Five takeaways from the CFL's 2016 schedule

55 Yard Line
Five takeaways from the CFL's 2016 schedule
Five takeaways from the CFL's 2016 schedule

The CFL released its 2016 schedule Thursday, and there are plenty of notable elements in it. Here are five that stand out the most:

Special occasion games done right: Any CFL schedule is at least partly judged by how it handles the big games on key days, and that hasn't always been perfect in recent years, with 2011 skipping the Argos-Ticats Labour Day Classic, 2013 featuring only one Labour Day game (and omitting Argos-Ticats), 2015 having only one Thanksgiving game and so on.The 2016 schedule is solid on all of those fronts: it kicks off at the Argos' new stadium at BMO Field with their greatest rival coming to town, it has another Ticats-Argos clash on Labour Day at Tim Hortons Field, it has a Labour Day doubleheader (oddly enough, the West game that day is first, with Calgary and Edmonton facing off at 3 p.m. Eastern and the Argos and Ticats following at 6:30 p.m. Eastern), it has the Saskatchewan-Winnipeg Labour Day Classic/Banjo Bowl, it has a Canada Day doubleheader (B.C. at Hamilton at 7 p.m. Eastern, Winnipeg at Calgary at 10 p.m. Eastern), a Thanksgiving Day doubleheader (Edmonton at Montreal at 1 p.m. Eastern, Calgary at Toronto at 4 p.m. Eastern). That's some solid event programming, reflecting history and tradition, and coming on days when there are big potential audiences.

The Argonauts' situation still isn't perfect: Part of the excitement about the Toronto Argonauts' move to BMO Field this season was the idea that their scheduling would get better once they were out of the Rogers Centre. That's come to pass on some level; last season's combination of the Pan Am Games and the Blue Jays' playoff run led to a nightmare where the Argos had their first "home" game in Fort McMurray, Alberta, didn't play in Toronto until August 8, and had three October home games moved to different stadiums, and this schedule is unquestionably superior to that. It doesn't even have any of the Tuesday night games the team has been plagued with in recent years. However, it does have them playing back-to-back home games on two non-holiday Wednesdays (July 13, August 31) and a non-holiday Monday (July 25). That's better than we've often seen in recent years, and the team's apparently happy with it, but this schedule is clearly designed to put co-tenant Toronto FC first (as MLSE promised all along). Future schedules may get even better for the Argos considering the backloading TFC has this year thanks to construction, and this one isn't bad, but it's clear that the schedules at BMO Field still won't be everything the team could hope for.

The season-ending tripleheader could be great: The CFL's final weekend has often had a lot of playoff drama, and this year, that drama may come down to a single day. There's one game on the Friday (Nov. 4), Winnipeg at Ottawa at 7 p.m. Eastern, and then a tripleheader on Saturday, Nov. 5, with Montreal at Hamilton at 1 p.m. Eastern, Toronto at Edmonton at 4 p.m. Eastern, and Saskatchewan at B.C. at 7 p.m. Eastern. That should make for a tremendous day of football, one that doesn't conflict with the NFL's Sunday slate, and one that paves the way for a terrific postseason.

There's a good Grey Cup rematch to kick things off: The league has been scheduling a Grey Cup rematch in Week One the past few years, and there's a lot to like about that idea; it means it's two teams that were both very good last season and have a recent history, and it presents a possible alternate look at how that Grey Cup could have played out. This one (Ottawa at Edmonton, 7 p.m., Saturday, June 25) is particularly intriguing, as new Eskimos' head coach Jason Maas was the Redblacks' offensive coordinator in that Grey Cup last year. How will he do against his old team?

Coming home: Beyond Maas facing his old team (and returning to Ottawa to face them in his old city in Week Seven), this offseason's free agency movement means plenty of long-time faces with one team will be returning to their old stomping grounds as opponents. Those include new Saskatchewan HC/GM Chris Jones (in Edmonton in Week Three), new Blue Bombers Weston Dressler and Ryan Smith in Regina in Week 11 and new Bomber Andrew Harris in B.C. in Week 17. Those homecomings should be lots of fun.

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