It wasn’t a vintage season for the division as a whole, but for the first time since 2017, an East division team won the Grey Cup. The Toronto Argonauts shocked the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the final and yet going forward, they’ll have questions that need to be answered. Alongside them, their rivals the Montreal Alouettes, Hamilton Tiger-Cats, and Ottawa RedBlacks will also have questions raised around them. So as we head into 2023 and towards the 2023 season, let’s look at one issue each team needs to address going forward.
Can the Toronto Argonauts finally maintain a winning culture?
After one of the craziest fourth quarters we’ve ever had for a Grey Cup, the Toronto Argonauts stunned the much more favored Winnipeg Blue Bombers to win a record eighteenth championship. For a franchise that always has a sense of (justified or unjustified) uncertainty around it, having a winning team is exactly what the Argos need to make the team and home games as lucrative as possible for fans in the GTA – something, they’ve struggled with for a while.
After winning their last Grey Cup in 2017, the Argos immediately followed it up with consecutive 4-14 records. It’s also been sixteen years (come 2023) that they last had three consecutive winning seasons. The Argos have the opportunity to put both those stats right in 2023, and the Argos and in particular MLSE will be desperate to build upon the platform of 2022 and regrow the Toronto Argonauts brand. – Something they’ve failed to do for a long time.
Can new Montreal Alouettes head coach Jason Maas deliver?
Three head coaches in two seasons. The new man in charge is now former Edmonton Elks head coach and Saskatchewan Roughriders offensive coordinator Jason Mass. On paper it’s not a bad decision, Mass has a 39-33 head coaching record and won three playoff games in four seasons. As the Riders OC, he was part of a side that reached the West final in 2021 so he has plenty of experience and can compete at the top of the CFL pyramid.
But that doesn’t tell the whole story, a lot of the time the Riders seemed to succeed in 2021 despite their offense, and in 2022 the team went into total collapse in the second half of the season to stunningly miss the playoffs. It wasn’t all rosy at Edmonton either, things never really got on track after a head-scratching decision in the 2017 West Final to kick a field goal down seven points to Calgary with ninety seconds left on the clock. Edmonton missed the playoffs in 2018 and in 2019 they finished 8-10, relying on the crossover for the playoffs. A notable trait of Mass’ teams at the time was poor discipline with penalties, something Montreal has struggled with the past few seasons. Montreal will be banking on Maas learning from his experience, particularly with player discipline, and hope he can lead the Als to their first Grey Cup since 2010.
Are the Hamilton Tiger-Cats going to go all-in in a home Grey Cup year?
It’s coming up for twenty-four years since Hamilton won a Grey Cup, and four empty-handed Grey Cup appearances since 2013 has made the good people of the Steel city even more desperate to finally become CFL champions again. They came agonisingly close when they hosted the final in 2021, and with the 2023 Grey Cup being held at Tim Hortons Field, this is potentially as good an opportunity as ever to finally break the curse.
In November, Hamilton made a significant move by trading for two-time season MOP and two-time Grey Cup champion Bo Levi Mitchell. Mitchell is an upcoming free agent, but Hamilton will have the chance to talk to him first. If they can sign him up, it’ll be with the intention to build a championship team around him, Mitchell at this stage of his career isn’t interested in a long-term project. Both team and potential quarterback want quick success, and with the East always feeling open it’s certainly possible they can make the big dance with some adjustments.
Can the Ottawa RedBlacks finally get back to winning ways?
Oh boy. After so much promise, optimism, and hype going into 2022 – the Ottawa RedBlacks hit a new low. Despite making many big splashes in free agency and being considered creditable contenders in the East, they finished the season with a 4-14 record, but incredibly they went an entire season without winning a home game, and have won just won home game since June 20th, 2019.
It was enough for ownership to fire head coach Paul LaPolice, who had been underwhelming since his appointment in 2020. Ottawa’s newest coach is Bob Dyce, who is charged with the task of giving Ottawa fans something they’ve not had in five years – a winning team.
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