Five key storylines to watch in a CFL season of change

The CFL's 2016 season kicks off Thursday with the Toronto Argonauts hosting the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (7:30 p.m. Eastern, TSN/ESPNEWS), and there will be a lot to watch this year. We've already examined how things look for the West and East Division teams, but there are plenty of larger-picture issues to consider as well. Here are five of the biggest storylines to watch this year.

1. The Toronto Argonauts' off-field success: For over a decade, the Toronto Argonauts have been the CFL's weakest team from a business perspective. They've gone through problematic owners, substandard stadium experiences, scheduling issues and forced relocations, a lack of funds for marketing and free agents, and much more. That's all changed now, though, with the new ownership group of Bell Media and Larry Tanenbaum and the new venue of BMO Field. The team has launched ambitious marketing plans, brought in numerous free agents, and set up impressive tailgating and fan plans to convince people to come out to their games, but the big question is if they will. If the Argonauts can draw regular crowds, create a significant home-field advantage, boost the CFL's presence in Canada's biggest city, and become a sustainable franchise, that's vital for the future of this league.

2. Quarterbacks' health: Quarterback injuries have been a big storyline for the past few years, and this season will see several quarterbacks returning after substantial time lost thanks to injury. Chief amongst them are Hamilton's Zach Collaros, Toronto's Ricky Ray and Saskatchewan's Darian Durant, but many of the other starting quarterbacks in this league have also lost significant time over the last several years. Will quarterbacks be able to stay healthier this year? Will offensive lines be able to protect them? The answer to that could mean a lot for the CFL this year.

3. TV ratings: The CFL has been very successful on the television front over the past decade, leading to a big TV contract ahead of the 2014 season (which was recently extended through 2021), but the last couple of years have seen ratings declines. Will the league's TV ratings rebound this year? One big element there may be the success of the Saskatchewan Roughriders, generally the CFL's most popular team. Another part may be if quarterbacks are able to stay healthy and offence is able to stay high. Good TV ratings would go a long way towards ensuring the league's continued prosperity; we'll see if the CFL gets them.

4. Orridge's sophomore season: CFL commissioner Jeffrey Orridge is entering his second season at the helm of the league, and the scrutiny on him will only increase. There were clear highlights in his first year, but plenty of moves that were questioned as well, including the league's redesigned logo and his state of the league speech. Orridge also has a tough act to follow in popular former CFL commissioner Mark Cohon. Will he be able to achieve further progress, and will he be able to get more fans on his side in Year Two?

5. Growing partnerships: The league has expanded numerous existing partnerships (including arrangements with You Can Play, Twitter and ESPN) and struck up some new ones (including one with DraftKings), and they've made substantial progress on several commercial fronts, including more on-jersey ads and newly-redesigned jerseys from adidas. Can the CFL continue to grow its presence with businesses and corporations, expand its brand both in Canada and abroad, and do so without alienating its core fans? That's not an easy task, but it is one they seem to be making progress on. This will be an interesting storyline to watch all year long.