--Welcome to Friday! Good Friday! Here are the weekly collection of thoughts running through my muddled mind, and as always, they come in no particular order!
--The question has been asked several times over the past few months. What do you think about what the Riders are doing? I state time and time again---I LOVE IT! Change was needed after a 3-15 season and while it does suck to see guys like Weston Dressler, John Chick and Chris Getzlaf continue their careers elsewhere, I get it. The game is different under the salary cap and as Chris Jones has stated so many times before he is not here to win a popularity contest, he is here to win championships. We are quite a ways from training camp, and I do have some questions at this time---questions that I'm sure will be answered by the time everyone converges on Saskatoon. Here they are
1) WHAT IS THE PLAN AT QUARTERBACK
Darian Durant will be back for 2016, but what is the plan when it comes to who the other QB's will be. Will Brett Smith definitely be the number 2 or is there a plan to bring in someone else with CFL experience and if so, who? James Franklin would probably top that list seeing Chris Jones knows what he can do, but there are others as well who could be called upon if there is to be a competition for number 2 at camp. I was hoping Keith Price would be back. If he had, I think he might have had a leg up on Smith because he appeared to be a little more polished than the improvisational Smith. That wish came to an end when Price went to BC. If he is given a chance, I say he flourishes there.
2) WHO CARRIES THE ROCK
Jerome Messam is gone, Anthony Allen is gone and Kory Sheets is history (get used to that because he is). I love the Matt Walter signing, but I don't know if he can be a starter or not. Stephen Houston could be a CFL running back as he fits that criteria, but we didn't see a lot of him. Terrence Cobb should be a Sheets 2.0. If Saskatchewan trades down in the draft, could they grab the University of Calgary's Mercer Timmis. Curtis Steele is also in the mix. Running backs are said to be a dime a dozen, so maybe this isn't that big of a problem, but I would think the braintrust are seeking some more experience back there which makes me think Steele goes in to camp with it being his job to lose.
3) WHAT AREA(S) STILL NEED IMPROVING
Chris Jones and John Murphy have revamped what was a putrid defence by releasing guys like Tyron Brackenridge, Terrell Maze, and Jake Doughty, trading Andre Monroe and not re-signing John Chick. Tearrius George, Jeff Knox and Tyree Hollins are still around, but there isn't a lot leftover from the disaster that was 3-15. The line is solid with the additions of Justin Capiccotti and Shawn Lemon. Knox will have Greg Jones beside him in the linebacking corp, but even though guys like Otha Foster and Ed Gainey have been added, I'm still unsure about the secondary.
The bottom line here is the expectations one has about the 2016 Riders. I think it is too much to even consider this team to be a Grey Cup contender at this time. Yes, the West has been weakened somewhat, but I don't see the Riders finishing first or second as they battle Winnipeg for that 3rd spot in the West. There is nothing saying they can't do what Ottawa did last year, but realistically, I think you have to hope for an 8-10 win season which would be progress after last year. Hell, even 6 wins would accomplish that wouldn't it.
--The new /=S=/ is the old logo with a twist and I'm OK with that. I will admit when I saw the release come over from Ryan Pollock on Wednesday afternoon, I wasn't sure what I was going to see when I opened the picture of the new (old) logo, and I was somewhat relieved to see the new (old) logo was just the iconic "S" being modernized somewhat. Many other teams have changed their logo without changing it. After a season of change, I don't know if Rider Nation would be ready for a new version of the "S".
--Brad Wall and Cam Broten went at it Wednesday night in the leaders debate. While both tried to get their point across, the debate (yelling session) only reinforced in my mind who I will vote for on April 4. I hope it did for you as well. Neither would come out and say they will get Weston Dressler back in Rider colours though. I guess this truly means he isn't coming back. SIGHHHHH!!!
--At the end of the day, I am guessing the WHL East final will feature the Brandon Wheat Kings against either Red Deer or Calgary meaning the WHL final four will be void of Saskatchewan for another year, but I am looking forward to what should be two great first round series in this neck of the woods as the Pats play Lethbridge and Moose Jaw beats Prince Albert. I think the Warriors should be able to handle the Raiders while the Regina-Lethbridge series is one I think will go the distance. The addition of Colby Williams to the Pats blueline will be a huge factor in this series and it may be what pushes Regina over the top. Lethbridge may have a better group of forwards from top to bottom (and that is certainly debatable), but Regina has a much better collection on the blueline and that should get them into Round 2. This is the best time of year if you are a hockey fan so get out there and enjoy the twists and turns of what the playoffs bring.
--Thumbs down to the WHL for their "new" website. That isn't what this junior hockey fan is looking for.
--Saskatoon Tourism wants a downtown sports facility. This just in-----they had a chance for that years ago and it got put out on Highway 16. How's that been workin for ya??!! Where was this thinking years ago. What's next, a decision to have a casino in downtown Saskatoon too? No, this isn't a Saskatoon-Regina thing as some of you want to constantly make it out to be. I would think many in Saskatoon know and realize a downtown sports facility is something that should have been in your fine city (which it is) many, many years ago. I hope you get it, but I also hope if you do, it doesn't swallow up the events Sask-Tel Centre has and wants.
--The World Womens Curling Championship will wrap up in Swift Current this weekend. It has been another solid year for the sport thanks to TSN. The Scotties final in Grande Prairie drew 825-thousand Canadians while the Brier final drew 1.1 million. That is more than many CFL games got this year. Is that a sign of curling's popularity or waning fan interest in the CFL? I think it is a little of both. Some will ask how curling can get so many viewers. The answer is easy----the curlers are miked and you can hear what they are thinking and discussing. You can then react and if you have any knowledge of the game you can openly debate what is about to be done. You can't do that in the NHL, NBA, NFL or CFL with consistency. I don't see those leagues opening the door as wide as what the curlers do so those leagues will have to find other ways to keep the fan engaged. Three of the four are doing it, but the 4th isn't. You can decide for yourself what league I am talking about.
--Say what you will about Jack Eichel in Buffalo, but the Sabres best young forward is Sam Reinhart. If his brother Griffin can be as special in Edmonton as what Sam is in Buffalo, the Oilers problems on defence won't as large as some perceive it to be. Alas, Griffin has a long ways to go before he gets to Sam's status.
--RIP to Joe Garagiola. Before the advent of cable television and MLB TV, the NBC game of the week with Tony Kubek and Joe were the only way to watch baseball games which didn't involve the Montreal Expos. He was great at what he did and he made me a fan of a game I still have a tremendous amount of passion for today. Thanks Joe!
--Is RG3 really the answer for the Cleveland Browns? Is there any quarterback out there who is the answer for that team. Bring back the ghost of Bernie Kosar!
--That's all I got. Have a great Easter weekend! Don't tell your kids you are having rabbit stew for supper Sunday night---it may not go over well!