CFL East on the Rise
It's the best eastern football we've seen in years.
Three clubs - Winnipeg, Hamilton and Montreal - are all looking Grey Cup worthy as we speak, and when was the last time we could say that? Only the lowly Argonauts are looking like also-rans at the moment, and surely we are in the last days of the great Cleo Lemon experiment. That said, Jim Barker's not about to give up on this season quite yet.
(UPDATE: Guess I wasn't wrong on Lemon. Argos released him this morning, about two hours after my first posting. Nice guy, but just never was able to show he could lead anything approaching a prolific, CFL-style offence. That said, he had probably the weakest core of receivers to work with in the league during his tenure. Now Barker has to find a quarterback and some receivers. Last year's promising season now a memory.)
The pummelling of the Als by the Tiger-Cats on Labour Day put the new realities of the CFL East into sharp relief. If there was a game in which the Cats were to come down to earth and the Alouettes were to assert their same-old, same-old dominance, this was it. But after spotting the visitors seven points early, the Cats pounded the Larks into the Ivor Wynne turf, harassing Anthony Calvillo with unusual defensive alignments and using former Al running back Avon Cobourne to set up Kevin Glenn's passing attack.
The Bombers, meanwhile, lost on the weekend, but have been the best team in the league this season. They've got a bunch of battles with the Alouettes upcoming, and wouldn't it be interesting to see Montreal at least forced to play the post-season on the road, for a change?
Given that both Winnipeg and Hamilton will have new stadiums in the next few years, perhaps we're at the end of a long era in which the CFL West has contained the most consistent quality and depth in the league. The league is super-solid out west, but it is in the east where a run of good football could really make a difference, particularly with Ottawa (probably?) coming back into the league in the next three years.
The threat from the Buffalo Bills to southern Ontario hasn't turned out to be much of a threat at all, but there's always something new coming to trouble the CFL. A solidified CFL East would be a great boon to Mark Cohon's league, and who knows, maybe David Braley won't have to own two teams much longer.