The CFL 2011 season wrapped up this past Sunday with the British Columbia Lions defeating the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 34-23 in the Grey Cup final. Though we cannot expect the Montreal Alouettes to be in the finals each year it would have to be said that this season was a disappointment for the team. The two time defending Grey Cup champions did not even make it to the Eastern Finals falling in a back-and-forth game in the semis to the Hamilton Tiger Cats. Though the game was categorized as one for the ages with the Tiger Cats pulling it out in overtime I would think that most fans and players left the Olympic Stadium after the game quite disappointed.
It wasn’t a complete write off of a season as quarterback Anthony Calvillo had a strong personal year with his setting of an individual record almost every game or so it seemed. He became football’s all-time passing leader surpassing Damon Allen in that category towards the end of the regular season. He also became the only CFL quarterback to throw 400 touchdowns and is now the owner of the CFL record for completions. And not to be sneezed at, Calvillo was named the Offensive Player of the Week four times this season. At the age of 39, Calvillo is not slowing down any. I know most Alouettes fans are hopeful that he decides to come back for at least one more season with team
Another positive was the maturing of kicker/punter Sean Whyte. A valuable commodity as he is a Canadian who can perform both kicking duties, Whyte was pretty much an unknown commodity after the team traded for him (from BC Lions) in the off season. He came in had a good camp and his strong play continued all season. He led the CFL in points scored with 196 and tied for second with 45 field goals made. Whyte also got his name in the Alouettes record book by beating Don Sweet’s consecutive field goal mark making 21 in a row. Overall he was successful on 88.2% of his field goal attempts and made all 50 of his extra point attempts.
Seven Alouettes (Anthony Calvillo – quarterback, Brandon Whitaker – running back, S.J. Green – wide receiver, Jamel Richardson – wide receiver, Josh Bourke – offensive tackle, Scott Flory – offensive guard, Chip Cox – linebacker) made the Eastern All-Star team. Richardson, Whitaker, Bourke, and Cox were also named to the CFL All-Star team. Offensive tackle Josh Bourke went on to win the CFL’s Most Outstanding Lineman award. He was part of an offensive line that helped produce the league’s leading passer (Calvillo), rusher (Whitaker) and receiver (Richardson). Bourke’s contribution was vital as he protects Calvillo’s blind side. He also contributed to a line that allowed only 34 sacks all season, which was the second fewest in the CFL this year.
A portion of the struggles that the Alouettes battled through this season was brought on by too many injuries. The defense was decimated by injury with Josh Bourke, Shea Emry, Diamond Ferri, Mark Estelle, J.P. Bekasiak, Etienne Boulay, Dwight Anderson, and Jerald Brown all going down at certain points of the season. Five starters were out injured for the Eastern Semi-Finals. Several rookies like Seth Williams, Marc-Olivier Brouillette and Jeff Hecht were thrust into starting roles maybe before they were ready. Even a team as talented as Montreal felt the effects of so many injuries.
Besides Calvillo, the other year-to-year part of the team is head coach Mark Trestman. Though I’m sure it is only a matter of time before an NFL or American college team snaps him up, he sounds like a man who intends to be back with the Alouettes for the 2012 season. After the loss in the Easter Semi-Finals, Trestman stated that “we will come back stronger as a football team”.
While I’m almost certain that Trestman and Calvillo will be back, I’m also pretty sure that Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach/Assistant Head Coach Scott Milanovich will not. Milanovich has been with the Montreal organization for five years and has managed for four years now what is considered the CFL’s most potent offense over that period. He is a sought after guy with both the Toronto Argonauts and Saskatchewan Roughriders probably looking for head coaches. Both teams have asked and received permission to interview Milanovich. Toronto seems like the most likely fit and if he leaves it is rumoured that he will be bringing some of the other assistant coaches with him leaving some holes on the Montreal staff.
Team Awards: Most Outstanding Player – Anthony Calvillo (quarterback)
Top Canadian Player and Special Teams Most Outstanding Player – Sean Whyte (kicker/punter)
Most Outstanding Defensive Player – Chip Cox (linebacker)
Most Outstanding Lineman – Josh Bourke (offensive line)
Most Outstanding Rookie – Seth Williams (defensive back/special teams)
CFL Awards: Most Outstanding Lineman – Josh Bourke (offensive line)