Five biggest divisional award snubs

The CFL released their list of finalists for the player awards that will be handed out later this month, and while some were no brainers — Mike Reilly and Ricky Ray for MOP; Andrew Harris for top Canadian — there were some spectacular snubs that make me, as a voter, wonder what my fellow voters were thinking.

Here are the five choices I think awards voters got dead wrong.

Most Outstanding Rookie, East Division

I knew it was going to happen, but I was hoping it wouldn’t, and it seems voters chose James Wilder, Jr. and his flashy numbers over Richard Leonard’s solid, year-long play.

I am not trying to disparage Wilder or talk down the season he had. He was tremendous, but he was tremendous in way fewer games than Leonard, who was tremendous over a full season and did so playing two different positions in the secondary.

Wilder won this award on the backs of two sets of back-to-back games. He had 190 and 141 in back-to-back weeks against Edmonton and Montreal, respectively, and finished the season with 112 against Winnipeg and 136 against B.C. But those four big games were also the only games Wilder cracked the 100-yard mark. He cracked the 70-yard mark just one more time and was under 50 yards in every other game he played. Wilder had some highlight-reel moments, but he wasn’t as consistent over the whole season as Leonard was.

Leonard was entrusted to move from field corner to field halfback, and in the process supplanted Emanuel Davis and sent the two-time East all-star to the bench. Leonard didn’t miss a beat, and had arguably his best game in the season’s final contest, when he intercepted two passes against the Montreal Alouettes. Leonard finished second in the league in interceptions with seven and tied for the league lead in both pass knockdowns and fumble recoveries (one of which he took to the house). Leonard should have been a shoe-in for this nomination, and yet he will be at home while James Wilder, Jr. likely collects the trophy.

It is a shame, not just for Leonard, but for defensive players in general. It seems as if voters, when given a choice between an offensive player and a defensive player, will pick the offensive player. It is a mindset that needs to be changed, but it is too late to change it to give Richard Leonard the credit he rightfully deserves.

Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman, East Division

Sean McEwen probably isn’t even the best offensive lineman on his own team — Chris Van Zyel should have been the Argos’ nominee for top o-lineman — so it is hard for me to say that he is the best offensive lineman in the entire East Division.

Call it homer bias, and maybe it is, but Ryan Bomben probably should have been the recipient of Leo Dandurand award. It is always tough to judge the play of offensive lineman — be honest, how many of you actually pay attention to the hogs when the game is going on — but Bomben has been a solid player for many years and was again this year. McEwen is a good young player, but was he the top offensive lineman in the East Division in 2017? I don’t think so.

Most Outstanding Canadian, East Division

Brad Sinopoli probably shouldn’t have even been his team’s nominee — it should have been Antoine Pruneau — and because of that, picking him over any of the three offensive lineman was a mistake.

Sinopoli had a fine year, went over 1,000 yards (thought just barely) for the third straight year and is a very good player. But was he outstanding this year?

This is another case of voters looking at numbers and name — let’s face it, most people know who Brad Sinopoli is, but couldn’t pick Ryan Bomben, Sean McEwen or Kristian Matte out of a lineup of one — and not actually judging the play on the field. Another one I knew would happen, but one I had hoped wouldn’t. Most years, Brad Sinopoli has deserved being recognized as the East’s top Canadian, but not this one.

Most Outstanding Special Teams Player, East Division

One game made the difference here, and because that game happened near the end of the season and not the beginning, the more-deserving Martese Jackson is left out in the cold while Diontae Spencer is named the East’s top special teamer.

If Spencer does not have a near 500-yard performance (and please remember that all of those yards did not come on special teams) in Week 19, he’s not picked. That one game stood out in voters’ minds as they made their selection, and they ignored a year’s worth of great special teams performances by Jackson in favour of picking the guy who had the one big game.

Jackson had over 400 more total return yards than Spencer, Jackson’s average-per-return was three yards higher and he scored twice on returns while Spencer never found the end zone on special teams. Spencer was the better overall player 2017, but Jackson is the better special teams player and should have been the East’s nominee.

Coach of the Year, West Division

If I told you before the season that the Calgary Stampeders would win 13 games, you might think that low. If I told you that the Saskatchewan Roughriders would win 10, you tell me to stop huffing paint. I take nothing away from the job Dave Dickenson has done, but Chris Jones turned a league punching bag into a playoff team and that deserved recognition.

Josh Smith

Josh Smith

Josh has been writing about the Ticats and the CFL since 2010 and was sporting his beard way before it was cool. Will be long after, too.
Josh Smith

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Josh has been writing about the Ticats and the CFL since 2010 and was sporting his beard way before it was cool. Will be long after, too.

