Teams Looking to Gel in the East (2013 Eastern Division Preview)

CFL East

The Eastern Division is celebrating a win as a whole after 2012 with the Toronto Argonauts winning the 100th Grey Cup. For the East it is a win but for three teams it was a lost opportunity as they would all lose to the Argonauts in the end. Now the East is looking to make it two in a row as they hope to go to Regina and win another Grey Cup. Last year the East would also host the Grey Cup as Toronto would get the honour of hosting the 100th Grey Cup. With that came the influx of talent for two teams that were looking for some form of home field advantage. The Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Toronto Argonauts would load up on talent in hopes that they could play in the Rogers Centre in November. For the Argonauts it would work as they would go on to win the Grey Cup while the Ti-Cats would struggle and would miss the playoffs. It was a tale of two teams that tried to do the same thing and finished at near the bottom and at the top of the league. Then there were the two extremes in the division as the Montreal Alouettes finished first in the division once again. Then the Winnipeg Blue Bombers would finish dead last for another season. The East did not do the changes that the West did this year as many teams believed they needed no changing but just another year of experience. Last year only two teams would make the playoffs from the East as the West would have another year where they were overall better. It has become a theme for the CFL as the Eastern Division has regularly been considered less than the West. 2012 did nothing to correct that perception and in 2013 the East is hoping that they can finally put an end to that. The East has plenty of talent to do it as they hope to at least send three teams to the playoffs this year and not have another Western team on their side of the playoffs. With three of the best QBs in the CFL in the East and another who could be one of the best the East has some promise. The only problem is putting everything together. The Argos did it last year and the Alouettes have been doing it for the better part of a decade. On the other side The Hamilton Tiger-Cats would find it too hard to mesh all of their new stars together to earn wins while the Winnipeg Blue Bombers were struck by the injury bug once again. This year is a chance for them to turn things around though as the Ti-Cats have another year with a second year QB and a host of stars around him. The Bombers are looking to make their new home a good one even with the same issues that might creep up on them once again. As the Tabies and the Bombers try to get back on the winning track the Montreal-Toronto rivalry seems to be taking another step towards being relevant again. The Argos and Als are the two best teams in the division for the preseason and are hoping to have a great battle all season. They could end up having a great fight to finish first and possibly winning the East but nothing is guaranteed. There are still a lot of questions for the eastern division as the two top teams try to be the best again but may not get there. They will also have to watch out for the two bottom teams who are trying to get back to the playoffs. All of these teams will be looking to get to the Grey Cup and most will be trying to do so before the competition gets that much tougher with a new team coming on the horizon.


Hamilton Tiger Cats


The Hamilton Tiger Cats would see the 100th Grey Cup as an opportunity to play a home game for a championship. They were hoping to travel just down the road to the Rogers Centre and play for the Grey Cup and to do this they would go out and at a lot of talent to their roster. The Tabies would bring in Henry Burris, Andy Fantuz, and Sam Giguere to bolster the offence and try to get something going. The offence would not be the power they were hoping for as Burris would struggle while the defence would do little to help them out. The Tabies would finish tied for last place in the East and would miss the playoffs thanks to the crossover rule. Now the Tiger Cats are back with one season under their belt and hopes that they can put it all together this year. It won’t be easy for Hamilton though as they will see many changes including the field itself. The Ti-Cats will play at the University of Guelph this year as Ivor Wynne Stadium undergoes a remodel for the 2015 Pan Am Games. Those fans who make the trek out to the University of Guelph may not even get to see the best Ti-Cats player. Chris Williams was the Outstanding Special Team Player of the year, earning a record 6 return TDs, and would be the biggest standout of the 2012 season for the Tiger-Cats. Now he wants to go to the NFL but is still under contract with the Tiger Cats and is not allowed to break the contract under CFL rules. Without him the Ti-Cats are not the same team as everyone else will need pick up the production if they hope to make the playoffs. Henry Burris has all of the weapons to make the offence great including Chevon Walker in the backfield. On defence the Tabies would make some big changes to try to create a more balanced team. Overall the Tiger-Cats are a better team despite maybe losing Williams all year and although battling for first may be too much to ask a playoff appearance is not.


