The Continuing Failings of Toronto FC

Late April/early May have not been kind to Toronto FC, and in all of the one of the matches during this time period, they have once again been the architects of their own demise.  Late goals continue to haunt the Reds, and the fact that it is happening on a continual basis is what is the most staggering issue of this whole debacle.

For most of the 2012 Major League Soccer season, TFC was prone to mental lapses in defending late in matches, and conceded goals past the 80th minute in ten matches last season that cost the club points, and that trend is already ahead of pace this season as they have conceded beyond 80 minutes in six of their last seven MLS matches to drop points.

Late mental lapses can be the undoing of anything else a club does right over the course of a full match, and when a team is having troubles taking their own chances in matches, the defending can ill afford to make mistakes, yet that is exactly what is happening for TFC this season.

Some of the recent culprits of these lapses in defending include Logan Emery last Saturday night against the Rapids in Colorado.  In the 86th minute, the ball dropped to Emory’s feet in his own penalty area, and instead of clearing the ball, he somehow managed to fall over backwards and former Red Edson Buddle made his former team pay by powering the ball into the back of the net.

Last evening, The Reds gave up an 81st minute goal to last season’s MLS MVP and Golden Boot winner, Chris Wonodolowski, that cost TFC to drop even more points this season.  A goal off of a late set piece once again led to the downfall of the side, leaving points on the table that should have been theirs.  Leading 1-0 after 45 minutes, TFC failed to put an opponent away once again, and into the final 10 minutes it came back to haunt them yet again.

Once again, this lapse in defending highlighted another key issue that The Reds are having this season, as they lack the quality to finish in the attacking third, as they spoil chance after chance during matches.  The key culprit on this front is striker Robert Earnshaw.  While Earnshaw has potted five goals so far this season for TFC, in the last few matches the number of missed opportunities has sky-rocketed for the Welshman.

Going into the 2013 Major League Soccer season, TFC fans knew it was going to be a rebuilding year and that it could wind up being a long campaign, but some early positive results may have increased hopes and dreams of the supporters, but with the current roster and some injury concerns, these results have been found to be not sustainable.

I’m not sure if this is a result of poor training, poor conditioning, mental breakdowns, players just not caring or what the cause is, but one thing is for sure, there is something seriously wrong with Toronto FC at this time, and Kevin Payne and Ryan Nelsen have some hard work ahead of them trying to resolve the issues and change the culture of the club.

As always, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer.  Cheers.

Toronto Blue Jays Week Two Recap

reyesThe second week of the Major League Baseball season was a week where the Toronto Blue Jays started to show more of what they can do, but also a week where they lost a key contributor to their 2013 hopes.  The Blue Jays went 3-3 on their first road trip of the season, losing their third consecutive series to start the season in Detroit before taking two of three on the weekend in Kansas City.

The biggest downfall of this past week for the Blue Jays was the loss of lead-off man Jose Reyes for up to three months with an ankle sprain.  Friday night in Kansas City saw what looked like a botched hit-and-run cause Reyes to be caught between running out a play for second base or sliding, choosing to slide and catching his trailing left foot in the dirt.

Reyes stayed down and was eventually carted off the field, and MRI tests on Saturday revealed his ankle sprain which will keep him sidelined for anywhere from one to three months.

Despite the loss of Reyes, the Jays were able to rebound from an ugly three game set in Detroit to win the first two games of the series against the Royals and have a chance at a series sweep before the Royals walked off in the bottom of the ninth inning on Sunday afternoon.

What the weekend did show us once again is that the biggest issue facing the Blue Jays so far this season is hitting with runners in scoring position.  For the season, Toronto is hitting just .215 with runners in scoring position, and that drops to .195 when there are already two outs.  The Blue Jays record of 5-7 is a direct representation of their inability so far this season to drive in runs.

As quick as fans are to jump all over the starting pitching so far this season, I truly believe that the biggest issue facing the Blue Jays is their hitting, or more accurately, their lack of hitting so far this season.

Good outings in Kansas City from J.A. Happ, who leads the Blue Jays with two wins so far this season, R.A. Dickey, who picked up his first win as a Jay, and Brandon Morrow, showed signs that the starting rotation is finding their groove, and some strong outings from the bullpen allowed the Blue Jays to get close to .500 again this season.

