Few familiar faces on revamped Bombers squad

PAUL FRIESEN

, Last Updated: 10:21 AM ET

Head coach Mike Kelly refuses to call 2009 a rebuilding year for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

I agree with him, actually.

The term "rebuilding" implies that what he's tearing down will rise up again, as good as, or better than, it was before.

I'm not ready to make that leap, just yet.

Through free agent defections, trades and outright releases, this team's starting lineup will barely resemble the one that took the field in 2008.

You could argue that's a good thing -- or you could wonder what direction this thing's going.

After already revamping three-fifths of his offensive line, half his defensive front and installing an untested quarterback as his starter, Kelly's latest move -- shipping tackle Dan Goodspeed out of town this week -- is another head-scratcher.

Goodspeed was the Bombers best O-lineman, and a solid locker-room presence.

He could have been the glue that holds a slew of new hogs together.

Remember, the Bombers already lost starters Alexandre Gauthier, Dominic Picard and Kyle Koch.

In a year that you're breaking in a young quarterback like Stefan LeFors, you'd better leave as few questions as possible along the O-line. Nothing rattles a raw pivot quite like having to constantly check to see if his head is still attached.

Toss in the fact the Bombers just paid Goodspeed an $80,000 roster bonus, and that he's a better player than Glenn January, Winnipeg's only remaining import hog, and you have to wonder.

In return, the Bombers get one potential starter this season in import receiver Adarius Bowman -- a position they were already deep at.

The other two players, lineman Jean Francois Morin-Roberge and defensive back Brady Browne, were practice roster players in '08.

Sure, they're both Canadians. But until they're actually playing, big deal.

At least Kelly didn't simply release Goodspeed before paying him his bonus, like he did quarterback Kevin Glenn.

We'll give the last word to soon-to-be Bomber owner David Asper, who made this tongue-in-cheek comment about all of Kelly's changes: "It seems like a genius plan to sell programs."

BIGGER STADIUM?: Here's an interesting tidbit about the new stadium, and its ability to be expanded from 30,000 to 45,000 seats.

The initial plan was to fill the extra space by renting temporary seats when hosting Grey Cups, much like in the past.

But Asper raised the possibility of making at least some of the 15,000 seats permanent right off the bat.

"That's one of the things we're going to look at," he said. "In the long term, is it less expensive to install the seats now, versus waiting to do them on a temporary basis? Economic conditions have changed, maybe for the better, in terms of construction."

Erecting those shaky, temporary bleachers always takes a big bite out of Grey Cup profits, too.

And they're not exactly comfortable.

HANDS-OFF, FOR NOW: If you're like me, you can't help but wonder how much say Asper will have in the Bombers' operation this year.

Somewhat surprisingly, everybody says the same thing: none.

"David and the new group won't have any day-to-day say in the operations of the club," Bomber chairman Ken Hildahl said. "We've got a mandate in place for this year, we've got budgets in place for this year, a strategy... but if we were to make a major change in the organization, we'd have some consultation."

For his part, Asper says he'll only offer his opinion if he's asked for it.

He promises not to stick his nose in until he officially becomes the owner, expected to be early in 2010.

"Not until we finish the deal," he said. "And I don't want that line to get blurred. I don't want to encroach on what the board and Lyle (Bauer) have to do to run their business."

A wise idea.

We'll see if he can stick to it, should things get a little sticky.


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