The Bombers have lost a key cog in the club’s offensive line.
Matthias Goossen, the first player drafted during the Kyle Walters era, announced his retirement on Tuesday.
Goossen became the Bombers’ starting centre midway through the 2015 season after being selected second overall in the 2014 CFL draft. Named a CFLPA all-star in 2017, Goossen got his first West Division and CFL all-star nod in 2018 after his best professional season. The Simon Fraser product and Richmond, B.C. native is still just 26 years of age.
Rumours surrounding Goossen’s retirement have been circulating for weeks, meaning the Bombers weren’t caught off guard by Tuesday’s news. Still, losing a national player as young and talented as Goossen is a tough thing to overcome.
Goossen’s retirement is a reminder of the importance of maintaining a constant supply of offensive linemen by way of the CFL draft.
Winnipeg had excellent depth along the offensive line as recently as two months ago. Patrick Neufeld, Matthias Goossen, and Sukh Chungh were entrenched as the starters with Michael Couture as the sixth man, Cody Speller and Qadr Spooner on the practice roster, and Geoff Gray testing out the NFL. The team also had three 2018 draft picks — Montreal’s Arnaud Gendron-Dumouchel, Matthew Ouellet de Carlo of Bishop’s, and Waterloo’s Ben Koczwara — playing out their final year of USports eligibility.
With Sukh Chungh likely departing via free agency next month — don’t be surprised if he joins his hometown B.C. Lions — the Bombers are suddenly thinner up front than at any point in recent memory.
That isn’t to say the club should panic.
Winnipeg signed Michael Couture to a one-year contract extension last week. Selected in the second round of the 2016 CFL draft, Couture should be ready to take over Goossen’s role in the starting line-up.
The club was also able to get Geoff Gray under contract late last season following a two-year stint in the NFL. Gray should become the team’s starting right guard in the (likely) event that Chungh moves on via free agency, a transition that should prove relatively seamless.
Second-year man Cody Speller — capable of playing both centre and guard — will have the inside track to become the club’s new reserve lineman. Ouellet de Carlo and Koczwara, both interior players, will also have a shot at earning depth roles with the club.
The Bombers also have two first-round picks in May’s draft with top-tier offensive line prospects such as Oklahoma State’s Shane Richards, Laval’s Samuel Thomassin and Kansas’ Alex Fontana available.
But losing an excellent, young offensive lineman is tough — especially without reaping compensation via trade. That happened earlier this off-season when Arnaud Gendron-Dumouchel retired following an injury-riddled season at Montreal and it has happened again with Goossen’s retirement. The same will likely happen in two weeks should Chungh depart for the west coast.
Three players. Two first-round picks.
There’s no such thing as having too many young national offensive linemen in the CFL. Goossen’s retirement only reinforces that fact.
Goossen’s decision to leave football on his own terms is, in many ways, admirable. Many players try to continue playing long after their best years are behind them, unable to transition into life after football.
Goossen is retiring without exposing his mind and body to further risk of injury. He called the opportunity to play five years of professional football “a true blessing” in a statement to BlueBombers.com and it doesn’t appears as though he’ll have any regrets about leaving the game behind.
It would also be wrong not to mention the work that Goossen did in and around Winnipeg during his time with the Bombers. Goossen was constantly doing speaking engagements with local organizations — charities, schools, and otherwise — and was twice given the team’s Ed Kotowich Good Guy Award.
Godspeed, Matthias. You’ll be missed.