Eskimos aim for another successful season

Eskimos head coach Kavis Reed says the number of new faces in the team's lineup inject a variable...

Eskimos head coach Kavis Reed says the number of new faces in the team's lineup inject a variable that will affect how succesful the team is this season compared to the past season. (Edmonton Sun file)

GERRY MODDEJONGE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:30 AM ET

EDMONTON - Next stop, Grey Cup?

At first glance, it seems that an appearance in the 100th edition of the CFL’s Holy Grail game in Toronto in November is the only way for the Edmonton Eskimos to improve over last year.

Reaching the West Division final was the best result since winning the Grey Cup in 2005, as the Eskimos finished 11-7 one season removed from missing playoffs with a 7-11 record in 2010.

“I’m not sure there’s a number. I think, mathematically, once you get to 10, a winning season is a winning season,” said general manager Eric Tillman, who is entering his second full season with the Eskimos. “That’s a given, but I think there are many other ways that you measure success: how entertaining are we so that the fans will come out? That’s certainly part of it, the entertainment experience.”

And they’re starting that one out right, with the return of Ricky Ray to open the season in Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday (5 p.m., TSN, 630 CHED).

“I think ultimately, success is determined in November,” said Tillman.

Regardless of how they end up finishing, the Eskimos are looking to start June 30 with the momentum of last year’s playoff run.

“It’s just commitment to what we started with,” said head coach Kavis Reed. “It’s always going to be patience. We’re looking at this thing as sustainable success for the long term, and that’s going to mean for us to stick to the course.

“When we hit turbulence, stick to the course.”

Last year, that course was set by a 5-0 start to his CFL head-coaching debut.

“We’re not going to win 18 games,” Reed said of his sophomore season. “We’re going to probably win more than we lose.”

Not like it’s any easier this year, losing some big names from their roster, while last year the team brought in a new coaching staff.

“It’s a similar challenge. We’re in a situation where there are some unknowns,” Reed said. “We have to see how those (replacements) hold up throughout the season based on the fact that we have a lot of young guys.

“But it’s all going to come down to execution. It’s all going to come down to how we treat every week in terms of preparation. We know that the task is going to be pretty hefty in terms of replicating the success we had last year, but I really feel our coaches and players are up to it.”

The season will decide whether or not the Ray trade turns out to be successful.

“I have great confidence in what we’re trying to do collectively,” Tillman said. “I think last year we had a very great group of coaches and players. I felt that we would surprise a lot of people.

“As we sit here just a few days away from the opening, once again I’m driven by the same mindset and overall philosophy on how you build a championship team.”

gerry.moddejonge@sunmedia.ca

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