It's over! It is officially over, and now the Rider Nation and the organization itself can start focusing on what will be done to try and make the last season at Mosaic Stadium a much more entertaining one than what we have had to endure. Is there any use talking about the overtime win to finish the regular season? Yes, it was great to get a win to end the season and yes, the team showed no quit and ended their road losing jinx, but at the end of the day, it means nothing because it is time to concentrate on the retool or the rebuild or whatever you want to call it because the off-season has arrived. Who's kidding who, after Brandon Bridge got away from the defense early in the 4th quarter and launched his 48 yard TD to BJ Cunningham making the secondary look foolish for the umpteenth time this season, I said that's it and went to the early NFL games. I did turn back to see what the final was and caught the John Chick interception that turned the game around in the final moments of regulation and the overtime, but while a win is a nice way to end the season and ends it on a positive for the players who wear the /=S=/, it means nothing today because everything has come to an end.
So what now?
Well, there are three things in my mind that this team must do, and must do in a big hurry as they start to put 2015 in the rearview mirror and start getting ready for next year.
1) Decide on who the general manager is going to be ASAP. Whether Jeremy O'Day is the guy to take this team into the future or whether it is someone else, a final decision has to be made by in my mind no later than December 15. That will give the GM two months to hire a head coach and really, perhaps it is just six weeks as you need to have a new HC or Bob Dyce in place by the time free agency hits so players know who is in charge. This is something which can not drag past the start of free agency or you risk losing some key guys who will be out there. Once free agency hits and you get some guys that you want and hopefully retain who you want, start building a defense which will be competitive---especially in the secondary. As Jock Climie said at halftime yesterday, that defence is terrible. Weldon Brown and Terrell Maze will be back as well Jeff Knox Junior and John Chick, but after that who knows. Does Tyron Brackenridge still fit in the plans after having a less than spectacular season? He is one of a few vets where some tough decisions will have to be made.
2) Hire a quarterbacks coach. It has always baffled me why the green and white abandoned the QB coach position after the Grey Cup winning season of 2013. Khari Jones did a lot for Darian Durant that season and with Durant and two pups in Brett Smith and Keith Price behind him, a QB's coach is needed
3) Start upgrading that Canadian talent. This is self-explanatory isn't it.
One thing that you do is make sure this guy isn't going away.
I realize Weston Dressler is getting up there in age, but he can still play the game at a high level and should be able to for a while. Leaders are needed to help these young guys learn the pro game and there is no better guy than Dressler to do that. Add John Chick to that mix as well. There are a handful of guys who I think saw their last action in a Riders uniform in Montreal and there are guys who are just starting what I think could be a nice career in Saskatchewan with the book still out on others. This could be the most interesting off-season in the history of this franchise as they look to return to respectability.
I don't know if the Riders can do what Ottawa has done this year and that is go from a two win team to a first place team, but they have shown that you can do it. With Durant at the helm and healthy, the 2016 Riders will be better and perhaps the expectations will be lofty because of what the REDBLACKS have done, but aren't the expectations lofty and shouldn't they be every year when training camp starts---especially in a 9 team league?
Did you hear Corey Chamblin's interview with Michael Ball on the Sportscage Rider Radio roundtable after the game? Chamblin discussed some things, but he still left some things unanswered and he still refused to take blame saying blame is the wrong word, and that responsibility is a better one. If you can get credit for something like he did for winning the Grey Cup in 2013---which is something he deserved, than you can take the blame for having this season go where it did. He feels he deserved more time and perhaps with a healthy Darian Durant, he would have had that time, but the more you hear, the more you find out change was needed. The one thing I took away was Chamblin saying no matter what you do, there are people out there who won't like you for whatever reason. That is so true and it is not just the Rider Nation where it applies.
If Henry Burris didn't show those who vote for CFL awards that he should be named the M-O-P in 2015, than I don't know what more he can do. What a difference a year makes for Burris! People said he was done, but a new offensive co-ordinator and a receiving corps that can catch the football has shown people he is not. Burris threw for 368 yards and not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, but SIX touchdowns in leading Ottawa to a first place finish in the East. They still have another game to play before they get to the Grey Cup, but after their win over Hamilton, every CFL fan with exception of those who root for the Argos, should hope we see a rematch of this game as it was by far and away the most entertaining tilt in the CFL this season. It is too much to ask for every game to be like this one was, but if you could bottle this one up, CFL fans would return en masse to the game.