Also this past weekend, word came out of Dunedin that Brett Lawrie was playing in a game for the Dunedin Blue Jays at second, the position he played at in the Milwaukee Brewers organization before being dealt to the Jays and transitioning to third where he played last season.  As a result of this, Jose Bautista spent the weekend playing at third, possibly setting up what could be the Blue Jays infield this coming weekend against the New York Yankees.

For the Blue Jays this week, they return home for a four game series starting Monday against the Chicago White Sox with Mark Buehrle facing his former team for the first time, and then a three game set on the weekend against the New York Yankees.  A rebound week will go a long way to showing the fans that the Blue Jays are still for real in the 2013 MLB season.

As always, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer.  Cheers.

Toronto FC Match Six

bendikToronto FC ventured south of the border for the first time this season as they travelled to Philadelphia to take on the Union in each sides sixth match of the season.  At the start of the day, the Union led TFC by two points in the Eastern Conference standings, and both sides were clearly looking for a result, and the ensuing 1-1 draw more than likely left a bad taste in both clubs mouths.

In another match that showed just how far TFC have yet to go in their rebuild, it was the efforts of Joe Bendik, the supposed back-up keeper in Toronto, who made his sixth consecutive start in net and was the Man of the Match indeed.  Bendik made some amazing saves throughout the entire match and has more than earned the right to continue to start in goal for the Reds moving forward ahead of Stefan Frei.

Robert Earnshaw continues to impress as he scored his fifth goal in six games this season for TFC which puts him in a tie atop the league scoring charts so far in 2013 as well.  For the first time as a Red, Earnshaw did not score from either the spot or capitalizing on a poor back pass, but by coming in hard on the keeper and beating him cleanly.

Following the goal from TFC in the 71st minute, the Union continued to press and cause the Reds to commit foul after foul, including collecting five yellow cards, but the visitors continued to weather the storm and started to look like they might escape the City of Brotherly Love with the full three points.

All of that came crashing back down to Earth in the 88th minute when Ashtone Morgan collected his second yellow card of the match and was sent off, leaving TFC to defend the rest of the match with 10 men.

The Union took full advantage of this, almost scoring off of the ensuing free kick but the referee judged that Bendik had been fouled trying to collect the ball and the Union goal was called back.  In the third minute of injury time, the Union found their equalizer from Jack McInerney when he was left un-marked, a running theme this season for the Reds.

This was the third straight draw for Toronto FC, and the second in which they gave up a late equalizer.  The final ten to fifteen minutes of matches was very much an Achilles heal for the Reds last season, and over the past three matches has seen them lose the lead twice and equalize once for a difference of a lost three points so far this season.  If this tightens up, TFC could very well end up ahead of schedule on this current rebuild.

After six matches, arguments could be made for either Robert Earnshaw or Joe Bendik as the team most valuable player, as Earnshaw has scored five times in six matches and Bendik has been stellar in goal, but I would give full honours to Bendik as he has single handedly kept the Reds in almost all six matches so far this season.

As for Toronto FC, injuries are starting to become a concern as the team was already without Terry Dunfield and Richard Eckersley for this match and lost Darel Russell early in the match.  What this does is create a hole in the back four, as Russell and Eckersley both started at left and right back recently for the Reds.  These injuries will truly test the depth of the back four, which was thought to be a strength for TFC at the start of the season.

Toronto FC return to action this coming Saturday at BMO Field as they host the Houston Dynamo.  The Reds will put their unbeaten start at home on the line against a Dynamo side that have four wins from six matches so far this season.

As always, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer.  Cheers.

Toronto Blue Jays Week One Recap

dickeyThe first week of the 2013 Major League Baseball season is in the books, and for the Toronto Blue Jays it was a week of ups and downs, some rockiness and an introduction to a new segment of the fan base that traditionalists are not proud to be associated with.

The Blue Jays finished Opening Week with a mark of 2-4, but only one of those four losses was a true stinker, yesterday’s series closer with fellow AL East rivals, the Boston Red Sox, which the Sox won 13-0.  This game featured two poor pitching performances for the Blue Jays and a subpar batting lineup due to injury concerns.  Sound familiar? It should, as that was the story of the second half of last season.

