Choose Your City
Change City

CFL Report: June 28, 2007


Since 2003, when Howard Sokolowski and David Cynamon purchased the Toronto Argonauts, the club has had a relatively peachy existence.

Keith Pelley has done his utmost to ensure that. He was hired by the owners to be the Argos’ president and chief grand poobah and, for the most part, he has done a first-rate job. The Argos have been pretty stable.

You have to wonder whether that’s all about to change now.

Sources say Pelley will announce soon that he will leave the Argos, probably after this season, to go back to where he came from – television.

He was the big cheese at TSN before joining the Argos and now, according to the sources, he has agreed to get involved in the hierarchy of television for Olympic coverage.

So who’ll take over as the Argos’ president?

Would you believe head coach Michael (Pinball) Clemons? Could happen.

• There could also be some serious instability on the field for the Argos this season.

Damon Allen, who’s closing in on his 44th birthday, entered the 2007 season last night as the Argos’ starting quarterback but, sources say, there’s a clause in Michael Bishop’s contract that he must play.

Why the Argos would make this sort of unprecedented agreement with Bishop is inexplicable, but, if you ask me, this club is a can opener away from opening a can of worms.

• The best CFL analyst in Canada during the past few years won’t be back this season.

Darren Flutie has rejected a request to return to CBC and has decided to stay home in the Boston area, where he is coaching his son in football and where he is involved in two private businesses dealing with a financial printing and publishing service and an orthopedic distributorship.

He’ll be missed.

Now we’ll have to be inundated with the usual bafflegab coming out of the usual sources.

There will be one new voice, though. Danny McManus has ended his quarterbacking career and will be doing some on-air work for TSN. Pay close attention to him.

• All eight teams in the CFL are armed with new offensive co-ordinators this season, and that undoubtedly will contribute to at least a few more points in the CFL this season.

Last season was dreadful for those who enjoy offensive production in the CFL. Points decreased from an average of 53.8 points a game in 2005 to 46.6 points last year.

Defences smartened up a bit, which means offences should smarten up a bit this year.

Also contributing to the dearth of scoring last year, however, were the lack of punt returns.

This year, that should change. Blocking from the side on punt returns – banned last year – will be allowed again this year. Also, punts that go out of bounds between the 20-yard lines will draw penalties. Teams guilty of this infraction will be penalized 10 yards and will have to re-kick.

That will produce better field position for offences and should translate into more points.

Bret Anderson is envied by every established player in the CFL.

The man has a deal with the B.C. Lions in which he doesn’t have to show up to training camp – and doesn’t have to participate in their two-a-day drills — until the end.

Anderson, a kickoff specialist and receiver, is allowed every year to remain at work at the fire department in Port Coquitlam, B.C. until the season starts.

• The Stampeders have plenty of talent and should have a good season.

Like the Argos, however, there could be turmoil this season.

There’s a quarterback controversy already, with some members of the team thinking Henry Burris should be displaced as the starter by former NFL flop Akili Smith.

Smith looked superb in training camp.

As well, there are rumblings – already printed in a Calgary newspaper – that Tom Higgins could be replaced sooner or later as the Stamps’ head coach by former Calgary assistant coach John Hufnagel.

Hufnagel, a former CFL quarterback and offensive co-ordinator, has been serving as a guest coach this season for the B.C. Lions.

• The No. 1 objective for the CFL during the off-season was for clubs to improve its talent at the all-important quarterback position.

I’m not sure if that happened but, in Hamilton, the Tiger-Cats recruited former University of Hawaii QB Timmy Chang, who set running and passing records at the U.S. collegiate level and dazzled observers in the exhibition season.

The Ticats deemed Rocky Butler expendable – and cut him – largely because of their expectations for Chang, who’ll begin the season as the backup for Jason Maas.

The dearth of quality backups throughout the CFL, however, is conspicuous.

In Edmonton, someone named Stefan LeFors or Steve Jyles would have to step in at QB if Ricky Ray were to be injured.

In Winnipeg, Kevin Glenn’s backup is Ryan Dinwiddie. Some think Glenn is sub-par.

“Kevin has learned some things on ball security,” Blue Bombers head coach Doug Berry mentioned before the Bombers opened the season last night in Edmonton. “His reads have been really good and quick – and usually a high percentage of the time he goes to the right place with the ball. I’m expecting him to come through this season.”

He’d better.

The Bombers are favoured in the Eastern Division.

• For the record, here’s how I see the teams finishing this season:

Eastern Division: Hamilton, Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal.

Western Division: Calgary, B.C. Saskatchewan, Edmonton.

Grey Cup: Calgary over Hamilton.

• Every week this season, I’ll make my traditional picks against the spread in this column. I like all the underdogs in the openers.

Week 1 picks:

THURSDAY —B.C. at Toronto:

The champion Lions are favoured by four points. They should defeat the Argonauts, but I think four may be too many. TAKE THE ARGOS PLUS THE FOUR POINTS.

THURSDAY — Winnipeg at Edmonton:

The Eskimos are favoured by 1.5 points. The Esks have far too many newcomers to be any good yet, and I'm not certain they'll be any good at all this season, although new offensive co-ordinator Jacques Chapdelaine should help. TAKE THE BOMBERS PLUS THE 1.5 POINTS.

FRIDAY — Saskatchewan at Montreal:

Montreal is favoured by three points but, for some reason, I can see new Roughriders coach Kent Austin whipping his team into a frenzy and coming up with a big upset here. TAKE THE ROUGHRIDERS PLUS THE THREE POINTS.

SATURDAY — Hamilton at Calgary:

Calgary is favoured by 10 points. The Tiger-Cats are going to surprise folks this season. They’re not good enough to upset the Stamps in Calgary yet but watch for them to keep this game relatively close. TAKE HAMILTON PLUS THE 10 POINTS.