As the off-season has raged on in the Canadian Football League, teams have been positioning themselves to try and dethrone the Montreal Alouettes, last year's Grey Cup champions. Some teams, like the Saskatchewan Roughriders and the Hamilton Tiger Cats have were aggressive during the free agency period, others like the Edmonton Eskimos and Calgary Stampeders remained relatively conservative, while the Toronto Argonauts and Winnipeg Blue Bombers decided to clean house.
When all is said and done, who has currently positioned themselves in the best position heading into next season?
1) Montreal Alouettes (2009 record: 15-3-0, won the Grey Cup)
The defending Grey Cup champions are once again going to be the team to beat next season. The Alouettes only suffered one big loss so far in the off-season. Coveted defensive lineman Keron Williams was signed by the B.C. Lions. Still, the majority of Montreal’s talented roster remains in check. There were rumours that players like Anthony Calvillo and Ben Cahoon would retire, Kerry Watkins would be snapped up by another team, and head coach Marc Trestman would bolt to the NFL. These never transpired.
2) Saskatchewan Roughriders (2009 record: 10-7-1, lost in the Grey Cup)
With the additions of wide receiver Prechae Rodriguez and multi-dimensional running back Dominique Dorsey, the Riders will have all the tools they need on offence as they look to avenge their Grey Cup loss to Montreal. The Riders do have some question marks on defence. Who will start at the two defensive ends position? Who will step in for the retired Eddie Davis?
3) Hamilton Tiger Cats (2009 record: 9-9-0, lost in East Semi-Final)
Based on their off-season moves, Hamilton has made one thing clear. They are not a one-year wonder. Through free agency and trades, The Tiger Cats made some solid acquisitions. They added wide receiver Maurice Mann, kicker Sandro DeAngelis, offensive lineman Jason Jimenez and defensive backs Jason Shivers and Will Poole. With the question marks in Toronto and Winnipeg, Hamilton has the best chance to challenge Montreal for first in the East Division.
4) Calgary Stampeders (2009 record: 10-7-1, lost in West Final)
The Stampeders raised some eyebrows when they traded away Jermaine Copeland, their leading receiver, for receiver P.K. Sam. While Calgary wanted to get younger in the receiving core, they may miss Copeland’s leadership. The Stampeders did ensure that all-star running back Joffrey Reynolds will be carrying the ball next season. Calgary is hoping that age won’t finally catch up with him. Besides there Grey Cup campaign in 2008, the Stampeders have been rather inconsistent lately. With the majority of the teams in the West facing adversity, however, Calgary should be competitive.
5) British Columbia Lions (2009 record: 8-10-0, lost in East Final)
The Lions were one of many teams to lose players to the NFL this off-season. B.C. lost starting defensive end Ricky Foley and starting running back Martel Mallett. They lost middle linebacker Jojuan Armour to retirement. To off-set some of these losses, the Lions brought in defensive lineman Keron Williams and cornerback Davis Sanchez. Of course, whether the Lions are successful or not next season will depend on the play of erratic quarterback Casey Printers.
6) Winnipeg Blue Bombers (2009 record: 7-11-0, missed the playoffs)
The Mike Kelly era is over and the Paul LaPolice era begins. The former Saskatchewan Roughriders offensive coordinator will look to improve an ailing Bombers squad. LaPolice brought coaches Kavis Reed and Jamie Barresi, as well as quarterback Steven Jyles with him from Saskatchewan. The same problems still remain in Winnipeg. While they have a decent roster on paper, they still do not have a proven quarterback.
7) Edmonton Eskimos (2009 record: 9-9-0, lost in West Semi-Final)
Complacency can be a good thing, but for the Eskimos it was a bad thing. Edmonton sat back and did little to improve their defence, or add a much needed receiver. The Eskimos did pick up all-star defensive back Chris Thompson in a trade, but to do so they gave up their most dynamic receiver in Maurice Mann. With questions marks in the defence, no proven threat in the receiving core, and an aging Ricky Ray, Edmonton may be fighting for a cross over berth next season.
8) Toronto Argonauts (2009 record: 3-15-0, missed the playoffs)
Toronto is simply a mess. Instead of hiring talented offensive coordinator Scott Milanovich as their head coach, Toronto chose Jim Barker. Besides trading for Jermaine Copeland, the Argonauts have not done much this off-season. They mostly just brought back former players like Jordan Younger and Bryon Parker. One thing is for sure, it is impossible to rank a team with no quarterbacks on their roster any better than last.