Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Kerry Watkins Retires From The CFL

Kerry Watkins, at the age of 32 has decided to hang up his football cleats after an illustrious eight year career with the only CFL team he has known in the Montreal Alouettes.

Without question Watkins was one of the premier pass catchers from 2005 to 2009 as he averaged 87 receptions, 1206 yards, and six touchdowns.

However, the sport of football is a business. Given the ascension of his cohorts in Jamel Richardson and S.J. Green, his totals had dramatically reduced and he was no longer the focal point of the offense.

Furthermore, as in any sport injuries finally caught up to the Georgia Tech product that essentially derailed his 2011 season. It started with a sinus injury prior to training camp that resulted in him missing camp and first couple weeks of the season. During the course it looked liked he never found his rhythm in the offense, and got lost in the numbers game. Then in late October he suffered a leg injury that ended his season.

In the past Watkins and management did butted heads. But eventually those issues were resolved, and he went on to become one of the popular faces within organization. Eventually, he will be immortalized as one of the best receivers to don the Alouettes jersey.

Moving forward: With Watkins no longer in the picture, going into training camp it looks like Brandon London could be given every opportunity to win the starting position.

London played well in Watkins absence making some highlight catches, and finishing with a solid 38 receptions, 475 yards, and one touchdown.

Yes the Alouettes lose a tremendous leader, but now it is time for the dynamic duo of Richardson and Green to take over the mantle and carry the next generation into the 2012 season.

There’s no denying had Watkins comeback to the club, he probably would have taken pay cut. But with his salary no longer being an issue, in a few weeks time the Alouettes could use that money to target potential free agents.

Here’s saluting Watkins who had a phenomenal Alouettes career. Now the remaining question, where does his former teammates get their haircuts during the season since he was the team’s barber?

You can follow me on Twitter @MoeKhan19

You can listen to me on The Midnight Snack every Friday morning from midnight-2am, on Gamepoints every Tuesday evening, and various shows on TSN 990.

Photo Credit: www.sportsnet.ca

NFL Pool: SUPERBOWL Pick and Prop Bets

1) New York Giants +3.5 vs New England Patriots

2) Over/Under: 55

3) How many times will Peyton Manning be shown during the game? (Over/under 3.5)

4) True or False: Madonna will wear a hat at some point of the halftime show.

5) What will be higher on Sunday. Eli Manning completions, or Henrik Lundqvist saves?

Matthew: Patriots, Over, Under, False, Lundqvist saves
Moe: Giants, Over, Over, True, Eli completions
Mitch: Giants, Under, Over, True, Lundqvist saves
Producer: Patriots, Under, Over, True, Lundqvist saves
Stefano: Giants, Over, Under, True, Lundqvist saves
Listener: Patriots, Over, Under, True, Lundqvist saves
Trexis: Giants, Over, Over, False, Eli completions
Sean: Patriots, Over, Under, True, Eli completions

Friday, 27 January 2012

Three Players The Alouettes Could Target in Free Agency

With CFL free agency less than four weeks away, Alouettes general manager, Jim Popp has jumped the gun by re-signing key pieces from the Alouettes core.

With the exception of last year where the team inked Dwight Anderson, historically, they are not known to be a major player in the free agent sweepstakes.

But if they were to consider the available options in this year’s class. Here are three players the Alouettes could potentially look at come February:

Justin Hickman, defensive end, Hamilton Tiger-Cats: With the potential scenario of team leader Anwar Stewart being released. The Alouettes would need a pass rusher to help fill the void. In their last three games of the season, the front four could not muster any pressure, and had zero sacks.

Yes, they have high hopes for incoming player Daunte Akra. But Hickman has been unstoppable throughout his time in the CFL. In his first two seasons with the Tiger-Cats he had 14 total sacks. However, in 2011, he put it all together as he was tied with Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Odell Willis for the league lead of 13 sacks.

If signed by the Alouettes, Hickman would provide another weapon playing opposite of John Bowman who is no slouch either. Furthermore, his non-stop motor, and hard work would rub off positively on his teammates to elevate their game to the next level.

Hickman would be the most highly sought out player in this year’s free agent class.
He will command a high salary. If the Alouettes play their cards right and try sell him on the chance of winning a Grey Cup, he could take less money and make up for the loss by winning a Grey Cup.

Finally, it would weaken a division rival, and save Anthony Calvillo the headache of trying to avoid his pass rush.

Tristan Jackson, kick returner/defensive back, Saskatchewan Roughriders: By all means, Jackson hasn’t had a game breaking play since his time with the Edmonton Eskimos. Last year with the Roughriders he could not regain his old form.

However, the Alouettes return game was atrocious, and as a result, it cost the team valuable field position. Looking back at the team’s back to back Grey Cup runs, they always had a big play touchdown from their returners such as Larry Taylor, and Tim Maypray.

In 2011, the magic simply wasn’t there, as Maypray lost his job to Perry Floyd who did put up good statistical numbers, but he didn’t have the up field burst. From an outsider’s perspective, you know the Alouettes are having problems when they have to rely on linebacker, Diamond Ferri to return kicks. Ferri is a fast player, but there’s a reason why you specifically have a return man.

If the Roughriders opt to not re-sign Jackson, the Alouettes could potentially fish him in. He would certainly boost the confidence level, and he would be another body for their secondary that was severely hit by the injury bug last year.

Marc Calixte, linebacker, Calgary Stampeders: I am certain very few people know who he is. But Calixte is a special team’s demon. As mentioned with the Jackson description, the Alouettes special teams did not play up to par.

One example where the team almost lost a game due to their special teams being ineffective, was on the road against the Blue Bombers where they allowed a punt block that was returned for a touchdown.

Moreover, in their playoff loss against the Tiger-Cats, the Alouettes gave up generous portions of field position that resulted in points for the opposition.

Calixte is a local product from nearby Laval, Quebec. He played his CEGEP football with the powerhouse Vanier Cheetahs, and he would be another player the team can promote to the community. Each game he brings a blue collar mentality to go out and work hard on special teams.

If the Alouettes want to regain the upper hand in the division, they will need to win the special team’s battle, and it starts with a player such as Calixte who would provide an immediate spark.

Follow me on Twitter @MoeKhan19

You can listen to me on The Midnight Snack every Friday from midnight-2am, on Gamepoints every Tuesday night, and various other shows on TSN 990.

Photo credit www.torontosun.com

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Trestman Still The Alouettes Head Coach For Now, Who Will be the Next Defensive Coordinator?

At the present moment, we can put to rest the Marc Trestman rumours leaving for the NFL, or NCAA. With the Indianapolis Colts ending any immediate angst from the Alouettes that they would consider hiring Trestman. Instead they opted for Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator, Chuck Pagano.

By the way, did anyone win the pair of Super Bowl tickets from Colts owner, Jim Irsay on correctly guessing Pagano?

What happens now with Trestman and the Alouettes? As reported two weeks ago by Herb Zurkowsky of The Montreal Gazette, that the Alouettes opened contract negotiations with Trestman. Could this process be expedited that an agreement is in the horizon?

Since the end December, Trestman’s name has been mentioned with every available coaching job. Many were left to feel that he would have accepted an offer provided the situation was correct.

Now, if the team and Trestman come to terms on a new deal, would he ask for a window of opportunity to explore other options during the offseason? If you’re the Alouettes, could they even grant Trestman this wish?

For now the Trestman storm has passed without severely affecting the Alouettes organization. But moving ahead, it would be imperative for the team to get him to sign a long term contract and put to rest any future rumblings of him leaving the CFL club. Otherwise, everyone involved will be going through the same cycle at this time next year.

The Next Defensive Coordinator Will Be?

With the Trestman issue in the backburner, the Alouettes will turn the attention on hiring their next defensive coordinator. We have heard names ranging from Greg Marshall, Michael Sinclair, and even Jeff Reinebold.

I still believe Sinclair deserves an opportunity to lead this defense since he knows the entire personnel. He will still employ the same successful defensive concepts used by previous Alouettes coordinators in Tim Tibesar, and Tim Burke.

Furthermore, in the coming years Sinclair’s name will be high on a lot of team’s lists. His ability to teach, and get the best out of his players will make him an appealing choice for any potential suitors.

As for Greg Marshall, he is still bitter on how it ended with the Saskatchewan Roughriders. There is no question that he can coach defense. However, given what he has gone through in the last 12 months, could he opt to stay off the sidelines and continue to collect his pay from the Roughriders?

Eventually, once the CFL comes back to Ottawa, he could apply for that position since he was apart of the Renegades coaching staff in 2005. Marshall will have options but he could sit back and wait for the right opportunity to accept an offer.

Reinebold would be a surprising hire. Right now he has a comfortable job being the right hand man of head coach, June Jones at Southern Methodist University. Last month, had Jones been hired by Arizona State, Reinebold would have joined his Sun Devils staff.

