HOME GAME WEEKEND NOTES
1. THE CONDITIONS: As we all know the Saskatchewan Roughriders play their final home game of 2015 on Saturday when they host the Edmonton Eskimos at Mosaic Stadium (5:00 pm, TSN, CKRM Rider Network). As each day passes, the forecast gets better and better for the game. They're now predicting a high of 12 degrees Celsius and a mix of sun and cloud. That's a lot better than most late-October games we've seen over the years. Dress warmly however -- the overnight low calls for minus-2.
The Eskimos have been practicing with crowd noise piped into the stadium this week in anticipation of a hostile Mosaic Stadium. Let's not disappoint them.
2. THE EVIL EMPIRE IS BACK: Last year I mentioned the tandem of Ed Hervey and Chris Jones in Edmonton would likely be bad news for the Saskatchewan Roughriders and that has been the case. The Eskimos go into Saturday's game tied for first-place in the CFL West at 12-4 while the Riders are a league-worst 2-13. That includes a 30-5 Eskimos drubbing of the Riders back on July 31 at Commonwealth Stadium in Brett Smith's first career start. Don't look now but they're carrying a six-game win streak into Regina this weekend. And the oddsmakers have obviously been keeping a close eye on both clubs' rosters this week, as they've installed the Eskimos as 9-point favourites.
Whether it's by design or not, Rider coach Bob Dyce has successfully disguised his roster this week. There was tons of mixing and matching in Tuesday's practice and Wednesday's workout was closed. Right now it's anyone's guess who will make up the final 44 but we'll get a better idea at Thursday's open practice, the final full workout of the week. But it likes like there will be a handful of veteran starters being sat down in favour of youngsters.
3. THE PRICE IS RIGHT: Bob Dyce was coy with regard to his quarterback plans for this game. On Tuesday he annointed Brett Smith as the Riders' starting quarterback - which came as a surprise to no one - but he was non-committal as to how he'll use #2 man Keith Price. Dyce said Price will see game action "when he's ready" but admitted Price feels he's ready to go now. He then added "you'll likely see him sooner than later".
Fans have been clamouring to see Price, which is no surprise since the back-up quarterback is always the most popular Roughrider in this province. What do we know about him? Well he's the oldest active quarterback on the Rider roster at age 24, and was nicknamed "Teeth Price" while at the University of Washington due to his ever-present smile in interviews. His final outing with the Huskies was the 2013 Fight Hunger Bowl in which he led the team to a 31-16 victory. He hasn't started a game since. Oh, and he's Straight Outta Compton, having been raised in the Los Angeles suburb of Compton, California.
All signs point to Price making his professional playing debut on Saturday which has added some intrigue to the game. Perhaps we'll finally find out if the "Price Is Right".
Incidentally 91-year old former The Price Is Right gameshow host Bob Barker was treated and released from hospital this week after suffering a fall outside his Hollywood home.
4. IN A HUFF: The article by Vancouver sportswriter Cam Cole on Wednesday regarding the rumour of John Hufnagel joining the Roughriders in time for the 2016 season was a curious one. Why is the Vancouver media getting involved in a story that involves two other teams? Did the Canucks have the day off?
Regardless, recent Calgary media reports suggest Hufnagel "still wants to coach" and may not be totally on board with the decision to relinquish his head coaching duties with the Stampeders after this season and assume the sole role of General Manager. There have been whispers the Stampeders brass was afraid to lose offensive coordinator Dave Dickenson to another team, hence the succession plan being sped up.
On Wednesday I briefly considered asking the Roughriders for a statement on the matter but then quickly realized this situation has absolutely nothing to do with them.
Could these cards all fall in the direction of Hufnagel coming to Saskatchewan in a Coach/GM combo for 2016? That's purely speculation that the media is running with right now. However Saskatchewan's football club is currently just an innocent bystander.
What an inopportune time for this story to come out while the Stampeders are gunning for a second consecutive Grey Cup title!
For his part, from what I know of Hufnagel, these rumours won't be bothering him one bit and he's likely focused only on getting his team ready for their next game and this playoff run.
But apparently it's driving his bosses nuts.
Meanwhile Canadian Football Hall of Famer Tom Shepherd told us on In The Huddle this week he's learned the Riders have received an application from a "superstar candidate" for the GM job, however he didn't know the gentleman's identity. Any guesses?
5. GAME NOTES: The B.C. Lions, Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Montreal Alouettes are all in the race for the third and final playoff spot in the West however they're all on the limp. The Lions have lost five of their last six games, the Bombers are 1-3 in their last four, and Montreal's 5-10 record is its worst at this point in the season since their return to Montreal in 1996.
The CFL statistician's office pointed out the Alouettes have the easiest schedule ahead as their three final opponents have a combined record of 23-23. B.C. has the toughest road as their final three opponents are a collective 31-15 but the Blue Bombers only have two games left and their opponents' record is a combined 18-12.
