East is bulking up

PAUL FRIESEN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:28 AM ET

That sound you hear is the weak-kneed CFL East hitting the weights, downing protein shakes and who knows what else in an attempt to bulk up for the season's stretch drive.

In Hamilton, the 2-8 Tiger-Cats this week unloaded the extra weight of head coach Charlie Taaffe.

Toronto, at 4-6, answered with an equally bold move yesterday, trimming head coach Rich Stubler and muscling up with none other than Don Matthews, the most successful coach in CFL history.

Clearly, the Argos didn't like what they saw when looking in the mirror. They've won two more games than Winnipeg, yet felt the need to coax a legend like the Don out of retirement.

Meanwhile, the 98-pound weakling Bombers continue to insist their basic structure is just fine, that a trimming of the love handles is all that's necessary.

First it was Charles Roberts, now Tom Canada, fan favourites both -- the former shipped to B.C. last week, the latter nearly traded to Hamilton, now buried on an injury list, indefinitely.

The Bombers say new blood in the trenches -- linebacker Zeke Moreno, late of the Ticats, being the latest -- will fix their problems, that the general guiding the troops, head coach Doug Berry, is just fine.

"Doug's still the smartest guy in the world, since he was last year at the Grey Cup," GM Brendan Taman, architect of the now-you-see-it, now-you-don't Moreno trade, said yesterday. "We're going to stay the course. I believe in these guys and the coaches. They'll get it turned around. I'm not going to knee-jerk just because of what other teams are doing."

It's a bold move in itself.

Taman and Berry are not just changing the face of this team, they're transplanting its heart, too. Of course, that could be a good thing, after what we've seen so far this season.

But if they're wrong, god help 'em.

I don't know that a fan revolt is brewing, but based on feedback from the general public, more than a few people are angry. You don't start airlifting out your most popular players without some repercussions.

Sure, Canada is staying put, for now, his medical condition (an enlarged spleen) nixing his move to the Steel City. The Bombers even say he remains a member in good standing. Talk about spin.

"We didn't burn any bridges with him, nor did he with us," Taman said, at the same time admitting the chances of Canada playing here again this season are "remote."

I don't know how you try to trade a guy one day, then ask him to play his heart out for you another. Can't see it, personally.

I give Taman credit for one thing: when a need arose -- another injury to a middle linebacker -- he filled it faster than you can say Joe Lobendahn.

And when Canada's illness came to light, he stuck to his guns, keeping Moreno for a relatively low price.

Whether or not Moreno fits in as fast as he runs remains to be seen. Don't forget, he was obviously unwanted in Hamilton, where things are bleaker than they are here, if that's possible.

But Toronto, that's another story.

And the Argos are the pencil-neck the Bombers need to push aside, if they want to join the rest of the beautiful people in the playoffs.

A pencil-neck that just got a whole lot more attitude.

"He knows how to win," Berry said of Matthews, his old boss in Montreal. "I always felt, working with him, that he was a solid motivator of men."

As for Berry's merit in that department, the jury has been deliberating for about 10 weeks now. With each game, we get closer to a verdict.

It won't take long to judge the moves made by the respective GM's, either.

Toronto's Adam Rita, and Taman -- there can only be one winner.

And it won't be the one who gets beat up this Friday.


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