With SMU eventually moving to the Big East, his job with the Mustangs would become even more important recruiting in the U.S. northeast, and down in the sun-belt region. Moreover, the stability at SMU should be appealing to him given he has a bigger range of coaching flexibility than he would have with the Alouettes.

Looking at his coaching history, from 2006-2007 at the University of Hawaii he oversaw the defensive line, aside from that he has coached primarily on the offense. So could he really fit in well as defensive coordinator?

No one can forget his two year stint as the head coach of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers where he produced a record of 7-29, and his Bombers defense gave up an average of 31.5 points per game. But his claim to fame was during a 1997 postgame handshake with then B.C. Lions head coach Adam Rita that resulted in near boxing match between the two counterparts.

With CFL free agency less than four weeks away, very soon the Alouettes will be pressing the issue to have a coach in-place so they can sell potential free agents on joining the club. But for now, who could it be?

Follow me on Twitter @MoeKhan19

You can hear me on The Midnight Snack every Friday morning from midnight-2am, on Gamepoints every Tuesday night, and various other shows on TSN 990.

Photo credit: www.canada.com

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Are The Alouettes Worried That Marc Trestman Could Take The Colts Job?

The Marc Trestman saga continues on into its second week of whether or not he will be hired by the Indianapolis Colts.

As mentioned by TSN’s CFL Insider, Dave Naylor through his Twitter account (@TSNDaveNaylor), that John Clayton reported last weekend Marc Trestman was the first to be interviewed by the Colts for their open head coaching position.

One has to contemplate how serious is this overture from the Colts? Yesterday afternoon from Mobile, Alabama site of the Senior Bowl, Naylor tweeted; “Had a nice chat with Marc Trestman today at Senior Bowl. “I don’t comment on rumours or reports” (Trestman’s reply to Naylor’s question about the Colts situation).

Haven’t we heard this standard of practice by head coaches that don’t respond to rumours! I do recall the infamous story of then Miami Dolphins head coach Nick Saban telling the local media there was no truth of him leaving for the University of Alabama. Well, I guess everyone was wrong to believe what Saban said in that press conference.

Without question the Colts will have to decide on a new head coach before Super Bowl week begins. The NFL frowns on their teams if they make a major announcement during the most important event on the football calendar.

Ironically, given that the Colts are the host city for this year’s edition of the Super Bowl, many insiders expect a new head coach in-place by Friday going into the weekend. Why not unveil the next leader to the media gallery that will be descending on Indianapolis.

As one local colleague mentioned, for now Trestman is just a candidate. Unless he receives a second interview from the Colts, then no one should be worried whether or not he will bolt from the Alouettes.

In the meantime, if Jim Popp, and team owner, Robert Wetenhall are bracing for the inevitable that Trestman does opt to leave the team with one year left on his contract. What compensation could they receive from the Colts? I certainly don’t believe the Alouettes will be asking for Peyton Manning. We’ve heard in the past that Wetenhall fully expects Trestman to honour his end of the deal.

Moving forward, it is business as usual for the Alouettes as they continue to scout the players at The Senior Bowl. The only concern is given how both parties are in Mobile, could the Colts request for an immediate interview before Friday?

If so, then the red flag must be raised on whether or not Trestman will leave the organization. Finally as one source who in the past has worked with Trestman mentioned, “what is left for him (Trestman) to do?”

Right now the ocean is calm, but these next 48 hours could prove to be a rough ride if Colts team owner, Jim Irsay will ask for a second interview and does hire Trestman to become the next head coach.

You can follow me on Twitter @MoeKhan19

You can listen to me on The Midnight Snack every Friday morning from midnight-2am, on Gamepoints every Tuesday night, and various other shows on TSN 990.

Photo credit www.cfl.ca

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Stewart's Time With The Alouettes Likely Over

As reported by Montreal Gazette beat writer, Herb Zurkowsky Anwar Stewart’s days are done as a member of the Montreal Alouettes. Moving forward, where does this leave the team, and Stewart?

From the team’s perspective they lose a well respected voice inside the locker room, and a player who was adored in the Montreal community. However, as written in my previous article about Stewart’s future, they have high hopes for Daunte Akra, who they figure will be more involved with the 2012 edition of the team.

Factor in Jermaine McElveen’s contract situation on whether or not he would be back, the Alouettes would rather now address their questions on defensive line.

Therefore, had Stewart comeback to the team, he could have been a potential training camp casualty. If he did crack the roster, who knows how many snaps he would have received in each game.

Furthermore, with the cloudy situation of who would be named the team’s next defensive coordinator, who knows if that coach would incorporate Stewart in the future plans.

From the Alouettes perspective, the writing has been on the wall that at age 36, they probably forecasted that Stewart’s production was going to drop dramatically. Even though he had a solid 2011 season with seven sacks and one interception, Jim Popp must have figured he wanted to move on without him now and turn the page.

As for Stewart’s future, in speaking to source who echoed the same sentiments by Zurkowsky, the likely destination would be the Toronto Argonauts. Automatically, the Alouettes connection is there with new head coach Scott Milanovich, and defensive coordinator Chris Jones.

Arguably, Stewart had his best run under Jones' tutelage, where he amassed 40 of his 66 career sacks during his five years with him. The biggest trait in Jones coaching ability is to identify the strength of each player and use it to the maximum in his frenetic style of formations.

If Stewart does end up with the Argonauts, that would be another blow to the leadership council to lose a player of his ilk to a division rival. Last year, it was Avon Cobourne to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, and now it could be Stewart.

No matter where Stewart ends up, his time in Montreal has been fabulous. He was a part of three Grey Cup championship teams, he was well liked by the media because he always expressed his true feelings, and he will surely be missed by the Montreal fans for his hard work on and off the field.

You can follow me on Twitter @MoeKhan19

You listen to me every late Thursday night / Friday morning on The Midnight Snack, from midnight-2am, every Tuesday evening on Gamepoints, and various other shows on TSN 990.

Photo credit: montrealgazette.com

Monday, 23 January 2012

Could The Alouettes Consider Signing Joffrey Reynolds?

With the Calgary Stampeders officially releasing running back Joffrey Reynolds, that’s another member of the ’08 Grey Cup team to be given their walking papers.

With all due respect to Reynolds, and he might even admit to this, but the writing was on the wall with the ascension of his protégé, Jon Cornish, who had a fabulous season. Even when Cornish took over the starting role, he always had high praise for his predecessor.

Could there be value for a team to sign one of the best running backs in the last six years? I believe so, and beyond the on-field production that he would provide, it would be his leadership skills to help mentor the next generation of ball carriers.

Where could he end up? I think the B.C. Lions might make a play because recently retired coach Wally Buono who is now focused his duties as general manager has a soft spot for ex-Stampeder players who have been ousted by the club. He did bring in the likes of Kelvin Anderson and Antonio Warren at the end of their careers. With the recent retirement of Jamal Robertson they will need to fill that leadership void.

Could the Alouettes be interested? From their history, I think they learned their lesson with former Alouette great, Mike Pringle that you cannot hold onto a player far too long, especially if he does not fit into the long term plans.

In recent time, during the mid-2000s, the Alouettes brought in run producers from Autry Denson, Robert Edwards and Jarrett Payton, who were instrumental during their times in the ground game for the team.

I think if Reynolds is signed by the Alouettes, he could become the short yardage goal line horse for them. One play that sticks out from the 2011 season was against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Labour Day weekend. Had they converted from the one-yard line prior to halftime. The Alouettes would have had the momentum heading into the second half. However, they went on to lose to their division rival. If Reynolds had been in that critical situation, it could have been potentially different.

If age will be an issue since Reynolds will turn 33 years old. Let’s not forget the Alouettes did sign former Green Bay Packers player, 34 year old Ahman Green, who was released on the eve of training camp. So this should not be used against Reynolds in assessing his worth.

For his career, he has gained 9,213 yards, 53 touchdowns, and accumulated 226 receptions for 2,036 yards and eight touchdowns. For a player at his position to take such a taxing to his body, these numbers could very well catapult him into future CFL hall of fame discussions.

Furthermore, to go back to Marc Trestman’s days as the Oakland Raiders offensive coordinator, he used many stout running backs during their run to the 2002 Super Bowl. They had a cast of characters such as Tyrone Wheatley and Zack Crockett, who came in for the short yardage plays, and they were rarely stopped.

In Montreal, he has Brandon Whitaker as the Alouettes version of Charlie Garner, and Dahrran Diedrick playing the role of Zack Crockett. Now he needs his Tyrone Wheatley, which could very well be Reynolds.

Remember in the CFL, given how the passing game has become more revolutionized, there are not many running backs that will carry the football 20-plus times. But in the case of a short yardage situation, Reynolds could very well be an unstoppable force.

In this line of profession, players will always need to re-invent themselves to stay above water. Reynolds has been a class act throughout his time with the Stampeders.
If he is given an opportunity to latch on with another team, he could write another chapter to his illustrious career.

