My apologies for the length between posts, as I’ve been in training for a very special event. I’ve been selected to represent the Montreal Alouettes for the Canadian Football League Player’s Association’s CFL FANtasy Camp this May in Barbados. I’ll be there with 7 other fans representing their CFL clubs as we team up with players for what will no doubt be a memorable trip. It will be an experience like no other and rest assured I’ll be blogging about it when I return.
A lot has happened in between Dirty Bird Blog posts. For example:
The Alouettes & Marc Trestman have firmed up their coaching staff. The hiring of Jeff Reinebold raised a few eyebrows as his last go-around in the CFL was less than spectacular. That said, he has made tremendous strides with the University of Hawaii’s defense and talk is he will seriously revamp Montreal’s defensive schemes. The Alouettes already have some great players on defense; if Reinebold can bring out even more from veteran guys like Etienne Boulay, Shea Emry and Dwight Anderson, fans will have a lot to be excited about and opposing quarterbacks will have a lot of extra planning to do.
Offensively, the Alouettes will remain more or less the same despite Marcus Brady stepping in for Scott Milanovich. Brady was responsible for receivers like Jamel Richardson & S.J. Green having the monster years that they’ve had. And with Brian Bratton, Brandon London & Eric Deslauriers also involved at any given moment, the possibilities are endless for Brady to come up with some high-power offense.
Also waiting in the wings is Bo Bowling & Travon Patterson, both with the potential to steal a job if anyone starts to slack. Couple that with Brandon Whitaker running past opposing D-line’s like a knife through hot butter, the Alouettes could easily light up the scoreboard like a Christmas tree.
But the big question will be specials teams. Last year, Andy Bischoff wore too many coaching hats and it showed as the special teams simply couldn’t get much going. A lot of blame was put upon whoever was called upon for returning kicks for the Als but if you can’t stop your opponents from tackling your returner, then you really can’t blame the KR for special team woes.
Maybe now that he only has to concentrate on ST, perhaps Bischoff can better assess who will join standout guys like Kitwana Jones & Kerry Carter. As far as who will return those kicks, Alouettes GM Jim Popp may have solved this problem with the signing of Noel Devine, a stand-out from the University of West Virginia. If you search his name on Youtube, you’ll see a bunch of highlights from him and the hype is real. If he can get some room to run, Devine can really soar.
On the free agent front, Montreal reloaded with a ton of defensive help to address the injury concerns of last year, as they may have gone further in the playoffs had the D not been so banged up.
Joining the Alouettes are Aaron Hunt, Rod Davis & Mark Restelli. Hunt knows what it takes to win, helping the B.C. Lions win the Grey Cup last year and should figure prominently with the Alouettes’ defense. Davis and Restelli are also known for their defensive prowess, keeping Edmonton is some close games last season.
Montreal also wisely resigned a lot of their own players, such as Boulay, Deslauriers and Marc-Olivier Brouillette. Those three not only represent home-grown Quebec football, but would be dangerous in another team’s colours.
As usual, Jim Popp has a knack of knowing who to keep and who to let go. A lot of fans were angry that he didn’t sign Avon Cobourne last year and let him escape to Hamilton. Well, after a decent but not spectacular year there, Avon finds himself on the outside looking in. This seems to be a trend, as RBs in their 30s are falling by the wayside all over the CFL. It is a young man’s game (unless you’re Anthony Calvillo) and learning that lesson is another popular Alouette in Anwar Stewart, who was released a few weeks ago.
My heart would have loved to seen Anwar play one more year here then retire as an Alouette, but my head understands the business side of the Alouettes’ decision. There are younger players that will want to step up and take the big man’s spot but as someone who’s given so much to this organization & community, I do feel Anwar’s situation could have been handled better.
It’s my sincere hope that if he doesn’t catch on elsewhere (and as of this going live, he hasn’t), that the Alouettes bring him back properly and allow him to retire as an Alouette and ease into a possible coaching/ambassador gig. Stewart deserves that much at the very least.
Off the field, a lot is happening for the team. I’m hoping with the unusually early end to the Canadiens’ season, that the Alouettes capitalize on the lack of major sports action in the spring. This is the time to capture people’s attention as hockey won’t be as much of a distraction.
The Montreal Impact drew over 50,000 to the Big O for their first MLS game in Montreal, but can they sustain that? Some people will abandon football in the summer for soccer but the Alouettes can certainly appeal to everyone else and give them reason to fill Molson Stadium.
A step in the right direction is the plans for an official fan club coming to light. In fact, if you go to http://vote.montrealalouettes.com/, you can help decide the club’s name. I voted for the Alouettes Flock and encourage you all to do likewise.
I also got word that the great guys from LesGarsQuiVivent.com will be back stronger than ever with their “Trailgate” party on the east side of Percival Molson Stadium. Always a good time, they encourage everyone to come on down and socialize with some great Alouettes fans. Be sure to check it out if you haven’t already.
Finally, it appears that all the CFL teams will be debuting new jerseys for the 2012 season. I wouldn’t have so much of a problem with it had the league and its clubs had actually come out and told the fans that at the end of the season. Many clubs still sell last year’s jerseys and now the fans will be expected to buy another set of jerseys on top of that?
That on top of the announcement coming on the heels of the NFL debuting it’s new apparel partnership with Nike just screams cash grab in my humble opinion. Also, why keep it a secret? But that’s a column for another day.
Hope everyone has a great April and know this: Your Alouettes are training hard and getting ready to shine like never before this CFL season. Make sure you’re ready for them.
GO ALS GO!!!
About the Author
Written by Clifford Pine
Montreal born & bred, lover of sports. Passionate about the Montreal Alouettes. Also a great cook & not too bad a dancer.