Leave it to the reigning CFL most outstanding player to put it best. Over the course of the last six months, Bo Levi Mitchell has constantly been asked whether he’s over the stinging overtime Grey Cup loss last November.
On his first weekly radio show, something the fourth-year Calgary Stampeders starting quarterback has added to his plate this year, Mitchell admitted the thoughts of that loss will never go away. They will always be there.
The loss made the haters say, ‘Those Stamps choked again,’ and it’s hard to argue that the loss isn’t a huge disappointment.
A new year offers a new challenge though, yet it all feels like a Groundhog Day dress rehearsal for the Stamps.
Over the course of the past five seasons, no one has won more regular-season games than the Stamps, but they have just one Grey Cup victory in three appearances in the big game.
They haven’t gone to back-to-back Cups though because of two crushing West final defeats to eventual champions in Saskatchewan (2013) and Edmonton (2015).
However, the loss last year to the Ottawa RedBlacks goes down as one of the most disappointing endings to one of the greatest seasons in CFL history.
With a 15-2-1 record, the Stamps cruised through the preamble to the playoffs by winning in a variety of ways. They rolled up the most points and allowed the fewest, then cleaned up at the CFL awards, with Mitchell taking home one of the five major awards given Calgary players and head coach Dave Dickenson.
It doesn’t mean anything on game day of course, when the season is on the line in late November.
Expect more of the same from the Stamps this year. Only most outstanding lineman Derek Dennis has left the group of winners, signing with the Saskatchewan Roughriders as a free agent.
No offence to Dennis, but that award was voted on because he was the best lineman on the best offence in the league. Had Spencer Wilson or Shane Bergman been nominated instead, they likely would have won the league award.
So the Stamps enter the season stacked with talent.
Receiver DaVaris Daniels is back after being named rookie of the year, and if his career trajectory stays on track, he’s due for a big season, rivalling that of the man he replaced, Eric Rogers.
Running back Jerome Messam is again the No. 1 man in the backfield for the Stamps, and he’s shown the consistency that will likely make him a 1,100-yard rusher again, which will make him the favourite for top Canadian.
On defence, Charleston Hughes will once again be chasing down the league’s quarterbacks looking to put up big numbers. Maybe this is the year he finally is recognized with a West Division top defensive player honour.
All this success over the past half decade, with win totals of 12, 14, 15, 14 and 15 from 2012 to last year, has left observers expecting more.
This is basically the same situation that plagued the Stamps in the 1990s, when they had three straight 15-win seasons under Wally Buono but only took home two Grey Cups in that decade.
That team was thought to have not won as many Grey Cups as it should have, the same feeling some have expressed about this current generation.
What would you prefer though?
It’s better to be consistently great over a long period of time than to seemingly never have a chance, isn’t it?
Don’t you want to at least get invited to the dance instead of watching others take their shots?
The script does get boring, when playoff disappointments are more frequent than triumphs, but that’s no fault of those involved.
The Stamps have been labelled as playoff ‘chokers’ by some CFL supporters of other teams for years.
The fact is they have won the most Grey Cups over the past 25 seasons (5), a championship percentage of 20 per cent.
Ask any franchise in the league if they would be happy getting rings that often and the resounding answer would be yes. How about Blue Bombers fans? They have zero titles during that time.
Of course, winning this year would quiet those Stampeders critics for a while. They just can’t fast-forward to the end and make it happen now.
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