If I were to gauge the interest of where Reynolds could end up, the defending Grey Cup champion Lions could make an offer. But some teams might wait for free agency to end before making any pitch to Reynolds.

But if Jim Popp and management believe they need another runner to gain those tough yards in between the tackles, then he could very fit the portfolio of what they’re looking for. They do not need to look very far in the 2011 season to count the number of losses where they were not able to convert in short yardage situations.

As Reynolds closes the Stampeders phase, if offered a contract, he could potentially look forward to penning another few more pages to his fantastic career.

You can follow me on Twitter @MoeKhan19

You can listen to me on The Midnight Snack, every Friday morning from midnight-2am, every Tuesday night on Gamepoints, and various other shows on TSN 990.

Photo Credit: www.calmb4storm.com

Stop bashing shootouts

I ranted on air last night about those who bash the shootout in the NHL's regular season. How dare you denigrate the most sacred of sporting rituals! Okay, I am exaggerating a little. But there really isn't a shortage of shootout bashers and I am sick of it.

The shootout, in principle, is the deciding element of a game. The league instituted it because they realized that ties were ridiculous. I mean, there's no point in even playing the game if there isn't a winner. You may as well give participation awards and loot bags to everyone if you're going to award ties.

Here's how I see it. The shootout is skill versus skill. The top offensive talents and the best goaltender for each team battle until the cream rises to the top. It's the purest showcase of talent and skill in sports. If you don't have skillful players who can score on a breakaway, you're not going to do well in the shootout. Hence why the Canadiens are so poor in this outcome decider (sorry, it's true, Habs fans).

My most perfect example is what transpired in the spring of 2010. The Flyers and Rangers met on the final day of the regular season, with the winner going to the postseason and the loser going home. The Flyers won in a shootout and then went all the way to the Stanley Cup final. Talk about the best team winning the shootout on that day. There is no greater example of the shootout being the best way to decide the fate of a game than that anecdote.

Still, there are those that want to see continuous OT, or some of my callers had all sorts of crazy alternatives to the shootout. Some called for a skills competition, some wanted to see one great fight at center ice, etc...

But the truth is, the shootout is the best and most exciting option the league has. And you just know all of these critics of the shootout, who call it a gimmick and not traditional, are the same ones who stand on their feet when they are lucky enough to witness one in person.

Don't get me wrong. I would never want to see it in the playoffs. But the shootout should be here to stay in the regular season - if for no other reason than it is the best option for the NHL and its fans.

Game Points with Matthew Ross is Tuesday and Sunday nights on TSN 990 in Montreal. Follow @tsnmatthew

Sunday, 22 January 2012

NFL Pool Standings

1st: Moe (1-1), Mitch (2-0), Stefano (1-1): 44-34

2nd: Matthew: 42-36 (0-2) Producer: 42-36 (1-1)

6th: Listeners: 40-38 (1-1)

7th: Trexis: 38-40 (1-1)

8th: Sean: 26-52 (1-1)

Saturday, 21 January 2012

5 Things That The 2011-2012 NFL Season Taught Us

To the hardcore NFL fan, the 2011-12 season ends Sunday night with the NFC Championship game. I tend to agree with TSN Radio host, Simon Tsalikis, The Super Bowl is for the masses and watched by everyone who claim to be a football fan but can't name the two conferences that the two teams represent. As a result, I would like to list 5 things that happened this season and what we should learn from them. Although you may not agree with some, they will serve as "food for thought" going into the 2012-13 NFL season.

1. Defense Wins Championships. In a season where Drew Brees and Tom Brady each threw for 5000 + yards, defense will be the key to winning the two conference championships and the Super Bowl. The Giants were able to stop the Packers with a solid defensive effort and should be able to keep the 49ers in check. As for the Patriots, it is too early to tell if their defense is worthy of a championship. If they have their hands full with the Ravens offense, the Pats will not win the Super Bowl regardless if the Pats wins the AFC Championship.

2. After Further Review, Move The Replay Booth. Isn't the point of the replaying questionable calls on the field is to get the calls right?

After the blown call on the field and in the booth by Bill Leavy regarding the Greg Jennings' fumble, the league has to start thinking about moving the booth upstairs; especially for games in the playoffs.

3. Pass Happiness. It will be interesting to see how many teams will model themselves after the Saints, Patriots, Packers and Lions in terms of passing on every down. Yes, the passing game is sexy and sells tickets but does it ultimately lead to hoisting the Super Bowl? Time will tell.

4. Know Your Role and Shut Your Mouth, Rex. If Rex Ryan is going to run his mouth about winning the Super Bowl, he should have a team that can win games on both sides of the line of scrimmage. Ryan is suppose to be a defensive guru; however, the New York Jets defense was ranked 5th in the league. Hey Rex, get a defense that will win some games regardless of your offence and then start talking about contending about a championship.

5. Tebow Time Was Great But... Tim Tebow's season made for a sweet story; however, it has to be put into perspective. He was a quarterback for a team that played .500 football in an awful AFC West and struggled moving his offence down the field. Granted, he had an awesome day versus the Pittsburgh Steelers but that was one game. If the Broncos played the Steelers 9 of 10 games, Tebow would not have that type of game again. Will Tebow be able to improve for the 2012-13 season to be a NFL quarterback to the liking to the stakeholders of the Denver Broncos, especially John Elway.

Final Taughts:
  • If The Price Is Right. Rumour has it that the Habs wants to sign Carey Price for $7 million for 7 years. $7 million? Really? Most people are going to use Pekka Rinne as a benchmark to begin attaching a value to Price. I rather use Cam Ward as a measuring stick. If I'm the general manager of the Habs, Ward's $6.3 million cap hit is the maximum amount that I'm willing to offer Carey Price for 7 years. Remember, Ward has a Stanley Cup ring and both Rinne and Price has not reached a conference final yet.
  • Lebron Haters Waiting To Pounce. It seems that Lebron can't win with the NBA pundits and fans. James is truly dominating lately without Dwayne Wade but the haters out there are simply ignoring his efforts. They are waiting for fourth quarters in the playoffs to say, "You see, you see Lebron can't play with his teammates. The Heat can't come together when it counts. It's not Lebron's team". While I'll admit that the Heat is Wade's team, Lebron will be a better a 4th quarter player this post season. He has to. He has no other choice.

Related Post(s):

Follow me on Twitter - @sportstaughts

Friday, 20 January 2012

How Jamel Richardson and Andy Fantuz are Linked Together

We’re less than four weeks away from the CFL free agency period. However, it has not prevented Alouettes general manager Jim Popp to re-sign his own players to extensions before they hit the open market.

But one player that Popp might want to keep a tab on that will eventually have an indirect influence on future contract negotiations with Jamel Richardson is Saskatchewan Roughriders receiver, Andy Fantuz.

Fantuz will be the most coveted prize in this year’s free agency derby as potential rumoured suitors have ranged from the Edmonton Eskimos where he has a relationship with current general manager Eric Tillman from their days together in Saskatchewan. The Toronto Argonauts, as he was raised in southern Ontario, and he could become the vocal point in Scott Milanovich’s offense. Finally the only team he has known throughout his CFL career the Roughriders.

As illustrated by my CFL colleague and esteemed Yahoo writer, Andrew Bucholtz in his daily blog “55 Yard Line” on December19th he detailed the potential scenarios involving Fantuz, that included a video by the soon to be free agent explaining his thoughts.

It is hard to gauge what direction Fantuz has in-mind on where he would like to play football. Of course, given how he was a Dane Sazenbacher away from cracking the NFL’s Chicago Bears roster. But could he even get a second opportunity to pursue the ultimate football dream down south?

If Fantuz were to stay in the CFL, without question, the folks in Montreal will have to monitor what offers are being thrown at the Canadian product.

Recently, I conversed with a CFL player on his thoughts of where Fantuz would land?
We both agreed, that there might be rival teams who could price gouge the offer to force the real bidders such as the Argonauts, Eskimos, and Roughriders to conjure up more money. As a result, whoever wins out on the Fantuz sweepstakes, could potentially shell out the extra dollars, thus, limiting their ability to sign another player in the market.

But how much can a receiver get? If the astronomical numbers that we’re hearing are correct he could command at least $150,000 or even higher. By rule of the law averages, when it is time for Richardson to negotiate a new deal he should expect a 10 to 20 percent increase from the Fantuz deal.

If anyone were to do a statistical player comparison at the peak of their careers, by large margin Richardson has the decided edge over Fantuz.

Fantuz has only cracked the 1,000 yard receiving mark once in 2010 when he had 1,380 yards, and he came close in two others years just falling shy. However, Richardson has been a perennial 1,000 yard receiver during his four years with the Alouettes.

For the three years prior to the 2011 season because Fantuz was with the Bears and did not play the Alouettes. From head to head team encounters, Richardson has accumulated 42 receptions, 539 receiving yards, and four touchdowns against the Roughriders.