With Brett Lawrie still in Florida recovering from an injury suffered at the start of the World Baseball Classic, and Jose Bautista missing the entire series against the Red Sox with a tweak to his ankle, the Blue Jays batting order has not looked anything like we thought it would, and with rough starts for mainstays Melky Cabrera, Edwin Encarnacion, Adam Lind and Colby Rasmus, Toronto has been fighting an uphill battle in most games, playing from behind early.

As for the starting rotation, only Brandon Morrow and J.A. Happ can be happy with their outings so far.  Rough debuts for R.A. Dickey, Mark Buerhle and Josh Johnson have caused the Blue Jays to have to turn to their bullpen too early in most of their games so far this season.

However, the thing to remember so far is that the MLB season is 162 games long, and that the Blue Jays have only played six of those games, and of those six games, they have won two games, been blown out of one, and lost three other games but that they were in all three of those games, including going to extra innings in one of them.  That is not a sign of a team that is not being competitive at all.

At this point and time, this is a team that has been severely impacted by the 2013 World Baseball Classic, and once the early season injuries are taken care of and the jitters disappear from some pitchers, this is a team that will still have a fun, entertaining season and will compete for the playoffs.

The key thing to remember about a 162 game season after only a single week is, even with a 2-4 record, the Blue Jays are only two games back of the division lead.  It is time to pack away the doom and gloom for the time being and just sit back and watch as this team starts to come together.

As always, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer.  Cheers.

Toronto FC Match Five

russellA week after being victimized by a late goal by the two-time defending Los Angeles Galaxy in a 2-2 draw at their BMO Field opener, Toronto FC was able to turn the tables on the current Western Conference leading FC Dallas yesterday afternoon in a 2-2 draw.

For most of the match, Dallas was able to carry the bulk of the play as Toronto was concerned with trying to defend instead of moving forward in the absence of defender Danny Califf who was out with the flu and midfielder Terry Dunfield who could be out for up to a month with an injury.

In their places, Gale Agbossoumonde earned his first ever Major League Soccer start in the back four for TFC and Jonathan Osorio made his first ever start as well in midfield, a week after scoring his first ever professional goal.

As a result of the wariness that TFC played with in the opening 45 minutes, Dallas was able to have chance after chance at the TFC goal, and even though they only had one shot on goal in the half, they made it count when the hosts failed to defend a set piece with Andrew Jacobson putting the visitors on top 1-0 in the 34th minute.

In the second half, a midfield mistake by loanee John Bostock, who was trying to do far too much at the time, led to Dallas extending their lead to 2-0 in the 59th minute when Blas Perez victimized the much maligned Darel Russell in his second straight start for TFC at right back.

As the second half wore on though, TFC was able to venture into the attacking areas a little more often, and this falls at the feet of Luis Silva, who came on at half time in place of Osorio and was able to start creating some chances for the hosts.  Even with that being said though, it was the inclusion of Justin Braun, making his TFC debut, in the 73rd minute for Bostock that was the biggest instrument of change in the match for Head Coach Ryan Nelsen.

In the 85th minute, Braun, who had been out of action with concussion symptoms since pre-season play, was able to head/shoulder the ball over the goal line on a broken play to get TFC on the board and to create a wild finish the likes of which has usually cost TFC points late in matches.

Defender Darren O’Dea was front and centre for two chances for the Reds to find an equalizer, including being pulled down from behind in the box in what should have been a clear penalty that was waived off by the referee, then moments later having an effort saved by Dallas keeper Raul Fernandez.

Moments later, another foray forward for TFC resulted in the ball falling to the feet of Russell, who had this moment to atone for being the defender responsible for the last three goals scored against Toronto.  Russell corralled the ball and struck a candidate for MLS Goal of the Week into the far side of the goal to pull the Reds level at 2-2 in the 90th minute.

After both sides had scoring chances in injury time, the whistle finally blew, and TFC fans had a much brighter view of a 2-2 score line than they had the previous week.  On a cold, blustery afternoon in front of a larger than visible crowd of 16,111, some of whom had left as the match wound into its final moments with the home side down by two, Toronto FC proved that they are a side that can show excitement and is still taking huge steps forward towards being competitive.

