Despite an 0-2 start last season, the Lions were once again contenders in the West Division. They finished with an 11-7 record and beat the Roughriders in Saskatchewan in the West semifinal. They lost the West final to the Stampeders in Calgary.
COACHING FRONT: Wally Buono returns for his seventh year as head coach and general manager. He's the longest-serving coach and GM currently in the CFL. The Lions returned last year's coaching staff entirely intact. Mike Benevides returns for a second season as defensive co-ordinator, while Dan Dorazio is in his third campaign as offensive co-ordinator.
WHO'S IN: LB Anton Mackenzie (free agent, Saskatchewan), DE Nautyn McKay-Loescher (free agent, Hamilton).
WHO'S OUT: DE Cam Wake (NFL), RB Stefan Logan (NFL), SB Jason Clermont (released, Saskatchewan), LB Otis Floyd (released, Hamilton), OL Rob Murphy (free agent, Toronto), LB Jay Pottinger (trade, Toronto), DT Tyrone Williams (released, Winnipeg), RB Charles Roberts (released).
KEY RETURNEES: QB Buck Pierce, SB Geroy Simon, SB Paris Jackson, OL Jason Jimenez, DB Korey Banks, DE Brent Johnson, K Paul McCallum, KR-RB Ian Smart, S Barron Miles.
WINTER GRADE: D
The defensive player of the year (Wake) is gone, as well as several other veteran starters on defence. With Logan and Roberts gone, the running back spot will be filled by a unknown newcomer. Letting Clermont go means the Lions lose some ratio flexibility and they may not be able to play two imports on the offensive line. Other than Mackenzie, the Lions weren't big players in the free-agent market.
The CFL's best team a year ago during the regular season (13-5) kept rolling through the playoffs. After beating the B.C. Lions in the West final, the Stamps went on to knock off the Montreal Alouettes to capture the franchise's sixth Grey Cup.
COACHING FRONT: In his first season as head coach and GM, John Hufnagel was deservedly given coach of the year honours. The Stamps also returned their entire coaching staff from a year ago, plus added former star quarterback Dave Dickenson as an offensive assistant.
WHO'S IN: DL Alain Kashama (released by Hamilton), WR Vince Marshall (released by Saskatchewan), RB Reggie Bradshaw (released by Saskatchewan).
WHO'S OUT: QB Dave Dickenson (retired), DT Eddie Freeman (not re-signed), DE Charleston Hughes (NFL), DL Pat MacDonald (NFL), LB Saleem Rasheed (released), DL Howard Hodges (released), QB Ben Sankey (released), S Richard Karikari (released), DB Lenny Walls (trade, Winnipeg), LB Neil Ternovatsky (trade, Winnipeg), DB Julian Battle (released), DB Calvin Bannister (released).
KEY RETURNEES: QB Henry Burris, RB Joffrey Reynolds, SB Nik Lewis, WR Ken-Yon Rambo, OL Dimitri Tsoumpas, DE Mike Labinjo, DB Brandon Browner, LB Shannon James, K Sandro DeAngelis.
WINTER GRADE: B+
The defending champs didn't make much news this off-season as other teams went wild with moves. They obviously didn't have to tweak much from the best roster in the CFL last season. The Stamps did get lucky in not losing a couple of key players to the NFL. Both Browner and DeAngelis looked south but didn't find any suitable offers.
Although they were the worst team in the West Division, the Eskimos went 10-8 and beat the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the East semifinal before losing to the Alouettes in the East final.
COACHING FRONT: Danny Maciocia moved upstairs and hired Richie Hall to take over as head coach. A long-time defensive co-ordinator with Saskatchewan, Hall finally gets a chance to put his mark on an entire team. Hall kept Rick Worman as offensive co-ordinator, made Noel Thorpe assistant head coach and special teams co-ordinator and hired former Riders and Bombers head coach Jim Daley to handle the defence.
WHO'S IN: RB Jesse Lumsden (free agent, Hamilton), LB Maurice Lloyd (free agent, Saskatchewan), LB Kitwana Jones (trade, Saskatchewan), DB Kelly Malveaux (trade, Winnipeg), S Scott Gordon (free agent, Saskatchewan), DE Kai Ellis (trade, Winnipeg), DB Anthony Malbrough (trade, Winnipeg), DB Jason Nugent (trade, Winnipeg), FB Graeme Bell (free agent, Winnipeg).