Meanwhile, Fantuz during this same spell has tallied 33 receptions, 460 receiving yards, and three touchdowns against the Alouettes. But one the glaring conclusion, the Alouettes has won two Grey Cup titles at the expense of the Roughriders.

If Fantuz gets the high dollar offers, could Popp be willing to fork that type money to Richardson in his prime of his career? With Anthony Calvillo potentially playing what could be his last year. If he opts for retirement, this could open up money for Popp to keep his best weapon in Montreal for the reminder of his CFL career.

But let’s not forget, management has S.J. Green signed for two more years, they gave Brandon London a contract extension, and according to The Montreal Gazette, are on the verge of announcing an agreement with Brian Bratton.

So could there be enough allocated money to spend on Richardson given the investment into three other players in same position group? Or would they dare to allow one of the most popular players in the franchise history to walk away because they feel he isn’t worth the price tag.

The irony between the two players, they have taken similar paths to reach the apex of their careers. In 2012, Richardson and Fantuz will be 30 and 29 years old respectively. They were teammates in 2006 with the Roughriders, before Richardson signed with the Dallas Cowboys in 2007. Fantuz tried his luck, but didn’t make the Bears roster. Now they’re both entering what could be big contract deals, and it will be interesting to see how much money will be offered to Fantuz in February. But one thing is for certain, Richardson has expressed a desire to be an Alouette, whereas with Fantuz no one is too sure where he will play.

You can follow me on Twitter @MoeKhan19

You can listen to me on The Midnight Snack every Friday morning from midnight-2am, and on Gamepoints every Tuesday night, and various other shows on TSN Radio 990.

Photo Credit calgaryherald.com, and cbc.ca

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Alouettes Take Chance on Ex-Iowa Star

Last week, I decided to sift through the Alouettes current roster on their team site. As I was scrolling through the names, I noticed some new additions. In-particular, one name stood out, former Iowa Hawkeyes receiver, Derrell Johnson-Koulianos.

At first, I had to do a double take to make sure I was clearly reading it correctly. Once I digested the name, I remembered to myself reading an article on him late in the 2010 calendar year. Upon seeing the name again, I wanted to verify his story because of what transpired with him at Iowa University.

For those who do not know the story of this young man, he grew up in the tough blue collar town of Youngstown, Ohio, where they have one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. In 2006, he was heralded as one of Ohio’s best high school senior football players who committed to the Iowa Hawkeyes.

Throughout his time at Iowa, he was considered to be a future NFL prospect. He flashed his God-given talent on the football field with game changing plays, such as in 2009, where in a hostile road game against Ohio State he returned a 99 yard kickoff for a touchdown. In his senior season, he had amassed 10 touchdowns receptions, and at the time held the Hawkeyes record in receptions, and receiving yards.

However, on December 7th, 2010, at his apartment, he was arrested on serious multiple drug charges. Immediately thereafter, Hawkeyes, head coach Kirk Ferentz suspended him, thus ending his collegiate career.

Shortly afterwards, in January, Johnson-Koulianos plead guilty to a marijuana charge, that resulted in the other charges being dropped, one year of self-probation, and a fine.

I tried to reach out to Mr. Johnson-Koulianos through his Twitter account (@DJKoulianos), and Facebook page, but unfortunately I did not receive a reply to my question on why he signed with the Alouettes.

I did contact the Hawkeyes Athletic Department, and they were trying to accommodate my interview request with one of their coaches. However, due to their busy schedule being on the recruiting trail, it would have been a while before I would be able converse with them. But, from reading various articles, there may have been past issues with Ferentz and Johnson-Koulianos. According to what was mentioned, Ferentz preached a team first mentality, and did not really enjoy Johnson-Koulianos’ colourful personality. As a result, after the arrest, Iowa distanced themselves from him.

Finally, I sent an e-mail to the Alouettes, inquiring if there was a statement about his signing. There reply was that he signed in the middle of December.

In reading an online article written by Scott Miller of The Daily Iowan, it seemed that Johnson-Koulianos was destined for the NFL. It came as a complete shock to the entire Hawkeye nation that he was arrested on such heavy drug charges on what police allegedly found in his apartment.

During his time at Iowa, he was well liked in the community, a player with a big personality, he always took the time out of his day to converse with the many fans that adored and looked up to him.

With Johnson-Koulianos trying his luck up north, he will be facing some stiff competition in camp at the receiver position. Already, the team can pencil in Jamel Richardson, S.J. Green, and Brian Bratton as locks to be the starters for the first week of the season.

Factor the uncertainty of Kerry Watkins future with the team. Brandon London, who just signed a contract extension, will assuredly get his fair amount of repetitions. Bo Bowling will be battling for a back-up position. I have yet to include the Canadian content of Danny Desriveaux, and the potential re-signing of Eric Deslauriers into the mix.

Johnson-Koulianos will have his work cut out for him. He needs to rebuild his image that has been tarnished in the last 13 months. But if he looks at how Marc Trestman has been able to revitalize careers (see Tim Tebow), he should take every word he preaches to heart. Having an ally such as the Alouettes head coach could pay dividends for a player still young enough to realize his NFL dreams. But could he conform to the Alouettes way of handling himself in a first class manner on and off the field?

Furthermore, with the potential scenario of Trestman being lured back to the NFL, he could be his meal ticket where he might bring the former Hawkeye with him wherever he goes, or put in a good word for him to potential suitors.

Heading into June, his focus in training camp should be trying to make a good impression to the coaches in hopes of cracking the Alouettes roster loaded with CFL talent at the receiver position.

However, off field, some have considered Montreal to be the Las Vegas of Canada, with plenty of temptations. To the credit of the entire team, no one has been in trouble with the law (knock on wood).

But Montreal is a long way from Iowa, and we have heard apparent stories of athletes being engulfed by the city’s social scene. Could Johnson-Koulianos keep a straight path and focus on what he loves most, which is football? Or, could his personality outweigh his on-field ability and handcuff him from reaching his star potential?

Right now, I am sure he is thanking God, his family members, and those who have had strong faith in him in getting this opportunity. The question that remains, could he shed the flawed image, and turn the page to a new chapter?

*Note*: As of this morning, Derrell Johnson-Koulianos has signed with the Iowa Barnstormers of the Arena Football League. He is currently on the Alouettes roster. I have inquired with the media relations department on whether or not he will be apart of the team.

You can follow me on Twitter @MoeKhan19

You can listen to me every Friday morning on The Midnight Snack from midnight to 2am, every Tuesday night on Gamepoints, and various show on TSN Radio 990.

Photo credit dailyiowan.smugmug.com

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Tibesar Bolts The Alouettes for Purdue Job, What is Next for the Team?

If you’re the Montreal Alouettes, the news just keeps on getting worse. RDS CFL insider, Didier Ormejuste broke the story on Tuesday evening through his Twitter account, (@44DidierRDS) that defensive coordinator; Tim Tibesar has accepted the same position with Purdue University.

This has come as a surprise to those associated with the club. On Tuesday night I corresponded with a source close to the team who was in complete shock. In fact, moving forward, the source was curious to know how the Alouettes will replace the many openings on their coaching staff.

As for Tibesar leaving the Alouettes, it does not come as surprise considering that a college job has more stability than working at the professional level. Moreover, his coaching style was in sync with the NCAA game given his excellent work he did at Kansas State University.

Last offseason, when Tibesar was promoted after former defensive coordinator Tim Burke went to Winnipeg, that there was a lot of pressure on him to duplicate the same performance by the defense. Now, I am not implying that he could not handle the workload. But from first week of the season onwards, the injuries mounted and it did not help his cause in their quest for a third consecutive Grey Cup title.

Simply put, with the exception of their goal line stance in a road victory against the Blue Bombers that kept their first place hopes alive in the division. Tibesar couldn’t find the right chemistry that they had in the previous years under Burke.

In the last four losses of the season, the team defense gave up an astounding 38.2 points per game, 293 passing yards and had three total sacks. For those keeping precise score at home in the last three losses during this abyss, they had zero sacks. Thus it put a lot of pressure on the offense to carry the load.

In-fact, during the East semi-final loss to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats the Alouettes could not rely on their defense to make a stop against the opposition that were having their own internal issues on offense. At the game, the sentiment among the media members, why couldn’t Tibesar cater to the strengths of his players than playing an aggressive man to man look?

With Tibesar moving on, who could be next in-line for the defensive coordinator’s job? Automatically, the first name that will arise is defensive line coach Michael Sinclair, who has the most experience and knows the defensive schemes.

Furthermore, even though training camp is still five months away, does Marc Trestman (if he stays) want to bring in an outsider who might have different concepts than his predecessors?

As a colleague of mine pointed out, the names of Mike O’Shea, who has already been wooed by the Alouettes for the special team’s job, and former Saskatchewan Roughriders head coach, Greg Marshall might be candidates.