For what it's worth, TSN's Paul Lapolice predicted on Wednesday's SportsCage on 620 CKRM that the Alouettes will claim the last spot. In Monday's column I figured the Blue Bombers would clinch the final spot but after looking at the numbers, I'm inclined to agree with Lapolice.
6. A HOT MESS: Some Rider fans are still seething over the trade of Jerome Messam to the Calgary Stampeders last week no matter how many times GM Jeremy O'Day has to explain it to them. Some of their concerns are completely irrational, as some people are simply ticked off the Riders helped rival Calgary bolster their roster for a Grey Cup run. However Paul Lapolice had another take on it on Wednesday, saying the Riders could still end up re-signing Messam as a free agent in the off-season. Jerome certainly seemed to love his time here and instantly became a fan favourite. However, as Lapolice noted, star Canadian running back Andrew Harris of the B.C. Lions is slated to become a free agent as well and perhaps the Riders will take a run at him.
This is shaping up to be a very interesting off-season. The CFL has truly become a 12-month league and that's great news for those of us in the media business.
7. SICK OF ELECTION TALK YET?: Of course you are. But lots of people just can't let the Liberals' victory on Monday night go, including former CFL punter Burke Dales (2003-2013, Montreal, Calgary & Edmonton). Dales, a Political Science major at Concordia University, and a man predicted to be a future Prime Minister of Canada by former Eskimos PR chief Dave Jamieson, bemoaned Justin Trudeau's victory on Facebook Wednesday night.
"I'm sorry to all of my Liberal friends in advance, but I feel you will all be eating your votes in a very short period of time," Dales wrote. "I also feel that most people that voted liberal had really no clue of what they were voting for. Hopefully next time Canadians will research each party accordingly before voting against PC because CBC, Global News, The Huffington Post or someone with a left wing agenda told you to.
"It's kind of embarrassing to be honest, but maybe this was supposed to happen in order for Canadians to understand their politics a little bit better. Either way, we've got Justin now and we will see just what he can do in his new role as our leader! And to all of the Left Wing social media addicts...No need to respond until Trudeau proves himself ...stay confident and true to the "X" you marked on your ballet. Good luck as I feel you will very much need it."
There you go. Incidentally I never cared for the Conservatives' campaign of "He's Just Not Ready" as it pertained to Justin Trudeau. What they essentially were saying was, 'He's got the goods to be Prime Minister but he's just not old enough'. Dumb, dumb, dumb. That's what every millenial hates to hear, and they voted that way.
8. OKAY BLUE JAYS: The Toronto Blue Jays showed something on Wednesday that I didn't think they had. They pulverized Kansas City 7-1 to stave off elimination in Game 5 of the ALCS forcing a Game 6 Friday night at Kaufman Stadium. I was all on board with the Jays' run this fall - bandwagoner or not - but there have been several instances where this team has proved to be somewhat unlikable. Or at the very least, soft. From players pulling themselves from games in the ALDS, to complaining about umpires' calls, and laughing it up in the dugout in the ninth inning of their 14-2 loss in Game 4, they just don't seem to be a team mature enough to pull this thing off.
I took a run at pitcher Aaron Loup for leaving the team before Game 5 to attend to a family matter however after learning of the severity of the situation, I'll take the comments back. NO ONE should have to deal with what he's going through.
But perhaps once this Blue Jays season is over, people will get back to their boycott of Rogers. Is that corporation truly trying to kill the CFL as it seems?
9. RANDOMS: Former Roughrider receiver Jordan Sisco is modelling Canada Goose jackets in ads for Sunshine & Ski ... Now I know why I prefer ESPN's Sportscenter to its Canadian cousin: the anchors don't kibitz about each other's wedding songs and the like. Just give me the sports, straight up ... There's one way to eliminate being bullied on social media: delete your account. It's that simple ... The Calgary Roughnecks professional lacrosse team is using the slogan "Come For The Party, Stay For The Game" in its advertising materials for the upcoming season. It's a tired and worn out marketing phrase, but can be effective.
10. STICK AND PUCK: Break up the Oilers! Edmonton's hockey club has won three in a row following Wednesday's 3-1 home triumph over Detroit. Connor McDavid came alive in the game and has hockey fans in Oil Country worked into a frenzy. Coach Todd McLellan really has them working together and playing as a team ... The same can't be said for the Calgary Flames who were trounced 6-2 by Washington Tuesday at the Saddledome, dropping their record to a division-worst 1-5-0. Many are blaming the Flames' goaltending but did you watch the game? Calgary was employing "Camp Fire Defense", with everyone standing around watching. It's tough on the goalies when you allow the opposition to take the perfect shot, unharrassed. Was last year's Flames playoff spot a flash-in-the-pan? ... Back to the Oilers, it's a nice move by them to promote the Oil Kings' next home game in the digital advertising behind the nets during games ... Kudos too to the Prince Albert Raiders for cracking the CHL's Top 10 rankings this week, making the list at #10!
THAT'S IT! THANKS FOR READING ...