The Calgary Stampeders’ off-season losses have been downright offensive.
With the retirement Friday of starting right tackle Jeff Pilon, it leaves another hole on an offence that already had a few to fill during the 2010 training camp.
On its own, the loss of Pilon wouldn’t be devastating for the Stamps, but considering right guard Dimitri Tsoumpas is gone to the NFL’s Miami Dolphins, there will be some upheaval in front of quarterback Henry Burris.
Stamps GM-head coach John Hufnagel admitted Pilon’s departure creates a further headache and uncertainty, especially when it comes to the Canadian ratio.
“It’s a spot he has played over the last decade,” Hufnagel said Friday. “Now, we need to find somebody to replace him. I’m not sure at this moment if it will be with a Canadian or American.”
It would be easier to find a capable right tackle by plugging an import into the lineup, but that means the Stamps need to utilize Canadian starters elsewhere.
Hufnagel announced the signings of two import lineman a week ago to prepare for this scenario. Problem is, with import left tackle Ben Archibald — the West Division’s lineman of the year in 2009 — already pencilled in, only three of the required seven Canadian starters would be on the line, which is typically Canuck territory.
The Stamps could change their draft strategy May 2 to add some Canadian linemen, but there are other needs — most notably at kicker, thanks to Sandro DeAngelis leaving as a free agent.
There are a few options in-house that could fill the right side of the line.
With Tim O’Neill emerging as a bonafide starter last season, left guard Jesse Newman could move over to play the other side, while six-year veteran Godfrey Ellis could play right tackle as he has over the past couple of seasons when Pilon was injured.
Behind that line a year ago, Joffrey Reynolds scampered to his second straight rushing title and was named the CFL’s West Division most outstanding player.
But the line isn’t the only question mark heading into camp.
The trade of Jeremaine Copeland to the Toronto Argonauts for fellow import receiver P.K. Sam makes the Stamps younger at the position, but the newcomer is more of an unknown.
Copeland never missed a game after signing with the Red & White as a free agent in 2005.
There is also unsigned fullback Teyo Johnson, who created matchup problems with defences due to his size coming out of the backfield.
Getting Johnson back would help an offence that is without its architect in George Cortez, who left to be the quarterbacks coach for the Buffalo Bills.
There are positives as injured receivers Ken-Yon Rambo (torn ACL) and Ryan Thelwell (Achilles) are both on track to return, but whether either can duplicate their former production remains to be seen.
Production is one thing the Stamps have lost, and leadership is another.
Pilon was a part of that.
“He was a great competitor, a great leader and a presence in the locker-room,” Hufnagel said. “He was a great presence out in the community. Losing a man with that type of experience and who gives you that type of production is a loss, there is no question about that.
“He gave everything he had. He was a wounded warrior a lot, and I respect that type of player who had pain but is out there slugging it out to help his teammates win.”