But for now, without question there are dark smoke clouds hovering over the Alouettes on the future of Marc Trestman if he bolts for the NFL. As I wrote in my previous article about who could be the next coach to go, well it was Tibesar’s turn. Now, who could be the next member of the staff to leave this organization?

It continues to get bizarre with the Alouettes and the direction of the coaching ranks. I just hope that they have staff in place by the time the month of June arrives for training camp.

You can follow me on Twitter @MoeKhan19

You can hear me on The Midnight Snack every Friday morning from midnight to 2am, Gamepoints, every Tuesday evening, and various other shows on TSN 990.

Photo credit to versusfootball.com

NFL Pool: Championship Weekend



Matthew: NE, SF
Moe: NE, NYG
Producer: NE, NYG
Stefano: BAL, SF
Listener (Taric): NE, NYG
Mitch: BAL, NYG
Trexis: BAL, NYG
Sean: BAL, SF


1st: Moe and Stefano: 43-33 (M: 2-2 last week) (S: 1-3 last week)

2nd: Matthew and Mitch: 42-34 (both 1-3 last week)

5th: Producer: 41-35 (3-1 last week)

6th: Listeners: 39-37 (3-1 last week)

7th: Trexis: 36-40 (2-2 last week)

8th: Sean: 25-51 (0-4 last week)


9-11pm tonight on TSN 990. That's all you need to know. We have great in studio guests, including Etienne Boulay of the Als, Meghan Agosta of the Montreal Stars and female Canadian Olympic Hockey team, Dwight Walton of TSN 990 basketball coverage and Jonathan Jones of the San Francisco Giants farm system.

Listen live on www.tsn990.ca

Monday, 16 January 2012

Special Report: Realities of Sport

In honour of Game Points' special "Realities of Sport" show on Tuesday night, here are a few topics to get the ball rolling.

- The epidemic of concussions in pro sports is the direct result of technology surpassing evolution. It could easily be summed up in an equation which would no doubt indicate we are on the wrong side of an XY intersection. If I still owned my scientific calculator from Grade 7 advanced math class, I'm sure I'd work it out in a jiffy. Players are bigger and faster. Equipment is stronger and more durable. Concussion symptoms are more thoroughly researched and diagnosed. Not to mention, society in general is turning into one big panic attack. All of these factors play a part.

Years from now, each major sport is going to have to make a choice between bringing it down a notch to the point where players can't injure themselves as much... or... maybe the players are just going to come out and tell everyone to chill the hell out. These are people who love what they do. They train their whole lives for something that others dream about and fully understand the risks they are taking.

Personally, I think society and mainstream media will eventually start decrying sports as barbaric when more people are forced into retirement due to brain injury. The hardcore fans will remain as the casual fan ceases to exist. And should a major sport decide to scale back, the immediate praise coming from the mainstream hippies who don't know the difference from a punt and a bunt will quickly give way to a backlash from the real fans who line their wallets. It will only serve notice for other leagues not to mess with the formula. Survival of the fittest will never be truer.

- Statistically speaking, there are likely several dozen homosexuals currently playing in the NFL, NHL, NBA and MLB. There have even been a handful of athletes to come out after their careers are over. Yet, no athlete has come out while playing. It seems to only be a matter of time before that day comes.

It could even be argued that the upside of a player coming out may be greater than the downside. That player would instantly become an icon and a hero for millions of people. Not to mention they could potentially have a huge pay day with endorsements. In my opinion, it all depends on two key factors: the player's star status and where he plays. It's gotta be the right city. A place like San Francisco seems obvious. I think Montreal would be fairly accepting as well. But would a deep south city like Atlanta embrace him? Or a blue collar town like Detroit? I really don't know enough to say they wouldn't but it must come into play for the player. His star power could work either way. A superstar might not want to risk a backlash. Or his status could make him feel more secure in whatever he does. A bench player could be afraid of getting blackballed. Or he might feel like coming out would give him the self confidence and edge he needs. All it would take is the right combination of location, talent and personality.

Of course, the scenario that rarely gets brought up is the most likely to occur. Some teenage athlete, growing up in a well adjusted home, will be openly gay "as long as he remembers. We've never really talked about it. It's just who I am and my parents have always accepted and loved me." The story will tell itself as he gets drafted, works his way through the minors and eventually becomes America's first openly gay sports star.

No rumours running rampant. No shocking press conference. No longer an 'if' but a 'when'.

- As soon as the dinosaurs went extinct, man no longer had a good reason to run. So he invented sports. Along with sports, came a list of rules to be followed. And about 5 minutes later, someone tried to cheat. Which brings us to steroids.

The word 'steroids' as we know it might not have always been a part of sports but performance enhancers certainly have. Almost anyone would take or use something if it gave enough of an edge to defeat an opponent. Pitchers would spitball regularly while batters experimented with corked bats even though they were explicitly against the rules. Florida State invented Gatorade to help their players and there was probably nothing illegal about it, even though at the time, who knows what was going into that stuff. Meanwhile, a laboratory that developed a blood doping technique for a whole team may not have been doing anything illegal either. Until something has been banned (by the sport, not the courts) I have a hard time blaming them.

Now baseball writers are refusing to vote players into the Hall of Fame because they've taken steroids. Mark McGwire has been on the ballot for years now. Soon Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, two of the most surefire 1st-ballot HOFers you'll ever find, will be eligible. And if they don't get in, it's time to just come up with a new system.

Athletes take PEDs in some form or another and they always will. We won't even know about it until several years later, once they've moved onto the better, newer, cleaner way to gain an advantage. As fans, the ignorance and indignation act is getting mighty old. It's time for people to simply accept that for many, PED's aren't just a reality of sports. They're a necessity.

Why S.J. Green is the Vincent Van Gogh of the CFL

During the 2011 season, rightfully so, a lot of attention was bestowed on all-world receiver Jamel Richardson and his statistical accomplishments. However, everyone forgets about his tag-team partner in S.J. Green who was phenomenal throughout the season.

By all accounts, if Green was on any other CFL team, his achievements would have been heaped with high praise. Finishing sixth overall in league receiving with 87 receptions, 1,147 yards, and four touchdowns, these numbers were mind boggling considering what Richardson did (111 receptions, 1,777 yards, 11 touchdowns).

But quietly the man anointed as “Beast” has continued to wreck havoc on opposing defenses. To take a look back at his career, he patiently bided his time, as Alouettes great Ben Cahoon was administering his punishment on opposing defensive backs.

In-fact, not many fans, or media members knew who Green was. Personally speaking, the first time I encountered Green was in the team’s locker room media session during the ’08 Grey Cup. He was wearing his alma mater’s University of South Florida varsity jacket. Given how I am a nerd of football knowledge, I said to him, tough loss to Rutgers, in reference to USF losing a tough home game to the Scarlet Knights. Just like any proud alum, he had a disappointed look on his face. I said to myself this won’t be the first or last time I converse with him.

In his first three years with the Alouettes, he had a mere 26 receptions. Most of the time, players who have minimal impact are usually jettisoned away. However, Green continued on his pursuit for team greatness, as each practice went by, his confidence grew. I asked Richardson what his first impression was of Green, he said, “I knew he had big play potential. I saw him as a threat (with a laugh), so I had to bring my “A” game (laughing even harder.)

In 2009, he saw more playing time, and everyone knew he could become a star in the league. Shortly after the ’09 Grey Cup campaign, his offseason tryout with the NFL’s New York Jets didn’t workout for him which was the Alouettes gain.

In 2010, Green was given a real opportunity to have a significant role, and he has never looked back. Initially, he was known for his highlight reel grab he had against the Saskatchewan Roughriders in week one of that season. To date, it is arguably one of the best defying receptions in CFL history. If ESPN’s Sports Science did a physics study on that catch, I am sure everyone would come away amazed. From that moment, a legacy was born.

Shortly thereafter, in an early road game against the B.C. Lions in Vancouver where they hadn’t won since former Prime Minister, Jean Chretien was in power, the offense was held in check for most of the night. But it was Green who was the piston to jumpstart the offense, as he had eight catches for 107 yards, and added another highlight defying grab that put the team in scoring position to finally win in Canada's most beautiful city.

Right then, fans started to take notice of the player wearing the number 19 jersey.
He was an integral part of the team’s second consecutive Grey Cup win. Once Cahoon retired during the offseason, a lot of people speculated who would be able to replace the production and key catches from the retired star.

Heading into 2011 training camp, Coach Marc Trestman said with great confidence that he believed in Green’s ability to be the guy to take over for Cahoon’s role. The difference he brought to that position was his enormous size.

In fact, in the post-Cahoon era, to show how valuable Green was to the Alouettes offense, I took a small sample size of statistical information I gathered during a three-week stretch. To display his effectiveness, on second down situations, he was targeted 15 times, and he converted nine times for a 60 percent conversion rate, the highest amongst his cohorts at the receiver position.

