Zurkowsky: Alouettes rode a rollercoaster ride to playoffs

Quarterback Trevor Harris and All-Star wide receiver Eugene Lewis led the way to the postseason, but Montreal could see a winter of change.

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Some random thoughts and observations as another regular season of Alouettes comes to an end.

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Head Coach Search: Provided the Als’ playoff run ends in November, there probably won’t be any shortage of stories, starting with who will become the team’s next head coach.

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General manager Danny Maciocia made it clear in July when Khari Jones was fired that he would take over the job on an interim basis for the remainder of the season. Maciocia has repeatedly said that won’t change, even if the Als make it to the Gray Cup, because keeping both jobs takes too long.

If Saskatchewan offensive coordinator Jason Maas is the favorite, how will he be received in Montreal, considering the shortcomings of the Roughriders this season? Maas, a former quarterback, has head-coaching experience with Edmonton. Will Maas want to bring potential free agent QB Cody Fajardo with him? And how many of Jones’s former assistants would he be asked or forced to retain?

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Flow property: It appears that for the second time since 2019, the Als need to resolve their ownership issue. We can’t imagine the Sid Spiegel estate wanting to preserve the franchise, especially since the trustees refuse to be identified, which is never a good sign.

As for 25 percent shareholder Gary Stern, his social media profile suggests he longs for a bigger stake, which would put him back in the spotlight. But we believe that local ownership would be better for the organization and CFL.

Quarterback Options: Starting quarterback Trevor Harris, 36, passed for a season-high 413 yards last week against Toronto, and has a very respectable 4,157 yards and 20 touchdowns.

Heading into the final week of the regular season, only Toronto’s McLeod Bethel-Thompson has passed for more yards. And Harris’ 12 interceptions are in line with other starters.

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Harris remains the Als’ best option until someone younger and better materializes, which isn’t guaranteed. He is still a system passer and has a fast pitch. Montreal has also allowed too many sacks, 47, and Harris has been hit too often. Is it him or the offensive line?

It’s unlikely the Als would have won eight games without him, but the organization needs to decide if it wants to hitch its bandwagon to a QB who turns 37 in May, even though, during training camp, he said he has five more good seasons.

Lewis leads again: And where would the Als be without leading receiver Eugene Lewis, the team’s most outstanding player nominee? Lewis continues to make breakout sacks on a regular basis, but no other receiver has stepped forward to become a serious second threat. Reggie White Jr. showed flashes before suffering a season-ending knee injury, but Jake Wieneke underperformed by failing to produce a 100-yard game until last weekend.

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For this team to have any shot at the playoffs, running back William Stanback must return to last season’s form, when he was the CFL’s career leader and an Eastern Division runner-up as a featured player.

Canadian content: Kudos to GM Maciocia for raising the bar for Canadian talent in a relatively short time.

It’s not uncommon for Als, lately, to have three Canadian receivers on the field simultaneously. Kaion Julien-Grant has made big plays, the addition of free agent Hergy Mayala from Calgary provided the team with a reliable player and first-round pick (ninth overall) Tyson Philpot will be a star in this league for years. Safety Marc-Antoine Dequoy has a team-leading four interceptions, one for a touchdown, and guard Pier-Olivier Lestage replaced Philippe Gagnon at left guard following his return from the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks.

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Wheels and deals: Among Maciocia’s best moves were the addition of returnee Chandler Worthy from Toronto, signing free-agent linebacker Tyrice Beverette from Hamilton and trading Vernon Adams Jr. to BC for a first-round draft pick next year. While many complained about the departure of a high-profile, mobile quarterback who could be exciting at times, Maciocia took a big salary off the books and ruled out a player whose development had stalled after Jones replaced him with Harris.

While Montreal might still regret the change, the importance of having a second first-round pick for the second straight season cannot be overstated.

Rating the D: Defensively, the Als have shown flashes since Noel Thorpe replaced Barron Miles. And while we think the unit has improved, the staff has also changed a lot under Thorpe. We’ll never be a fan of the three-man line, which just doesn’t build enough pressure, and giving up 109-yard drives, like the one in the first quarter last week after a fumble on attempts, is inexcusable. However, the unit is physical, aggressive and runs to the ball.

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Landing LoF: The Als’ dumbest move was the acquisition of guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif from Calgary. It’s unlikely the former Super Bowl champion and doctor will ever wear a Montreal uniform. It was strictly a PR move when it was announced during a game in July while the team was struggling. A better PR move? Win some games.

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