The Trenches

If anybody watched the TSN panels 2012 preview show, Dave Randorf posed a question about which free agent signings would have the most impact for their team in 2012. Both Dunigan and Schultz agreed that the duo of O-linemen Labatte and Picard in Saskatchewan would be the most beneficial. Well were they ever prophetic or what? We couldn't get to Durant all night whether he sat in the pocket or rolled. The guy had all the time he needed for Dressler to open up down field. On the other hand the pocket around Burris seemed to be collapsing in an awful hurry. There were many hurried passes and almost no place to scramble.

Here's the thing. It seems as though Obie is fixated on bringing in all glitzy, big name, offensive firepower. Yet somehow he seems to neglect both Lines. Saskatchewan quietly brings in guys like Picard, Labatte and Odell Willis. It obviously made a huge difference. We don't need anymore high profile receivers. Obie should be now focused on solidifying both lines otherwise all of our offensive weapons will be a waste.

THAT is exactly the story of last a nutshell.

One of our veteran offensive tackles lost his job to a newcomer. Hage and Dyakowski are both well-respected, and while Hage is still working his way back from surgery, Obie brought in another Canadian centre in the Glenn/Burris trade. Picard is a centre, so if we had signed him, we're paying for two starting centres. Labatte might have been a nice pickup to replace the departed Rottier, but Labatte is from Weyburn, SK and played his college ball in Regina, so money might not have been enough to lure him here anyway. I think it's way out of line to say the O-line has been "ignored".

D-line is maybe a different story, but "neglect" is still too strong a word. Apart from people wishfully thinking Anwar Stewart or Stevie Baggs are still "A" players, it's not like the team had a bevy of high-profile D-line free agents to pick from. Though they're not all-stars, the team did sign CFL vets in McElveen and Peach, so it's not like the Cats were inactive. Peach and a D-line draft pick from last year, Fortin, are on the injured list. The team didn't have a crystal ball to know that Maurice Forbes would retire during camp.

You can only sign players who are available, otherwise you have to trade something of value to get something of value, and then only if another team is willing to put the player you want on the table. Do you think teams are lining up to trade away players like John Bowman, Keron Williams or Kevin Huntley? The Riders got Odell Willis from Winnipeg in a trade, but Brendon Taman was intensely criticized at the time for how many Canadian draft picks he coughed up on a "gamble" like Willis.

In addition to McElveen and Peach, the Cats have brought some new Americans ends into the league who are still learning. Hopefully with a few weeks of live fire and learning in the film room, they'll learn more of the nuances of the Canadian game. I'm sure the team has their fingers crossed that Hickman will want to come back if his NFL shot doesn't work out, but apart from Willis, it's not like they have been thumbing their noses at a parade of CFL-experienced replacement candidates.

Good post, safetyblitz, I like reading posts from people who have a depth of understanding
of what is going on with the Ticats and the CFL because they read and keep up on things

It's easy to look at what went wrong with our lines in our first game and impulsively
paint some weird picture of Obie going for glitzy, big name offensive players. Huh?

and saying the line's troubles are a misguided Obie's fault because he neglected
to upgrade them when in fact he brought tremendous competition into camp

among them, as safetyblitz said, CFL veterans McElveen who did start
and Greg Peach who will likely start when he comes off the injured list.

Unfortunately we couldn't start Canadian DT Eddie Steele who started last year
because his Canadian back up Maurice Forbes retired during training camp.

Krisiun, the media and fans may get caught up in glitzy, big name offensive players.

but stuff like that that wouldn't even enter a veteran football man like Obie's mind.

I was going to offer my two cents worth, but Safetyblitz and Ron stated it better than I could...

Thank you, guys, for putting that ridiculous notion to rest....

Safetyblitz, while I would agree it is easy to be an armchair GM, I don't totally agree with you or fully disagree with Krisiun's comments. The Ticats were beat on the line scrimmage and some of this has directly to do with what was, and what was not done in the off-season. We lose Rottier, and sign O'Neil. I don't think it's difficult to say we are weaker on the Oline as a result, but at least we did get someone. You can't disagree that there were some better players available. The Riders certainly made a huge improvement by getting Labatte and Picard. We lose Hickman and let Baggs go, but sign Peach and McElveen. Again I don't think this is an improvement, but at least we are trying to backfill. Hopefully the rookie Import DEs we have on the team will improve and Peach will be back and be in the lineup for more than half a season, but right now it doesn't look good. No matter how you put it we do not have a lot of depth or experience in these positions, and they are cricuial to a team's performance.

I think what bothers me more than anything at this point is the fact that the TiCats went out and signed and paid big bucks for Fantuz, instead of strengthening some weaknesses. While I believe Fantuz may be a big impact player, we did not need another import receiver. Dave Stala barely played on Friday, and we would probably not be much worse off if we played him over Fantuz. We released a couple of receivers that are capable of playing in this league, so why sign another one. Why did we not sign one of many of the proven DBs that were free agents? Jordon Younger and Byron Parker could have come to Hamilton and probably not even have to move. I also would have rather have given Rottier a little more money to stay, and also have offered Medlock enough to stay (I believe this was a possibility). Instead of this the TiCats look to backfill, pick up other second stringers (yes that is what Burris, Eiben, and Tisdale are), and because they have nothing better to do they sign Martell Malett. Looks like we have plenty of running back able to play and/or on the IR, why bother signing this guy when we really don't need a running back?

