Stampeders season preview: Time is now to shed choker label

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.

Ian Busby

Ian Busby

Ian Busby has covered the Stampeders and the CFL since 2003, with eight years as a beat reporter. He is now a producer at Breakfast Television.
Ian Busby
Ian Busby
About Ian Busby (175 Articles)
Ian Busby has covered the Stampeders and the CFL since 2003, with eight years as a beat reporter. He is now a producer at Breakfast Television.

20 Comments on Stampeders season preview: Time is now to shed choker label

  1. horsieland // June 23, 2017 at 2:37 pm //

    Sound like exactly what I’ve been saying to the haters. Thanks for this Ian!

  2. Less than 5 hours to the rubber match!

  3. 15-2-1 in the regular season then lose 2 a 3rd year team in the Grey Cup= CHOKE

  4. The Stamps as an organization have been dealing with the choker label since Wally became head coach in 1990. Consistently the best team in the CFL for nearly 3 decades their history ofer that time whether under Wally, Huff or Dave is littered with broken dreams of seasons crushed by defeats to lesser teams in the playoffs or Grey Cup. The Stamps should have another half dozen championships but for some reason they choke more than they win in big games. This is part of the culture of the Stamps organization. No idea why this is so. Not with the coaches & players they’ve had wear that white horse on their helmets over the years.

  5. horsieland // June 23, 2017 at 5:28 pm //

    Let’s say this:

    Suppose Darian Durant’s Football Gods came down from football heaven and appeared before you tonight.
    They gave you one of two choices:
    1) Have a 15-2-1 season and go to overtime in the greycup.

    2) Have a 5-13 season and be out of the playoff picture by labour day.


    1) 15-2-1. A thrilling season were each week you are in the edge of your seat to see your team win yet again. Have those hopeful weeks of anticipation in late October and November waiting for the big playoff games. The thrill of playoff victories and the life remembering excitement of that OT Greycup

    2) As much fun as the above would be, we aren’t guaranteed of winning that Greycup overtime so I’ll forgo the joy and exhilaration of 15-2-1 and a greycup appearance just so I can avoid the heartbreak and disappointment should we lose that OT. I’ll take the 5-13 please

  6. horsieland // June 23, 2017 at 5:38 pm //

    Remember this too. This time last year many expected Calgary to fall. Huff was no longer coach and many changes were in place in the defence and stars like Juwan Simpson and Eric Rogers were gone . I could argue Calgary greatly exceeded expectations last year. In fact Ottawa were the defending east champs. Maybe that experience should have make them the favorites.

  7. I am not a Stamps fan but that organization is the model of consistency in the CFL. They don’t always win the big one, and in fact, last year should be considered a choke. However, they always compete and are in the hunt for the cup year in and year out.

  8. Ladd Law // June 23, 2017 at 5:45 pm //

    The only problem with the Stamps success is it breeds seriously arrogant, ignorant fans.

  9. horsieland // June 23, 2017 at 6:17 pm //

    It’s hard to be humble when you’re prefect in every way! …….does anyone remember those old pilsner commercials?

    • george fogarty // June 24, 2017 at 12:02 am //

      Better get those receivers some epoxy glue to spread on their gloves because they sure couldn’t catch much tonight. Plus Bo needs to get more reps in throwing the football through the tire because he sucked also tonight. Oh and don’t forget to tell Coach Dave to slip the brown envelope to the refs when he leaves TD Place. The only reason the Stamps tied was because of the command centre and their crappy reviews.

  10. I don’t know about anyone else but the heartbreaking losses don’t make the wins sweeter. Is this the season moral victories aren’t enough to console ourselves with, we now need heartbreaking losses. Just win, baby.

  11. Haha! Stamps being tooled again by REDBLACKS!

  12. But to be fair the REDBLACKS look very

  13. GOOD!

  14. Wow what a comeback, this game is awesome!

  15. Wow, Stamps are not good, Als creamed the Redblacks and the Stamps tied them, so Riders must be good. Understandable since Stamps lost their best O Lineman, Bonecrusher, their best receiver, Bakari Grant. and their best quarterback, Drew Tate, must really suck to live in Calgary

  16. Als creamed the red blacks? In pre season I’m i rider fan just to be clear but really!

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