The Year that Was and the Year that Will Be
If I had to use one single word to describe the 2015 CFL season, it would be “transition.”
2015 was the first season under new CFL Commissioner Jeffrey Orridge and many think he may have bitten off a bit more than he can chew. While the changes the league went through during his first year on the job were immense, some thought he could have been around more to weather the storm.
The rule changes and officiating dominated the news up until Labour Day, especially the rule regarding contact on receivers. It took some time for teams to adjust to the change, but fans began blaming officials for the flag-fest happening in what seemed like every single game. Many even said they could no longer watch the game due to the constant stoppages in play. All complaints aside, the new rules had a big impact on offense with a number of players hitting the 1,000-yard plateau in 2015.
Stadium availability was another big news item across the league, as the Toronto Blue Jays were finally playing meaningful baseball late in the MLB season for the first time in over twenty years. The Argos were booted from their stadium late in the year after not hosting a home game for the first eight weeks of the year due to the Pan-Am Games. The FIFA Women’s World Cup caused much of the league to play elsewhere during the preseason and early parts of the regular season, but no other addition to the league in 2016 will be more welcome than BMO Field.
Quarterback injuries, as they were in 2014, were huge again this past year. Darian Durant, Mike Reilly, Drew Willy and Zach Collaros all missed significant time because of injury – Imagine the offensive numbers if every quarterback was an iron man like Bo Levi Mitchell or Henry Burris.
Even though the Edmonton Eskimos ended up Grey Cup champions, it’s hard not to look at the Ottawa RedBlacks as 2015’s biggest success. Their free agent additions became instant stars, Henry Burris had an MOP season at 40 years old, and they turned a 2-16 inaugural season into a 12-6 sophomore season.
I mean, this has to be the highlight of the year, right?
That honour *had* to go to Ryan Smith or Chad Owens leading up to “2nd and 25” but it’s hard to ignore the gravity of the situation in that East Final. As you can see from the fan reaction, Ottawa *is* a football town.
Ottawa not only had success on the field, but off the field the team also made great strides. Attendance (and the atmosphere) at TD Place was tops in the league and it looks like Jeff Hunt has cracked the code on how to get young people out to the stadium. Fans in Hamilton continued to make an amazing atmosphere, too, as they continue to sell out Tim Horton’s Field. Can cities like BC, Toronto and Montreal succeed on getting more youth out in 2016?
The league has transitioned to new stadiums, new rules and, immediately after the season, many coaches made the transition to new teams.
Chris Jones is off to Saskatchewan, Jason Maas is off to Edmonton, Wally Buono is back on the sidelines in BC, Paul LaPolice returned to Winnipeg and Noel Thorpe *tried* to leave Montreal.
Noel Thorpe to remain defensive co-ordinator, assistant coach with Alouettes https://t.co/uQmndyQTxW— CBC Montreal (@CBCMontreal) December 22, 2015
Most teams will have a completely new look on the sidelines in 2016 but don’t disregard the changes *on the field*. Most teams in the league have an extensive free agent list because of the addition of one-year contracts in the latest collective bargaining agreement.
While free agency officially opens on February 9, 2016, at noon EST, Chris Jones has already gotten off to a quick start at making his mark on the Roughriders. This is shaping up to be the busiest free agent period in years.
Each team will have had an entire season under their belts to get used to these new rules and we’ll have one more new stadium added to the mix (BMO Field) before adding another in 2017 (New Mosaic Stadium). The playoffs and Grey Cup brought us some great football to close out 2015.
Can we get on with the draft and training camp already?
– written by Travis Currah