December 11, 2013 Sections
Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
THE B.C. Lions did just about everything right last season -- until the West final.
A 34-29 loss to the Calgary Stampeders spoiled what had otherwise been an exceptional season for a Lions squad that had a league-best 13-5 record in the regular season and looked for all the world like they were going to defend the Grey Cup they won in 2011 over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
But a poorly played West final rendered everything else the Lions did in 2012 besides the point and in a Vancouver organization with a GM in Wally Buono who suffers fools and losing with equal measures of distaste, that meant some big changes this off-season.
The tone for the bloodletting that was to come was set with the jettisoning of Lions icon -- and the CFL all-time leader in receiving yards -- Geroy Simon in January.
"2013 for us is a time for change," Buono told reporters during a conference call Wednesday held to preview the upcoming season. "Trading Geroy Simon (to Saskatchewan) is a significant thing when you look at change.
"He has been I would say Mr. B.C. Lion for a lot of years -- in our community and on the field and deservedly so. He's a class act and we're going to miss him, but at the end of the day my job is to make sure we field the most competitive team."
Lions head coach Mike Benevides said the loss in the West final stung -- it was just the second time in 16 games the Lions had lost at BC Place since the stadium had undergone a half-billion-dollar renovation.
But Benevides said changes were in store for the Lions no matter what happened at the end of 2012. He said CFL rosters typically churn by 25 per cent a season and this time around that also just happened to include moving Simon after 12 seasons in Vancouver.
"Geroy -- we all love him," said Benevides. "But that change was going to happen over a matter of a time. Certainly that was a tough one, but one we felt had to be make."
The Simon move leaves Lions QB Travis Lulay without one of his favourite targets this upcoming season, but Lulay said Wednesday he's still looking forward to another big season with the remainder of a Lions aerial corps -- including Shawn Gore, Marco Ianuzzi, Courtney Taylor, Paris Jackson and Akeem Foster -- with whom he's becoming very familiar.
"It's about having a relationship and a trust factor that works both ways," said Lulay. "I need to know where to put the ball in anticipation of those guys being open. And they need to know I'll get it there. I really sense the hunger of those guys, the excitement of those guys. And we hope to get better as we go along."
The CFL is conducting a series of teleconference previews on the league's teams. This is the first in that series.
<p><strong>2012 Regular season</strong>: 13-5</p>
<p><strong>Playoffs</strong>: Lost West final 34-29 to Calgary Stampeders</p>
<p><strong>Notable departures in offseason</strong>: Traded SB Geroy Simon to Saskatchewan; traded DL Khalif Mitchell to Toronto; traded backup QB Mike Reilly to Edmonton; did not re-sign starting safety Cauchy Muamba (signed as free agent with Winnipeg); released WR Arland Bruce; released CB Byron Parker</p>
<p><strong>Notable Signings, extensions in off-season</strong>: Extended contract of starting QB Travis Lulay; signed former QB Jarious Jackson as new quarterbacks coach; resigned WR Shawn Gore, C Angus Reid, WR Paris Jackson, DB Korey Banks, RT Jovan Olafioye, LB Solomon Elimimian; extended OL Ben Archibald, FB Rolly Lumballa, DB Lin-J Shell, DL Eric Taylor, DB Dante Marsh, WR Marco Ianuzzi, DL Khreem Smith</p>
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 9, 2013 D4