Bombers have lots of work ahead

TED WYMAN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 11:49 AM ET

General feelings around the CFL suggest the Winnipeg Blue Bombers have done a great job of improving their team this off-season.

Although they lost elite punter Jon Ryan to the NFL and leading receiver/kick returner Keith Stokes to the Toronto Argonauts, a new coaching staff and the signing of the best available free agent have gone a long way toward restoring the reputation of a team that sank to an almost unimaginable low in 2005.

The Bombers had the worst defence in CFL history last season, but three very positive things have happened to rectify that situation: They fired Jim Daley, who was personally responsible for the complete defensive collapse after co-ordinator Rod Rust left town, they hired Greg Marshall, whose record as a defensive guru speaks for itself, and they signed star middle linebacker Barrin Simpson.

Bombers' GM Brendan Taman has also thrown a boatload of money at Canadian safety Richard Karikari in an attempt to significantly improve a porous defensive backfield. Unfortunately, Karikari is leaning toward a return to Montreal and if Winnipeg can't land him it will be out of defensive free-agent options.

That possibility has some fans whispering concern. Just how much better can this defence possibly be with addition of one linebacker, Canadian safety Mike Crumb (obtained in a trade for QB Spergon Wynn) and some coaches? Some people are wondering just how many positions Barrin Simpson is going to play.

The defensive backs will essentially be the same and, while they should be improved with another year under their belt, that prospect is a bit scary.

The onus on Taman now shifts to his recruiting ability. He needs to find some players to challenge for spots on the defence, stat.

As he has acknowledged in the past, his job depends on it.

OLYMPIC HANGOVER: As you can see from the letters in the strip (right), feedback came fast and furiously to last week's column about the Canadian men's hockey team's embarrassing performance at the Olympics.

The majority of people agreed the team's putrid result, which included three shutout losses, was unacceptable. However, some people pointed out that there were almost enough good results coming out of the Olympics -- hello, Cindy Klassen and Clara Hughes -- that the men's hockey disaster was insignificant.

I'll agree, the speed skaters, women's hockey players, curlers, skeleton pilots and cross country skiers lessened the blow. Their efforts at the Olympics made millions of Canadians proud and our kudos go out to them, but it wasn't enough to give our millionaire hockey players, coaches and managers a free pass.

This week, Canadians went back to not caring about any of those other sports, but when it comes to hockey the bitter taste will be plaguing their mouths for a long time, say four years.

CROSSOVER STAR? Did you happen to catch those pictures of suddenly fun-loving Barry Bonds parading around spring training in drag? My first thought was: What the hell is Serena Williams doing at San Francisco Giants camp? ... News flash: The Ottawa Renegades are a hopeless mess once again. This is what happens when a league expands to a city that never wanted it in the first place, replaces bad owners with worse ones, and invites football history's most cruel joke -- the Gliebermans -- back into the fold. Of course fold is exactly what the franchise is eventually going to do, so let's just put them out of our misery now ... Speaking of bad jokes, how about that World Baseball Classic? So many players have dropped out, the Americans are considering springing Albert Belle out of jail so he can stalk fly balls in right field ... If even two or three Canadians had played the Olympic tournament with the kind of fire Teemu Selanne displayed, we just might have won a medal ... Finally, in wake of Canadian women winning the majority of our country's Olympic medals, some great advice for our men's hockey program has been circulating around the nation: Play like girls!


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