CFL Roundup

This Monday the CFL made the announcement that they were suspending operations of the Ottawa Renegades for the 2006 season (news report). This was the most appropriate decision and inevitable when you think about it. To expect to be able to find a potential buyer and come to an agreement on an intent to purchase let alone a transfer of ownership completed in two weeks with training camp a month away is impossible in this day and age. By all accounts there was interest however so a 1 year suspension allows potential buyers to investigate the situation. The CFL would look golden if they could announce a new owner by mid-season, putting the last year in Ottawa to rest.

Rumours abound that Eugene Melnyk, owner of the Ottawa Senators, would be the front runner for the team now that the franchise has been suspended, even though he made a statement he was not interested in the Renegades when their for sale status was made known. The reasoning behind this is that Melnyk was not interested in taking over the Renegades a month before the season with no season tickets sold, no infrastructure in place and somebody else’s coaches and personnel. With the team suspended, they become much more attractive to him to purchase and have a year to build his team. He could leverage off of existing Senator ticketing, marketing and sales structure, providing a cost savings that the franchise has never had. He is also well respected in the Ottawa sports scene, so he would not be hurt by fan spite like the previous owners. The whole deal may hinge on him getting control of the Lansdowne Park facilities, Frank Clair Stadium and the Ottawa Civic Center as he did with his deal to acquire the Senators and Scotiabank Place.

For the CFL, this move is not without affect. Besides the obvious stigma attached to another failed franchise (a second one to fail in Ottawa in 10 years), the Touchdown Atlantic pre-season game in Halifax was cancelled due to the schedule change. Any effort to secure a stadium and franchise in the Maritimes is on hold as the focus becomes returning the Renegade franchise, preferably in Ottawa. A new schedule also had to be issued although it survived without many changes and maintained complete television coverage, even though an 8 team league means more repeat match ups and less variety for fans.

On the positive side the loss of the Renegades allows for a balanced schedule with 8 teams, eliminating bye weeks and 3 games in 12 days and mid-week games. Also the dispersal draft will move the Ottawa talent to other teams, increasing the competivness of the football in 2006 I’m sure.

As for the dispersal draft, it was held today, April 12. Saskatchewan traded RB Corey Holmes to Hamilton to acquire the first overall pick, with which they selected QB Kerry Joseph. Saskatchewan also held the third overall pick, selecting WR Jason Armstead and pulling off a coup by acquiring the two best offensive players available, albeit at the expense of the leagues best RB/Returner combo.

Evaluating the draft, it appears Saskatchewan gained the most, going from the same team as last year minus some free agent departed and a shoe-in for being picked for last place by many pre-season pundits. Despite not being active on the free agent market or any major player signings all winter (and being criticized for it), they filled two big holes fans were questioning as the season approached. The other teams strengthened themselves overall, but not with obvious impact players such as the ‘Riders.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not part of the euphoria sweeping across the province of Saskatchewan today. I question the need to get Joseph, who has the numbers, but has often been injured and hasn’t produced wins yet. This is someone Saskatchewan couldn’t pry away from Ottawa in a trade, and then acted as they didn’t really want him. Now they have him plus his $350,000 contract. Armstead is certainly a talent, and will compliment a healthy Matt Dominguez more than Elijah Thurmon could have. Armstead is supposed to fill in the special teams yardage lost by the departure of Corey Holmes, and he is certainly capable of doing so. However he cannot replace the running game Holmes provided. I believe Corey to be a better fit in terms of overall performance and in the locker room, but instead the ‘Riders decided to keep Kenton Keith. Only time will tell if Keith steps up to provide the consistent running all season long. If all things come together, the new players perform, the defence holds together, special teams gets stabilized and a few breaks come their way, the ‘Riders could surprise me and end up on top at the end of the season.

Overall, in the space of under a week, despite the negative news, CFL fans are now more charged about their team’s upcoming seasons. I expect greater competitiveness in 2006 and perhaps a few surprises.

5 Responses to “CFL Roundup”

  1. jim Says:

    Who’s making the calls? Barrett or Shivers? If it’s Barrett, then what is Shivers getting a paycheck for? He seems to be in retirement phase already.

    Anyways, it seems the Riders lucked out in that there was a dispersal draft to take advantage of. If Ottawa had remained in the league, it doesn’t seem that any moves would have been done.

    Are the Riders a better team with Joseph and Armstead, or would they have been better with Holmes and Armstead? Too bad they couldn’t have found a QB somewhere else and kept Holmes.

    Time will tell. Keep in mind that I don’t know what the heck I’m talking about. Seacrest OUT!!!

  2. jim Says:

    Seacrest back in. I guess that if the trade hadn’t been made, there is certainly no indication that the riders could have still gotten Armstead. Seacrest back out.

  3. Jon Says:

    Very fortunate indeed. The whole loss of a team and subsequent dispersal draft plus last years end of season trades means there are a lot fewer question marks. You certainly can’t pick Sask automatically for dead last in the west, and Winnipeg switching to the East may not been seen to have strengthened at QB, but they have plenty of offensive talent and with the OL they picked up, protection for the QB may help them win some more games.

    2006 should be a competitive and exciting year. Here’s hoping for something other than the usual.

  4. jim Says:

    What’s the word on the 2006 CFL Pool and Draft? I’ve got a feeling this is my year.

  5. Jon Says:

    The CFL Pool is ready for sign-up now. With the announcement not to do any more development on the site there won’t be a draft, but we are working on the next version, which is coming along slowly. Hopefully full contests restored by next year.

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