31 Comments on Five biggest divisional award snubs

  1. Good analysis…
    Only other miss: Solomon Elimimian… simply outstanding because he didn’t have any strong help the way Calgary does with Hughes…

  2. That Sinopli was a bad one. Totally agree

  3. I have to agree, I too was surprised to see Dickenson nominated as CoY for the west. I think an argument could have been made for O’Shea (Yes I KNOW many Ticats fans don’t like him!) for leading his team to a home playoff game and second place in a tough western division. Dickenson inherited a solid team – Osh has been involved in building the BBs and making them into a contender that has to be taken seriously.

    • George Porge // November 10, 2017 at 12:29 am //

      People who think Dickenson just inherited a good team seem to forget that he has been coaching in Calgary for eight full seasons. He was assistant Head Coach for two seasons before taking over as solo HC last year. He was offensive coordinator since the Burris years. Dickenson had nearly as much a hand in building the current Stampeder team as Hufnagel – and Hufnagel would be the first to tell you so.

      • Glenn Chernick // November 10, 2017 at 12:02 pm //

        I agree George, Dickenson. Has kept the Stamps good, call me a homer, but I think a 5-13 to 10–8 improvement should give you the CoTY nod over someone maintaining a team in 1st place. Not trying to diminish Dickenson’s accomplishments though

      • You got it right!

    • Details Details // November 10, 2017 at 1:26 am //

      What difference does it make if Tiger-Cats fans like O’Shea or not?
      Who made Tiger-Cat fans arbiters of everything in the CFL?

    • I can’t understand why Dickenson was nominated either. The Stamps digressed from 15-2-1 in 2016 to 13-4-1. That’s certainly no improvement. As much as I dislike him Chris Jones had the most improved record this year.

  4. Dickenson lucky he has the bye week or his would be done round 1 now there gonna be done round 2 . Not deserving at all

    • Dundas dude // November 10, 2017 at 2:53 am //

      Agreed. I don’t see Calgary fixing the last month of ineptitude in the bye week. Maybe they turn this around like the Riders did in ‘13 but I don’t see this as likely. If the wheels fall off late this year too, one has to wonder about the Stampeder regular season dominance coupled with a recent Cup record one marginal special teams penalty away from futility.

    • LOL LOl you say Dickenson is “lucky”to have the bye week!!! How about winning 13 football games in the season!!! Any team in the league would like to have that record!!!!WOW,you must be sask. or ed. fan how jealous can you be!!

      • Would the word “fortunate” have been better? There’s no question the Stamps earned the bye, but they did so early in the season, not in October. They need they bye to get over their three game slide, so, yeah, they are “lucky” to have the bye, as opposed to being thrown right back into action. Sensitive much?

  5. Skroughrider // November 9, 2017 at 9:35 pm //

    I think another is west division defensive as ed gainey with 10 intetceptions deserved the nod which is way hatder to do than gettibg whole pile of tackles

    • Lancaster/Reed // November 9, 2017 at 9:47 pm //

      Your kidding, right? Singleton clearly deserves the west nomination. I even question gaineys nomination over jefferson.

  6. Have to agree Lancaster on both counts. I think Jefferson would have been a better choice. If you had to keep Jefferson or Gainey & couldn’t afford both, who would you keep? I’ve said it before but I’d take Butler over Gainey if I could only keep one. That’s not to say Gainey wasn’t deserving of the honour. But Jefferson doesn’t get the help down the middle that, say, the DE’s get with a Michah Johnson in Calgary or Sewell in Edmonton who draw double & triple teams. Jefferson is the one who often draws the extra man. Completely different things to deal with.

  7. I can understand the frustration with Leonard BUT I don’t buy the argument based on him playing more games & Wilder being tremendous over less games. In 2015 Derel Walker was rookie of the year & only played 12 games. Wilder dressed for 17 games & had 872 rushing yards which, in this day & age when you have at least a dozen receivers go over 1,000, is pretty good for any rusher. Let me give you another example, Josh. Duron Carter was the Riders’ MOP & I think we mostly all agree he was deserving of it. But of his 1043 yards receiving, 231 (22% of his season total) came in 1 game, a full 35% of his ENTIRE total came in his best 2 games, & 559 yds or 54% of his entire production came in 4 games out of 18, or 15 games if you want to give him credit for mostly playing DB the last 3. He had 4 games, before he played DB, where he had 12 yards or less, 6 games of 45 or less. You look at the overall season production & don’t penalize someone for having an outstanding rushing season just because it came mostly over a smaller sample.

