Which Ticats have a shot to be a CFL awards finalist

The CFL released the list of team player awards finalists and now it is time to wonder which members of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats might actually be in Ottawa for the award ceremony at the end of the month.

Most Outstanding Player

Larry Dean was named Hamilton’s nominee for MOP and his competition is stiff. It features East Division leading passer Ricky Ray, East Division leading receiver Greg Ellingson and East Division leading tackler Kyries Hebert.

Dean is in extremely tough and is unlikely to be named the East MOP. This award is down to Ray and Ellingson and I think Ray is going to be named an MOP finalist for just the third time in his career.

Most Outstanding Defensive Player

Larry Dean is also the Ticats nominee here and this one he has a chance at taking. Hebert is also his competition, as is Ottawa’s Antoine Pruneau and Toronto’s Bear Woods. Woods was the East nominee last year when he was with Montreal, but his numbers have dipped in Toronto this year.

This one comes down to Dean and Hebert, and the race is pretty close. I don’t know where the edge lies, but don’t be surprised if Dean takes this one.

Most Outstanding Canadian

The first of two awards that Hamilton’s Ryan Bomben is up for sees him take on Ottawa’s Brad Sinopoli, and fellow linemen Kristian Matte of Montreal and Sean McEwen of Toronto. Since judging offensive line play is one of the toughest things to do, expect Sinopoli to take this award for the second time in the last three years.

Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman

Always a crap shoot, as Bomben will take on MOC counterparts McEwen and Matte as well as Ottawa’s Alex Mateas. Handicapping this is always a fool’s errand, but don’t be surprised if Bomben takes this. Sometimes these are handed to guys as a bit of a lifetime achievement award, and with no standout amongst the pack, Bomben could be in line for the divisional award.

Most Outstanding Special Teams Player

If not for injury, I think Sergio Castillo would have been a near lock for the East’s nomination. His field goal percentage is tops among all East kickers (with more than 30 attempts) and he was as reliable a kicker as there was in the league until an ACL tear ended his campaign abruptly. With that, I think this award will go elsewhere, with either Ottawa’s Diontae Spencer or Toronto’s Martese Jackson getting the nod.

Spencer’s recent 496-yard effort against the Ticats will put him at the forefront of people’s minds, but don’t discount the diminutive Jackson who has put together a spectacular season for the Argos. Montreal’s Martin Bédard is also a finalist, but, yeah, that’s not going to happen.

Most Outstanding Rookie

This is a two-horse race that should be a one-horse race, but when it comes to flashy offensive numbers vs. solid defensive numbers, you never know where voters will go. While Montreal’s Brandon Dozier and Ottawa’s Sherod Baltimore have had good seasons, this one is between Richard Leonard of the Ticats and James Wilder, Jr. of the Argos.

Leonard should be the pick, and should also be named the league’s top rookie, but don’t count out Wilder stealing the award from him. Wilder has had a very good season, but Leonard has started all 17 games for the Ticats so far this year and has been trusted enough to be moved from field corner to field halfback (where he matches up with the league’s top slotbacks), which is the toughest position in the secondary in which to excel. My hope is that voters will recognize the great job Leonard has done all season and not be wowed by the flashy numbers Wilder has put up in a couple games this season. Both are great players, but Leonard has been the better player over a longer period of time. He should be present in Ottawa and should also take home the league award.

Josh Smith 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.