Thu Oct 21 06:37pm EDT
With the regular season winding down, it's worth taking a look at some of the contenders for the CFL's major awards. They won't be handed out until the official Gibson's Finest CFL Player Awards during Grey Cup week, but they focus on regular-season play, and there's only three weeks of that left. It's tough to make definitive calls at this point, as a lot of these races are close enough that it could come down to how the players involved perform over the final weeks, but we can get a good idea of who's at least in contention. For each award, a case is presented for who I'd pick (I don't have an official vote at this time) and others I'd consider. (For an alternative take, check out Dan Ralph's CP picks).
Outstanding Player: Cory Boyd, Toronto
If you ask me, Boyd has been the crucial figure in the Argonauts' turnaround from a 3-15 doormat to a 7-8 playoff contender. The coaching change from Bart Andrus to Jim Barker has helped, as have Toronto's excellent special teams and some of their other personnel moves. Still, Boyd has been their primary offensive weapon and has done a great job of carrying the load, finding success even when the entire defence keys on him thanks to Barker's persistence in starting Cleo Lemon at quarterback. Despite missing several games with a concussion and dealing with personal loss, Boyd still leads the league with 1,205 rushing yards on 207 carries; he's also been effective in the passing game, making 32 catches for 214 yards. He was the Gibson's Finest Player of the Month for August as well. Considering the Argonauts' issues on offence, what Boyd's accomplished is even more impressive in context. He may not come away with the award, as this is a quarterback-focused league and his recent ankle injury may cause him to limp to the finish line, but what he's done so far is the most outstanding CFL performance this year in my books.
Also considered: Anthony Calvillo, Montreal (pictured with the 2009 award above); Andy Fantuz, Saskatchewan; Henry Burris, Calgary; Darian Durant, Saskatchewan; Arland Bruce III, Hamilton
Outstanding Defensive Player: Phillip Hunt, Winnipeg
Hunt has been an absolutely dominating defensive end for the Blue Bombers this year, and leads the CFL with 14 sacks. His closest competitor, Montreal's John Bowman has 11. Hunt's presence has also freed up teammate Odell Willis, who has 11 sacks of his own this year. Hunt also has 42 tackles to his credit and a forced fumble. A lot depends on how he plays down the stretch with Winnipeg fighting for a playoff berth, but what Hunt's done to this point has been very impressive. Surprisingly, he hasn't earned a player-of-the-month nod yet, but that perhaps speaks to his consistency; he's been steady throughout the season rather than great one month and slower the next.
Also considered: James Patrick, Saskatchewan; Bowman, Montreal; Barrin Simpson, Saskatchewan
Outstanding Canadian: Andy Fantuz, Saskatchewan
I don't think this one's particularly close. Fantuz has really come into his own this year, and is currently third in the CFL in receiving yards with 1,158, behind only import stars Arland Bruce III and Terrence Edwards. That's even more impressive when you consider the way the Riders like to spread the ball around; Weston Dressler also has over 1,000 receiving yards, and Rob Bagg and Chris Getzlaf have also been outstanding this year. Fantuz was twice selected as player Fantuz is a legitimate Most Outstanding Player candidate as well as one for Most Outstanding Canadian; I don't think he'll win the former, but he should win the latter.
Also considered: Dave Stala, Hamilton; Kevin Eiben, Toronto
Outstanding Offensive Lineman: Ben Archibald, Calgary
It can be difficult to evaluate offensive linemen individually, but what Archibald's done as the Stampeders' starting left tackle over the last few seasons is quite impressive. He was a finalist for this award last season (losing to Montreal's Scott Flory), and what he and the Stampeders' offensive line have accomplished this season is quite impressive. There's a good reason they've scored a league-high 505 points this season, and spectacular individual efforts by quarterback Henry Burris and running backs Joffrey Reynolds and Jon Cornish have been aided by the performance of the big boys up front. Archibald is a key leader on that line and does a great job of protecting Burris' blind side; he'd be a very deserving choice.
Also considered: Flory, Montreal; Rob Murphy, Toronto; Dan Goodspeed, Saskatchewan
Outstanding Rookie: Really, it should be Cory Boyd, as he's having a considerably better year than every other first-year player in the CFL. He was my original choice, but I didn't realize that the single regular-season game Boyd suited up for with the NFL's Denver Broncos in 2008 made him ineligible by the CFL's rules. Instead, I'll go with Winnipeg receiver Terrence Jeffers-Harris, who is listed as eligible. He's had quite the impressive year for them.
Also considered: Yonus Davis, B.C.;
Greg Carr, Winnipeg
Outstanding Special Teams Player: Chad Owens, Toronto
Owens (pictured at right trying to evade Edmonton's Will Harris in September's Touchdown Atlantic game) leads all CFL players with 2,238 combined return yards this season. His closest competition is Montreal's Tim Maypray, who's almost 800 yards back. Owens has been a critical component for the Argonauts this year, and he should come away with this.
Also considered: Maypray, Montreal; Deon Murphy, Calgary; Burke Dales, Calgary; Damon Duval, Montreal
Have your own picks for this year's CFL awards? Leave them in the comments below!