Stampeders already among favourites to win next year

Calgary Stampeders Eric Fraser (L) sits in dejection on the sidelines in the final moments of his...

Calgary Stampeders Eric Fraser (L) sits in dejection on the sidelines in the final moments of his team's loss to the Toronto Argonauts in the 100th CFL Grey Cup championship football game in Toronto, November 25, 2012. (REUTERS)

IAN BUSBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:07 PM ET

Less than 24 hours after losing the Grey Cup in Toronto, the Calgary Stampeders were installed at 9/2 favourites to capture the title next year.

The future, according to betting site Bodog, is brighter for the Stamps than the team that just beat them, the Toronto Argonauts.

Only the B.C. Lions (7/2) rank ahead of the 2012 West Division champions for odds of winning the 2013 title. The Argos are listed at 5/1, with the Montreal Alouettes next at 11/2.

Odds are the Stamps will be better in 2013, simply because there is no way they will have to deal with the adversity they faced over the past seven months.

When two defensive ends went down with season-ending knee injuries on the first day of training camp, it should have been taken as a omen of things to come.

Considering all the Stamps have been through, with injuries and off-field distractions, the fact they made it to the 100th Grey Cup game in Toronto was an achievement in itself.

A total of 72 players suited up for the Stampeders this season, and that didn't include defensive end Kevin Dixon, whose blown knee started a running theme.

How many teams could have their No. 1 quarterback start just three regular-season games and still win 12?

What the Stamps found out this year is they can plug and play with new players on a consistent basis.

But just think of what could have been if this team just suffered a normal amount of football ailments.

Sure, there are a handful of free agents to resign this off-season and the quarterback situation -- is Kevin Glenn or Drew Tate the starter? -- needs to be cleared up, but there are so many positives for the team moving forward.

Here are some of them:

--Stamps running back Jon Cornish may have had a tough day in the Grey Cup, with only 57 yards on 15 carries, but the veteran rusher has shown he has the physical and mental strength to carry the ball more than anyone in the league. In a second full season as a starter, he should improve. A slow start over the first five weeks impacted his overall numbers, which were still spectacular and enough to lead the CFL.

--Maurice Price has emerged as a genuine deep threat and would clearly be the No. 1 receiver going forward, despite the steady performance of slotback Nik Lewis. With Johnny Forzani returning from a high-ankle sprain next season, the Stamps could wave good-bye to pending free agent Romby Bryant and still have the speed threat they have long sought.

--If Larry Taylor and Rob Maver re-sign, the Stamps will once again have one of the top special-teams units in the CFL. Maver provided great punting to go along with the fantastic kicking of sophomore Rene Paredes, who could be an all-time great if he continues to improve his stroke.

--The offensive line lost the line of scrimmage battle in the Grey Cup, but overall, that young group showed it has pieces moving forward to produce great results. The experience the likes of centre Jon Gott and potential tackles Spencer Wilson and J'Micheal Deane received this year could give the team flexibility to dress fewer imports on the line if they went in that direction.

--Once Demetrice Morley recovers from a shoulder injury that kept him out the majority of 2012, the Stamps will have great depth in the secondary thanks to the emergence of Chris Randle and cornerbacks Derrius Brooks and Fred Bennett. All three first-year players should be back to compete for starting jobs next year, along with steady veterans Brandon Smith and Keon Raymond.

--Unless there is a sudden job opening somewhere, the Stamps should be able to retain their coaching staff, or at least their co-ordinators -- Dave Dickenson (offence), Rick Campbell (defence) and Mark Kilam (special teams), who had great success despite replacing injured bodies all season.

So even in the aftermath of a crushing championship loss, the Stamps have bright spots in their future.

If only they could fast forward to next season and get the taste of losing out of their mouths.

ian.busby@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter @SUNIanBusby


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