Best season/Worst season – BC Lions edition

Best season/Worst season – BC Lions edition
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Best season/Worst season – BC Lions

Welcome to the first of a new occasional series looking at the best and worst seasons for each of the nine CFL teams. We are starting with Vancouver’s finest – the BC Lions.

But first some ground rules. Some of the teams have been around long enough to post completely winless seasons. For example, the Toronto Argonauts went 0-6 in 1898. But is that really a fair comparison? I would say not, as it was a different era with much different teams, games and leagues. So we will be looking at the ‘modern’ era only. Which will also allow us to compare the best and worst seasons of all of the teams over the same time frame.

You might think the modern era should begin in the post CFL era from 1958 to present day. However, whilst the CFL may have had responsibility for the Grey Cup since 1958, we should note that Wikipedia suggests that “1954 is reckoned as the start of the modern era of Canadian football, in which the Grey Cup has been exclusively contested by professional teams”.

So based on that we will take 1954 as our starting point for our best/worst season comparisons. Which is really appropriate here given that the BC Lions played their first season that very same year.

Best Season -1985

In 1985, the BC Lions went 13-3, finished first in the West Division and won the Western title. 13 wins and 26 points were the best in the CFL. They capped that by winning the West Final by 20 points against Winnipeg (42-22). Then added a Grey Cup win against Hamilton with a 13 point margin (37-24).

They actually won more games in 2007. A year they went 14-3-1 but were one and done in the playoffs. 2007 then is the season that remains to this day the one they won most games in. But 1985 was ubdoubtedly more successful. Their best season saw them post a higher winning percentage than 2007 and win a Grey Cup.

1985 was special for Lions fans too as it ended the longest title drought in team history. Having won their first title in 1964, for the rest of the sixties they went 23-54-3.

The Seventies were hardly much better for BC and their supporters. Over that decade they went 67-85-8. The lone standout season was going 10-6 in 1977. They recorded their first playoff win since the Grey Cup that year but were knocked out of the playoffs 38-1 by Edmonton.

BC Lions fans had to wait until 1983 before they appeared in the Grey Cup, and 1985 before they picked up their second title. That title drought between 1964 and 1985 covered 21 years. Between their first and second championship years they went 140-167-13.

Worst Season

The BC Lions worst season? Statistically their worst season is their first season. In 1954 they went 1-15, with a 9-4 home win against Calgary the lone bright spot. That year they scored 100 points, least in the WIFU by 102 points. Whilst conceding 345 points. Most in the WIFU by 141 points.

In their inaugural season then, Leos fans had very little to cheer about. But, it was their inaugrual season. Statistically this is their worst year.

Yet somehow 1961 feels worse. Having made the playoffs in 1959 for the first time after their first winning season (9-7), the Lions slipped back in 1960 to 5-9-2. But few could have foreseen the precipitous fall to a 1-13-2 record in 1961. That year the Lions scored 215 points, actually 4 more than Saskatchewan and 2 more points than Montreal (who played 2 less games than BC). But they also gave away 393 points – worst in the CFL by 79 points.

What came next?

How did the Lions respond to their best season and worst season? Let’s take a look at each in turn.

As far at the best season goes, that 1985 title win came in arguably one of the great periods of Lions history. From 1983 to 1988 they racked up six straight winning seasons. Posting a combined 70-31-1 record. Which culminated in six straight playoff appearances, and 3 trips to the Grey Cup. The first of which came in 1983, followed by the best season win in 1985.

Which leaves what happened next for Lions fans after that best season. From 1986 to 1988 the Lions went 34-20, and lost heavily in two West Finals before making the 1988 Grey Cup. Which they lost by a single point 22-21 to Winnipeg.

Two paths

We can look at two paths for the BC Lions depending on which we accept as their worst season. The statistical worst 1-15 in 1954 was followed by a period of development. BC would post 5, 6,4 and 3 win seasons prior to going 9-7 in 1959 and posting their first ever winning season.

If we argue that 1961 was worse as they were no longer an expansion team, then Lions fans were about to witness a rapid rise. Going 7-9 in 1962 was followed by a 31-6-3 run for 1963-4 which saw them make their first Grey Cup appearance in 1963, (losing 21-10 to Hamilton). Then posting their first Grey Cup win in 1964 exacting revenge on Hamilton with a 34-24 win.

Whichever view you take, this all took place over a decade long period as BC went from the 1-15 expansion Lions in 1954 to Grey Cup champions in 1964.

As we have seen above however, a long barren period was to come before the Lions delivered it all again – in their best ever season (so far) 1985.

Banner Image: the BC Lions best season came in 1985 when they went 13-3 in the regular season and won the Grey Cup. Image from bclions.com

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