B.C. Lions' Elimimian poised to make history on CFL awards night
B.C. Lions Solomon Elimimian (56) celebrate the interception against the Edmonton Eskimos during first half CFL action in Edmonton, Alta., on Saturday November 1, 2014. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson.)
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press
Published Wednesday, November 26, 2014 7:43PM EST
Solomon Elimimian is poised to make CFL history Thursday night.
The B.C. Lions rugged linebacker is expected to be the runaway winner of the league's outstanding player award after registering a CFL-record 143 tackles this season. If Elimimian is selected ahead of Ricky Ray of the Toronto Argonauts in voting by the Football Reporters of Canada and the nine league head coaches, he'd become the first pure defensive player to capture the honour.
The six-foot, 227-pound Elimimian is certainly one of the league's top feel-good stories of the season and is expected to also walk away with the top defensive player honour during the league's awards banquet at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. But Ray deserves equal consideration as the CFL's outstanding player.
The 35-year-old Californian was the CFL leader in passing yards (4,595), touchdowns (28), completion percentage (68.5), attempts (620) and completions (425). Ray was the only league quarterback to crack the 4,000-yard passing plateau and was a big reason why Toronto sported the league's top aerial attack in 2014.
He did so in spite of an injury-ravaged receiving corps that saw veteran slotbacks Andre Durie, Jason Barnes and Chad Owens and promising rookie Anthony Coombs all miss significant chunks of the season. The absence of Durie, Barnes and Owens left Ray without trusted veteran players while continually having to get used to new faces in the lineup.
What's more, Ray played the '14 campaign with a shoulder ailment that required off-season surgery, yet he still made 17 regular-season starts.
Ray's detractors suggest his completion percentage and 15 interceptions are clear indications of a down year for the Toronto quarterback. Certainly, in 2013 Ray threw just two interceptions while completing a league-record 77.2 per cent of his passes.
However, Ray only made 11 starts last season in being named the finalist for the league's outstanding player award behind Calgary running back Jon Cornish. However, despite being less than 100 per cent physically and with a seemingly ever-changing receiving corps, Ray helped Toronto finish with an 8-10 record to narrowly miss making the East Division playoffs.
Even with Elimimian's outstanding season, B.C. (9-9) finished fourth in the West Division standings to become the No. 3 playoff seed in the East before losing 50-17 to Montreal in the division semifinal.
Here's a look at who should win the other individual honours:
Top Defensive Player -- Elimimian, again, as he was by far the league's most dominant and consistent defensive player. Montreal linebacker Bear Woods was second overall in tackles with 89 and is a deserving finalist.
Top Canadian -- Cornish wins this honour for the third straight year after posting a league-high 1,082 yards rushing in just nine games. Had Cornish been able to maintain that pace over an 18-game schedule, he would've broken Mike Pringle's single-season rushing record and been a lock for a second straight outstanding player award. Hamilton's Ted Laurent is the finalist.
Top lineman -- Calgary centre Brett Jones likely wins, an accomplishment for a second-year player. Montreal's Jeff Perrett is the finalist.
Special-teams award -- Toronto's Swayze Waters was the league's leading scorer and punter. Winnipeg's Lirim Hajrullahu is the finalist.
Top rookie -- Edmonton linebacker Dexter McCoil (tied for league lead with six interceptions) should get the nod ahead of Toronto defensive lineman Tristan Okpalaugo (12 sacks).