The last column I wrote dealt with the possibility of a CFL Western team crossing over to the East to steal the third and final playoff spot and putting four teams from the West into the Grey Cup mix. After the Thanksgiving Holiday weekend, that scenario seems as mathematically secure as a 10 yard field goal. With Saskatchewan’s OT win in Ottawa, Edmonton’s annihilation of the Alouettes and Calgary’s humiliation of Toronto, it’s clear that the Eastern Conference is scrambling for legitimacy in even its simplest form. In short, it’s pretty bleak in the East.
The rules say that at least two teams have to represent each Conference and to be fair, the power can flip from division to division, season to season. However, looking at the current standings and the pure domination of the West over the East, it’s becoming increasingly evident that Ottawa, Hamilton, Toronto and Montreal will be hard-pressed to offer any kind of resistance from a Western interloper coming into their own backyard and kicking butt. Which means there is a great possibility that two teams from the West will meet in the 104th Grey Cup at BMO Place in Toronto.
As it stands right now, it’s the Edmonton Eskimos who sit in 4th place in the West with a record that’s 3 wins better than the Toronto Argonauts, who reside in third place in the East. If the season played out as is, the Eskies would travel to Hamilton to face the TiCats, with the winner moving on to Ottawa for a ticket to the Championship game. If they played in the Eastern Conference, Edmonton would be in first place comfortably with their record of 8-7 instead of fourth in their current division. So their best route to repeat as Champions would actually be in the ‘cross-over.’ With Calgary on a 12 win run and sporting a record of 13-1-1, a Stampeder match-up against last year’s Champs would likely be the best matchup available on paper. I know that doesn’t always translate onto the field, but it would be a potentially marvelous Final, despite the West on West backdrop. Let’s face it, after last weekend, would a Calgary-Toronto Grey Cup, for instance, offer much in the way of intrigue? And it could still happen if the Argos caught some late season fire.
But the sheer Western domination of this year’s standings is something to behold. Calgary and BC together have won more games than the entire Eastern Division. Every team in the East is currently on a losing streak and no team is above a record of .500. Montreal is an after-thought, and one of Ottawa, Toronto and Hamilton will lose out in the ‘cross-over’, no question about it. And unless things change drastically, which admittedly they can, look for the West to come East when the playoffs begin and flex some muscles.
Now, if you’re a glass-half-full fan of the league, Ottawa, Hamilton and Toronto all have a shot at first place or of hosting the Eastern Semi-Final as the second place finisher. So they all still have a puncher’s chance of delivering a knockout blow and getting to the Grey Cup. And with a bounce here or a penalty flag there, the East could still prevail as CFL Champions for 2016. Stranger things have happened and as they say, that’s why they play the games.
But it’s entirely possible and even likely that no team in the East will finish above .500 or represent the Eastern Conference in the Grey Cup and that would really be a remarkable achievement. Statistically speaking, that is.