Changing of the guard

IAN BUSBY -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:54 AM ET

There's some irony that Mark McLoughlin came out of retirement last week to replace Duncan O'Mahony as place-kicker for the B.C. Lions.

The league-wide struggles at the kicking position this season can be directly attributed to the likes of long-term, incredibly effective kickers such as McLoughlin.

So now when people ask why there aren't nine reliable Canadian kickers out there, give them this theory: Through the 1990s and into the 2000s, there were no kicking jobs available in the CFL.

Calgary had McLoughlin. B.C. had Lui Passaglia. Winnipeg had Troy Westwood. Edmonton had Sean Fleming. Saskatchewan had Paul McCallum. Hamilton had Paul Osbaldiston. Toronto had Mike Vanderjagt, then Noel Prefontaine. Montreal had Terry Baker. Ottawa didn't exist.

Nobody would think of carrying an extra kicker to develop one for the future. Every team just hoped once its grizzled veteran retired there was somebody to step in and take his place.

Now there is a void where three or four six- to eight-year veterans should be providing clutch kicks. The players who would have filled the void gave up on football long ago.

This season, the problem has come to a head. The veterans still booting -- Westwood, Fleming, McCallum -- have hit dry spells nearing the end of their careers. The replacements -- Calgary's Sandro DeAngelis, Hamilton's Jamie Boreham -- have fared well but there needs to be more of them brought along.

In hindsight, former Stampeders GM/head coach Matt Dunigan made a good move not resigning O'Mahony and asking McLoughlin to politely step aside.

The new regime in Calgary was forced to find fresh feet and came up with DeAngelis and punter Burke Dales. DeAngelis' numbers as a rookie certainly show signs of long-term success and more of his kind are out there waiting to be brought along.

OPENING DRIVES: A lot of heads were scratched at the end of Montreal's dramatic comeback win over B.C. Sunday when Anthony Calvillo came out for the extra point after Dave Stala's TD catch. It turned out Don Matthews just had Calvillo take a knee as to ensure nothing funny happened on the convert attempt in a 46-44 win. It was quite a conservative move from the same coach who went for two against the Lions in the final minute of a one-point loss in Vancouver earlier this season ... Winnipeg SB Milt Stegall followed up his huge four-TD game with zero catches Sunday against Toronto. The Turtle Man was still a big part of the Winnipeg offence, though, by drawing double coverage and allowing QB Kevin Glenn to hit Darnell McDonald and Keith Stokes with TD passes ... Calgary completed a rare feat Friday, knocking two teams out of the playoffs with one win. And if Ottawa loses at Hamilton this Friday, a Stamps victory in Regina Sunday would clinch their first playoff berth since 2001 ... Blue Bombers DE Gavin Walls has to be a shoo-in for West Division rookie of the year with his 12 sacks this season, despite getting strong competition from Edmonton returner Tony Tomkins and Calgary S Trey Young ... Jeremaine Copeland's bicycle TD dance Friday may have been the most creative in CFL history. It also helped explain why fellow receiver Ken-Yon Rambo was lying on the endzone turf when Nik Lewis' TD grab was called back because of a penalty.

ENDZONE TOSS: The trade deadline is tomorrow but any movement between now and then should come with an asterisk. How can you still be allowed to trade players about to become free agents after already being eliminated from the playoffs? The deadline should be moved to the week leading up to Labour Day, which would have stopped Edmonton from snagging RB Troy Davis from Hamilton. The Ticats couldn't have justified moving Davis with hometown hero Jesse Lumsden still in the NFL ... The late-season trade, coupled with Edmonton clinching a playoff spot for the 34th consecutive year have prompted grumblings about the 'Evil Empire' up Hwy. 2. It will only be true if the Eskimos fail in the playoffs much like the Yankees did ... With any luck, Argos QB Damon Allen should set a career high for passing yardage this season. The 42-year-old only needs 510 yards to break his best mark of 4,840 with B.C. in 2000. Allen has an outside chance at matching a career-high for passing TDs of 34. The 2004 Grey Cup MVP has 27 TDS -- his most since 1990 -- and attempted 477 passes, the most since 2000. Allen's receivers are also benefitting from the production. The Argos have a chance at three 1,000-yard pass catchers -- Arland Bruce (1,092), Tony Miles (965) and Robert Baker (884) -- for the first time since 1997.

EXTRA POINTS: Scary thought for a team already on a four-game losing streak: B.C.'s secondary has allowed nine passing TDs in the last two contests. At least QB Casey Printers showed signs the Lions won't be dead meat come playoff time ... No one in 'Rider Nation should blame Paul McCallum for missing a last-second 52-yard field goal for the win Saturday. Any attempt that long is near impossible on Commonwealth Stadium's slick natural grass. But was anybody impressed with B.C. SB Bret Anderson booming a kickoff into the endzone in Montreal for a crucial single a day later? ... Nice to have you back, Argo fans. There was 34,116 of you at Rogers Centre for the Thanksgiving Day game last week, the largest turnout at the retractable dome since 1993 ... The most exciting part about Friday's game at McMahon Stadium wasn't the rabbit on the field during the anthem, it was Canadian icon Dan Aykroyd driving Jamie Crysdale's Stamps Chopper onto the sidelines at halftime. The Blues Brothers star also mentioned on TSN he would be interested in buying into the CFL but only in Ottawa, where the Gliebermans said 'no way' ... Eskimos and 'Riders fans picked their all-century teams in honour of the two provincial centennials this year. The problem was most of the fan voting was done on the Internet, so nine current Roughriders made the team, compared to four from the 2005 Eskimos. Either this 2005 version is the greatest Roughrider team to wear Green and White or those watermelon heads have ruined Saskatchewan fans' memories.

NUMBER 3

Edmonton Eskimos QBs to throw for more than 5,000 yards in a single season. Ricky Ray joined the club Saturday against the Roughriders that includes Warren Moon and Jason Maas.

ON THE FIELD

WEEK 18

BYE: EDMONTON

FRIDAY

Ottawa at Hamilton, 5:30 p.m. (TSN)

SATURDAY

Toronto at Montreal, 1 p.m. (CBC)

Winnipeg at B.C., 8 p.m. (TSN)

SUNDAY

Calgary at Saskatchewan, 2 p.m. (TSN)

WHAT DID YOU SAY?

"They're the most gutless people in the world. This is the only stadium in North America you can't get into the day before a game. If I knew, I would have brought bolt cutters. The league won't do anything about it and we've never been given a reason why we can't walk on the field. I ain't paying no fines either, for this."

-- 'Riders GM Roy Shivers on being locked out of Commonwealth Stadium.


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