Milton: Ticats all-star shutout part of East-wide trend

In a reflection of their whole season, rather than their second-half reversal, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats failed to place a player on the CFL all-star team which was announced Tuesday.

That says a couple of things, including the obvious: this team wasn’t good enough or, rather, didn’t play well enough. Yes, and rain is wet.

But the East was also snubbed overall—just four of the 27 selects were from this side of Winnipeg – as it should have been, with no .500-plus teams. The Ticats also changed personnel in certain areas, had some key players injured and, frankly, didn’t catch any breaks from voters, who were the league’s coaches and members of the Football Reporters of Canada. Ryan Bomben at guard and Richard Leonard at defensive back had all-star type seasons but given the team’s, and division’s, weakness if it was close it wasn’t going their way.

The last time the Ticats threw a complete shutout at all-star time was in 2013. And yes, they did go to the Grey Cup that year.

Here’s a couple of other interesting (or, disturbing, if you like your air and food all in black and gold) all-star metrics from the 21st century: in the 2000s, Hamilton has had five different seasons with exactly zero CFL all-stars and four others, including last year (John Chick) when it had just one; and the last Tiger-Cats to make the national all-star team on offence were eight seasons ago (centre Marwan Hage, receiver Arland Bruce 2010).

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Considering the above, it was encouraging to hear June Jones say in his interim-no-more conference call Monday that he wants to use April’s OTA’s (Optional Team Activities) to institute systems, particularly on offence, and not solely as another opportunity to evaluate fresh talent.

Jones ran a limited playbook after he took over for Labour Day, and that playbook had to mould his favourite concepts around systems which were already in place under Kent Austin.

Most teams in the CFL, including Hamilton a few times, have used OTAs to start sorting out their lineup rather than as a quality control initiative that can help the league present a better product in the season’s early weeks.

Hamilton has to hit the ground running, pun intended, when the season opens. There’ve been too many weak starts for too many years, putting too much pressure on the back end of the schedule.

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Jones told Spectator beat writer Drew Edwards that he has complete freedom to hire his coaching staff so we’ll be watching that one carefully over the next few weeks. Could be some changes from the group that finished the season, most of whom started it under Austin.

By the end of the season, the original 2017 Ticat coaching staff was without defensive coordinator Jeff Reinebold, who was let go in August with linebackers coach Phillip Lolley moving up to replace him, and Austin, who gave up his head coaching job to Jones and moved into the front office for good. In the second half of the season, the Ticats added Dan Morrison as an assistant offensive coach and quarterbacks coach and promoted Craig Butler to a general coaching assignment after he retired as a player. Morrison has been with Jones for lengthy stints at both Hawaii and SMU, and is a key communicator of the ‘run and shoot’, so expect him back.

Jones will need to be careful to keep, or get, some CFL experience on his staff, and not just fleeting experience. CFL timing nuances, for example, gave the Ticats some problems during the final three months.

Steve Milton

Steve Milton

Steve Milton is a long-time columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame media wing in 2012.
Steve Milton
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Steve Milton
About Steve Milton (100 Articles)
Steve Milton is a long-time columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame media wing in 2012.

11 Comments on Milton: Ticats all-star shutout part of East-wide trend

  1. “Hamilton has to hit the ground running…” Nothing could be more true than that, and starting this week, not in June.

    As long as there is uncertainty (i.e. at QB) surrounding key facets of this team, the 2018 season ticket drive will stall.

    Hamilton fans have had quite enough unfulfilled “promises” and excruciating heartbreaks from this team since 1999 for one sports lifetime, and I, for one, don’t think I can handle another season of these let downs.

    With Mr. Jones now signed as head coach for the next three years, 2018 is off to a good start.

  2. greenonions // December 6, 2017 at 9:32 am //

    The East has not been competitive for years now. With 4 teams & 3 spots up for grabs, it seems there isn’t the impetus to get better. The crossover rule should have changed that but this is the 3rd time in recent years a .500 record has been enough to win the East. Until the East clubs build their teams to beat Calgary, Edmonton, Wpg etc., they are going to give their fans mediocre regular seasons, get home field advantage vs a better Western club & hope for an upset in the Grey Cup. It shows up in the All-Star ratings perhaps & that’s not unfair. The West has been dominating the East for an obvious reason – the players are better. The high level of competition between the West clubs builds toughness. The best thing that could happen in the CFL is for the East to get better. Sadly one bad side effect of an East expansion club would be that there would be even less incentive for the East to build clubs to compete with the West.

    • No argument about East teams being less competitive relative to the West (playoff and Grey Cup games aside).

      But I’m not following the logic of your last sentence, compared to that of your second one — if there are 5 teams chasing 3 playoff spots, isn’t that more incentive to improve?

      There would be a year or two of a new East team getting up to snuff, but the RedBlacks showed that success can happen fairly fast.

      • greenonions // December 6, 2017 at 10:01 pm //

        To clarify, what I was saying was that having another poor sister doesn’t necessarily give the East more incentive to compete with the West. What we need is a stronger team to join the East. What could happen if we keep the 2 divisions & now we have 5 teams in each, we may go back to 3 teams in each division making the playoffs vs the crossover. In that case the East has less incentive to improve.

    • ^This. This is the reason the whole notion that amalgamating the CFL into one division will kill interest in eastern teams is false (or at least flawed). What’s preventing interest in eastern teams from growing is the fact that year after year they field a mediocre product and have little impetus to get better, as a sub .500 team can still easily make the playoffs (and even win the GC!). Fans in TO aren’t stupid. Even though the Argos won the GC everyone in TO knows they were a mediocre team that probably had no business being in the final. A GC means nothing if it’s won on the back of a broken system that awards .500, or sub-.500, teams with the opportunity to snatch glory for more deserving teams based on a one-and-done playoff format in football.

  3. I hope Philip lolley comes back.

  4. Paul Bomber // December 6, 2017 at 11:02 am //

    Did Western Canada disappear? 5 of 9 teams, including the most successful teams (other than the game that counts the most), yadda yadda and there is almost nothing on any teams out here.

  5. RalphInTheCreek // December 6, 2017 at 1:25 pm //

    This amounts to war by members of the team next year.

  6. Brandon Banks deserves an honorable mention for his ten week feat as receiver.If not for Ricky Ray, then Masoli would be the all-star backup for Reilly.

  7. The eastern division did not improve when the Bombers were in it.The secret is the west recruits western US footballers while the eastern division recruits eastern US footballers. The east must expand its ability to scout in the western USA.

  8. Players from losing teams should not make the all-star team. Unless they play in the West – in which case they should be evaluated as individuals for individual honours.

    Hence, those three BC Lions totally deserve to be on the team. Even though there was a total of one player from OTT, HAM and MTL combined. (Those teams had losing records, after all.)

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