  8. Heh, I make a comment agreeing that Jones is deserving and that Dickerson may not be as much agreeing with the author, nothing more, nothing less and it’s been awaiting moderation for more than 2 hours?

    Alrighty then…

    • George Porge // November 10, 2017 at 12:32 am //

      Your comment is as good as lost. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a comment that was “awaiting” moderation ever come out of purgatory.

  9. Completely wrong about Dionte Spencer “never found the end zone on special teams.” He returned a punt for a TD in Week 2 @ Calgary, and another TD on a missed FG against Montreal in Week 13. C’mon man, check the stats properly if you’re going to use them to support your argument.

  10. i feel brandon labatte should have most outstanding linemen in the west started the year at gaurd then moved to centre

  11. Bill deHoog // November 10, 2017 at 7:17 am //

    Coach of the year could of went to either Jones or O’Shea. In the east I thought Campbell did a great job considering all of the turnover he had to deal with.
    I thought Spencer was certainly rewarded for outstanding season.
    Brad S is simply outstanding, although Pruneau had himself a great season.
    Interesting debate

  12. BigRedMachine // November 10, 2017 at 9:41 am //

    Other than Buono, I wouldn’t have had a problem with any of the other coaches being named the WD COTY. In DD’s defense though, I think it is greatly under appreciated how tough it is to have sustained success year after year. That said, I think Trestman wins it in the end anyway….

  13. BigRedMachine // November 10, 2017 at 9:47 am //

    As a side thought, I think the overall crop of rookies this year in the west was rather weak. Michel had an ok rookie year but I hardly thought it was outstanding. I went back and looked at the other west nominees and I didn’t really see anyone else that stood out either. Kind of surprising…

  14. I’ve lost a few well written comments in the “awaiting moderation” black hole… kind of turned me off contributing…

    I’ve never liked nor agreed with MOP awards in the ultimate team sport of football…

    When a DE fights through a double team block and pressures the QB and maybe even tips the ball at the line making for an easy interception and possibly a pick six… the DB gets all the credit and maybe even is nominated as MOP… sorry folks… it’s a team sport and the only trophy that matters is the Grey Cup…

    Just saying…

  15. riderontheisland // November 10, 2017 at 11:15 am //

    Dickenson getting the nod is a joke because his team is actually no where near as good as last year and yet they seem to have better players. Jones should have won this award, but I’m sure he doesn’t care so why should I.

    • Paul Bomber // November 10, 2017 at 12:43 pm //

      No surprise to me Jones didn’t get the nod-he hates the media and that has consequences. And yeah, Calgary is not as good as they were last year, so Dickinson is a surprise. If I was a betting man, I would have picked O’Shea just because of the “awh sucks” attitude and the journey the Blue have taken from ashes of the Joe Mack era. As for who deserves it: Is “none of the above” an option?

  16. I’m shocked that Kyries Hebert was named the East Most Outstanding Defensive player. Shocked he wasn’t mentioned. Montreal allowed 35 points more than the second worst team. Collecting stats for being on the field because the offense cant move the ball isn’t a good reason for him to be picked. Antoine Pruneau or Larry Dean both would have been more deserving picks.

    • Paul Bomber // November 10, 2017 at 12:32 pm //

      Not to mention hebert is one of the 3 (4?) dirtiest players in the league. What a joke! Great point on the padding of stats re: always on the field due to a totally incompetent O.

  17. I think improvement plays a part but is given too much emphasis. The coach of the year should be what you’ve done THIS year, not what you’ve done THIS year in relation to what you did LAST year. One example – in the 5 year run of Grey Cups, Campbell was coach of the year once – in 1979. In 1981, Joe Faragalli won with a 9-7 Rider club, who were 6-9-1 the year before. They improved from 5th to 4th & missed the playoffs. The Eskimos were 14-1-1 still the highest winning % team in CFL history. Dickenson’s record shouldn’t be dismissed just because he was better last year. What has that got to do with coach of the year this year? In today’s CAP world where teams regularly have 15-20 FA’s hit the market every year, it is difficult to stay on top. The best teams have players who want to get paid more & some leave for the money. It’s not a small accomplishment what Calgary has done over the years. That’s not to say Jones isn’t deserving. They were nonetheless a 10 win team & you could argue that O’Shea & Maas, everyone’s favourite whipping boy, have as much right as Jones to be considered. It’s Dickenson, I can see why, & he’s fully deserving of it.

  18. Blue Rules // November 10, 2017 at 1:45 pm //

    One might say Dickinson won the Electoral vote, Jones won the Popular vote.

  19. I assume you folks are all referring to June Jones.

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