Best Season/Worst season: Montreal Alouettes

Best Season/Worst season: Montreal Alouettes
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Best Season/Worst Season: Montreal Alouettes

Welcome to the third in an occasional series looking at the best and worst seasons for each of the nine CFL teams. We started with the BC Lions. Then followed that up with the Ottawa RedBlacks. This time we are staying out East with the Montreal Alouettes.

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 does mean for the Als we will miss their first Grey Cup win. But we don’t miss what I would argue were their best or worst seasons. When were they? Let’s take a look.

Best Season – 2009

A fifteen win team that won the Grey Cup? Sounds like a great season to me. The Montreal Alouettes had returned to the league in 1996. Since then they had been the dominant team in the East. They had one losing season, and won the East Division nine times in that span. They appeared in the playoffs every year from ’96-2009 whilst compiling a 154-87-1 regular season record.

But up until this 2009 season they had only 1 Grey Cup win (2002) to show for all that regular season success. Coupled with 5 defeats in the big game (2003, 2005-6, and 2008) to their name. A real reputation for not taking the final step could have been hung on them if they lost again.

Which nearly happened, if not for the Roughriders making a mental error on the last play of the game. Which gave the Alouettes a second chance. And they took it.

46,020 fans on hand at McMahon Stadium in Calgary saw the Als edge the game 28-27 with a re-taken field goal because Saskatchewan had too many men on the field.

What Came Next

The 2010 CFL season would see a repeat final with the same result. The Als would win the Grey Cup once more with a 21-18 win over the Roughriders.

Although Montreal made the playoffs the next few season (2011-2014), they didn’t make it back to the Grey Cup. The Als went into a slump after that going 21-51 over the next four years. However they have had more success recently reaching the playoffs the past two seasons.

Worst Season – 1987

On the field the worst record in Montreal history belongs to the 2-14 1982 team. Then badged as the Montreal Concordes. Officially they were an expansion franchise. But the league now recognises them as a discontious part of a single franchise history.

So, how could a team with the worst record in franchise history not represent the worst season ever for the team? Because they actually played their season. And continued to exist at the end of it.

But in 1987 things were much darker than that. That season the Alouettes played two preseason games then folded. The fact that they actually played a couple of meaningless games prior to folding even seems to make it worse. Just to top things off they went 0-2 in those games too. Losing 14-13 to Hamilton and 18-15 to Ottawa.

Even the team history page on the Alouettes website does its best to skip over this period. Stating instead that, “The CFL returned to Montreal in the late 1990s”.

The League knew how bad things were financially in Montreal and already had a plan. Which explains why Winnipeg would find themselves in the East Division to start the year.

The path back for the Alouettes ran through Baltimore

The Baltimore Stallions existed officially for 2 brief years in the CFL, playing just two seasons, 1994 & 1995.

This was all part of an American expansion plan masterminded by then CFL commissioner Larry Smith who envisioned a multi site North American CFL with teams in the USA and Canada.

As we are back to a nine team league consisting solely of Canadian based teams, we can say that didn’t really work out. However this is a period looked back on fondly by fans.

The Stallions were the success story of expansion. But you can read about others. From the much less successful Las Vegas Posse to the team that never was the Miami Manatees.

Return to Montreal

The Stallions were perhaps a victime of their own success. 1995 marks the only time in CFL history that a non-Canadian team has won the Grey Cup. Yet it passed by in Baltimore without much fanfare.

The city was moving on because it looked like the NFL was coming back. And so it proved to be. A few months after the championship game Art Modell moved the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore. The Baltimore Ravens were born out of that Browns team.

The Stallions team knew they would not be able to compete with the might of the NFL in town.

The Baltimore franchise moved to Montreal. Now, as the Stallions had returned football to Baltimore after a decade long hiatus they would bring football back to Montreal nine years after the Alouettes folded before the 1987 season.

To this day, the Montreal Alouettes don’t recognize the Stallions in their official team history. They are seen as separate franchises. But they would not be here or have had the success they did without the core of that Stallions organization moving north. 

The successful return of football to Montreal was a public relations coup for the league at that time. So at least long-term fans could look past the loss of their original Alouettes franchise and the worst (pre) season ever.

Plus Alouettes fans would go on to cheer a Dynasty team (2009-10) that went 27-9 over two seasons and take home back to back Grey Cups and shed the tag of perennial runners-up.

Banner Image: The Alouettes won the first of back to back titles in 2009. Image from

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