Saturday afternoon was hopefully just a precursor of things to come. It was absolutely outstanding to turn the TV on to Global Television and see Canada West football being broadcast from coast-to-coast. The game wasn't great as the UBC Thunderbirds delivered a one-sided beating to the Manitoba Bisons in the Vancouver rain, but Canadian university football was being shown across this fine country of ours. Global will show the Canada West final between the T-Birds and Dinos before TSN steps in with the national semis and the Vanier Cup, but I can only hope this is the beginning of what will be CIS football and CIS sport in general being showcased on network TV. It can be done! I don't know if Global wants to be a partner or not, but the SHAW/Access relationship forged with Canada West by Jim Mullin and David Dube has been a hit for football fans in Western Canada and now it needs to go one step further with the Northern 8 proposal the two men have tried to get the various conferences to adopt. The CIS athlete should be recognized and not just when the finals come. I won't even try to compare the CIS with the NCAA because you can't, but the athletes who represent their various institutions while trying to become a student and mold their future deserve their moment in the sun.
Congratulations to the Saskatoon Hilltops for winning another Canadian junior football title. When the day comes that Brian Towriss is no longer coaching the Huskies, I wonder if Tom Sargeant would be interested and if he would be considered. Wouldn't that be logical?
Don Cherry has never held back right or wrong and he did so again on Saturday. On Coach's Corner, Cherry said the injury suffered by Connor McDavid was an intentional act by the Flyers defencemen who helped him go into the boards. Cmon Don!!! As much as an Oiler fan as I am, I can't even begin to buy into that theory. It was accidental plain and simple.
Alex Ovechkin told Washington reporters after their shootout win over the Leafs Saturday that he hates the 3 on 3 overtime format. HUH?? If there was anyone who I thought would embrace that, I thought it would be the highly skilled Russian.
There are only five teams in the NHL averaging three or more goals a game. The Rangers are 5th at an even 3. 13 teams are averaging 2 and a half goals per game or less. Is it time to start looking at the goalies equipment again or is it time to consider making the nets bigger? I'm not fond of either idea, but something needs to happen soon.
There is still a long ways to go in the WHL season, but the effort put forth by the Victoria Royals Saturday night at the Brandt Centre was one of the best efforts I have seen from a team in that rink for years. That squad is extremely talented and they had their way with the Pats rolling to a 6-1 win to complete a six for six Eastern Division road trip. Teams don't do that very often whether its teams from the West doing it here or teams from the East doing it across the mountains. They were very impressive from top to bottom.
The fact Greg Hardy is still playing in the NFL is saddening. The fact Jerry Jones allowed Hardy to suit up and play Sunday night against the Eagles just shows what type of individual he is. Sadly, there are other owners out there just like Jones. It wouldn't surprise me if he tries to sign Ray Rice at some time.
I still have to do a double take when I see the Carolina Panthers and Cincinnati Bengals are unbeaten, but the Panthers are for real. I'm still not sold on the Bengals and won't be until Andy Dalton wins a playoff game and god knows, he has enough chances.
I keep hearing that the Blue Jays will be trading one of their core players to acquire some pitching help. While there is talk out there the player may be Troy Tulowitzki, I hear it could be Edwin Encarnacion. That would surprise me, but if the return is there, it is a loss Toronto could overcome. I think Edwin, if it were to happen, would stay in the American League and I wonder if Mark Shapiro's old team--the Cleveland Indians--might play into the equation as they have some good young arms in Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar. If you could keep Marco Estrada and land one of those three to go along with Stroman, you have a nice 1-2-3 rotation with R-A Dickey and Drew Hutchison rounding out the rotation. Hutchison might even be moved to find something too.
That's all I got. We are going to hit mid-November without a significant snowfall it would seem. I am OK with that. Somehow I think a lot of you are as well. Have a good week!