The 15+ Club in the CFL is pretty exclusive. In this rarefied atmosphere we find the teams that won 15 or more games in a single season.
Edmonton were the first team ever to pass 15 wins in a season in 1989, and they are still the only club with 16 regular season wins. The latest member of the club are the Hamilton Tiger-Cats who had a record breaking year in 2019.
Edmonton Eskimos 16-2 1989
West Division Champions. 644 points for 302 points against
Average game score: 36-17.
Home 9-0-0 Away 7-2-0 In Division 11-1-0
Post Season 0-1 Lost Division Final 32-21 to Saskatchewan Roughriders (9-9).
The only 16 win team in CFL history, the 1989 Esks were a dominant regular season team. In their 40th anniversary year the Esks set a record for most wins in a season (16), most points (644), most TDs (70), & yards gained (7,951).
QB Tracy Ham set a league record for yards rushing by a quarterback in a season (1,051). Combined with 4,366 yards passing and 30 TD’s he took home that year’s MOP award.
This was one of the great years in Edmonton history. But ultimately it is remembered as a missed opportunity. However good they were, they fell at the first hurdle in the playoffs.
The Saskatchewan team that vanquished the Esks would go on to win an incredible Grey Cup.
Calgary Stampeders 15-3 1993
West Division Champions. 646 points for 418 points against
Average game score: 36-23.
Home 9-0-0 Away 6-3-0 In Division 7-2-0
Post season: 1-1 Lost Western Final 29-15 to Edmonton Eskimos (12-6).
The ’93 Stamps were the defending Grey Cup Champs. In 1992 they had gone 13-5 and lifted the trophy. For much of this season they looked even more dominant.
In 1993 QB Doug Flutie was named MOP following a season that saw him throw for 6,092 yards and 44 touchdowns.
The Grey Cup was to be played in Calgary in ’93 and this would have been a chance for Stamps fans to see a dominant team contest the title at home.
It was not to be however. Calgary went from 14-1 to going 1-2 over the last 3 weeks of the season and 1-1 in the playoffs.
The Edmonton team that beat them in the Western Final would go on to lift the Grey Cup.
Calgary Stampeders 15-3 1994
West Division Champions. 698 points for 355 points against
Average game score 39-20
Home 9-0-0 Away 6-3-0 In Division 8-2-0.
Post Season 1-1 Lost Western Final 37-36 to BC Lions (11-6-1)
Doug Flutie won his 4th consecutive Jeff Nicklin Memorial trophy as the Most Outstanding Player in the West Division. This following a season in which he threw for 5,726 yards and 48 TD’s. The Stamps blew past the ’89 Esks single season points record too.
The Western Final that year saw BC enter the game as 14 point underdogs. It turned into the battle of the brothers.
The Superstar – Doug Flutie -leading the Stamps. And his younger brother Darren Flutie at WR for the Lions. This time the younger brother won out.
During the season Flutie had 111 reception for 1,731 yards & 8 TD’s. He brought that form into the Western Final as he had 3 TD’s, including the game winner with only a few ticks on the clock.
The BC team that defeated Calgary would go on to lift the Grey Cup.
Calgary Stampeders 15-3 1995
North Division Champions. 631 points for 404 points against
Average game score 35-22
Home 8-1-0 Away 7-2-0 In Division 9-2-0
Post Season 2-1. Lost 1995 Grey Cup 37-20 to Baltimore Stallions (15-3).
In 1995 the Stamps finally converted their regular season dominance into a Grey Cup appearance.
Slot Back Dave Sapunjis won the Jeff Nicklin Memorial Trophy this time around. That followed a season in which ‘The Sponge’ had 111 catches for 1655 yards and 12 TD’s.
This Calgary team blew through a Northern Semi-Final against Hamilton & Final against Edmonton by a combined score of 67-17.
Unfortunately for them, the next team on this list proved a step too far in the Grey Cup itself.
Over 3 seasons the Stamps went 45-9, and each season they were dispatched in the playoffs by the eventual Grey Cup champion.
Baltimore Stallions 15-3 1995
South Division Champions 541 points for 369 points against
Average game score: 30-21
Home 8-1-0 Away 7-2-0 In Division 7-1-0.
Post Season 3-0. Grey Cup Champions. Won 37-20 vs Calgary Stampeders (15-3).
This team was loaded with talent. They had 9 CFL All-Stars including the Most Outstanding Player & Offensive Line player. They also had the coach of the year, and QB Tracy Ham would take home the Grey Cup MVP award.
This team was led on the ground by MOP Mike Pringle. He ran for 1,791 yards and 13 TD’s behind a huge O line.
The Baltimore Stallions are the only non-Canadian team ever to lift the Grey Cup. This would be the final year for the Stallions but they left an indelible mark in CFL history in their brief time in the league.
Toronto Argonauts 15-3 1996
East Division champions. 556 points for 359 points against
Average game score: 31-20
Home 8-1-0 Away 7-2-0 In Division 7-1-0.
Post season 2-0. Grey Cup champions. Won 43-37 vs Edmonton Eskimos (11-7).
What a turnaround! The 1995 Argos had finished 4-14 and were well out of contention. Just one year later however they were riding high.
The 11 win turnaround was the greatest single-season comeback in franchise history. Plus the team’s 15 regular season wins was the most ever recorded by an Argonaut team.
For Head Coach Don Matthews this was a second consecutive 15 win season. He had been the architect of the Stallions success the year prior.
