After three years as the league's most embarrassing franchise the Calgary Stampeders are once again amongst the CFL's elite.
Fact is, with one week left in the regular season they may just be the team to beat.
On the tail end of a monumental turnaround, the Stamps win in Winnipeg yesterday positions the team for a possible home playoff date none of the country's experts thought possible. This, despite a massive roster overhaul, a 4-6 start, several injured quarterbacks and a West Division with four legitimate Cup contenders.
Preaching patience as the club took plenty of heat after limping through the first half of the season, head coach Tom Higgins, quarterback Henry Burris and the new ownership group stuck with a game plan that has landed the club six wins in its last seven outings.
Not only will the 10-7 Stamps be in the playoffs for the first time in four years, they'll host Edmonton Sunday in a game that could reward ownership with the team's first home playoff date since 2001.
Led yesterday by an increasingly patient, comfortable and confident Burris who completed 84% of his passes, the Stamps also got an All-Canadian performance from linebacker Brian Clark who spearheaded the league's hottest defence with an effort that included an interception and a handful of big hits. In a move demonstrating the unity in Calgary Clark declined an easy touchdown, instead flipping the ball to rookie Coby Rhinehart for his first CFL score.
Sandro DeAngelis has emerged as one of the league's best young kickers, Joffrey Reynolds is the CFL's flashiest running back, Nik Lewis and Jeremaine Copeland are becoming more and more untouchable and running back David Allen is emerging as another solid weapon.
While the club's playoff success will ultimately serve as the season's barometer, the Stamps are officially back.
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AROUND THE HORN: Bengals receiver Chad Johnson had this gem for Packers corner Al Harris leading up to yesterday's game: "The bad news is he has to cover me. The good news is he can save 15 percent by switching his (auto) insurance to Geico." ... Is it any coincidence the heaviest club in the new NHL (Washington averaging 211 lb./player) may be the worst team while the lightest (Nashville 195 lb./player) is one of the best? ... For those still wondering how the Preds have taken the NHL by storm this year consider the fact seven of their players participated in last year's world championship and that doesn't include their two best skaters, Steve Sullivan and Paul Kariya ... The Gliebermans are doing their best to ensure the circus in Ottawa will be in full swing next year with the imminent addition of head coach John Jenkins who was so inept at his offensive coordinator job in Calgary he suffered the indignity of being fired by Matt Dunigan.
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PARTING GIFTS: Proven conclusively this week at Skate Canada: the only thing more boring than watching figure skating is reading about it ... Nothing quite as pathetic as watching regional U.S. hockey broadcasts like the one on Fox last week that touted Dallas Drake as, "pound for pound the toughest player in the league." Yes, the same Dallas Drake whose gutless hit on Corey Perry garnered a two-game suspension ... How long until the NHL realizes the dangers of leaving a bench door open and assessing a true bench minor any time a players crashes into or through an improperly-attended gate?