If the high-flying Blue Bombers and the return of the National Hockey League Jets have transformed Winnipeg into Swaggerville, what do you call Regina? Ticked Town?
The Saskatchewan Roughriders may be coming off their best offensive game of the season, one that saw them score 35 points and log three touchdowns from running back Hugh Charles. But still, the Greenies lost again at home (by 10 points Friday to the Calgary Stampeders), while maintaining their unsavoury billing as the lowest-scoring unit in the Canadian Football League.
Heading into Thursday’s game in Toronto against the Argonauts, Saskatchewan has averaged 21 points in losing six of seven games. At times, quarterback Darian Durant looks as if he’s taken a step backward in his development. The running game has been sporadic. Only receiver Weston Dressler has performed as expected.
Is all that due to the loss of receiver Andy Fantuz, now with the Chicago Bears? Not all, but Fantuz’s return from the NFL would inject some badly needed hope while soothing the Riders’ angry fan base.
A year ago, Saskatchewan was 4-3 and averaging 32 points on offence. Fantuz had 36 catches for 487 yards and three touchdowns. His presence required extra defensive attention and made life easier for Dressler, Durant and Chris Getzlaf, as well as the running game.
To hear some describe his current efforts with the Bears, Fantuz has failed to impress and could soon be released. Free agent Dane Sanzenbacher from Ohio State has passed Fantuz on the depth chart and was on the roster when Chicago beat the Buffalo Bills on Saturday.
Until the Fantuz situation is resolved, and the defence improves, the Riders can hold onto this: the B.C. Lions are also 1-6 and in no great shakes to grab the last playoff spot in the West, although the Lions did beat Saskatchewan by 13 points on Aug. 5.
No wonder Regina is hostile territory this summer.
“There’s not a secret formula in making a winning team. It takes a lot of hard work, which is what we are going to do. We have to remain confident and believe in each other.”
General manager Brendan Taman on his Saskatchewan Roughriders’ 1-6 showing this season
STEMMING THE FLOOD OF INJURIES IN EDMONTON
There’s no tsunami of desperation in Edmonton, where the Eskimos host the Lions on Friday, but there are some waves worth keeping an eye on. In losing their last two games, the Eskimos have seen quarterback Ricky Ray sacked 10 times, Jerome Messam rush for a combined 47 yards (with a fumble) and the receiving corps take more hits than the global economy. Sidelined now are Fred Stamps (abdominal injury), Adarius Bowman (rib injury), Jason Barnes (fractured ribs) and Marcus Henry (concussion). Prechae Rodriguez has been signed to fill the void. Edmonton needs to beat the Lions because its next three games are home and home against Calgary followed by a visit from the Montreal Alouettes. Potentially, we’re talking serious damage.
A LITTLE OFF THE TOP
In the CFL, you do what you can to earn a few extra bucks. For the Stampeders’ Keon Raymond, that means carrying a set of clippers so you can trim your teammates’ hair on demand. Raymond cuts his own hair, cuts his kids’ hair and is now the team’s unofficial Floyd the barber (from The Andy Griffith Show) -with reasonable rates. In case you missed it, Raymond cropped the ‘Riders with a 117-yard interception return for a touchdown last Friday. The Stampeders are off this week but, if you’re looking for a cut, the sure-handed Raymond may be able to squeeze you in.
PLAYING BY THE RULES...AS WE MAKE THEM UP
The NHL’s Research, Development and Orientation Camp begins Wednesday in Toronto with 36 junior players being abused and confused by a slew of rule changes - designed to make the game better. This year, the experiments include: three-on-three overtime; removing the trapezoid behind the net; all penalties being served in entirety; along with the hybrid icing rule, where referees can whistle the play dead once the puck crosses the end line or allow the players to race for it depending on the situation. One of the best proposed changes is referee-to-referee wireless communication. The two refs can talk to one another on the fly, which would be helpful in deciding what penalty Chicago Blackhawks forward Dan Carcillo deserves next.
The number of consecutive years a B.C. team has won the Canadian Little League championship. Langley is now off to the Little League World Series.
Number of yards needed by B.C. Lion Geroy Simon to become the CFL’s third all-time leading receiver.
The most consecutive losses Jim Barker has suffered as a CFL head coach (2011 with Toronto Argonauts, 2003 with Calgary Stampeders).
Number of career touchdowns scored by Edmonton Eskimos’ quarterback Ricky Ray.