Anthony Calvillo knows how valuable Green is to the offense. Once defenses start rolling their coverage to Richardson, it is Green who is next in line to make a play, and he has done that throughout his time with the team.

Furthermore, comparing where Green is to Cahoon in the Trestman offense, if you consider it’s the second year where a football player is fully comfortable in a team concept. Cahoon, who put up great numbers in the first season with Trestman, in his second year, totaled 89 receptions, 1,031 yards, and two touchdowns. But Green, as the starter, in his second year in the system as previously mentioned had 87 receptions, 1,147 yards, and four touchdowns. Even though he had two less catches, his production value was higher than Cahoon’s, considering he was the second, or even the third option in the passing routes.

Many pundits expect his third year in the system is where we will see him become more of a force considering he will be comfortable in his role once assumed by Cahoon.

Green has a come a long way from an unknown locker room gem to now being the Van Gogh where only his teammates can truly appreciate his artwork. With him locked up for two more years, Alouettes fans will get to enjoy more of his mastery paintings of the highlights catches, potentially vying for another Grey Cup championship, and on Twitter @SJ19_19SJ. Now it’s time for the league to take notice of this artist.

You can follow me on Twitter @MoeKhan19

I can be heard on The Midnight Snack every Friday morning from midnight-2am, and Gamepoints Radio, every Tuesday night, and various other shows all on TSN Radio 990.

Photo credit: Larry Wong, Postmedia News, www.npac.ca

Friday, 13 January 2012

Geoff Molson: First An Owner Then A Fan

It is every sports fan dream to be a player, coach or a general manager for their favourite professional sports team. If you are fortunate enough, the ultimate scenario is to be the owner of the team. A perfect example is Mark Cuban, owner of the defending NBA champions, Dallas Mavericks. The sheer joy that he had this past June made up for the years of anguish and thousands of dollars in fines due to his strong attachment to the team as a fan.

Fast-forward to the present and the situation that Geoff Molson finds himself in and the key decisions he has to make in the next few weeks and months to come. (First, as an owner and then a fan).

Do you give up on the 2011-12 season?

As an owner - Of course not. As long as the team is mathematically in contention for the playoffs, you support your organization until it is impossible. Why? Possible playoff revenue thanks to a minimum two home playoffs dates plus the cash from all the Habs gear that usually flies off the shelves in April.

As a fan - For the good of the team going forward, you fold up the tent and try to position the team for a decent draft pick and shed some contracts at the trade deadline. Yes, you want to hold out hope and believe the team is still in the hunt but it will take an implosion of 2 to 3 teams for the Habs to make the playoffs.

What do you do with general manager, Pierre Gauthier?

As an owner - Gauthier's management of the team is poor at best. His role in the signing of Scott Gomez has fans pissed off not to mention his panic prompted trade for Tomas Kaberle to make up for Andrei Markov. The recent Cammalleri - Bourque trade has indicated that there is still trust in Gauthier's abilities to improve the 12th-placed team (as of January 14th, 2011). With this in mind, you have to keep Gauthier in place until: a) you have THE person to take over as general manager that will revamp the entire organization or b) Gauthier's contract expires. Do you want to pay for two GMs at the same time? You are already paying for two head coaches in Cunneyworth and Martin. Yes, you are cash rich; however, when does the necessary expenditures stop? Fellow owner, Eugene Melnyk gave the GM of the Ottawa Senators, Bryan Murray a second chance to rebuild and look at where the team is in standing to date.

As a fan - Gauthier's track record does not bode well for the future of the club. Even with Cammalleri's contract off the books, there is still Gomez to dump, possibly dealing P.K. Subban (if he is a distraction in the dressing room) and signing the franchise, Carey Price. Do you let the GM clean up the mess or wish for someone else to rebuild the team? Pierre McGuire?

Blog posts, tweets and phone calls are demanding for Geoff Molson to act now to change the fortunes of the club. Although he maybe the ultimate fan that bleeds bleu, blanc et rouge, he is an owner first and will make the right business decision that will impact the bottom line.

Final Taughts
  • Jacques Martin as a scout? If you were not a big fan of Martin as coach of the Canadiens then you might not be too pleased at the thought of him as a scout. If Martin is not able to change his mindset of how hockey should be played in the "New NHL", he will probably be evaluating young talent based on how the players could fit into his "system" and not the future identity of the hockey club. Moving Martin from head coach to scout is like firing cook of a greasy spoon diner. Although you want to change the diner's menu, you still have the same cook doing the shopping for the ingredients with the same menu in mind.
  • The Blue Jays were here? Really, who cares? Speaking as jaded Expos fan, I wasn't thrilled at the news that Jays were in town to win the hearts of remaining baseball fans. Well, I guess it was a question of time before the geniuses in the Jays marketing department pounced at the opportunity. They could offer me season tickets and a jet to travel back and forth, I will NEVER be a Jays fan. After the organization voted to contract the Expos, I could not support the team in any fashion. When (and not if) the Jays has a pre-season series versus the Red Sox, I will hoping that nobody shows up to the game even if Denis Boucher comes back and starts on the mount.

Related Posts:

Follow me on Twitter - @sportstaughts

Cammalleri Habs trade tells us one thing - Pierre Gauthier will probably stay

Job security for Pierre Gauthier?
Alright, rabid, irrational, thirsty-for-blood Habs fans, you wanted a move, you got one. The Thursday night bizarre trade of Mike Cammalleri during the Canadiens vs Bruins game was interesting - to say the least! What, if Cammy scored twice in the first period, you wouldn't have traded him? Talk about micro-analyzing a player's performance.

Unlike the 4,431 self-proclaimed hockey expert bloggers, who read something in the newspaper and then simply reiterate it on their own little blog, I have my own take on the Canadiens-Flames trade. And no, they didn't bring in Rene Bourque thinking he was French, only to realize he speaks less French than the coach.

I'm sorry to say to those who wanted Mr. Burns, AKA Pierre Gauthier to leave town - he is staying as Habs GM in to next season.

Hold on a second. Get off the ledge. Step back and take a deep breath. Oh, I meant what I said, it's just not worth the jump.

By allowing Gauthier to make the move, Montreal Canadiens owner Geoff Molson sent a clear (okay, it's more like a subliminal) message to the world: I am keeping my GM for next season. If Gauthier were simply dead man walking, Molson wouldn't even let him near the Bell Centre, let alone trade away assets and further put his stamp on this team. It's just common sense.

As you scoff while reading my opinion on Mr. Gauthier's future (as everyone I've told my theory to already has), consider the parallel that happened in Ottawa last season. Bryan Murray was supposedly on his way out as well as Senators GM. He had a flailing team, he had just fired another coach and most thought he was nearing the end of his tenure. Meanwhile, Murray traded away veteran after veteran, stockpiling picks and young players, and owner Eugene Melnyk kept him on this season. The results have been nothing short of impressive. Clearly, Murray got his mojo back.

And again, had Melnyk really wanted to replace Murray, he wouldn't have allowed him to jettison so many players and continue to mold the team to his own liking. It's simple logic, really.

As for the trade itself? Well, Cammalleri was an expensive player for little return in the regular season. And if you don't make the playoffs, it's hard to be a postseason hero. Meanwhile, Bourque is what you see. He's not flashy, has a decent shot, is tough and will get suspended every now and then. The knock on Bourque is his inconsistency. He'll score no goals in ten games and then five in three. Wonderful. Montreal already has a player like that. I refer you to AK46.

At the very least, the move clears some cap space and leaves more room for Montreal to lock up Carey Price and P.K. Subban - that is if they too aren't on the trading block.

So expect more moves and a few more boring Gauthier press conferences.

And as for the notion that Gauthier isn't make the decisions himself, that it's trade-by-committee featuring Bob Gainey, Molson and possibly a fan or two? Nonsense. If your owner has lost confidence in you to the point where he wants others helping to make GM moves, then you wouldn't be employed.

This is Gauthier's show right now - and possibly in to 2012-2013 as well.

Catch Matthew next on TSN 990 Radio in Montreal, Tuesday at 9pm. Follow him on Twitter @gamepointsradio @matthewrossmtl

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Why Bryan Chiu Will be the Hottest Coaching Name in the CFL and CIS Circles

It’s time for the CFL and CIS teams to take notice of the next hottest coaching name in Concordia Stingers assistant coach Bryan Chiu.

Only two years removed from his Grey Cup triumph as a player with the Montreal Alouettes. Chiu is one of the very few in professional sports to leave the game on top, and on his own terms. Immediately after his retirement, he jumped into the coaching ranks by taking an opportunity to join the Stingers staff.

Seeing his development as a coach and the unlimited amount of time he has put into his trade has garnered immense respect from his cohorts, and competing coaches.

