What is wrong with the Calgary Stampeders?
This would seem like an odd question to those just glancing at the CFL standings. The Stamps find themselves sitting atop the West Division and continue to be the benchmark of success in the CFL. With a win this Saturday they will be guaranteed a first round bye in the upcoming playoffs. It would also give them a home playoff date for the West Final. One might think it is all rainbows and lollipops in Cowtown right? Well, not so fast.
The Stampeders find themselves mired in a three-game losing streak. For a team struggling to get back on track, a date this weekend with one of the league’s hottest teams doesn’t exactly scream optimism. The Stamps limp into B.C. Place to take on the Lions who have been remarkable on home turf this season. The Lions boast a 7-1 home record and are winners of six of their last eight games.
Fortunately for the Stamps, the Lions are guaranteed a fourth-place finish in the West and won’t have a lot to play for. This is a game in which the Lions could rest some starters. That said, this will be Lions head coach and CFL legend Wally Buono’s last home game on the sideline. Buono is set to retire at the end of this season, so there may be a little extra motivation for the Lions to win this one for their leader. This contest could be another tough test for the sinking Stampeders.
Success in the John Hufnagel Era
There is no denying that the Stampeders have been the class of the league since 2008. It is no coincidence that the current President and GM John Hufnagel rejoined the Stamps that year. Hufnagel spent the first eight years as head coach of the Calgary squad before embarking on his current position.
In this time, all Hufnagel and the Stampeders have done is amass a 142-52-3 regular season record including this season to date. In these 10 years, the Stamps have made the playoffs every year, have been to five Grey Cups, winning two of them. An amazing record of success in any league and by any standards. Simply put, the Stampeders in the Hufnagel era are winners.
But will they be winners this year?
Stamps Facing Uphill Battle for Playoffs
If recent history shows us anything, it is important for teams to be on a roll heading into the postseason. In the last 10 years, only two teams have won the Grey Cup with a losing record in their last five regular season games. Both the Toronto Argonauts (2012) and the Ottawa RedBlacks (2016) were able to accomplish this feat with a 2-3 record respectively heading into the playoffs. Coincidentally, the team that both the Argonauts and RedBlacks beat for the Grey Cup championship those years were the Calgary Stampeders.
It’s not only history that is against the Stamps right now, however. The team has faced its share of diversity via the injury bug that has swept through the Stamps roster. The receiving core has taken most of the hits all season. Currently, the Stampeders have four receivers on the six-game injured list. None of which will likely be returning to the field this season.
Turnovers have also been a telling tale for this team in recent weeks. The Stampeders are a +10 in this category for the season. However, in their last four games, the Stamps have committed a whopping 13 turnovers. Unacceptable for any team, but certainly for a team that is gearing up for a long playoff run.
It is plain to see that the Stampeders are not playing their best football at this point of the season. Not by a long shot.
The Last Word
So do the Stampeders have time to turn their season around, or will they fade away as the playoffs approach?
This CFL season has been like no other. Momentum really hasn’t been a factor for any team. Long losing streaks have been followed by long winning streaks, teams have rebounded from blowout losses to win the following week, and so on. This year in the CFL, a case can be made for any playoff team to win the Grey Cup. There is no clear-cut favourite.
The Calgary Stampeders are a well-coached team, with an elite quarterback, and a rock solid defence. Despite not playing well in recent weeks, it would not be a stretch to see this team rebound and go on a winning streak. A win this weekend at B.C Place in Vancouver would go a long way in doing just that.
It would be a mistake to count out the Stampeders as the playoffs approach. This is still a very good football team that has fallen on some recent difficult times. However, there is enough leadership, experience, and motivation in that room to become champions at seasons end.
So, can the Stampeders overcome their latest stumble and win the Grey Cup in 2018?
There should be absolutely no doubt.
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