Final 2013 Ranking: 1
Head Coach and General Manager John Hufnagel was surgeon-like in his off-season moves, re-signing 11 of his 17 pending free agents. The Stamps did lose a couple of players to the NFL, and also parted ways with Kevin Glenn through the Expansion Draft, but they still appear to be in excellent shape heading into the 2014 season. In fact, Glenn’s departure could help focus a team that should they rest on one leader behind centre, put up as many points as anyone in the league. With Drew Tate now healthy again, the Stamps still boast one of the best lineups on paper with Jon Cornish and Maurice Price readying for another productive season.
Final 2013 Ranking: 2
It’s not often that you see the defending champions in the two slot before the season even starts, but it’s difficult to ignore the magnitude of some of the Riders’ departures this off-season. Gone are the likes of tailback Kory Sheets, receiver Weston Dressler, and hybrid DB and LB Craig Butler, who all played massive roles in the team’s Grey Cup conquest. Nonetheless, with the Darian Durant at the helm, the Riders remain in good and capable hands and their scouting department has proved before that they shouldn’t have issue finding players to fill the voids. After all, that is how Sheets got his opportunity in the first place.
Final 2013 Ranking: 4
After making a well-deserved appearance in the 101st Grey Cup, the Ticats re-shuffled and re-loaded in the off-season, with every intention of appearing and winning the Championship game in 2014. They bid farewell to Henry Burris, and welcome young pivot Zach Collaros into the fold with open arms. Along with their new QB, the Ticats also signed Butler from Saskatchewan, WR Cary Koch from Edmonton, DB Brandon Stewart from Winnipeg, LB Abraham Kromah from the Riders, and offensive lineman Steve Myddelton from the Lions — once again, the most active franchise in free agency. The Ticats will also introduce a brand new, sparkling stadium to the country on July 26, creating even more excitement within the team’s fan base. Is this the year for the Ticats? Perhaps, but a lot will rest on how quickly Collaros can transition into an everyday starter.
Final 2013 Ranking: 3
The off-season has been an interesting one for Jim Barker and the Argonauts, as the team was seemingly saying ‘goodbye’ more often than ‘welcome’ on defence. While Shea Emry was indeed a strong signing, the Boatmen proceeded to part ways with key veterans like Marcus Ball, Khalif Mitchell and Dontrelle Inman, Pat Watkins and Andrew Jones to the Eskimos, and David Lee to the Roughriders. But perhaps more importantly, the Double Blue was forced to say goodbye to defensive coordinator Chris Jones, who took over as head coach in Edmonton, as well as special teams coordinator Mike O’Shea, who moved to Winnipeg to take on his first head coaching gig. Will the Boatmen be able to to steer their ship to another first-place finish?
Final 2013 Ranking: 6
Like the Argos, the Lions also endured an off-season of change. Of their five free agents, the Lions came to new terms with none (not without trying), losing Nick Moore, Josh Bell, and Steve Myddelton to other teams, while Keron Williams and Stu Foord remain without a new contract to this point. On the sidelines, Mike Benevides refreshed his staff; saying goodbye to Rich Stubler and Jacques Chapdelaine, while saying hello to Mark Washington and Khari Jones. Will the changes translate into success in BC?
Final 2013 Ranking: 5
The Als underwent arguably the biggest changes during the off-season. The retirement of Anthony Calvillo alone is enough to shift the direction of an entire franchise, but the team also hired its third head coach in the last calendar year. Tom Higgins will bring structure and accountability to a young team that for the first time in a long time lacks experience under centre. Here’s a question: Are the Alouettes no longer in the championship conversation? The answer may sit with Troy Smith’s growth and their defence continuing to be arguably the league’s best.
Final 2013 Ranking: 7
Chris Jones will be tasked with bringing a championship back to Edmonton for the first time since 2005. Mike Reilly has bulked up, and will be looking to take another step forward in what will be his second year as the team’s starter. While it’s clear that the Eskimos didn’t take any steps back this off-season, one has to wonder how much of a step forward they took. If Jones’ ability to recruit talent is any indication, their could be some future stars on the rise but it may take some time to find out who they are and when they will arrive.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Final 2013 Ranking: 8
Massive changes were made in Winnipeg throughout the off-season. An entirely new coaching staff, captained by new former Argo assistant Mike O’Shea, will look to get the Bombers back into the post-season conversation once again. Leading them on the field will be newly-minted starting quarteback Drew Willy, who was acquired in a trade with the Roughriders. His biggest target through the air will be prized free agent signing Nick Moore, who will look to cement himself as an elite CFL receiver. But will these changes translate into success for the Blue and Gold?
Final 2013 Ranking: NA
The expansion REDBLACKS slot in at nine, but don’t be surprised if they jump up a spot or two once the action gets underway in our Nation’s Capital. Henry Burris, the face of the new franchise, brings experience to an otherwise young roster, while Rick Campbell gets his shot to lead a team from the ground up. Exciting times ahead in Ottawa, regardless of where they may stand in the standings.