To show how high his value is, apparently rival schools were looking at potentially trying to sway him to join their staff. Entering his third year, his stock will only go up considering that he had helped develop Anthony Barrette who was selected by the Alouettes in last year’s draft. In the upcoming drafts, because of his guidance, there will be more linemen from the Stingers program that will have a great shot at the next level.

Could Chiu consider making the jump into the CFL as a position coach that may lead to a head job down road, or potentially take an offer to run his own University program?

He isn’t far removed from the CFL game by playing 13 years at very taxing position. He knows the coaching staffs, personnel departments and teams very well. He is liked across the league.

If the Montreal Alouettes are looking at bringing back a name fans can recognize, and associate with, why not Chiu? As written by The Gazette’s own Herb Zurkowsky, Chiu was on a short list of names that the team was looking at after Scott Milanovich and Jonathan Himebauch left for the Toronto Argonauts. There is no denying as each day goes by he is gaining immense notoriety in CFL coaching circles.

With the state of the Alouettes coaching staff being in transition with new names on-board, and the growing uncertainty that Marc Trestman may leave after the 2012 season. Could it be time for the Alouettes to start a new chapter with Chiu at the forefront of the cause?

If it won’t be the Alouettes, then another CFL team will eventually make an offer to join their staff.

To look closer at home, right now, he has a stable position with the Stingers. But given how this past offseason has been a rollercoaster ride with many opposing CIS schools changing their entire coaching staffs. CIS football has become immensely competitive. Some institution will want to hire the next big name coach to bring respectability, and a chance at vying for a Vanier Cup.

Chiu’s name alone will bring more awareness to any program looking for a fresh start. As a result, many highly sought out recruits will have to consider his recent success of sending players to the next level, and the connections he has to the CFL.

At this time next year, Chiu could very well be on radars of many CFL and CIS teams.
The questions remains, what does he do? There’s no denying that all of the amount of hard work and preparation he puts in will pay off. It is a matter of when the right time will be to take that leap of faith for the next coaching job.

You can follow me on Twitter @MoeKhan19

Photo credit CFL.ca

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Where Does Jim Popp go From Here?

The Indianapolis Colts have finally ended all speculation in their general manager search as they hired Philadelphia Eagles director of player personnel Ryan Grigson.

With this completed, that has put an end to the discussion of Jim Popp to the Colts organization. However, moving forward what could be Popp’s long-term intentions with the Alouettes?

For him to have an interview with the Colts at this point of the CFL offseason has to ring off some alarm bells that he might be considering other future options. Maybe being the big fish in a small has pond has waned on him, and he might be looking for a new challenge.

With Popp back in the fold, where does team president Ray Lalonde stand with him? Even though Popp signed a new contract in the summer of 2010, could Lalonde offer another lucrative extension for him to potentially calm his NFL desire?

Furthermore, could this be the last overture from an NFL team for now? A lot of questions with no answers as of yet.

But could Popp now be focusing on trying to lock up Marc Trestman to stay beyond 2012? As stated many times, it is very uncharacteristic to allow a coach of Trestman’s ilk to be walking into the last year of his deal without an extension in-hand. Usually in this scenario, it signals that maybe Popp knows that this could very well be the last dance with one of the best coaches this league has ever had.

With free agency period just five weeks away, Popp has a lot of in-house issues to clear up before he can proceed. For starters, who is the first priority on the Alouettes free agent list? Could he dare try to sign another big name player and potentially have it backfire as the Dwight Anderson 2011 experiment did?

Already, the Alouettes coaching staff will have many new faces, which may take time to assimilate themselves with their fellow cohorts. Remember, there is no off season organized team activities. As stated by Trestman in the last press conference of the year, he wasn’t too sure if the CFL would approve of him having another gathering in early May of coaches, and players as he had in Florida last year.

Slowly, we’re starting to see the changing of the guard as this could be the last year of key figures in the Alouettes organization. So is Popp mentally preparing that this may be a sinking ship, and is looking to brush up his resume to send out to potential NFL suitors?

Entering these next few weeks could really determine the direction of where this team is going because of what has transpired in the last six weeks.

But where there’s smoke, there’s fire, and this could be a developing yearlong blaze for this organization if they can’t put out any of the overbearing questions that will reign for the duration of the season.

You can follow me on Twitter @MoeKhan19

Photo credit: The Canadian Press

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Jones Leaves Alouettes Coaching Staff, Who's Next?

Are we seeing the beginning of the end of the Alouettes coaching staff? According to RDS football insider, Didier Ormejuste, on his Twitter account (@44DidierRDS) he wrote that secondary coach Daronte’ Jones has now accepted the same position with the University of Hawaii.

Marc Trestman will have to go through his phone book to replace another member of his supporting staff. With the exception of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats this year. Usually CFL coaching staffs are pretty much completed at this juncture of the offseason. We have yet to hear who will be the new offensive line coach, and now the secondary coach.

Don’t forget the pending situation on whether or not Jim Popp will be considered as a serious candidate as the next general manager of the Indianapolis Colts. This organization could be entering an unexpected abyss of trying to search and replace these openings.

As written before, if Popp does get the job, could he bring Trestman, or even former NFL player and defensive line coach Michael Sinclair?

As for Jones, you cannot blame him for taking a more secure situation by joining the staff of newly named head coach Norm Chow. In-fact, Chow and Jones did coach together at UCLA in 2010. By joining the Warriors, who will soon be entering the Mountain West Conference, Jones is in a more comfortable environment knowing that there is stability of working under Chow the next few years.

Whereas with Trestman, and I am sure this is running through the minds of the other assistants, what if he doesn’t come back to the Alouettes. Their jobs are not guaranteed with whoever will be the next head coach. Therefore, some have taken on another challenge elsewhere.

With CFL free agency five weeks away, if the Alouettes are to dip into the market, they will need to have their position coaches named well before that. Otherwise, perspective players may be hesitant to sign on-regardless of the success this organization has had in the last 15 years.

Since the end of the season back in late November, three coaching assistants have departed from the team; who will be the next to go; Popp, Trestman, Sinclair or someone else?

I sure hope for the Alouettes sake that team owner Bob Wetenhall and team president Ray Lalonde have a succession plan in place. It seems they might have to put it in play a bit earlier than expected if they hope to avert any disaster of the aforementioned key figures potentially leaving the organization for the NFL or NCAA.

You can follow me on Twitter @MoeKhan19

Photo courtesy of www.montrealalouettes.com

NFL Games (Divisional Round)

New Orleans -3.5 at San Francisco

Denver +13.5 at New England

Houston +7.5 at Baltimore

New York +7.5 at Green Bay

Matthew: NO, DEN, BAL, NYG
Mitch: NO, NE, BAL, GB
Stefano: NO, DEN, BAL, NYG
Producer: SF, NE, BAL, NYG
Listener: NO, NE, HOU, NYG
Trexis: NO, NE, BAL, NYG
Sean: NO, DEN, BAL, GB

NFL Pool Standings (Divisional Round)

1st: Stefano: 42-30 (2-2 last week)

2nd: Mitch: 41-31 (2-2 last week)

2nd: Matthew: 41-31 (3-1 last week)

2nd: Moe: 41-31 (3-1 last week)

5th: Producer: 38-34 (1-3 last week)

6th: Listeners: 36-36 (2-2 last week)

7th: Trexis: 34-38 (1-3 last week)

8th: Sean: 25-47 (1-3 last week)

Monday, 9 January 2012

The Realities of Sport - A Game Points Radio TSN 990 Special, January 17, 9-11pm

On Tuesday, January 17th, 9-11pm (Game Points will run as usual afterwards until midnight), we present a special radio program on TSN 990 in Montreal, hosted by Matthew Ross, with in-studio guests from different backgrounds and age groups: 

The Realities of Sport - An in-studio discussion on hot button issues such as: 

Concussions, Drugs, Social Media and Media Coverage, Motivation by Money, and more...

In Studio will be:

- Montreal Alouettes Defensive Back Etienne Boulay

-Olympic Hockey Medallist Meghan Agosta (playing with the Montreal Stars)

-San Francisco Giants Draft Pick Outfielder Jonathan Jones (playing in A ball this season)

-Former Olympian and Professional basketball player Dwight Walton

We'll read out some of your thoughts and questions from Facebook and Twitter live that night as well.

Listen live on 990am in Montreal, at www.tsn990.ca or download the Bell Media smartphone app and select TSN 990 to listen on the go. 

The Realities of Sport - A Game Points Radio TSN 990 Special, January 17, 9-11pm

On Tuesday, January 17th, 9-11pm (Game Points will run as usual afterwards until midnight), we present a special radio program on TSN 990 in Montreal, with in-studio guests from different backgrounds and age groups: 

The Realities of Sport - An in-studio discussion on hot button issues such as: concussions, drugs, social media and media coverage, motivation by money, and more...

