Talk to GMs in the CFL and they'll tell you having good Canadians, excellent quarterbacks and superb head coaches are how you win.
Winnipeggers know how elusive excellence can be in all three of these areas.
American talent comes to the CFL almost in a plug-and-play form. There may be a short adjustment period for imports getting used to the three-down game but most are ready to be immediate starters. Canadians can take a little longer.
There are simply far more U.S-born players with the benefit of superior training available to play in the CFL. This makes good non-imports a sought-after commodity. They need to be drafted, developed and then treasured.
Each team must start seven Canadians and if the level of play drops off markedly at these positions, it can be a weakness for the opposition to exploit.
Conversely, an outstanding Canadian, such as Doug Brown was for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers for most of a decade, are known as ratio-breakers and they can help to raise the level of entire team.
There's been all kinds of talk in Winnipeg about the Canadian content currently with the Blue Bombers and the Free Press asked a number of CFL scouts to help with a study.
The accompanying lists were put together based on the work of CFL scouts, who took part on the condition of anonymity, and are not Free Press opinions.
Winnipeg's overall Canadian content came in as middle of the pack. The Bombers also rank middle of the pack in the league in terms of the age of Canadians.
The Bombers have a pack of average ranked Canadians on their roster but a shortage of impact players.
For example, B.C. has Andrew Harris and Calgary has Jon Cornish at the top of the impact scale.
Winnipeg's most dominant Canadian is middle linebacker Henoc Muamba and, while he has potential, he's not yet at the same performance level as the best Canadians in the league like Brendon LaBatte, Andy Fantuz and Shea Emry.
The Bombers have a number of young Canadians that have yet to reach their potential. Where they go in terms of development in the next couple of years and Winnipeg's ability to hold on to those that become more than just projects will either see the club's grade rise or fall off.
Winnipeg has either chosen not to sign Canadian free agents or failed in its bids to do so and that has altered the team's non-import picture. The Saskatchewan Roughriders greatly enhanced their Canadian content this off-season by signing non-import offensive linemen LaBatte and Dominic Picard.
Our scouts graded the B.C. Lions as sixth best in the league in Canadian content and they are the best team in the CFL. But the Lions have Harris and Hall of Fame kicker Paul McCallum on their non-import list and they're two of the most impactful Canadians in the league. Maybe B.C. is short on depth and futures but they have ratio-breakers the rest of the league envies.
Have a look at our lists and as always we invite your comments. Send us your Hot List or tell us what you like or dislike about ours.
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