With free agency just a week away, there are still some very good football players out there who haven't resigned and players who would look OK in a green and white jersey. Of course Rider fans want to see the best player at every position come to Regina to continue their football career, and that is certainly understandable, but you have to think Chris Jones and company are looking at how to improve their team defensively after last year's woeful effort.
Looking back at the last game of the year, here was your starting 12 on defence in Montreal.
DL-John Chick, Tim Agbaje, Tearrius George, Markus White
LB-Jeff Knox, Denicos Allen, Tyron Brackenridge
DB- Don Unamba, Tristan Jackson, Marshay Green, Tyree Hollins, Paul Woldu
Players of note who were on the injured list: Alex Hall, Keenan McDougall, Andre Monroe, Terrell Maze, Macho Harris
Not many of those guys are left. We know what Knox can do, Allen is still a work in progress and Hollins has shown at this time he is a keeper. After that. It's not pretty.
The whole unit needs upgrading which is no surprise, and you can't fill every spot so where do you start. I would venture to say defensive line. I would think guys like Edmonton's Don Oramasionwu, Hamilton's Ted Laurent and former Rider, current REDBLACK Keith Shologan would be high on the list. Others I would think would be high on the list on the defensive side of the ball would be guys Chris Jones knows well from days in Edmonton in Aaron Grymes and JC Sherritt. Other names to perhaps kick the tires on would be linebacker Alex Hoffman-Ells (BC) and defensive back Courtney Stephen (Hamilton). No matter what is done, Jones and crew have a colossal size cleanup on Aisle 4 to clean up and I don't see how it can be accomplished overnight. The plan is being formed, but it is a long way from being finalized.
On Friday, the Riders announced the signing of four players and they were all in that mold that Chris Jones loves as they are all big. DB's Robert Sands and Marte Sears are 6 foot 4 and 6 foot 5 while receiver Shay Hodge is 6 foot 2 and Jordan Reaves (son of former Bomber Willard) is 6 foot 4. In the world of this new regime, size does matter.
--Jon Ryan's brother Steve basically encapsulated NHL all-star Saturday night with one simple tweet. Steve saying "Saw a guy take a penalty shot with a cowboy hat on against a goalie using a guitar for a stick. But John Scott is embarrassing for the NHL." Couldn't agree more Steve!
--How about John Scott!
He basically shoved it right up Gary Bettman and the league's you know what by being named the MVP! Talk about a feel-good story. Should he have been there? NOPE! Will a player of his calibre ever get there again? NOPE! Did he make the most of his opportunity and then some? YUP! I said earlier I hoped he would have the time of his life in Nashville and he did. The fans were on his side, the players were on his side and at the end of the night, I am guessing he went to bed with the biggest smile on his face even though he may never play in the NHL again. It was a page right out of WWE where Vince McMahon tries to stack the deck against the hero, but the hero wins. I watched 10 minutes of the game which was about 9 and a half minutes more than I should have. It did nothing for me. Just get rid of the all-star game and keep going is what I say. As for Scott, his 15 minutes of fame are over and it is back to reality. That reality is he may never ever play another NHL game, but his last one was one he will remember until the day he dies.
--I was probably like many of you Sunday morning when the news came out that Gary Bettman had signed a contract extension for six more years. BLEEEEECHHH!!! Yes, NHL fans we have six more years of Bettman and while we as fans can't stand the NHL's top dog, the owners can because overall he is making them money and he isn't hurting the league in the boardroom and that is what matters. Maybe it's time now for Gary to come out and call the CFL to see who designed their new logo and get a new one to replace the iconic one the NHL has had for years. Yes, I am joking!
--What Gary does need to do to maybe get some more fans and some popularity is to find a way to get more scoring into the game and not have that way be 3 on 3 or 4 on 4. At the break, the Dallas Stars and the Washington Capitals are the only teams scoring 3 or more goals a game. Shrink the goalie's equipment, make the rink wider or make the net a tiny bit bigger. The game needs more scoring. By the way, the only teams giving up 3 or more goals a game are Columbus, Ottawa and Calgary with the Jackets leading the way at 3.16 goals per game. As for shots on goal, 14 are averaging more than 30 a game and 14 are giving up 30 or more a game so once again I say it is time to do something with the goalie's equipment again or the net.
--The Dennis Wideman debate has been great to listen to. I find it hard to believe there are some people out there actually defending the Flames defenceman for what he did to linesman Don Henderson on Wednesday night. HE CROSSCHECKED AN OFFICIAL FROM BEHIND!! You can't justify that! You can try to justify it, but Wideman was wrong and he needs to be suspended. I think a minimum 10 game penalty needs to be issued. I am not buying Wideman did not know who was in front of him. Yes, he had just taken a hard hit in his own zone and was not 100 percent going back to the bench, but it was an official and you can't do that no matter the sport.
--I'm not buying this "no Canadian team" will make the playoffs hype that has started. Toronto, Calgary and Edmonton likely aren't getting into the dance and Montreal is fading, but Ottawa has a shot as does Vancouver, and for some reason, I am not counting out the Jets yet, but they are falling fast as well. I'm very interested to see what they do at the trade deadline with Andrew Ladd, Dustin Byfuglien and maybe Mark Schiefele or Jacob Trouba.
--Do people in Toronto even care about the fact the Leafs are unveiling their new logo Tuesday night and why the hell is TSN covering the announcement? They don't like the "Toronto Sports Network" moniker they have, but they just don't help themselves sometimes.
--Very classy gesture by the Saskatoon Blades and Regina Pats Saturday night as prior to puckdrop at Sask-Tel Centre, they stood side-by-side at center ice to remember the victims of the tragedy in La Loche.
That's a two thumbs up move from this blogger.
--What Mark McMorris can do on a snowboard is unreal especially considering he is from Milestone, Saskatchewan where as we know the hills aren't exactly steep. He is amazing to watch and his performance Saturday afternoon at the Winter "X" Games while astounding was now expected as he captured another gold medal.
--The Chargers say they are staying in San Diego for one more season with hopes to share a stadium with the Los Angeles Rams. If I am in San Diego, why would I invest any money into this team knowing they are likely to leave. Owner Dean Spanos has said it is is hope to secure a new stadium deal so he can keep the team in San Diego as a way to dangle a carrot in front of fans hoping the NFL team stays, but if I am not getting a definite, why spend money on something which is leaving.
--At what point does football in general just give up on Johnny Manziel. He obviously just doesn't get it and doesn't want to get it. The phrase "million dollar talent with a two dollar brain" definitely applies here.
--Congratulations to Jolene Campbell and her rink for winning the provincial Scotties. When you win Saskatchewan, you are always a threat to win the Canadians and this year with rinks like Val Sweeting, Kelly Scott and Rachel Homan not participating having been beat in provincials, don't count Jolene's crew out.
--That's all I got. Have a great week!