Up next for Toronto FC is a visit to City of Brotherly Love next weekend to take on the Philadelphia Union who currently sit two points ahead of TFC with 7 points from 5 matches so far this season.  TFC are on 5 points through 5 matches, a mark that they did not hit during the 2012 MLS season until June 23.

As

Calgary Flames Trade Deadline and Rebuild

feasterThe Calgary Flames have spent the last half a decade or so trying to convince themselves, their fans, their players and the greater hockey community as a whole that they were one or two pieces away from being able to make a deep playoff run like the one they made nine years ago back in 2004.

As a result of this policy, the Flames have missed the Stanley Cup playoffs for each of the last three seasons and seem destined to make it four straight seasons this year.  This current stretch began in the 2009-10 season when the Flames finished in 10th spot in the Western Conference, five points back of the playoffs.  It continued in the 2010-11 season when they once again finished in 10th spot, this time just three points back of 8th place.  Last season, the Flames were once again five points out of the playoffs as they finished in 9th spot, just behind the eventual 2012 Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings.

Regardless of the man in charge, be it former General Manager Darryl Sutter or current GM Jay Feaster, the Flames have tread a very similar course in how they approached building their team.

With perennial All Stars like Jarome Iginla and Miikka Kiprusoff, there was always the hope that the Flames would be able to add just one more piece to their puzzle to be able to just make the playoffs as once in the playoffs, you never know what can happen if you go on a run.

This has not been a successful game plan to follow for the Flames, as in the four seasons before this run of not making the playoffs, the Flames were eliminated in the first round all four seasons, and two of those years they barely qualified for them to begin with.

Well, the whole house of cards has come tumbling down during the shortened 2013 National Hockey League season for the Calgary Flames and as a result of this, Jay Feaster has had to make some tough decisions.

As a result of this, we have already seen the Flames trade their best player of all-time, Jarome Iginla, to the Pittsburgh Penguins for two prospects and the Penguins 2013 1st Round pick on Wednesday of last week.  Following up on that, on Monday of this week, the Flames also traded defenseman Jay Bouwmeester to the St. Louis Blues for another pair of prospects and a 1st round pick as well, but whether that will be in the 2013 draft or the 2014 is yet to be seen.

The only move that the Flames made on the NHL Trade Deadline day was sending Blake Comeau to the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for a 5th round pick.  This is actually a move of substance, as the Flames claimed Comeau from the the New York Islanders last season on waivers, so the fact they were able to flip him for a draft pick at all is amazing.

What that also means is that the Flames did not move Miikka Kiprusoff yesterday either, a move to honour the wishes of the best goaltender in franchise history and allow him to finish out this season in Calgary after the recent birth of his child.  The chances are high that Kiprusoff will in fact be retiring at the end of season as well, so the lack of a return asset is a tad upsetting, but completely understandable.

After the deadline passed yesterday at 3pm Eastern, GM Jay Feaster had a press conference in which he unveiled that the Flames currently have four untouchable assets in Curtis Glencross, Sven Baertschi, Mark Giordano and T.J. Brodie.  This despite the fact that Feaster fielded calls from upwards of 25 teams to see about making a trade for Glenross, and the fact that Baertschi is currently playing in the American Hockey League with the Abbotsford Heat.

What the deadline, along with additional comments from Feaster where he was apparently told by one of the Flames’ owners that it is the playoffs or bust next season, tell us is that the Flames are not entering into what would be considered as a rebuild in the traditional sense, and that may seem scary to many Flames fans, yours truly included.

What this signifies is that the Flames are prepared to do more of the same, continuing on the same path as always, by trying to fit a large square peg into a small round hole and expecting the fans to just go along with it as they always have.  The main problem with that is that in the past two weeks, the Flames have traded away their best player ever, traded away their best all-around defenseman, and attempted to trade their best goalie of all-time, who may just be retiring at the end of this month.

Flames fans, the team is essentially asking us all to continue to bang our collective heads against a stone wall and hope that eventually it will make a difference.  At this point and time, it is clear that the problem with the Flames is no longer with the management team, no matter how inept they have seemed, or the scouting department, no matter how useless the draft has become to the Flames, but with the ownership team.

