Bye-r beware

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:39 AM ET

VANCOUVER -- Wally Buono has a new playoff format he's been kicking around, eagerly waiting to spring the scheme on CFL commissioner Tom Wright.

"Ideally, what you want is to have the West Division regular-season champion play the East Division regular-season champion for the Grey Cup," said the B.C. Lions boss.

"That would be great, wouldn't it? Then the regular season would be worth something."

Worth something, indeed. Finishing first currently guarantees only that you'll sit around for two weeks getting ulcers while the semifinalists square off for the right to stage an upset in the division final.

The squad that fought so valiantly through 18 games to earn a bye to the final on home turf frets and fidgets, awaiting an opponent.

It's a scenario with which Buono, whose Lions clinched first in the West with a win over Montreal last Sunday, is all too familiar.

He led the Calgary Stampeders to seven division titles (1992, '93, '94, '95, '96, '98 and 2000) only to be overthrown in four of those seven finals at the supposedly friendly surroundings of McMahon Stadium.

Can you blame the man if he's already getting nervous with two meaningless regular-season games remaining, including tonight's clash with his former club? (8 p.m., TSN).

Lions quarterback Dave Dickenson, who piloted the 2000 Stamps to a 12-5-1 record and a bye to the final, understands the concerns.

Dickenson was rested down the stretch that season, only to come out flat in the West final before blowing out his knee late in the first half.

The Stamps lost 37-23 to eventual Grey Cup champion Lions.

"I was (flat)," Dickenson said. "Wally played me a couple of series in the game against Hamilton at the end of the year and then sat me the rest of that. It's just one of those things as a quarterback, I really need timing. That's why the more I play, the better my timing should get. I know it's not going to be easy against Calgary, they make you work for it and overcome some adversity and that's what I'm hoping to get out of this game."

Dickenson is expected to see plenty of action tonight, eager to stay sharp while sharing playing time with MVP candidate QB Casey Printers.

Dickenson warns coasting into the post-season can suck the emotion out of a first-place squad, leaving it ripe for an upset.

"I think we did back off a bit too much," Dickenson recalled of his Calgary experience.

"Guys started thinking about where they were going to go on the bye week, that sort of thing. So we're going to try take an outlook where (we want to) establish home-field advantage right now and make sure that people come into our place (knowing) we're going to play aggressive football and come out with a win.

"I'll take every snap I can get but

I think Casey needs to be sharp as well ... I'd like to get a full game under my belt in the next two weeks and see how the body reacts."

Buono points out that, unlike 2000 in Calgary when his backup was inexperienced Ben Sankey, he now has two legitimate starters down the stretch and into the playoffs.

"The thing I have now is I have a great quarterback who needs to play," Buono said of Dickenson, who has missed most of the season with a knee injury. "I'm not trying to get the No. 2 guy more time, I'm trying to get our No. 1 guy playing time and he'll play at a very high level.

"Everything else is going to be status quo. We're not changing anybody, we're not sitting anybody. We've got guys on the injured (list), guys on the practice roster (who could play) but we're not making any moves."


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