VANCOUVER -- If some of the best trades are the ones you never make, B.C. Lions GM Wally Buono made out like a bandit in last year's 'Nobody for Dave Dickenson' blockbuster.
With Dickenson hobbled by a knee injury most of the season and young gun Casey Printers turning in a relief effort for the ages -- 5,088 yards, 35 touchdown passes and CFL Most Outstanding Player honours -- it was suggested in some circles that the veteran's time in Vancouver had come and gone.
But when you look at what's happening in Vancouver now, Printers on the limp and Dickenson piloting an undefeated air show that's on pace for the highest efficiency rating in league history, standing pat is one of the most important steps Buono ever took.
"There might have been speculation from the media, or inquiries from other teams," said Buono, when asked about outside pressure to move an older, more expensive Dickenson. "But the club made it very clear that there would be no quarterback movement at that time, and that hasn't changed."
Why would it? Printers hasn't thrown a pass all year and nobody seems to care. Funny how a 5-0 record and a jaw-dropping 74.9 completion percentage can suck the life right out of a good quarterback controversy.
"If the season ended today he's definitely the most valuable player in the CFL," said Eskimos head coach Danny Maciocia, who'll lead the 5-1 Eskimos into a first-place showdown in B.C. Place tomorrow.
FELT PRETTY PROUD
"I thought it was a big deal, I felt pretty proud, when Ricky Ray, a couple of years ago, completed 67% of his passes. This guy is at 75 or 76. He can't find a way to throw an incomplete pass if he tried.
"Not only that, he's so elusive, too. He doesn't come across as a guy who's going to beat you with his feet, but when you think you've got him, he escapes. He dumps it here or there and they turn into big plays."
If all goes well, Dickenson will erase Tom Clements's 19-year old record of 67.58% and Printers ... he'll just have to wait his turn.
"Ultimately, I probably will be (expendable) one day," Dickenson said after practice yesterday.
"But right now I figure I can play and win. Look at a guy like Damon Allen, still getting it done.
"As you get older, teams might decide to go with the younger guy. That's their choice. But I'm going to try and make it as tough as I can on them."
So he went out and systematically picked apart every defence he's faced this season, averaging 30 points a game and a league-high 9.3 yards per completion.
"That's where Dave is exceptional," said Buono, who's been a fan of Dickenson going back to their days together in Calgary. "He's not just dumping the ball to the backs for a high percentage, he's distributing the ball to all the receivers.
"He's tough and he's competitive, but his ability to execute the offence, get the ball into people's hands quickly, is so important."
So is his resilience.
Despite his escapability, he's taken an inordinate amount of punishment this year (23 sacks, second only to Ottawa's 27) and keeps getting up, dusting off and looking for the next passing needle to thread.
He came back from that knee thing pretty well, too.
"It was tough, last year was pretty much a wash," said Dickenson. "I had gone over a year of being in pain, it was very frustrating, very tough. April of this year was the first time I felt I could run without pain.
"You always wonder if the job is going to be there when you get back, but at that point, when you're hurt, you have to be selfish -- just look after yourself and let things sort themselves out.
" I got myself ready and I was prepared for big-time competition (in training camp).
"That helped me come in in a good frame of mind. I did everything I could to be successful, and it paid off."