Receiving Corps Potential
– Andy Fantuz, Sam Giguere, Dave Stala, and Bakari Grant are all potential gamebreakers and although they did not all have their best seasons last year they will still be a great group playing with  Henry Burris for the second year

The Williams Hole
– Chris Williams was the brightest spot for the Ti-Cats last year as he provided the most offence for the team but with his holdout the tea needs to find a player or players to fill that hole that included 16 Touchdowns last year

Biggest Addition:
Evan McCullogh, DB (Free Agency)
– In 2012 the Ti-Cats would go for mainly offensive stars while the defence would not be touched and that would change in 2013 with some big changes on defence including Grey Cup Champion McCullogh who should provide a winning attitude to the defensive backfield

Biggest Loss:
Chris Williams, KR/WO (Holdout)
– 16 touchdowns and over 2,000 all-purpose yard is hard to replace and although it is possible that Williams could come back it is not likely as he wants out of his contract to go to the NFL while the Ti-Cats do not seem ready to budge


Montreal Alouettes


The Montreal Alouettes are the only team in the CFL that seems to never get gutted and always seems to be at the top of the CFL. Every year the Alouettes are in contention for the Grey Cup and 2012 was no different. Led once again by the steady hand of Anthon Calvillo and his veteran receiving corps the Als would finish in 1st place in the East. It would take an amazing game that went down to the last second in the Conference Finals to eliminate the Als form the Grey Cup. This year the usually steady team has a lot more questions than usual though and it all comes down to the man on the sidelines. The Alouettes have been blessed with some great coaches in the past including Don Matthews and more recently Marc Trestman. Trestman would take over from Matthews, after a brief one season stint with Jim Popp as head coach, in 2008. He would inherit some great talent including a QB that had just begun to build his legend. Trestman was a large reason why the Alouettes would remain one of the best teams in the league as his offensive mind would keep the Als on top of the league. Like many players though Trestman would leave the Alouettes to pursue a career in the CFL with the Chicago Bears. For the first time in 6 years the Alouettes will have a new head coach and it will be a coach from the NCAA rather than the CFL. Dan Hawkins will try to continue the franchise’s great tradition of success and will have to look to his veterans to help him in his transition. The Alouettes are almost all back as Anthony Calvillo will have SJ Green and Jamel Richardson back for the offence. On defence She Emery and Chip Cox will be back to help continue leading a good defence. Hawkins is set up for success this year but the transition from NCAA to CFL might be too much although for the Alouettes to be out of the battle for first it will have to take a colossal breakdown.


Veteran Leadership
– The Alouettes continue to retain the most important parts of their team and players like Calvillo, Richardson, and Emery are all back for another year and that is what the Alouettes love as it provides a sense of stability that many teams don’t have

Rare Changes
– As stable as the on-field product is the Alouettes are not used to change and with  Trestman gone that stoic presence on the sidelines will be missed as Montreal will need to adjust to an entirely new personality in Dan Hawkins

Biggest Addition:
Arland Bruce III, WO (Free Agency)
– As if Anthony Calvillo didn’t have enough weapons on the field the Montreal Alouettes would go out and sign an almost human highlight reel in Arland Bruce as long as he can stay on the field he will be a big part of this offence

Biggest Loss:
Marc Trestman, HC (NFL)
– There is not a lot of movement from the players but the changing of a coach is always a big one as a new system comes in and a new personality in Dan Hawkins as the Alouettes need to adjust for the first time in 6 years


Toronto Argonauts


The Toronto Argonauts could not have had a better season in a better year than what they accomplished in 2012. With the 100th Grey Cup in their own backyard the Argonauts would begin building for one of the most important seasons they have ever had. The oldest and most successful team in the CFL almost had a responsibility to win the 100th version of the Grey Cup and with the final game at the Rogers Centre that responsibility became that much bigger. The They would bring in new head coach Scott Milanovich and defensive coordinator Chris Jones. More than that though, the Argonauts would end a seemingly endless search for their next QB trading for Ricky Ray in the biggest move of the 2012 offseason. After an initial struggle the Argos would show that the movements were worth it as they would finish second in the division. Then they would achieve the ultimate goal winning the 100th Grey Cup on home soil and breaking a 7 year Grey Cup drought. As is customary with championship teams the Argonauts would see a lot of their players leave in the offseason for bigger paydays on other teams and to the NFL. Ricky Ray would be going nowhere though as the Argonauts signed him to a contract extension making him an Argo for the foreseeable future. The movement would not effect the Argos offence with MOP Chad Owens returning to lead a group that includes Romby Bryant, Andre Durie, Spencer Watt, and rookie standout Dontrell Inman. Grey Cup MOP Chad Kackert is also back to lead the backfield and give Ricky Ray an extra target. Defence would see the most change as the entire defensive line would leave for other opportunities and the defensive backfield would see two retirements change their makeup. With a few additions including Khalif Mitchell and an intact linebacking corps the Argos are hoping that the changes will not have a terrible affect. The Argonauts are back to winning and with that attitude they may have a chance at repeating although winning the East will be their first challenge.


