Wednesday, June 17, 2009

CFL in Ottawa: Cohon says import ratio could be tweaked

Talk about a Canadian conundrum: The CFL's chances in the nation's capital could rest on American players.

League commissioner Mark Cohon told SUN TV's Casino Rama Grill Room last night that the league of loosening the import rule for the Ottawa Rough Riders begin play. The gist of what he told host Gareth Wheeler was that, "we need to ensure that team can become competitive quickly, and one thing we would look at doing is letting them have a few more Americans when Ottawa comes back into the league in 2012."

It is not the big CFL story of the past couple days, but it sounds promising. The rank-and-file fans whose support will make or break the Reconstituteds (as they shall henceforth be known until it's official they'll be the Rough Riders) likely won't care too much. They're more about Ws than whether the Will linebacker grew up in Waterloo or Walla Walla.

What Cohon said is worth passing on for posterity's sake. The current import ratio is 21-18-3 (Canadians, imports and quarterbacks, who are stateless in the CFL's eyes). There's a risk in crediting it for the emergence of ratio-busters (Canadians who play positions traditionally earmarked for Americans) such as the B.C. Lions receiver Paris Jackson, Edmonton running backs Jesse Lumsden and Calvin McCarty and Kingston native Brent Johnson, who plays defensive end for B.C.

Those players can be few and far between and the eight established clubs will not be eager to part with them via an expansion draft. Tweaking the import ratio to 25-14, maybe for Ottawa's first 2-3 seasons, might help with their efforts. It has been noted previously (April 24, 2009) that putting a team that plays good football on the field will be Job One in Ottawa. The league has had two re-launches within the past 15 years, first in Montréal in 1996 and then Ottawa in 2002. One succeeded beyond everyone's wildest dreams, the other did not.
"Montréal got an established team ... which was competitive right off the hop. The terms of the expansion draft should reflect that the overall growth of an underdog league trumps Edmonton or Winnipeg's depth chart. There is no obvious, less direct way to break that to Westerners. The league also said in 2006 it would "place an emphasis on assisting Ottawa to field a competitive team upon its return."
Again, we'll see how this holds up once Ottawa rejoins the league. CFL owners' generosity only extends to far (propping up a struggling Southern Ontario franchise, good, letting the new kids on the block raid your roster, bad).

It is at least something worth pursuing. The point will remain the same, though, the terms of the expansion draft are going to have to be more generous than they were the last time around. It is one thing to let the Reconstituteds dress a few more Americans, but if they're all rookies or newcomers to the Canadian game, it would be self-defeating.


Dennis Prouse said...

First off, the three QBs are essentially imports. Why in the world would you use up a QB spot on a Canadian when it doesn't give you any ratio benefits? It's a dumb rule.

That rant out of the way, there is no question that Cohon's proposal is the cleanest, easiest way to help Ottawa be competitive. Let's be clear -- filling those last few Canadian roster spots is very difficult sometimes. Adam Rita got himself in trouble a few years back for speaking too bluntly on the subject, but he was right - the drop off on Canadian talent is pretty steep past your first few guys. The top shelf Canadians can compete with anyone, but every GM in the league will tell you that when it comes to those last few Canadians on the roster, they could quickly find an import that would be immeasurably better. I hate saying that, but it's true.

This also gets Cohon out of a political jam with the existing teams. Asking them to give up quality Canadian starters? You might as well ask them to blindfold their QB. Canadian depth in this league is like gold. I maintain that was the Renegades' primarily problem in their last year. Their import talent was as good as anyones, but once past the first few guys their Canadian skill and depth was cover-your-eyes awful. They had to play them, of course, and that is what killed them.

dzuunmod said...

Is it a done deal that the Reconstituteds will have a place to play in 2012 then?

sager said...

@ Dennis: Take it for what it was, a throwaway line about how QBs are exempt ... any thinking CFL fan has probably made peace with not seeing a Canadian QB in the league ever again, to be completely honest.

@ dzuunmod: No, alas it does not ... the city still hasn't signed off. Cohon said 2012, so there is a lot of time.

Anonymous said...

With the (sudden?) backlash against the Landsdowne Live bid, I am starting to think we will never get our team back.

All this city needed was a solid ownership group all along, and we never had anything but a series of bad owners (as the Riders), then basically a Grey Cup cash-grab expansion fiasco (Watters et. al)The second go round with Lonie and Pa was done before it got started.I don't actually blame them THAT time..They have never had deep enough pockets to fix that stadium to the level that has been needed for at least 20 years. Hunt and Greenberg should have been pushing this train since/during the last expansion.Easy to say now, but that is not 'new' money by any stretch.

Now the non-football loving city as a whole is skeptical (because of above ownership reasons)that it could or will ever work. Some people have faith in the Hunt/Greenberg bid (like me), but to many it feels like johnny-come-lately scores a real estate deal first, and the team second..which in itself is not bad..but in this town that sees 2 failures, they view that real estate part as the be-all and end all. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I do too....

Sorry for the rant but I have kept this in for a long time. I, like many just want my team back.

Dennis Prouse said...

I'm not seeing any real backlash against Lansdowne Live, except from the usual suspects in the Glebe. Can the Glebe and Old Ottawa South pile a few hundred NIMBYs into the Cattle Castle? Sure they can, but it doesn't mean much. Ottawa has a ward system, and Lansdowne Live has plenty of votes to pass. Clive Doucet, the biggest dork on Council, is carrying the ball for the anti-Lansdowne types, and he is even more unpopular than the Mayor. I fully expect Lansdowne Live to be approved in late August.

My rant against the QB rule, Neate, is a rant against the CFL itself for putting in this idiotic rule. If they just set the import/Canadian ratio at 21 a piece, at least then a team would get some ratio benefit out of having a Canadian as a backup or third string QB. As it stands now, though, the league is essentially mandating teams to have Americans as QBs. They will deny that, of course, but why else would you single out QBs in this way, denying your teams the ability to have a ratio breaker at that position. It is ridiculous, and no CFL person to whom I have asked the question has ever given me a decent answer for the policy.