Higgins hopes staff stays

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:37 AM ET

After three seasons of upheaval at McMahon Stadium, fans can expect a lot of familiar faces when the Calgary Stampeders' 2006 season kicks off next June.

The biggest question marks involve the coaching staff.

Will Tom Higgins, head coach and senior v.p. of football operations, drop the coaching role in the off-season?

Will offensive co-ordinator Steve Buratto, defensive mastermind Denny Creehan and/or GM Jim Barker return? All have been mentioned as possible candidates for work in Winnipeg and Ottawa.

"This can be a team to be reckoned with if we can keep it together," Higgins said yesterday, one day after his team lost 33-26 to Edmonton in the West semifinal.

"We haven't started talking yet on what's going to happen (with coaches). There is in our minds a three-, a five- and a 10-year plan and we never really determined the speed of that to occur. You really can't make those decisions within 24 hours of playing a football game.

"You have to sit back and reflect and I'd like to have the opportunity to talk to the executive committee, the owners who are here and see what their wishes are and see where we are and what's the best route for this football team."

As of yesterday, no other teams had asked for permission to talk to Stamps staff, whose contracts won't expire until early in the new year.

When Creehan, who doubles as assistant head coach, re-signed with the new Stampeders regime last winter, he was mentioned as a potential candidate to eventually assume the head coaching duties.

"It's a great compliment other people are looking at our coaching staff," Higgins said. "But I have full confidence we will do everything in our power (to keep them)."

President Ted Hellard has stated his commitment to keeping the current coaching staff intact for '06.

Buratto said he has not been contacted by Winnipeg president Lyle Bauer or GM Brendan Taman and is content with his role in Calgary.

"I would be perfectly happy staying here and seeing how far we can go," he said yesterday.

"It's a lot more fun when you go into training camp with people who understand what you're trying to do instead of having to start at the bottom. I've been through that three or four times before."

The Stamps have two players -- non-imports Wes Lysack (safety) and Mike Juhasz (receiver) -- on track to become free agents Feb. 16.

Calgary could use more speed at wide receiver and additional Canadian depth. The team has already expressed its intentions to be aggressive when free agency begins Feb. 16.

"We have to get better, we're not good enough," said Barker, who said he intends to stay with the Stamps.


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