The owner are so worried about the bottom line of their profits that they will not allow the team to actually go through a complete rebuild process, instead opting for this continuos reload process where they hand out bad contract after bad contract in the hopes of making money selling two or three playoff tickets a year.  The problem with this system is  the fact that they are on the verge of completely alienating their fan base, and without a fan base, there is no business model.

Most Flames fans today are screaming for a rebuild, not a retool, nor a reload, but a full rebuild.  The fact that the fan base is willing to lose a season or two in hopes of coming out of it a better team with a brighter future is something that Flames ownership should be grabbing with both hands and riding all the way.  Not many fan bases will stay loyal through a rebuild, but it sure seems like the Flames may have that option.  Now, if only they had the balls to go through with it.

Toronto FC Match Four

osorio

Toronto FC’s 2013 Major League Soccer season continued on Saturday with their fourth consecutive match in Canada as they played their second match in Toronto with their season debut at BMO Field against the two-time defending MLS Cup champions, LA Galaxy.

Coming off of a bye week during an International break for the rest of the soccer world, TFC saw many players either have duty for their national squads or receive some time off to head overseas to see friends and family, and as a result, the opening 25 minutes of this match saw a lack of cohesiveness and some rust, and as a result of this, TFC were behind early on a Galaxy goal in the 16th minute as Mike Magee scored his fifth goal of the young season for Los Angeles.

Toronto pulled level in the 29th minute as Robert Earnshaw capitalized once again on a poor back pass by an opposition defender, and when he turned the onrushing Galaxy keeper, floated in his fourth goal in four matches for the Reds in the 29th minute, which signaled a turnaround in the play for the hosts as they started to find their game.

The second half was a more open affair as both sides seemed to feel that they could collect all three points from this match, forcing both keepers into saves to keep their sides in the match.

After TFC made a pair of substitutions, Jonathan Osorio and Luis Silva, the Reds went on the attack, with Silva backing off the Galaxy defense and then Osorio lightly turning in Silva’s ensuing shot to give TFC a 2-1 lead in the 78th minute.  For Osorio, from nearby Brampton, Ontario, there could be no better way to score your first professional goal.

What the late goal for TFC meant was that it was going to be a perfect time to show that they were going to be able to move past what was their biggest downfall of the 2012 season, and that was their inability to not give up late goals, as they conceded 16 goals in the final 15 minutes of matches last season.

Despite their best efforts to the contrary, a Galaxy goal in injury time ended up seeing the Reds dropping two points but creating a 2-2 result that was probably the most honest result from the match.  Darel Russell, getting his first start of the year for TFC, headed a Galaxy cross back across goal and Jose Villareal, an LA sub himself, scissor kicked the ball past Toronto keeper Joe Bendik to pull the Galaxy level.

At this time of the season, TFC has now allowed six goals from four matches, and the one person that you cannot blame for Toronto’s lack of success is the so-called back-up keeper, Joe Bendik.  Bendik has come up with a couple of saves that are legitimate save of the year candidates and he has been a big reason why the Reds have collected four points already this season.

The Reds had what many experts called a rough start to the season, opening on the road against Vancouver Whitecaps, home to the defending Eastern Conference regular season champions, Sporting KC, then at the Montreal Impact and then back home against the Galaxy, and many would not have been surprised to see Toronto open with four losses, so a win and a draw and being competitive in all four matches is a huge step forward this season in another rebuild for TFC.

Up next for Toronto FC is another fixture at home at BMO Field against FC Dallas who currently lead Major League Soccer with four wins and twelve points from five matches so far this season, so this will be another good test for the Reds moving forward.

As always, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer.  Cheers.

The Iginla Trade

iggysidThis has been the trade that all Calgary Flames fans have been fearing for years.  The trade that, deep down inside all of us, we all knew was coming.  The trade that signifies an end of an era, an end of a dream that came alive in the spring of 2004 but never saw the full light of day.  The trading of Jarome Iginla from the Calgary Flames.

What a spectacle it was.  In such a manner that befits a player that was once called the best player in the league, the Iginla trade may end up going down in history as the trade that most signifies the social media era of professional sports.