WHO'S OUT: SB Kelly Campbell (NFL), SB Jason Tucker (retired), LB Siddeeq Shabazz (trade, Winnipeg), WR Brock Ralph (trade, Winnipeg), DE Fred Perry (trade, Winnipeg), LB Agustin Barrenechea (released, Hamilton), LB Shannon Garrett (retired), OL Joe McGrath (free agent, Saskatchewan).
KEY RETURNEES: QB Ricky Ray, SB Kamau Peterson, RB Calvin McCarty, OL Patrick Kabongo, DB/KR Tristan Jackson.
WINTER GRADE: B
The Eskimos made so many moves, it's hard to tell how this club will come together. If Lumsden can play every game, the offence should be dynamic, with several strong Canadians.
No team dealt with as many injuries a year ago as the Riders, but they still compiled a 12-6 record in the regular season to host their second straight home playoff game. They lost the West semifinal to the B.C. Lions.
Ken Miller enters his second season as head coach with the Riders after being a finalist for coach of the year in his rookie campaign. Paul LaPolice is entering his second season as offensive co-ordinator, while veteran coach Gary Etcheverry is promoted to defensive co-ordinator to replace Richie Hall, who is the new bench boss with Edmonton.
WHO'S IN: SB Jason Clermont (released by B.C.), OL Joe McGrath (free agent, Edmonton), OL Jordan Rempel (trade, Hamilton), DB Sasha Glavic (trade, Hamilton).
WHO'S OUT: QB Michael Bishop (released), WR Matt Dominguez (released), WR Adarius Bowman (trade, Winnipeg), DB James Johnson (trade, Winnipeg), S Scott Gordon (free agent, Edmonton), LB Anton Mackenzie (free agent, B.C.), LB Maurice Lloyd (free agent, Edmonton), LB Kitwana Jones (trade, Edmonton), OL Steve Morley (free agent, Winnipeg), OL Mike Abou-Mechrek (not re-signed), OL Glenn January (free agent, Winnipeg).
KEY RETURNEES: QB Darian Durant, RB Wes Cates, SB Andy Fantuz, WR Weston Dressler, OL Gene Makowsky, DL Scott Schultz, DL John Chick, DB Eddie Davis.
WINTER GRADE: C+
The Riders dumped Bishop days after getting ousted by the Lions in the playoffs. That leaves Durant as the starting quarterback. Hometown boy Jason Clermont adds Canadian depth to the offence, but the Riders lost plenty of talent to both free agency and trades.
The Blue and Gold were a pedestrian 8-10 in 2008, but it was good enough for second place in the woeful East Division. They bombed in the East semifinal, though, falling at home to the Eskimos.
COACHING FRONT: Doug Berry got fired a few days after the playoff loss, and Mike Kelly was Lyle Bauer's handpicked replacement. GM Brendan Taman was demoted to director of player personnel, but he resigned in January, giving way to John Murphy. Mark Nelson is the new defensive co-ordinator, while Kelly will run the offence.
WHO'S IN: QB Stefan LeFors (trade, Edmonton), DT Tyrone Williams (released by B.C.), LB Siddeeq Shabazz (trade, Edmonton), OL Glenn January (free agent, Saskatchewan), SB Brock Ralph (trade, Edmonton), DE Riall Johnson (trade, Toronto), DE Fred Perry (trade, Edmonton), OL Kelly Bates (trade, B.C.)
WHO'S OUT: SB Milt Stegall (retired), QB Kevin Glenn (released, Hamilton), DE Tom Canada (released), OL Dan Goodspeed (trade, Hamilton), OL Alexandre Gauthier (free agent, Hamilton), LB Zeke Moreno (trade, Toronto), DB Kelly Malveaux (trade, Edmonton), WR Jamie Stoddard (released), DT Jerome Haywood (free agent, Montreal), CB Stanford Samuels (released, Montreal), LB Cam Hall (free agent, Montreal), DE Kai Ellis (trade, Edmonton), OL Dominic Picard (free agent, Toronto).
KEY RETURNEES: LB Ike Charlton, RB Fred Reid, RB Joe Smith, OL Brendon LaBatte, DT Doug Brown, WR Derick Armstrong, SB Romby Bryant, SB Terrence Edwards
WINTER GRADE: D
The Bombers are justified in making a quarterback change, but releasing Glenn without an experienced pivot waiting in the wings was questionable.
