Despite what CJAD play-by-play man and CFL.ca columnist Rick Moffat might think, the Montreal Alouettes’ slogan for 2010, “Stay the Course,” is about as far from a conservative approach as the team could have as they get ready to defend their 2009 Grey Cup championship.
If the Als had chosen “Keep Chugging Along” or “Ho, Ho Status Quo” as their motto for 2010, Moffat might have a case. But when you’ve set your sites on excellence like Montreal’s head man Marc Trestman has the past two years, staying the course involves taking some extraordinary measures and making some very difficult decisions.
Unlike some successful championship teams in recent memory, the Alouettes have not chosen to simply maintain their roster and schemes from 2009. They’ve embraced proactive change by overhauling one-third of their playbook, and by making some hard coaching/personnel decisions, like the recent firing of new special teams coordinator Richard Kent or the choice to allow veterans Davis Sanchez and Keron Williams head to B.C. this past off-season.
The hallmarks of Marc Trestman’s Alouettes have been preparation, self-discipline, and focus. All of these characteristics are never-ending pursuits. Complacency in any of the above would mean regression. The Als’ veteran core—manned by high-character, top-shelf players like Anthony Calvillo, Ben Cahoon, Paul Lambert, Scott Flory, Anwar Stewart, Shea Emry, John Bowman, et al—would never stand for that.
Probably the most striking evolution the Alouettes have undergone on Trestman’s watch has been the steady strengthening of the group as a team. It’s been said before ad nauseum, but it bears repeating: there are no egos on the Als. Every player has an important role to play, and every player accepts that role along with the responsibility that goes with it.
In the past, offensive droughts, defensive ineptitudes, special teams gaffes, injuries, or retirements might have derailed Montreal. Now, the team truly has a next-man-up, next-game-is-the-most-important attitude that drives it week to week. Pure progression, no matter what.
If the offence fails, the defence kicks it up a notch, and vice versa. When a player like Bryan Chiu retires, Paul Lambert steps up. If a marquee player goes down, the team trusts in the depth GM Jim Popp has built up and down the roster.
Repeating as Grey Cup champion is a difficult task. The list of teams that have accomplished that goal in the modern era is pretty short. But effort, planning, talent, and a high-degree of adaptability give the Als a shot at pulling it off. And you can bet they won’t be lying down in the face of the challenge. That would be the easy choice.
Accepting mediocrity or expecting setbacks would be the safe, conservative approach to 2010. Continuing a steady drive for excellence, in my book, is a bold move.