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A new season is upon us with this year’s Calgary Stampeders looking to defend the Championship crown. The team has been dominant for nearly a decade, but this year unlike others has seen significant player turnover. Then again, there’s always turnover in the CFL, but it’s not very often a team will lose so many significant pieces as the Stampeders did this year. It comes with the territory when you are a winning organization. Building homegrown talent in a small League will create a scenario where the organization will run out of ways to pay. The team effectively lost their entire defensive line to free agency, and then their entire linebacking corps to the NFL. Factor in new coaching on the defence as well, and you got the sense even before opening day this year was going to be tight.
Parity in the Western Conference has never been closer. On the Eastern side, however, most sports journalists have ranked the Ottawa Redblacks dead last. It’s a toss-up really between them and the continued debacle in Montreal. In a quarterback-driven league if you don’t have a number one pivot your chances for success are significantly less. The Stampeders went into the offseason not knowing whether Bo Mitchell would return. In the end locked up their man, and paid a handsome price too. Ottawa on the other hand lost their starting QB to Edmonton. A relatively unknown quarterback in Dominique Davis now has the reigns.
So even though Calgary may have lost massive pieces from their Championship puzzle, at least on paper they were starting the season against not against last year’s Grey Cup Final opponents, but a new team in a rebuild. Of course, everything on peeper falls apart at kickoff.
The season opened on June 15th (starting early not because we don’t want to end in November but because the CFLPA wants two bye-weeks), in front of a small lacklustre crowd.
Things got off to a smashing start with the offence showing some early promise. But after the first quarter everything fell apart. Apart from the secondary the rest of the team was still in pre-season form. Tre Roberson with 3 interceptions and the secondary combined for FOUR, yet the team couldn’t capitalize. After that first-quarter the offence was completely non-existent. 3 points were scored over the final three quarters. The offensive line could do nothing to stop pressure, nor open up holes for the run. Bo Mitchell couldn’t find open receivers and missed targets. But perhaps the biggest question marks remains on the defensive line in the linebacker corps.
We knew the holes were big on D going into the season, but seeing it first-hand shows that the Stampeders are going to live and die on the line. They not only have a lot of work to do but frankly may be in a situation this year where they lack the talent. Having the first bye week of the season in Week 2 will help the squad figure out a rhythm after an early setback. Adversity at this time of year is perfectly fine, but with every team in the West getting better, the Stamps will have to do more than just soul search for answers. It’s going to be a dogfight till the end but then again, in this league when is anything ever decided by October?