I Don't Like Mondays — November 23, 2015
It wasn’t Tom Clements to Tony Gabriel, but Sunday’s last-minute 93-yard heave by Ottawa QB Henry Burris to Greg Ellingson for an improbable winning touchdown will have a place in Ottawa sports history. Considering that it’s been the better part of 33 years since the team from the capital went to a Grey Cup, you can excuse the fans for being a little giddy.
After just two seasons back in the league, Ottawa hits paydirt. Fortuitous for the CFL, too, having a good-news story for the Grey Cup game this week. After a year in which everything that could go wrong did go wrong, having the (still hate the name) RedBlacks and their passionate fans head to the championship game should provide a rooting interest.
Although you shouldn’t expect much love from Blue Bomber fans in the Peg. They are watching a team with a chance to win the Grey Cup after just two years when their own club hasn’t hoisted the mug since 1990. Tickets, as they say, are still available fir the big game.
Poor Kent Austin, the Hamilton head coach. He nearly won Sunday with the back up, back up at quarterback, the immortal Jeremiah Masoli. He probably had the best team in the CFL till it was decimated by injuries. It’s hard not have your best and still win in any league. In the CFL, where great talent is precious, losing your best guys is fatal.
It was a lousy day all around for Calgary. On the same afternoon that new NDP premier Rachel Motley dropped her carbon-tax bomb on the city, the capital’s football team also pounded the Stampeders in the Western Final.
Edmonton’s appearance is not quite as novel as the Redblacks’, but it’s probably justice as the Eskimos were the best team in the CFL. And they left no doubt, destroying the Stampeders. The Stamps, like Hamilton, were injury-riddled for the game; but they added to their problems by making all the turnovers and key penalties. And so John Hufnagel retires as head coach with two Grey Cups rather than the four or five he might have won with so many excellent teams.
We also know, thanks to the Eskimos, that a three-week layoff heading into the playoffs is not a detriment. They were sharp, fresh and ran the battered Stamps into the Commonwealth turf. For the sake of TSN, whose CFL contract was no asset this season, a competitive championship game is the least they deserve for sinking so much money into the league.
If New York Islanders defencemen Travis Hamonic truly is in play — he’s asked to be moved closer to his family’s home in western Canada — it might finally jump start the NHL trade market. The question is just how much his trade might accelerate or restrict the market.
Because he’s a Manitoba boy, it’s believed that Winnipeg and Minnesota will have the upper hand if Hamonic’s picking the city. Getting Hamonic is important to the Jets because they’re always said to be the Devil’s Island of the NHL. No one wants to go there. Weather, isolation, lack of secondary sponsorship and now the declining loonie are supposed to be non-starters for NHL guys. While that’s exaggerated somewhat, getting a local boy to come to Winnipeg would be a bragging point.
For the three western Canadian teams in the Pacific, keeping Hamonic away from the rivals might be as important as getting him themselves. It’s like Hollywood Squares “I’ll take Paul Lynde to block…” If nothing, the fuss over Hamonic, a No. 3 or 4 D-man at best, indicates the anticipation for the market.
It’s been a long while since there have been so many big names were in their final contract year, headed to free agency. Steve Stamkos and Anze Kopitar lead the way with Dustin Byfuglien, Eric Staal and Kyle Okposo among the baubles that might be moved before the trade deadline if their teams can’t hang on to them.
Clubs will want value for these stars, but with reduced leverage they may be forced to take whatever’s available. So the Hamonic talks may be a blueprint for the entire trade season. If Garth Snow, the Islanders GM, can get a team to overpay for the 25-year-old defenceman that will probably take every deal down to the eleventh hour.
But if the market is soft, GMs with potential free agents might want to strike early before getting stuck with players they can’t sign.
Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy @NPBroadcaster