am and 12:00pm for a question and answer session. The coach who goes by the name @Coach_Brillo on Twitter, will answer as many questions from Twitter fans within the hour. Coach Buono will fresh off the clubs Los Angeles free agent camp which goes this weekend.
It’s a nice move by the team to take advantage of a great social media tool. Hopefully they can maybe do more with Twitter in the future and do similar Q & A’s with Geroy Simon (@geroysimon), Dante Marsh (@dantemarsh) Emmanuel Arceneaux (@84mannie) and others that use the service.
Check it out, and if you’re on Twitter, make sure you follow us, @BCLionsDen!
Once again from the informative blog of Lowell Ulrich comes word that running back Martell Mallett has been working out for NFL teams. First for the Philadelphia Eagles, and now comes word that the St.Louis Rams also put the CFL Rookie of the Year through his paces.
How can this be you ask? Isn’t Mallett under contract? Why yes he is, but as Ullrich reports, Wally Buono is affording him the courtesy:
“Mallett signed a reported minimum two-year deal upon joining the Lions last spring that would not have given him option-year rights until after the upcoming season. It’s believed he has been given a chance for a look-see because of contract protocol that allowed Stefan Logan and Cam Wake their chance to test the market.
“There are a lot of ways to get a player to agree to a contract. Sometimes you have to satisfy your needs. Sometimes you have to satisfy their needs. Sometimes you have to blend both needs,” said Buono, who would not elaborate.”
Not a bad policy to have to get players to sign in BC, but it sure sucks when they have a chance to leave so quickly and fans are getting to know and enjoy watching the player, but such is the way for CFL clubs. As Ullrich reports, the window for Mallett to sign a deal is a lot smaller than that of a free agent, so Lions fans can hope it closes without an offer, but for the man himself, we of course wish him the best of luck.
Word from the blog of Province football writer Lowell Ullrich today that defensive line coach Mike Roach will not be returning to the Lions in 2010. The departure leaves the Lions with two holes to fill on their coaching staff, after QB coach Steff Kruck was told he would not be offered a new contract
Roach, who has 26 years of CFL coaching experience, informed Buono of his decision at a meeting the two had at Grey Cup in Calgary.
One name tossed about by Buono as a possible replacement is Jim Daley, who recently stepped down as defensive coordinator in Edmonton.
With the 2009 season freshly in the books and the Christmas season upon us, I thought it was time for a wish list for our BC Lions.
2009 was a struggle for BC. There were the injuries to deal with and some real instability at the quarterback position. There was a high turnover of players and lost leadership as Wally Buono attempted to make the team younger and faster. In some areas that was successful, in others not so much. But for the second consecutive year the Lions had some of the same issues arising that hampered their game. Stalled offensive drives, troubles stopping the run and the inability to shut teams down late in games were familiar and frustrating problems. Three times this year the team as blown out at home to the point where fans were leaving on droves early in the third quarter.
So, here’s my wish list for the team and by no means do I expect all of this to happen. These are my personal wishes from a fans point of view after sitting in the stands game after game and watching this team for the last couple of seasons. See if you agree or disagree and feel free to add your own wishes by commenting!
A New Coaching Direction:
It’s pretty much understood that Wally Buono is going to coach the BC Lions as long as he wants to, at least according to owner David Braley. I think Wally is still a very capable coach, but in too many games this year the Lions seemed unable to make the right adjustments during a game to change the momentum. To me that falls on your assistant coaches. I’d like to see changes in the coaching staff, and here are my wishes.
Jacques Chapdelaine: His official title is receiver’s coach, but it’s no secret he plays a bigger role. The word is that he and “offensive coordinator” Dan Dorazio come up with the game plan for the week and Chapdelaine calls the plays during the game. The Lions offense has sputtered the last two seasons, and while instability at the QB position has definitely been factor, there have been too many stalled drives and questionable play calls. And don’t get us started on third and short. Some of the players love him and asked for his return, but it’s time for a new direction and someone with some fresh ideas. I respect Jacques Chapdelaine, and the man certainly knows way more about the game than I ever will, but it’s not working. That said, Buono seems very comfortable with him, and Chapdelaine escapes the axe year after year, leaving little chance he won’t be back next season.