Stability at QB
– Not since 2007 have the Argonauts had a Hall of Fame QB under centre as Ricky Ray provides the one thing that the Argonauts had been missing since Damon Allen retired and with an extension in hand the Argos have found their QB

Defensive Exodus
– The true stars of the 2012 season were the defence as the Argos had one of the best Ds in the CFL but as is usual players would leave after the Championship leaving the Argos to scramble to fill holes including all of their defensive lineman

Biggest Addition:
Khalif Mitchell, DT (Trade)
– He is a risky move for the Argonauts and that came up at the very start of the offseason with  Mitchell at first refusing to report to training camp and then showing up and as much of a headache as he might be there is no doubt that he can be a game changer when on the field

Biggest Loss:
Ricky Foley, DE (Free Agency)
– Last year Ricky Foley would become the Grey Cup Most Outstanding Canadian as a key to the win and to the Argos defence but he would take his talents out West as one of the four players on the defensive line that would leave in the offseason


Winnipeg Blue Bombers


The Winnipeg Blue Bombers have gone a long time since their last Grey Cup win which was in 1990. Since then there have been plenty of chances for the Bombers including an appearance in the 99th Grey Cup in 2011. After losing to the BC Lions in 2011 the Bombers would take a massive step backwards with a terrible season. The Bombers would start the season by announcing that the new stadium planned to open in 2012 would be delayed another year. They would end the season tied for dead last in the league with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. The biggest reason for this was the person they wanted under centre would rarely make an appearance under centre. Buck Pierce has the potential to be the best QB in the league but he rarely plays an entire season. For the Blue Bombers the team seems to depend on the health of their QB and in 2013 that will be no different. Buck Pierce is back for the Bombers and will once again try to lead them to their first Grey Cup win in 23 years. As usual though, Pierce needs to stay healthy for the Bombers to do this. If he can’t, and history has said that he can’t, the team will come down to how well rookies Max Hall and Jason Clement can handle the pressure. With Alex Brink and Joey Elliott gone the QB position is that much more unsteady with two rookies acting as backups and likely as starters at some time this year. The talent is there in Winnipeg as Pierce has players like Terrence Howard and Chris Matthews are back. If the QB goes down the Bombers will likely rely on their running game, led by Chad Simpson and Chris Garrett, to lead the team which is not entirely bad. On defence the team remains the same with Alex Suber and Jovon Johnson back to lead the team. As usual though the problem is not so much the talent but whether or not Buck Pierce can be relied upon to stay healthy which has not been the case and likely won’t be again this year.


There is Talent
– There is plenty of top-tier talent on the Bombers with some of the best running backs in the CFL on their roster and some great receivers to go alongside some all-star defensive players as all of these players can make a winning team

Losing as a Habit
– The Bombers have been to the top of the heap in recent years but they have yet to win a Grey Cup since 1990 and that can wear on a team even if the team changes as the organization is in a situation where losing can become contagious

Biggest Addition:
– The Bombers would stay relatively silent in the offseason instead believing in the team that they have and the talent that they believe is enough to win a Grey Cup if everything can come together

Biggest Loss:
Joey Elliott/Alex Brink (Free Agency)
– It has almost become a guarantee that Buck Pierce will go down this year leaving a few games to the backup QBs and sometime the evil you know is better than the evil you don’t as the Bombers would release both of these more experienced QBs for two rookies which could mean trouble when Pierce eventually goes down


1. Toronto Argonauts*
2. Montreal Alouettes*
3. Hamilton Tiger-Cats*
4. Winnipeg Blue Bombers

*Playoff Berth

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