In a trade that from 8pm Eastern was expected to be with the Boston Bruins, through the speculation that it was in fact for two prospects and a pick that was all but confirmed once the Bruins-Canadiens game was over, to the unfortunate on-air confirmation of the trade on TSN by Aaron Ward, to the sudden change in the trade when Jarome Iginla chose the Pittsburgh Penguins to be traded to.

Many people out there, wether they be actual members of the media or just people who use social media to speculate on things, have been tearing apart Jay Feaster for the trade and what assets he actually got back in return for one of the best players in the National Hockey League.  While I wish the Flames could have gotten more in return for Iginla, I will not join the parade of tearing down Feaster.

The actual return for Jarome Iginla from the Pittsburgh Penguins were college prospects Kenneth Agostino, a forward from Yale University, Ben Hanowski, a forward with St. Cloud State, and the Penguins 1st round pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.  While neither player pops out at you and most Flames hope that the pick is the 30th pick as that means Iginla would have his Stanley Cup finally, this is not a bad trade for the Flames.

The reason why I say that is many lamented the Joe Nieuwendyk trade when it was made way back in December of 1995 with the Dallas Stars.  For a player in his prime, the Flames only received journeyman Corey Millen and an unproven 18-year old named Jarome Iginla.  Trading for prospects is never a sure business, and the National Hockey League landscape is littered with junior aged players that have not found stardom, and that was a risk the Flames took with this trade, and it is a risk they are taking again now with trading Iginla.

That being said, getting two young prospects and a first round pick in a seemingly deep draft is a good take for a 35-year old power forward in the midst of another rough start that is not under contract for next season.  Sure, Iginla could re-sign with the Penguins next season, but with their potential salary cap constraints there is no guarantee of that happening, so Iginla could still prove to be a high-priced rental.

For the Penguins, with the acquisition of Iginla, along with Sunday’s trade for Brenden Morrow and Monday’s trade for Douglas Murray, are clearly going all in for a run at the Stanley Cup this season.  Getting Evgeni Malkin back for tonight’s game against the Winnipeg Jets, then adding Iginla to the roster on Saturday will make the Pens a formidable foe in a best-of-seven series come late April and May, and I for one will be cheering them on in hopes of seeing Iginla finally raise the Stanley Cup above his head.

As for the Flames, this is another move with the eye towards the future much like the drafting of Mark Jankowski in the first round of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.  The Flames are finally trying to build a future for their organization, and one has to wonder if Jay Bouwmeester, Miikka Kiprusoff and others may not also get moved out before Wednesday’s trade deadline hits.

The times are finally changing in Calgary, and like it or not, for better or worse, Jay Feaster is going to be at the helm of it, and he got the best he could get for a five week rental player.

As always, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer.  Cheers.

Jarome Iginla

iggy

*********Update #2 – March 27th*********

The Calgary Flames announced two hours before their game with the Colorado Avalanche this evening that Jarome Iginla is a healthy scratch for the first time in his career.  This will end his consecutive game streak at 441 which has been going on since April 7, 2007.

What this signifies is that the Flames clearly have either a deal in place for Iginla or are very close to having a deal in place and don’t want to risk injury to him in tonight’s game.

*********Update – March 25th*********

More rumblings have come out today that the Detroit Red Wings are possibly on Iginla’s list of teams he would be willing to be moved to in the coming nine days.  This would be a good thing for the Flames, especially considering that the Pittsburgh Penguins may no longer be a suitor after their acquisition of Brenden Morrow from the Dallas Stars yesterday.

Also in the rumblings today, it is being reported that the asking price that the Flames are looking for may in fact be two prospects and a first round draft pick as opposed to a roster player, prospect and a draft pick.

*********Original Article – March 24th*********

With the National Hockey League trade deadline, set for Wednesday, April 3 fast approaching, one has to wonder just how many games are left for Jarome Iginla in a Calgary Flames jersey.  Between today and the deadline at 3pm Eastern on that date, the Flames have five games remaining, including three at the ScotiaBank Saddledome.

The Flames must use those games to determine if they are going to cycle the team over in the off season in yet another fruitless effort to claim that the core of the team is good enough to win the Stanley Cup, or if they are finally going to admit that it is time to work towards blowing the team up and starting over, and the key to all of that is Iginla.

