by Staff Writer – Jason Langvee
Ottawa REDBLACKS – Perhaps an even more obvious change than the CBA negotiations was the re-entry of Ottawa into the CFL for 2014. The REDBLACKS have officially become the 9th CFL franchise in the league’s modern iteration. Head coach Rick Campbell has taken the reins of the team under the tutelage of general manager Marcel Desjardins, and intends to become a competitive team right away. To that end, Ottawa made several blockbuster acquisitions in the offseason, including; Henry Burris, the veteran quarterback who just came off a Grey Cup run in 2013. Other notable additions to the team include (but are NOT limited to): Jovon Johnson from Winnipeg, Eric Fraser and Jon Gott from Calgary, Paris Jackson from BC, Chevon Walker from Hamilton, and Keith Shologan from the 2013 Grey Cup Champions Riders squad. Ottawa continues to state that in 2014, the REDBLACKS will be competitive, and will not rely on their novelty to the league as an excuse to under-perform. Regardless of where the team ends up this season, know that Ottawa is ready to back in the CFL.
Montreal Alouettes – After a tumultuous 2013 season, Montreal intended on righting its ship, quickly. The Als’ major change came in the form of a new head coach; Tom Higgins. After a successful career as a head coach, Higgins changed gears as he eventually became the director of officiating for the league. After the 2013 season came to a close, Higgins stepped down from the position to entertain other opportunities. Tom ultimately accepted the position of head coach of the Alouettes in February of this year. With regards to personnel on the field, Montreal appears to have changed the least as well as the most, simultaneously. Montreal appears to have retained a majority of its starters from last season, with a few exceptions, most notably in the retirement of future hall-of-famers: Anthony Calvillo, and Scott Flory. All-Star linebacker Shea Emery has also left the angry birds in favour of a new start in Toronto. Troy Smith (acquired mid-season last year), looks to be Calvillo’s successor behind center. The other headline that swept CFL-nation, was the offseason acquisition of former-NFL Pro-Bowler Chad ‘Ochocinco’ Johnson. Johnson looks to re-enter professional football after a 3-year hiatus (spawned from legal troubles). Look for Montreal to be a hungrier and more competitive squad this season.
Toronto Argonauts – Similar to the situation in Montreal, Toronto did not make major changes to its overall roster in the offseason before 2014. As with any professional football team some turnover did occur, and unfortunately for the Argo’s, injury was one of the reasons for a major change in the roster. After hurting his ankle late in the 2013 season, Chad Kackert announced his retirement from the CFL at the commencement of 2014 training camp. Other departures from the Toronto squad can be seen on the defensive side of the ball, as Khalif Mitchell has since returned to the BC Lions and Marcus Ball is testing his might in the NFL. Similarly, Argo’s long-snapper Chad Rempel has since signed with the Chicago Bears. The Argonauts defense will likely look different from 2013 for yet another reason: the change of defensive coordinator from Chris Jones, to former Blue Bombers head coach; Tim Burke. Toronto finished the regular season atop the eastern division and will look to repeat in 2014.
Hamilton Tiger-Cats – The 2013 season of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats was as near story-book as professional sports get. The team battled through an uncharacteristically large amount of injuries, to finish second in the east. They ultimately beat out Montreal and Toronto to compete for the 101st Grey Cup in Regina. Although they did not cap off the season with a championship victory, they did prove a lot of nay-sayers wrong in the campaign. After a very successful season as both head coach and general manager of the tabbies, Kent Austin looks to pick up where he left off for 2014. The coaching staff has remained the same, but that is where the continuity appears to end. Hamilton made several big acquisitions in the offseason, none more noteworthy than the release of veteran quarterback Henry Burris, in lieu of the former Argonaut; Zach Collaros. Collaros had a very memorable 2013 season, as he filled-in for an injured Ricky Ray, and caught a lot of attention doing so. Moreover, Hamilton added the likes of: Graig Butler, Marcellus Bowman, Cary Koch, and Ted Laurent. The Ticats also benefitted from the re-entry of kicker Justin Medlock, fresh off a stint in the NFL. Similarly, Simoni Lawrence returns to Hamilton after several workouts in the NFL. As is the story for the rest of the CFL, the Tiger-Cats will look to be as competitive as ever in 2014, although with the bitter taster of a Grey Cup loss still fresh in the mouths of many Cats, look for a strong push from Hamilton in 2014.
Are there changes we missed, that you think might make a difference this season? Comment them below, or tweet your thoughts to @CFLPA with #CFL2014!
Make sure to check back next week, as we re-cap the major changes for the Western teams of the CFL.