It appears to me that teams like the Eskimos, Riders, and Lions are able to rebuild in a season or two, and we continue to rebuild (how many rookies are on our team again?) because those teams understand how to sign and recruit the players they need to strengthen their team, not just players who are good or once were good.

I was also not impressed by the draft choices we made. How many times do we sign players who either go to the NFL, or go back to school for another year? I know this was an issue that OB has and something I think he would like to change, but maybe they should talk to players and get a feel for whether or not they are going to play in the CFL or not. Ever notice how other teams are able to sign and start a Canadian Offensive lineman right out of the draft? Not the Ti-Cats.

Once again we do not have a strong Offensive or Defensive line, and we will probably lead the league in passing yards given up (I am pretty sure we have been the worst or close to worst in the category for a few years), and the management of this team does not address it, and instead sign marquee offensive players. Quite frankly this drives me nuts.


Great post.

“The Riders certainly made a huge improvement by getting Labatte and Picard”

PJ, coments were repeatedly made at the time, that Labatte wanted to play in Regina, and where did he end up? There were other teams interested as well and how come they didn’t get him either?

“I also would have rather have given Rottier a little more money to stay, and also have offered Medlock enough to stay (I believe this was a possibility).”

And the Tiger cats offered to make Rottier the best paid Olineman in the league and, yet, still he decided to go home. Tell me how to compete against that?

Apparently, the difference between what the teams offered Medlock and what he wanted was not that great. Still, with his success last year, maybe the NFL would have been too great a draw for him to stay here. He did say previously that he wanted to try it. And he did sign a one year deal…

We were critized because our receivers were not experienced enough to get us to the big game last season. So, Obie got a more experienced and successful pass catcher in Fantuz.

Yes, Younger and Parker were available, but went to B C with Rich Stubler, someone they`re familar with.

There have been shortcomings here, but let`s at least be fair in our criticism.

Endless discussion can be had about this. How many guys Obie brought into camp is irrelevant. It's the quality that matters. The basic fundamental measuring stick is how well do the lines perform? Many DBs were brought into camp this year also and check the stats of Game 1 to see how well that was addressed.

As for only the media and fans getting caught up in the hype and not a GM, I fully disagree. Bringing in the big names is perceived to help fill stadium seats which is the underlying job of a GM. How exciting is an O-Line signing press conference for the casual fan versus a recognizable name like Fantuz?

Old fan, I don't fully disagree that in the cases you mentioned it appears that certain players went to places that they wanted to go to more than potentially where the best offer came from, but unless you are an agent or have some inside scoop, you or I don't necessarily know exactly what happened, just what has been printed in the media. The TiCats have lost other OLs that indicated they wanted to play at home, only to end up somewhere else (remember Gagne-Marcoux). I only mention Picard and Labatte as an indication of how Saskatchewan did what was smart, not so much that the TiCats could sign them. There were other O Lineman who were available in the draft (even a couple who played at McMaster). I also did not mention that we also lost Wayne Smith, which leaves this team even a little thinner at this position.

Either way, I will remain critical of the lack of quality signings in the right positions. I understand that there isn't always someone out there who may fit the bill, and there are often NI players who want to play close to home (heck that's is what has been reported to be partially why they could sign Fantuz). What ticks me off is this teams inability to go out and get solid players where they are weak, then they turn around and make big signings on players that they don't really need, and then just release other quality players. It's flat out mis-management of the roster and the salary cap. With the number of quality players born in Ontario, you would think they would actually have an advantage over other teams. They draft kids from out West who either never crack the starting roster or end up leaving after 3 years. On the rare occassion they do find a solid Import DB, they trade them before they have to deal with signing a big contract.

Everyone knows the CFL is a passing league first. Maybe some day the TiCats will figure out that this means you need to have players who can defend against the pass as well as players who can complete the passes, and no matter how you play football, if you can't win on the line of scrimmage you won't win many games.


Hi PJ:

From the National Post...

[b]"Saskatchewan’s pursuit of both players was one of the first stories to emerge on a quiet day first day of free agency Wednesday, and LaBatte, a native of Weyburn, Sask., is “extremely happy? to be home.

Apart from hometown pride, Edmonton general manager Eric Tillman suggested Wednesday a large salary may have also swayed LaBatte. Eskimos head coach Kavis Reed flew to Saskatchewan to meet with LaBatte Wednesday afternoon, but when Edmonton learned the Roughriders had supposedly offered the right guard $200,000 a year, Tillman said that benchmark could set a “dangerous precedent.?
LaBatte reportedly will make $200,000 and Picard $150,000.

“It’s not necessarily [about the money],? LaBatte said. “I’m not too worried about where people say I am financially.?

Winnipeg general manager Joe Mack did not seem to begrudge LaBatte’s move or the size of his contract when he met with the media late morning. Mack called LaBatte’s decision “personal,? and said the Blue Bombers’ offer was “as good if not better? than what LaBatte signed for."