Matthews & Flutie would lead the Argonauts to a snowy match-up where they won the highest scoring Grey Cup ever.
Toronto Argonauts 15-3 1997
East Division champions. 660 points for 327 points against
Average game score: 37-18
Home 9-0-0 Away 6-3 In Division 9-1-0.
Post season 2-0. Grey Cup champions. Won 47-23 v Saskatchewan Roughriders (8-10).
The ’97 Argonauts are the only repeat champions on this list. A remarkable achievement when you think how much of a target being the champions can make a team.
Alongside all of the other talent this season saw the emergence of SB Derrell “Mookie” Mitchell.
The Argos finished the year with 11 players named to the All-Star team and four CFL awards. Doug Flutie won the Most Outstanding Player (5,505 yards & 47 TD’s), Mike Kiselak was Most Outstanding Lineman, Derrell Mitchell was Most Outstanding Rookie and Don Matthews was Coach of the Year.
This Toronto squad went 34-6 over two seasons (including playoffs) & are remembered as one of the great CFL teams.
Montreal Alouettes 15-3 2009
East Division champions. 600 points for 428 points against
Average game score: 33-24
Home 9-0-0 Away 6-3 In Division 9-1-0.
Post season 2-0. Grey Cup champions. Won 28-27 Vs Saskatchewan Roughriders (10-7-1).
From 1996-2012 the Als were hugely successful going 176-93-1, appearing in 8 Grey Cup games and winning 3.
Despite their dominance however since their last win in 2002 the Als had appeared in 4 Grey Cup games prior to this and lost them all.
Prior to this game Montreal appeared in 12 Eastern Finals in 14 years. During that time they had won 6 Eastern Finals but lost 5 of the 6 Grey Cups they played in.
Calgary Stampeders 15-3 2014
West Division champions. 511 points for 347 points against
Average game score: 28-19
Home 7-2-0 Away 8-1-0 In Division 8-2-0.
Post Season 2-0. Grey Cup champions. Won 20-16 vs Hamilton Tiger-Cats (9-9).
The 2014 Stamps tied the franchise record 15 win seasons of the ’93-’95 teams. This time they went one step further however and took home the title.
During the season, quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell tied the CFL record for most consecutive victories as a starter from the beginning of his career with seven. He would go on to become the first quarterback in CFL history to win 12 of his first 13 starts.
Mitchell would cap the season by being named MVP in the Grey Cup win over Hamilton.
Calgary Stampeders 15-2-1 2016
West Division champions. 586 points for 369 points against
Average game score: 33-21
Home 9-0-0 Away 6-2-1 In Division 9-1-0.
Post Season 1-1. Lost Grey Cup 39-33 (OT) vs Ottawa REDBLACKS (8-9-1).
With 31 points in the standings, the Stamps set a new franchise record. Their 5th 15 win team was truly dominant too.
Calgary’s season included a 14-game winning streak and a 16-game unbeaten streak.
The 2016 stamps dominance was reflected in the awards they received. They were awarded coach of the year (Dave Dickenson), Most Outstanding Player (Bo Levi Mitchell), Most Outstanding Canadian (Jerome Messam), Most Outstanding Rookie (DaVaris Daniels) and Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman (Derek Dennis).
Ultimately however they fell in the title game as the REDBLACKS pulled off a huge shock.
Hamilton Tiger-Cats 15-3 2019
East Division champions. 551 points for 344 points against
Average game score: 31-19
Home 9-0-0 Away 6-3 In Division 7-1-0.
Post Season 2-1. Lost Grey Cup 33-12 vs Winnipeg Blue Bombers (11-7).
For Hamilton this was a truly dominant regular season. And despite the knock that the East has long been an easier Division to win the Ti-Cats went 8-2 against the West Division teams during the regular season.
Like the 2016 Stamps Hamilton’s dominance was reflected in awards season. They had 9 CFL All-Stars and from them they also had the Coach of the year (Orlondo Steinauer), MOP (Brandon Banks), Most Outstanding Offensive lineman (Chris Van Zeyl), & Special teams player (Frankie Williams).
Like the dominant 2016 Stamps, this team fell at the last hurdle as Winnipeg claimed the title.
A few thoughts
The combined regular season record of these teams is 166-31-1. In the postseason they were 18-6 and there are 7 Grey Cup appearances, with 5 wins. (Of course in 1995 two of the 15-3 teams faced each other in the Grey cup!).
What is it about the Calgary Stampeders? They are the dominant team on this list going 75-14-1 over 5 separate seasons. Yet for all that they have only 1 title to show for these years of dominance. 1993-95 is particularly egregious as the Stamps went 45-9 but 4-3 and title-less in the playoffs.
It is clear that the road to the Grey Cup runs through any 15+ win team. On every occasion there has been a 15 game winner in a CFL season they have either won the Grey Cup, or the team that dispatched them in the playoffs has won it.
The big question though is this: which of the 15+ club teams is the best? I am tempeted to say the ’97 Argos as the only repeat champs on the list. There are others you could make a case for though.
So who have you got? The ’97 Argos, the 2016 Stamps, the 2009 Als, the ’95 Stallions? Let us know what you think.
Now all we need to do is wonder where the next 15+ single season wins team will come from and where they will fit in the CFL pantheon.
Banner image: The Baltimore stallions won the battle of two 15 win teams in 1995. Image from baltimorebeatdown.com