“The losing stops now!”
It is not secret, for the last several season, the Hamilton Tiger Cats have been the “Bad News Bears” of the Canadian Football League.
Poor playing, poor management and poor coaching have led the Tiger Cats into a downward spiral. A playoff berth in 2004 has been the only shed of light on the Tiger Cats franchise in some while.
Last season, Hamilton had expectations of turning their fortunes around. While they did have some bright spots in their season, when all was said and done Hamilton finished with only three wins and last place once again.
How can a team that has been in several rebuilding years in a row continue to be the laughingstock of the league?
How can Hamilton build off of a three win season?
Though they did only win three games, Hamilton did learn a few things during the season. First off, they may finally have their starting quarterback in Quinton Porter.
Porter showed promise last season and will only improve with more experience under his belt.
Hamilton’s management has given a renewed effort to improving the team through free agency, focusing more on the offensive line than in the past.
And of course, the Tiger Cats have explosive running back Kenton Keith. While he has not seen the playing field in a while, there is always a chance he will do this.
But, until these players all perform at a high level, and Hamilton starts winning ball games, it is all speculation.
Let’s take a closer look at the Hamilton Tiger Cats:
After Marcel Bellefeuille had taken over as head coach for Charlie Taafe during the season, people wondered if Bellefeuille would retain his job in the off-season. The Tiger Cats didn’t wait long into the off-season, signing Bellefeuille to an extension.
With the coaching staff in place, Hamilton could focus on improving their team through free agency. Hamilton had a number of holes to fill going into a loaded free agency class.
Hamilton had been rumoured to be involved in a lot of big moves, including talks surrounding prized free agent offensive lineman Rob Murphy.
In the end, the Argonauts picked up Murphy, but the Tiger Cats did find their own offensive lineman in Alexandre Gauthier.
Gauthier has been a solid tackle for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers for the last couple of seasons. Later in the off-season, Hamilton added Dan Goodspeed through a three way trade.
The acquisitions of Goodspeed and Gauthier, plus lineman Simon Rottier, who the team drafted first overall, should give the Tabbies some stability on the offensive line.
On the defensive side of the ball, Hamilton added defensive tackle Matt Kirk, defensive end Brandon Guillory and linebacker Otis Floyd. Perhaps more importantly, the Tiger Cats re-signed one of their most promising defensive players in Chris Thompson.
The Tabbies also added veteran quarterback Kevin Glenn from the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Glenn is expected to challenge Quinton Porter and provide leadership.
Hamilton didn’t suffer too many losses during the off-season, but did lose running back Jesse Lumdsen to the Eskimos and quarterback Richie Williams to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
When you have been bad for so long like Hamilton has, there are always going to be questions mark heading into a new season.
Hamilton looks to have a promising roster on paper, but that doesn’t mean they will be successful.
If young quarterback Quinton Porter experiences a drop off this season, Hamilton will have to hope that Kevin Glenn can rekindle some of his old magic.
Hamilton’s running backs also look decent on paper. Kenton Keith has had great success in his career, and Terry Caulley and Tre Smith have both been good for Hamilton in the past.
But Keith hasn’t always been the most consistent player in his career and Caulley and Smith have experienced injury problems.
Whoever does earn the starting running backs job will be running behind an improved, but not yet proven offensive line.
On the defensive side, Hamilton will have to improve on their defense which has been porous at times.
With a front seven anchored by lineman Brandon Guillory, Matt Kirk and a solid line backing core, Hamilton should be able to stop the run decently, but there secondary has always been a question mark.
Hamilton will have to hope the defensive back Chris Thompson continues his All-Star play of last season.
If Hamilton struggled this season and missed the playoffs, it wouldn’t really surprise any body. It seems like whenever you think Hamilton has turned a corner, they fall flat on their face.
The same scepticism will be equally as high this season with question marks galore. Can an inexperienced coach in Marcel Bellefeuille lead the Tiger Cats? Will Hamilton’s offensive line really improve? Can Hamilton’s defense turn the corner?
I however, remain cautiously optimistic. Baring injuries, the Tiger Cats should have a solid running back running behind a good offensive line.
Quinton Porter should be a efficient quarterback this season and the receiving core has also improved over the years.
Hamilton’s defense may struggle, but they should be able to shut down teams enough to give their offense a chance.
The Eastern Division is weak this year, so now may be the time for Hamilton to cement themselves as contenders and not pretenders.
It’s time to shed some light on a franchise that has been in the dark for so many years.
My Prediction: Around 8-10 wins, a second place finish and a home playoff berth in the East.
Outstanding Player of the Year: Kenton Keith
Defensive Player of the Year: Markeith Knowlton
Canadian of the Year: Chris Bauman
Lineman of the Year: Alexandre Gauthier
Special Teams Player of the Year: Nick Setta
Rookie of the Year: Simeon Rottier
Do you have a magic crystal ball that you can use to look ahead and see what will happen in the upcoming CFL Season? If not, stay tuned for my CFL Team Previews, coming out twice a week, to see how each team will fair in the upcoming season