Friday, December 23, 2016
A HOLIDAY BLOG
1 - There the new place sits. The lights are on, but nobody's home.
It's hard to drive by New Mosaic Stadium nightly and not think about what lies in store for Canada's Team in the finest football stadium in the land but that's very, verrrrrry far off.
The club won't even move into their new digs until February at the earliest.
For now, we can only get ready for Christmas 2016 and talk about what might happen for the Green & White in 2017. The club has been in a month-long hibernation - presumably self-imposed - but I've been given the indication we'll start to see some action early in the New Year.
Until then, top up your eggnog and enjoy the Holiday Season.
2 - Will the impending Rider news include Darian Durant? Honestly, it's doubtful. The Riders have a bushel of other free agents to deal with and I expect a lot of the news will come from that. Defensive tackle Jonathan Williams was one of those free agents, but he was released announced on Wednesday amid little fanfare. Former Roughrider Marcus "Chunky" Adams Tweeted that it was Williams' intention to retire.
3 - And will 2017 be as zany and whacky as 2016 was in Riderville? Here's hoping not. From the rash of player retirements, to bizarre injuries, to the conspiracy theory, to prized free agent signing Shawn Lemon wanting out, it was a thrill-a-minute in the 306 and not a lot of it was good.
We'll find out whether the player retirements were a simply a fad, or a troubling trend. My guess is the latter, and it extends beyond Saskatchewan to all of pro football. Apparently the reward is no longer worth the risk for a lot of these guys.
4 - Of course as each day of the off-season goes by ever-so-slowly, we're at least one day closer to a decision being made on Darian Durant's future. (Whenever that may be). It struck me that at Chris Jones' year-end news conference on November 7, none of the reporters thought to ask "Do you actually want Darian Durant back in 2017?" I'm as guilty as anyone for whiffing on that question, for I was in the room too.
But it's a question I'd love to ask now. The Riders have been silent since that November day, other than Jones's one-on-one interview with the Leader Post's Rob Vanstone and the team's comments on the death of Joe McKnight.
Tick, tick, tick.
5 - The fact remains Darian Durant is the beating heart of this team. He is the soul of the Saskatchewan Roughriders franchise and I shudder to think of a day when that's no longer the case. But Chris Jones has been around here long enough to realize that.
6 - My mother-in-law has never been a Durant fan and on Tuesday evening at a family gathering, I asked her why. "Because we rely too much on him," she said sternly. For once, I had no snappy response or comeback. I had to pause for a minute and admit she's right.
When Durant was hurt in 2014 and 2015, we all know the club didn't stand a chance at winning without him. Even with him in 2016, the Riders' chances at winning didn't seem to be much better than 50/50.
Perhaps that's why we're in this current situation; Jones wants to allocate a good portion of Durant's salary to other positions in order to even out the talent level.
7 - It seems to me too that Chris Jones is doing exactly what he was hired to do -- straighten out the mess he inherited and build a solid foundation for sustained success for years to come. A foundation that can withstand a loss at the quarterback position. The trouble is a good portion of the Rider Nation doesn't like the way he's doing it.
However having said that, I'm starting to hear more and more from fans that, "The club will survive without Darian Durant". It's like people are preparing for the inevitable.
8 - For those grumbling, are you putting your money where your mouth is? The early bird season ticket renewal deadline was this week and it seems most everyone has paid for their 2017 tickets in full. I know we did, and there wasn't even a second thought. I'm told the ticket office was jammed with Rider fans Wednesday morning, who were eager to save a few bucks with the early bird discount.
Chris Jones said it best this season when he mentioned, "Win or lose, the stands are full".
But would you be renewing if it wasn't for the new stadium?
I think you would be. Fans are still engaged and hits to this website have remained steady throughout the off-season. People continue to clamour for any news regarding the club.
9 - However if you REALLY don't want to renew your season tickets, please email me at email@example.com and I'll take them off your hands. Dead serious.
10 - At the end of the season I predicted a shake-up with Kent Austin's Hamilton Tiger-Cats. It came last week with the departure of Defensive Coordinator Orlondo Steinauer to Fresno State. It may not look too significant from the outside, but it's a major change internally. I did not expect Steinauer to be back in 2017.
10 - The only thing worthwhile watching in the CFL this winter has been the turnover in the Montreal Alouettes organization. It looks chaotic from the outside, so I can't imagine how it looks from the inside. While many are snickering at the hire of Kavis Reed as General Manager, I'm happy to see some new blood in a managerial role in this league and interested to see how it turns out.
As long-time hockey man Carter Sears once advised, "What other teams do is their business".
However if it's true they're looking at bringing in former Blue Bombers GM Joe Mack for a significant role, the Alouettes deserve what they get.
11 - No Regina Pats on Canada's World Junior Team? It has to be a conspiracy.
12 - You'll still be able to watch two members of the Regina Pats in the 2017 World Junior Hockey Championship in Montreal and Toronto. Defenseman Sergey Zborovskiy is playing with Russia while forward Filip Ahl is part of Team Sweden.
You can watch a Pats prospect in the World Juniors in the form of Tyson Jost, and I'll explain much more about him in the next point.
But still, not having an actual Regina Pat on Team Canada takes a bit of a shine off the tournament for this blogger. Normally we'd be scanning each line change to see if our player is on the ice but that won't be the case again this year. Jordan Eberle and Colten Teubert were the last Pats to play for Canada (2010) and that's getting to be a long time.
I wonder if the Pats' record of placing the most players on Team Canada in the history of the tournament is starting to be in jeopardy.
13 - Still, Canada's loss is Regina's gain and the Pats certainly will benefit from the addition of Sam Steel and Austin Wagner in their lineup over the next couple of weeks.
The Pats have finally caught the attention of Regina sports fans and they're the buzz on everyone's lips around here. For instance, I was asked on Wednesday if Sam Steel signing with the Anaheim Ducks means he'll be called up to the NHL in the near future. The truth is it does not, and all it means is that Mr. Steel is now a wealthier young man than your average 18-year old.
The future of the Regina Pats Hockey Club is INCREDIBLY bright. The franchise is after the same type of success that the OHL's London Knights currently enjoy and they're definitely on the right track.
The club's focus right now is having a successful bid to host the 2018 Memorial Cup and they'll make their pitch in late-January in Toronto. They'll find out in early February if they're successful, and they're up against Hamilton and Oshawa who figure to present strong cases of their own.
However I can't imagine any scenario in which the Pats don't get it.
You're already hearing a lot about forward Tyson Jost, who's lighting up the World Juniors for Team Canada. The Pats acquired the rights to the St. Albert, AB product from the Everett Silvertips this summer but he's currently toiling for U.N.D. However I'm told there's an outside chance the Colorado Avalanche first-rounder may join the Pats but it's not until next year, and whether or not the Pats are hosting the Memorial Cup could make a big difference.
And the club is also happy with their new long-term lease with the Regina Exhibition Association Limited. The Pats will play in the Brandt Centre for the next several seasons to come and while a new arena has been discussed and explored, there's nothing immiment on the horizon.
14 - The crap the Edmonton Oilers pulled last night in Arizona was bush league and shows they may not be going anywhere as an organization. No class.
15 - Merry Christmas to all and a huge THANK YOU to the men and women of Law Enforcement who will keep us, and the roads, safe this holiday season.
THAT'S IT FOR TODAY! HAPPY HOLIDAYS ..