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Bomber Report

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

West a wasteland for Blue crew

Switching divisions doesn't bode well for woeful Bombers franchise

Posted: 10/3/2013 1:00 AM | Comments: 0

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There has been a lot of focus this week on the fact the Winnipeg Blue Bombers haven't won since 2002 at Calgary's McMahon Stadium.

And no, that's unlikely to change Saturday when the 2-11 Bombers -- the worst team in the CFL -- travel west to take on the 10-3 Calgary Stampeders -- the best team in the league.

But what's more interesting, less well-known and much more troubling than Winnipeg's struggles in Calgary in recent years is the cold, hard fact the Bombers have struggled mightily for a decade to win in any stadium west of the Perimeter Highway.

Consider:

  • Since the start of the 2003 season, the Bombers have played 46 games in Saskatchewan, Calgary, Edmonton and B.C. -- and won seven of them.
  • Even worse is the fact it's been getting worse in recent years. The Bombers are currently riding a 10-game losing streak in West Division stadiums that goes all the way back to July 2011; they've won just once in their last 15 games out West; and they've won just twice in their last 23 games out West.

That's right -- the Bombers are 2-21 the last 23 times they've travelled out West.

That's bad. Really, really bad.

But what's worst of all is the fact this Bombers franchise, which has proven itself unable to win out West, actually volunteered this year to move to the CFL's West Division beginning next season, meaning they will have to play even slightly more often in those very same West Division stadiums where they've been unable to win.

Want a recipe for disaster? It would look quite a bit like that.

Now, if there's a bright side to all this it's that during this same period Winnipeg has proven unable to win out West, they've actually posted a slim winning record -- 25-22 -- against those same teams when the game is in Winnipeg.

Still, the Bombers have a woeful combined record of 32-60-1 -- that's a .344 winning percentage -- since 2003 against the four teams that will be their new roommates in the CFL's West Division.

So now what, you ask? Get better -- a lot better. And do it very quickly.

"We're going to have to find out the formula for winning out there pretty quick," Bombers offensive lineman Glenn January said Wednesday, "because our schedule is not going to be getting any easier."

His head coach agreed.

"It's going to be harder," head coach Tim Burke said about his team's impending move West. "Not only do we have to improve our personnel in the off-season, we have to improve it to be playing in the West as well."

Burke said he doesn't think there's any big secret why the Bombers have struggled in the West.

"I don't know if there's anything systemic about it," said Burke. "I just know the western teams traditionally are stronger than the eastern teams as a whole group... It's just hard to win out West."

However, Burke ventured that while the Bombers will have to play two more games against West Division opponents next year than those from the East, that might not necessarily be a bad thing.

"I think the other thing is once you get into the West and you're playing those teams more often and you're more familiar with them, in that respect it's a positive. You end up having to step up your game."

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 3, 2013 D6

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