And then there's Simeon Rottier...

[b]"“Being able to return to Alberta and play for the Eskimos in front of their incredible fans fulfills a lifelong dream of mine," Rottier said in a statement. "The Eskimos have a very bright future and I’m excited to be part of it.

"I’d also like to thank the entire Hamilton Tiger-Cats organization for their support during my time there.?

“Being able to return to Alberta and play for the Eskimos in front of their incredible fans fulfills a lifelong dream of mine," Rottier said in a statement. "The Eskimos have a very bright future and I’m excited to be part of it.

"I’d also like to thank the entire Hamilton Tiger-Cats organization for their support during my time there.?[/b]

Again, with Labatte, there were other teams in the signing derby, and yet he ended up in Regina. So, it wasn't just Hamilton that missed out. Saskatchewan was lucky that this player wanted to be home. So, they had it much easier than the rest. The same with Rottier. We had the same kind of luck when Fantuz became available. That's just the way it rolls.

But, you believe what you will....

Old man,

Believe what you want, but our front lines are not strong enough to win many games this year. Why, because we do not have good enough personnel in those positions.

Agree or dissagree, we will see in the coming weeks just how well things go.

Believe what you want, but it is the GM and his scouting staff who are responsible for putting the right players on the field. I believe they have made some poor choices. I know I am not privy to all that goes on, and some things are unpredictable, but at the end of the day when the roster is set, I know what I see, and I don't much care for it.


I have to agree on this one.
Who are the brain-trust when it comes to picking up players?
I think we have the worst record for pickings in the CFL draft.

Here is a short list of 1st-round picks, by us:
2004 Wayne Smith Offensive Lineman - Hamilton Tiger-Cats
2007 Chris Bauman Wide Receiver - Hamilton Tiger-Cats
2008 Dylan Barker Defensive Back - Hamilton Tiger-Cats
2009 Simeon Rottier Offensive Lineman - Hamilton Tiger-Cats
None of them are with us anymore, whether because of injury, trade, or FA.
Point is, we can't keep our players, or don't know how to, or are picking the wrong ones.
You tell me....

:thdn: :thdn: :thdn:

You forgot a couple who are rotation/starters in the league.

Cedric Marcoux picked 8th. With the Argos
JP Bekaziak picked 4th. Cut and now with Montreal

....As a little aside about Labatte....The personal reasons that Brendon wanted to head home is that his girlffriend is pregnant...I don' know if any amount of money would have swayed him from his family obligation, as that comes first...Nobody, for any amount, was going to change Labattes mind although Mack sure tried :wink:

That's a really short list and also cherry-picked to such an extent as to make the team look bad. For starters, it's hardly fair to criticize the team for picking Barker. He ended up with a back injury and you can never project for that. So it's not that the team couldn't keep him, it's that he couldn't keep playing.

Secondly, I went back to 2004 and counted two players who are still with the team that drafted them: Maran Hage and Josh Bourke. Everyone else has been on multiple teams, if they ever played in the league, or never played in the CFL.

Thirdly, you bring up four picks, but what about Peter Dyakowski (2006), Sam Giguère (2008), Darcy Brown (2009) and Ryan Hinds (2009)? All of those players have been, or in Giguère's case will be, solid contributors for the franchise. Two were picked in the first round (Giguère and Brown), while the other two were picked later.

By picking out the four players you did, all you proved was that the draft is a crap shoot. I looked at every team, and following your guidelines (left via free agency, trade or injury) here is the list of players:

Montreal: Dylan Steenbergen (2009), Alain Kashama (2004)
Winnipeg: Brendon LaBatte (2008)
Toronto: Étienne Légaré (2009), Daniel Federkeil (2006), Nick Kaczur (2005)
Saskatchewan: Andy Fantuz (2006), Matt O'Meara (2005)
Calgary: Jesse Newman (2008), Miguel Robede (2005)
Edmonton: Warren Keen (2007), Adam Braidwood (2006)
BC: Jamall Lee (2009), Matt Carter (2009), Justin Sorensen (2008), Adam Nicolson (2007), Ricky Foley (2006), Alexis Bwenge (2005), O.J. Atogwe (2004)

Based on this, I'd say every team has a pretty poor record when it comes to drafting in the first round, especially BC who seemed to missed every year for one reason or another. Yet, since 2004, they've won two Grey Cups and are the favourites to win it again this year. The team with the best first-round record is Winnipeg and they haven't won a Grey Cup in over 20 years. Sure, the Cats have made some mistakes in the draft, but so does every team. No one has a pristine draft record.

There you go again, bringing up facts in an argument. What are you thinking?

Chris Bauman left for Edmonton as a free agent. Eric Tillman has a pretty good record for evaluating talent and he gave him more money.

Bauman played so well that he didn't even register on the list of the top 60 for pass receiving and yards from scrimmage on the CFL stat sheet for last season and this year is in Calgary with John Hufnagel.

Chris Bauman not only fooled Obie, but another pretty good GM as well, and maybe a third by this season's end.