Dave Dickenson: Perhaps a bit premature but I think it would be a pretty bold move and one that could pay off huge. Dickenson was a great QB who understands the CFL game and while he may not have the experience as a coach his knowledge of the game and his already clear desire to get into coaching make him an intriguing option. Dickenson was a running backs coach last season in Calgary and has had inout on their offense under coordinator George Cortez. Some will feel the offense he knows is that of the Hufnagel/Chapdelaine mold and bringing him in wouldn’t be much of a change but I think Dickenson has a lot to offer, and could add some excitement back to the Lions offense. It may be far fetched, and unfortunately I think Buono may be too loyal to Chapdelaine to make a move, but Dickenson will assume a coaching role as a coordinator or head coach one day, and whatever team gives him that shot will look like a genius. The Lions have already decided not to renew contract of quarterbacks coach Steff Kruck and apparently Dickenson has been offered that job by Wally. I would also allow Dan Dorazio to concentrate on the offensive line again, freeing him from any offensive game planning, but of course welcoming his input.
Mike Benevides: Since Dave Ritchie retired, the BC Lions defense has lost it’s bite. Benevides assumed the role two seasons ago and the results haven’t been stellar. The defensive line led the league in sacks, but the Lions had huge problems with the run, and couldn’t get stops late in games on too many occasions that cost them points. Getting embarrassed at home in three games was disheartening as well. Whether it be personnel or the scheme, the linebacker play last season was brutal at times and the scheme was the design of Benevides. Korey Banks added some nice options at the nickle position, but teams knew to beat the Lions, running the ball was a good start, and the Lions could do nothing to stop it on too many nights. When they did, it was the secondary’s turn to give up big yardage late in games to blow leads.
Rich Stubler: Formerly the Argonauts defensive coordinator and head coach, Rich Stubler is known for his aggressive in your face defenses and under his coaching the Argonauts defense was at the top of the league regularly. He could bring that aggressive style back to the Lions and is available after sitting out last season. Perhaps the Eskimos will beat the Lions to the punch, with the recent resignation of Jim Daley from their ranks. I think Benevides will survive because he was loyal to Buono last season, turning down the head coaching spot in Toronto to remain in BC, and Buono will probably give him another year hopefully at least with the understanding that some things have to change.
Some Shivers Gems
It would be nice to see scout Roy Shivers undercover some gems as he did for the Riders a few years back. Linebackers will be at the top of the wish list I would think and preferably some nasty ones. The Lions lost some leadership and some attitude when Otis Floyd left and would probably like to have the Jamal Johnson negotiation from last year as a do over. They need to get some of that attitude back in the middle. Some of it returned with the arrival of Jojuan Armour and Anton McKenzie was voted an all-star, but this position needs to be addressed.
More depth brought in to challenge the offensive line would be nice, preferably at guard and tackle positions and a new centre needs to start being groomed, with Angus Reid coming off a serious ankle injury and not getting any younger.
Emmanuel Arceneaux was a nice addition, but another sure handed speedy receiver would be nice. Or how about or a big and bulldozer type in the mold of an Andy Fantuz or former Lion Jason Clermont?
The Emergence Of Youth
The key to remaining a competitive team in the CFL is keeping your team well stocked with talented young players who eventually take over a key role on your football tream. Sean Whyte, Jamal Lee, James Yurichuk, Justin Sorensen and Andrew Harris are promising young prospects for the Lions, and it would be nice to see them emerge next season as prime time players. Yurichuk was great on special teams, Sorensen was forced into duty late in the season, and Jamal Lee will have a full training camp under his belt. Andrew Harris has been a territorial project for the Lions and has a ton of talent. Whyte had the job of kicker/punter in his graps before making way for Paul McCallum late in the year. The Lions need some if not all of these picks to rise to the top and help take this team to a higher level.
Stability At Quarterback
Casey Printers certainly gave fans of the Lions something to look forward to by his play to end the year. Now the key will be getting to the start of next season with a full camp under his belt, and then keeping him healthy. Going through five QB’s would be tough for any club and for once Santa, it would be nice to have the same QB start every game next year like Edmonton, Saskatchewan and Calgary. Please see what you can do about that.
Best Wishes for Buck Pierce
I really feel for Buck Pierce. I don’t know what the Lions have planned for him, but at his current salary and the almost certainty that Casey Printers is the starter going into camp, it’s hard to see Pierce returning next season. The Lions still have Jarious Jackson, Travis Lulay and Zac Champion under contract and it’s no secret they like what they see in Lulay. Whatever Buck’s fate may be, I wish him all the best. He’s always been great with the fans, and given it all on the field for the BC Lions.
Home Sweet Home
With the Lions moving to a temporary stadium next season, most likely at the old site of Empire stadium, lets hope the club can make Lions home games a tough environment for opponents once again. Three debacles at home last year and two before labor day hurt the Lions in the standings, and probably at the gate too.
Ok, I should stop before I get too greedy. Oh, okay one more thing…let’s get that Grey Cup!