Iginla has been the face of the Flames for so long that is hard to remember a time when he was not wearing a flaming C on his chest, or a captain’s C over his heart either.  Iginla was drafted in the 1st Round of the 1995 NHL Entry Draft with the 11th overall pick by the Dallas Stars, but was traded to the Flames on December 20 of 1995 along with veteran Corey Miller for the services of Joe Nieuwendyk, who was holding out on the Flames looking for a new contract.

From his very first game with the Flames, a 1996 Stanley Cup playoff game against the Blackhawks, fans have known what they were going to get with Iginla, as he collected an assist in his first game and scored his first ever NHL goal in the very next game.

Iginla is just one of seven players in the history of the NHL to record eleven consecutive 30-goal season.  He is a two-time Olympic Gold Medalist, instrumental in both Gold Medal Games for Canada.  He has played in a game seven of the Stanley Cup Finals.  He has won the Art Ross Trophy as the League’s leading scorer.  He is a three-time First Team All-Star.  Not many players on a trading block at any time in the history of the NHL have this kind of resume, but ‘Iggy’ does.

What exactly Iginla is worth in a trade is very open to speculation, but one does have to wonder if the potential return will be dwindled by a lack of possible trade partners, especially if the suspected list of teams that Iginla has submitted to the Flames as places he would waive his no-movement clause in order to go to is as short as the reported four teams of the Los Angeles Kings, Chicago Blackhawks, Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins.

Rumours came out of Pittsburgh this week that the Flames are asking for a 1st round draft pick, a roster player, possibly a top 4 defenceman, and a prospect, so a three-piece package.  While some would consider this a heavy price to pay for a 35-year old for a month of the regular season and the playoffs, the intangibles are high for a team bringing in Iginla.

For many lifelong Flames fans, losing the face of the franchise is going to sting to many of them, but as long as the return is enough to try and set the Flames on the right path in the longterm, it should be an acceptable outcome in Calgary.

As always, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer.  Cheers.

Toronto FC Week Three Recap

impacttfcToronto FC were back on the road in week three of the Major League Soccer season, yet once again not leaving Canada as they travelled to Montreal for a Rivalry Week matchup against the Impact at the Olympic Stadium.

For TFC, this was their third straight match indoors and not on grass, following their season opener against the Whitecaps in Vancouver’s BC Place and their own home opeer last week on the turf at Rogers Centre.

After splitting their first two matches of the season, a 1-0 defeat against the Whitecaps and a 2-1 victory over Sporting KC, the trip to Montreal was always going to be a tough match for The Reds, and despite a 2-0 deficit after 45 minutes and a 2-1 final, this match once again showed signs of improvement under the system designed by General Manager Kevin Payne and Head Coach Ryan Nelsen.

For the second straight week, TFC was exploited by a quick attack from their opponents, and unlike last week against Sporting KC, they were already down 1-0 when this one happened, and with it being a late goal in injury time at the end of the first half, it was one of those goals that you never want to see given up.

The opening 45 minutes was a quite even half, despite The Reds trailing 2-0 at the whistle, as the Impact took full advantage of a borderline penalty against Ashtone Morgan that Canadian International Patrice Bernier calmly slotted away to open the scoring in the 34th minute.  The Impact’s second goal was slotted into an empty goal by Marco di Vaio in the first minute of extra time on a beautiful series of passes.

TFC carried the bulk of the play in the second half, including a shot off the crossbar that almost pulled them within a goal in the first part of the second half, and that pressure continued as the half wore on, resulting in the visitors being awarded a penalty of their own in the 68th minute on a foul committed on Terry Dunfield off the ball.

Home Opener hero Robert Earnshaw stepped up and repeated his job from a week ago to pull The Reds within a goal with just over 20 minutes to go in the match.  But that would be as close as TFC got the rest of the way, as the final 20+ minutes ran out with chances from both sides but no more finishing.

Even though they have lost both of their road matches so far this season, TFC are continuing to show signs of improvement, and once they are healthy and solidify their roster, they appear to be a team that is enjoying their rebuild.

Toronto FC are off next weekend before returning to action on March 20th with their BMO Field Opener against the two-time defending Major League Soccer Champions, the Los Angeles Galaxy.

As always, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer.  Cheers.