The Tabbies finished last overall in 2008 with a 3-15 record, marking the fourth straight season they've ended up with the league's worst mark.
COACHING FRONT: Marcel Bellefeuille had the interim tag removed from his title despite a 1-6 record down the stretch, and he revamped the rest of the staff in the off-season. Greg Marshall is the new defensive co-ordinator after three decent years in Winnipeg, Mike Gibson was lured away from Saskatchewan to become the offensive co-ordinator, and former Bomber pivot Khari Jones is the new quarterbacks boss.
WHO'S IN: QB Kevin Glenn (released by Winnipeg), OL Dan Goodspeed (trade, Winnipeg), OL Alexandre Gauthier (free agent, Winnipeg), LB Otis Floyd (released by B.C.), WR Dave Stala (free agent, Montreal), DE Brandon Guillory (free agent, Edmonton)
WHO'S OUT: QB Casey Printers (released), RB Jesse Lumsden (free agent, Edmonton), QB Richie Williams (released), DB Rontarius Robinson (released), WR Jo Jo Walker (released), WR Pat Woodcock (released)
KEY RETURNEES: QB Quinton Porter, WR Prechae Rodriguez, DB Chris Thompson, P/K Nick Setta, RB Kenton Keith, LB Markeith Knowlton, OL Marwan Hage
WINTER GRADE: C
The Ticats needed to improve their offensive line, which they did with the additions of Goodspeed and Gauthier, and their quarterbacking depth looks better than it did last year. CFL miracles, however, take longer than one year to occur.
The Double Blue had a year to forget, losing their last nine contests to finish with a dismal 4-14 mark and only one game up on the woeful Tiger-Cats.
COACHING FRONT: The legendary Don Matthews resigned after going 0-8 to end the season, and he was replaced by former NFL assistant Bart Andrus. The only assistant coach Andrus retained was Steve Buratto, but he was demoted from offensive co-ordinator to special teams and running backs boss.
WHO'S IN: OL Rob Murphy (free agent, B.C.), OL Dominic Picard (free agent, Winnipeg), LB Zeke Moreno (trade, Winnipeg), CB Jordan Younger (released by Edmonton), WR Jerome Mathis (NFL)
WHO'S OUT: KR Dominique Dorsey (NFL, Washington), CB Byron Parker (NFL, Philadelphia), DB Kenny Wheaton (released), DE Riall Johnson (trade, Winnipeg), C Chad Folk (retired), LB Mike O'Shea (released), OL Jude St. John (released), LB Chuck Winters (retired), LB Michael Fletcher (released), K Mike Vanderjagt (released)
KEY RETURNEES: SB Arland Bruce III, QB Kerry Joseph, LB Willie Pile, DT Adriano Belli, DE Jonathan Brown
WINTER GRADE: C
The new regime made some solid acquisitions via trades and free agency, and they released much of the old guard, but it will take some time to fix the damage that was done last season. There are a few question marks throughout the lineup.
The Als barely broke a sweat in cruising to the East Division crown with an 11-7 record. Despite playing in their own Grey Cup, they lost to the Calgary Stampeders.
COACHING FRONT: Marc Trestman is back for his sophomore season after his impressive debut, while co-ordinators Scott Milanovich (offence) and Tim Burke (defence) also return. Interestingly, quarterback Marcus Brady retired to become the team's receivers coach.
WHO'S IN: DT Jerome Haywood (free agent, Winnipeg), DB Stanford Samuels (released by Winnipeg), LB Cam Hall (free agent, Winnipeg), CB Blue Adams (NFL)
WHO'S OUT: WR Elijah Thurmon (released), OL Luke Fritz (free agent, Winnipeg), WR Dave Stala (free agent, Hamilton), OL Jeff Keeping (released, Toronto), QB Marcus Brady (retired)
KEY RETURNEES: SB Jamel Richardson, QB Anthony Calvillo, SB Ben Cahoon, S Etienne Boulay, RB Avon Cobourne, CB Mark Estelle, OL Bryan Chiu, OL Scott Flory
WINTER GRADE: B
The Alouettes didn't bring in too much new blood, but it could be argued they didn't have to. They re-signed all their key free agents, they kept Jamel Richardson from fleeing to the NFL, and they should have no problem winning the East again.