The Canadian Press
TORONTO — A blocked field goal at the 109th Grey Cup and a three-peat interrupted wasn’t enough to dislodge the Winnipeg Blue Bombers from the top spot in the first edition of the CFL.ca power rankings for the 2023 season.
The Blue Bombers’ continuity, from extending head coach Mike O’Shea, to signing the bulk of their pending free agents before the market opened — not to mention a couple of strong free agent signings — led to them starting out this new year as the team to beat in the CFL.
That’s not to say that there isn’t some love in here for the defending Grey Cup champions. The Toronto Argonauts have undergone some change, with Chad Kelly taking over as starting quarterback but the rest of the team, from the offensive pieces around Kelly, to the defensive side of the ball and special teams, might be even better than they were a year ago.
We’re at that wonderful point in the year where everyone’s record is unblemished and optimism abounds from all nine stadiums across the country. One of the best aspects of the CFL is its unpredictability, so there will no doubt be a team that is either far too high or far too low in these rankings. The mighty sometimes tumble quickly in this league, in the same way that last year’s non-playoff team can restock and reload and become a force over the course of a single off-season.
Here’s how we see the lay of the pristine, undisturbed CFL landscape as we head into Week 1 of the 2023 season.
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» Fantasy Refresher: Breaking down the West Division
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» Get your tickets for 2023 games now
1. Winnipeg Blue Bombers
2022 record: 15-3, lost Grey Cup
Next game: Vs. Hamilton, June 9
The Bombers went through the entire 2022 season in this very spot in the power rankings, only to have their hearts broken at the 109th Grey Cup. Just when you thought the three-peat talk around Winnipeg had ended, there’s still room for a similar conversation this year. If Zach Collaros can bring home his third consecutive Most Outstanding Player award this year he’d be the first three-peat winner since Doug Flutie won his third in a row in 1993. Flutie of course won four straight and six out of seven years between 1991-1997.
2. BC Lions
2022 record: 12-6, lost Western Final
Next game: At Calgary, June 8
You don’t want to get too excited about preseason play, but the Lions flexed their quarterback strength in their two games. Vernon Adams Jr. had a strong showing this past weekend and Dane Evans gave a glimpse into just how effective a backup he can be in those new Lions’ uniforms. If the QB play stays at a high level, this Lions team could be built for a very successful season.
3. Toronto Argonauts
2022 record: 11-7, won Grey Cup
Next game: Vs. Hamilton, June 18
The Argos added defensive back Adarius Pickett and defensive lineman Folarin Orimolade and Thomas Costigan in free agency, while keeping the core that powered them to that Grey Cup win last year. Chad Kelly will have to answer some questions at quarterback, but if he can do that this Argos team is poised for a strong title defence.
4. Calgary Stampeders
2022 record: 12-6, lost Western Semi-Final
Next game: Vs. BC, June 8
What will the Jake Maier-led Stampeders look like this year? As the 26-year-old gets ready for his first full season as a starter, he’ll face a different kind of pressure this year. It’s a point that Jim Barker made on TSN’s panel this past weekend and it’s one worth considering, that the road isn’t always a smooth one for a first-year starter. When John Hufnagel and Dave Dickenson think they’ve got something in a quarterback, though, it should ease any possible worries that Stamps fans might have.
5. Hamilton Tiger-Cats
2022 record: 8-10, lost Eastern Semi-Final
Next game: At Winnipeg, June 9
The Tiger-Cats are in it to win it in 2023, playing host to the 110th Grey Cup. Everywhere you look on the roster you see all-star level talent that wasn’t there before, from Bo Levi Mitchell to Ja’Gared Davis, Duke Williams, James Butler and Jameer Thurman, to name a few. The chemistry experiment of bringing a number of new faces together begins in earnest this week on the road against a tough foe in the Bombers.
6. Saskatchewan Roughriders
2022 record: 6-12, missed playoffs
Next game: At Edmonton, June 11
A powerful looking defence, with special teams anchored by exceptional players, in Mario Alford and Brett Lauther, the story of the 2023 Saskatchewan Roughriders will come down to one thing: can new QB Trevor Harris be adequately protected? The preseason gave a peephole-sized look at the possibilities. We’ll start to get some real answers this week in Edmonton.
7. Ottawa REDBLACKS
2022 record: 4-14, missed playoffs
Next game: At Montreal, June 10
After waiting through the preseason to see Jeremiah Masoli in action, we should get a sense of the QB’s health when the team hits the field on Tuesday for practice. A healthy Masoli should be able to do some great things with the talent around him.
8. Edmonton Elks
2022 record: 4-14, missed playoffs
Next game: Vs. Saskatchewan, June 11
The Elks had something of an advantage in getting their preseason games out of the way in the first two weeks. They made the bulk of their cuts more than a week ago and will have used that time with their full roster to begin to prep for their opener against the Riders. A win at home in Week 1 would let them get past a big roadblock and would do its part in pushing them further up these rankings.
9. Montreal Alouettes
2022 record: 9-9, lost Eastern Final
Next game: Vs. Ottawa, June 10
It’s been an off-season of change in Montreal, from ownership, to coaching, to quarterback, where Cody Fajardo and Jason Maas reunite in the East Division. While there are questions around the Als’ receiver depth, there’s also opportunity. A Week 1 win at home would be the perfect gift for new owner Pierre Karl Péladeau, who bought the team in March. Like the Elks, it would also likely bump them up in these rankings.