Clawing for the Cup

Can the Lions take it all this year?

By Eric Wilkins, Sports Editor

As seems to often be the case, the BC Lions head into the season with a solid defence but some worrying question marks on offence. The talent is definitely there though, and so long as the key starters can stay healthy the Lions could have a decent shot at the Grey Cup—a Grey Cup that Vancouver will be hosting.

Starting with the changes on the offensive side of the ball, the club’s biggest upgrade came from the dismissal of one of the worst offensive coordinators in football. Jacques Chapdelaine and his bag of predictability is finally gone, much to the chagrin of every defensive play-caller in the league. The unit will now have a fighting chance with the long-tenured thorn in its side no longer present. Unfortunately for the Lions, the joy over departures stops there. Also leaving the den this off-season were Nick Moore (Winnipeg), Buck Pierce (retired), Angus Reid (retired), Ben Archibald (retired), and Patrick Kabongo (retired). None of the linemen are irreplaceable but seeing as the offensive line wasn’t exactly a strength last year, the retirement of three contributors isn’t a plus either. The loss of Moore to Winnipeg hurts, but most seem to think of him a great deal better than he deserves. Yes, Moore is a solid receiver who can come up with the catch, but he’s not a game-breaker. He’s no Manny Arceneaux. Speaking of which…

Arceneaux will start the season on the sidelines thanks to a broken hand suffered in the pre-season. The explosive receiver will need to come up big this year for the offence to get any momentum going. Even worse than Arceneaux being out though is Travis Lulay being placed on the six-game injured list as the star pivot continues to recover from off-season shoulder surgery. Kevin Glenn, picked up from Ottawa for the Lions’ first-rounder is a good stopgap, but make no mistake about it, BC’s Grey Cup dreams will live and die with the health of Lulay. The backfield—stocked with Andrew Harris, Stefan Logan, and Tim Brown—is about the only part of the Leo’s attack that is set.

On defence the Lions can be confident. Hulking defensive tackle Khalif Mitchell rejoins the squad after being released from Toronto, as does ferocious linebacker Jamall Johson after Hamilton deemed him expendable. Anton McKenzie was finally shown the door and, the Korey Banks trade to Winnipeg aside, Josh Bell (Calgary) was the only real loss. Khreem Smith and Eric Taylor will continue to be devastating presences on the line with Mitchell; the Lions still boast the finest linebacking duo in the league with Adam Bighill and Solomon Elimimian; and the secondary, led by 10-year veteran Dante Marsh, will be upstanding as usual. Special teams note: Paul McCallum and his walker will continue to handle kicking duties.

With one of the best defences in the league and a pair of impressive starters on offence waiting to come back from injuries, the Lions could very well take home the championship as hosts.