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The Toronto Argonauts' announcement Wednesday that they'd been bought by Bell and Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment chairman Larry Tanenbaum and will move to BMO Field for the 2016 season and beyond should give them some hope for the future, but it's notable that this deal is all about the future. The transaction doesn't even close until December 31, so for this season, the Argonauts will still be owned by David Braley and will still have their home games at the Rogers Centre. While their future's looking up, there are real questions about how this season will play out.
Perhaps the biggest issue is what Braley does this year in terms of financial support for the team. He's come under fire before for pinching pennies, especially when it comes to marketing cuts and supplies deemed non-essential. Now that he has a deal in place to sell the team, and presumably a price locked in, why would he spend any more than he absolutely has to? He's not going to reap any long-term rewards that a strong marketing presence might help acheive. It seems unlikely that Braley would do a full slash-and-burn beyond what he's already done, as that might draw enough attention to make the buyers leery, but it's also unlikely that he'll invest much more money into a team he's about to sell, especially considering that they seem likely to lose money this year anyway.
The stadium is part of the issue there, too. The Argos are such a low priority at the Rogers Centre that they receive highly unfavourable scheduling dates, causing them to play their "home opener" in Fort McMurray, Alberta on June 27, spend eight of their first 10 games on the road and play their first game in Toronto on Aug. 8. Even after that, they have some rough home dates, particularly a Tuesday game against Ottawa on Oct. 6. Add that to the problems with ambiance at the cavernous mass of concrete known as the Rogers Centre, and it makes it very difficult for the team to draw fans. Moreover, now that a better stadium is firmly in sight, even some Argo diehards may elect to save their money for season tickets at BMO Field rather than spend it on this lame-duck season. That could make 2015 a rough year for the Argos financially.
Another area where the lack of investment comes in is with the on-field product. The Argos showed some potential last year, especially on offence, but were too inconsistent overall, finishing with an 8-10 record and missing the playoffs. It's hard to say their 2015 roster will be better, as they suffered some major losses in free agency (particularly losing tackle SirVincent Rogers to Ottawa and receiver Spencer Watt to Hamilton), and while they were able to extend some of their own key players such as Tyler Holmes, they didn't bring in any free agents from other teams. They also had an odd offseason moment last week when defensive coordinator Tim Burke resigned. That makes their new defensive coordinator linebackers coach Casey Creehan, who's been less-than-successful as a DC before, producing one of the worst defensive seasons in CFL history in Hamilton in 2012. That move may have nothing to do with finances, but it doesn't bode well for Toronto either.
Granted, the Argos have made a few nice moves. Bringing back Ricky Foley (who went on an interesting Twitter rant Wednesday about the Argos' news being overshadowed by the Mike Babcock hiring) in exchange for Shea Emry could boost their Canadian content, as that not only lets Foley start at defensive end but paves the way for Cory Greenwood to fill Emry's spot in the linebacking corps. That one could pay major dividends. Toronto GM Jim Barker also did okay in the draft, but top picks Sean McEwen and Daryl Waud may provide more help down the road (if ever) than immediately, especially considering that Waud has since signed in the NFL. Thus, it's certainly far from certain that the Argos will be better on the field this season than last, and they may well be worse. Add that to their other issues with marketing, a stadium, attendance and a lame-duck owner, and 2015 may not be a good year for this team. Brighter times may be ahead, but unless Braley really reverses course and gives this team the funding it needs to succeed (unlikely, as that wouldn't benefit him much), it could be a long season in Toronto.