Oh, Canada!

JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 10:06 AM ET

Wally Buono was recently asked about his interest in offensive lineman Steve Morley, a late NFL cut.

"Well, he's got the right passport," the B.C. Lions head coach/GM told the Vancouver Province.

"The thing is, how much do you invest in him?"

Buono was reluctant to get into a bidding war over such a valuable commodity because that could become costly.

But the adage is that you can't win in the CFL without topnotch Canucks.

"Obviously, people talk about the Ottawa situation and us bringing in (offensive linemen) Val St. Germain and Obby Khan (in the dispersal draft)," said Bobby Dyce, college draft co-ordinator for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. "The challenge is, if you don't draft a young Canadian offensive lineman, you're going to be paying a million dollars to get him as a free agent. So, the Ottawa thing helped us out getting two talented guys because they are such a valuable commodity."

And Canadian talent is the key to building successful CFL franchises.

"You're not going to win too many games and you're not going to be able to build a team without good quality Canadians," said Bombers GM Brendan Taman. "And almost as importantly, good Canadian depth so that when you lose a Canadian, you're not going to be going, 'Oh no.'"

And it's easier to find American talent.

"The resources to find American players are better because there's so many players," said Dyce, who is also the receivers coach. "With regards to Canadians, there is a limited pool so, when you have talented Canadians, it makes your team that much better. You can't afford to have weak Canadians because that's really going to affect the level. The rosters are split with the same number of Canadians as there are Americans so you're picking the same number of Canadians from a way smaller base."

It doesn't really seem to matter where a Canadian starter plays, though.

"Everyone's going to say O-line but if you look at Montreal, B.C., and Toronto over the last few years, where they've made their bread and butter is Canadian receiver," said Taman. "It's with the O-line and then with receiver. But as long as you have seven good ones, wherever they are, that's the key. Preferably eight or nine obviously. Doug Brown as a Canadian tackle is a nice feather in our hat ... (but) if you have four Canadian receivers, then so be it."

Both Montreal and Hamilton employ Canadian cornerbacks -- Davis Sanchez and Wayne Shaw. And those so-called skill positions would be the toughest to replace with another Canuck.

"It's funny, things don't really change," said Dyce. "For myself growing up, I was always a quarterback but when I decided I wanted a shot to play in the CFL, I switched to receiver so the one position I would say where you would be challenged may be at quarterback. But anything is possible. Montreal (recently) signed (quarterback) Jesse Palmer, he's a Canadian. So, I would never discourage anyone from playing a certain position if their goal is to play in the CFL.

"Chances are that it if you're 6-foot-5, 300 pounds, you've got a lot better chance to make it as an offensive lineman and to play a longer time in the CFL than you do even as a defensive lineman. Yeah, it's limited to certain positions but that's changed. Safety used to be a Canadian position, not so much any more. Teams are playing Americans there. There's always going to be Canadian receivers. Fullback's a position where teams aren't playing as many and linebacker is also another good position if you're a Canadian growing up.

"But my son (Tristan) plays football and I tell him, 'Hey, play what you want to play and if you're good enough, heck, you'll be playing in the NFL.'"


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