In Studio:
- Montreal Alouettes Defensive Back Etienne Boulay
-Olympic Hockey Medallist Meghan Agosta (playing with the Montreal Stars)
-San Francisco Giants Draft Pick Outfielder Jonathan Jones (playing in A ball this season)
-Former Olympian and Professional basketball player Dwight Walton

We'll read out some of your thoughts and questions from Facebook and Twitter live that night as well.

Listen live on 990am in Montreal, at www.tsn990.ca or download the Bell Media smartphone app and select TSN 990 to listen on the go. 

The Realities of Sport - A Game Points Radio TSN 990 Special, January 17, 9-11pm

On Tuesday, January 17th, 9-11pm (Game Points will run as usual afterwards until midnight), we present a special radio program on TSN 990 in Montreal, with in-studio guests from different backgrounds and age groups: 

The Realities of Sport - An in-studio discussion on hot button issues such as: concussions, drugs, social media and media coverage, motivation by money, and more...

In Studio:
- Montreal Alouettes Defensive Back Etienne Boulay
-Olympic Hockey Medallist Meghan Agosta (playing with the Montreal Stars)
-San Francisco Giants Draft Pick Outfielder Jonathan Jones (playing in A ball this season)
-Former Olympian and Professional basketball player Dwight Walton

We'll read out some of your thoughts and questions from Facebook and Twitter live that night as well.

Listen live on 990am in Montreal, at www.tsn990.ca or download the Bell Media smartphone app and select TSN 990 to listen on the go. 

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Could Jim Popp be Saddling Up With The Colts?

According to NBC’s ProFootballTalk website, the Indianapolis Colts are considering Montreal Alouettes director of player personnel, Jim Popp for their vacant general manager position.

What makes this an eyebrow raising situation is that for those who follow current Colts owner, Jim Irsay on Twitter (@JimIrsay) he wrote “Here's a dark horse candidate for u fantasy GMers..Jim _____(Who)?? Out in Canada..who do I speak of? For $200 n Real NFL football!”

Normally in the NFL, names are always mentioned as possible candidates for open positions. But the verbiage in his tweet is that he is not discounting Popp as a candidate. However, let’s not forget the very open minded Irsay isn’t afraid to write anything on Twitter (see his tweets about Manning, Peyton).

What could make Popp appealing to the Colts family? As mentioned in the ProFootballTalk article, since 1996, he has fielded a winner throughout his time in Montreal, where he has had two non-winning seasons in 2001 and 2007. His team has gone to eight Grey Cups in the last 11 years winning three times.

For those who remember, when the team moved from Baltimore to Montreal, Popp had to do major renovations to the roster because he had no Canadian players. As a result, he was able to cultivate the team with impact non-imports such as Jock Climie and Michael Soles.

What can also be an intriguing factor is the Baltimore connection. For those who recall, the Irsay family and the NFL sued the old Baltimore CFL franchise for using the Colts nickname. As a result, the franchise went on a nameless odyssey until finally settling on the Stallions.

Popp was apart of the Baltimore franchise as an assistant general manager where they had the best two-year run amongst the CFL American expansion teams, in reaching two consecutive Grey Cups and being the only U.S. team ever to win the title.

Maybe Popp has been in the back of Irsay’s mind for a quite a while, seeing how successful he was in making the former CFL franchise a popular love affair with the city of Baltimore. Then moving onto Montreal where they’ve been a perennial contender for the Grey Cup.

According to a source of mine, Popp moved his family back to his North Carolina home. That could be a potential determining factor to be closer to them. Considering the sudden passing of his mother after the playoff loss to the Tiger-Cats, maybe in his heart he is looking to be closer to his loved ones. As a colleague of mine pointed out, Popp is rarely in the city of Montreal because he is always on the road scouting.

If Popp does jump on-board with the Colts, what could happen to the Alouettes? For starters, Marc Trestman is entering the last year of this deal and could potentially join him. This could entail the Colts will be using the first overall selection (if they keep it) in the NFL Draft on Stanford quarterback, Andrew Luck.

Trestman’s forte is developing quarterbacks, and essentially he would be getting a Ferrari engine in Luck. It’s a matter of molding the shape of the car to lead the Colts back to their winning ways.

Furthermore, given that Popp has an eye at finding talent, the one constant knock on the Colts is their inability of identifying impact depth players. If Popp could go about and find these players at the minimum salary, it would pay dividends for this team who historically during the salary cap era has had their money tied up to a few players.

Right now, it is mere speculation on him leaving. Already the Colts in-total have interviewed seven candidates. So the odds are somewhat stacked that Popp could be considered. Don’t forget, this isn’t the first time he is testing the NFL waters.
There was the apparent wooing by the Washington Redskins to have him join their personnel staff a few years ago. But he opted to stay with the Alouettes.

But if Popp leaves, would this signal the beginning of the end for this franchise if he brings Marc Trestman, and some key support staff members?

As another colleague told me the other day, “Jim Popp is a big fish in a small pond.” Now is he willing to jump into the ocean with the sharks?

As for the Colts, the clock is ticking towards the NFL Draft, and with the Peyton Manning situation, since he is due very soon a nice signing bonus. They will need someone in place to handle this situation. Now, could it be Jim Popp?

You can follow me on Twitter @MoeKhan19

Photo courtesy of Remi Lemee, La Presse, cyberpresse.ca

The Origins of an NFL Fan

Funny thing about the National Football League, it doesn't have a franchise in Montreal. For a kid who grew up in the 514 with the Habs and Expos, I found it really hard to latch on to an NFL team. Without a local squad to get behind, I just dismissed the NFL was an American obsession. Obviously, that meant I should follow the Canadian Football League. Remember that marketing campaign from the late 90's when the CFL dubbed itself "Radically Canadian" and had shirts that said "Our Balls Are Bigger"? Well, I was their target demographic and bought into it hook, line and sinker.

Once the Alouettes returned, I took them in with open arms, finally embracing my destiny as a football fan. I would argue that the Canadian version of the game was clearly superior to the southern brand. That the athletes were just as good and the stars could easily crack an NFL roster if only given a chance. Then, in what would become a regular occurrence throughout my adolescence, I woke up one day and realized I was an idiot.

No longer blinded by patriotism, I started watching more NFL games in appreciation of the higher quality of play. However, I still had the problem about who to root for. I can't speak for anyone else, but I need an emotional attachment to truly delve deep into a sport. After a few years as an NFL nomad, looking for a good fit, nothing felt right. Knowing how I stick with the Habs and Expos through thick and thin, I realized the only solution was to commit. It was time to go through my own pathetic version of The Bachelor: NFL Edition.

About six years ago on a road trip with a friend of mine and time to kill in the car, I came up with my own formula to choose a team for life. Through my completely arbitrary system, I continuously eliminated teams I could not and would not be a fan of. Here is the criteria I used:

1. NO BANDWAGONS. I cannot root for a team that has won a Super Bowl in the last ten years. Hate bandwagon fans.
2. NO EXPANSION TEAMS. I love the mythology of a franchise's history. Thanks Habs, for making me a snob.
3. NO RELOCATED TEAMS. I hate it when teams relocate. If I remember a relocation, can't be a fan.
5. PREFERENCE GIVEN TO NORTHEASTERN CITIES. Obviously. But these last two rules really worked against each other.
6. INTANGIBLES. Have I been there? Any favourite players? Pretty jerseys?

It essentially came down to the following teams:

Chicago Bears
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns (Not really expansion. In fact, extra points awarded for getting their team back.)
Detroit Lions
Minnesota Vikings

The Bears already felt bandwagonny. The Bengals always feel too cartoony. That left the Browns, Lions and Vikings. And once it came down to the finalists, the choice was surprisingly easy. I was a Detroit Lions fan. A long history, a whatever-the-opposite-of-bandwagon-is, sweet unis, and clear memories of jaw dropping Barry Sanders highlights.

My friend, a long suffering New Orleans Saints fan, listened to me talk myself through this agonizing process for probably an hour. Unsurprisingly, he almost veered into oncoming traffic to put himself out of his misery. That is, until I suggested we come up with a convoluted life long wager. Each season we would have to pay for however many more wins either the Lions or Saints had than each other. The stakes would be doubled for head-to-head matches and would continuously double with every playoff win. Lions and Saints! Two laughingstocks to battle for our wallets for the rest of eternity!

Roughly thirty seconds after we made this bet, the Saints acquired Drew Brees. Since then, they've been pretty darned good, culminating with a Super Bowl victory in 2010. This was only one season after the Lions set a league record with 16 negative-wins. Also known as losses. All said, I've owed my friend a few hundred dollars since we made the bet.

When people ask me why I'm a Detroit Lions fan, I usually just say "Barry Sanders" and they get the gist of it. But looking back, I can't think of a better recipe for becoming a fan of a team from another city. And tonight, after years of racking up gambling debts and watching lots of bad football, I'm hoping the Lions will reward me both emotionally and financially for the ridiculously poor choices I made in that car so long ago.

On the other hand... if I put enough money on the Saints today... I could break even...