Dion Phaneuf: Void Of Impact?
When Toronto Maple Leafs’ general manager Brian Burke pulled off the blockbuster, seven-player deal that netted him Dion Phaneuf (amongst others) late last season, it was thought that—given the fact that Burke had brought in the best player in the deal (Phaneuf)—that the Maple Leafs had won the trade.
Clearly, shortsighted predictions can nip you in the butt in the long term, but when you look at the overall records of both the Calgary Flames and the Toronto Maple Leafs, as well as the seven players’ (some of which have been traded for parts) output, the trade seems to be a wash.
At least at this point.
Upon his anointment as team captain for the Maple Leafs, many felt that Phaneuf, like so many other captains before him, would be exposed to adversity, scrutiny and—to some extent—unfair expectations predicated by both the media and the fans of the Blue and White.
Thus far, Phaneuf has enjoyed a surprisingly easy first season as the Maple Leafs team captain. In fact, Phaneuf has been afforded a tremendous amount of slack from both the media and the fans. One may even say that he has been unaccountable and eerily silent.
This season has been void of any inspirational quotes from Phaneuf and his on-ice performance has been mediocre at best.
Sure, the Maple Leafs’ record with Phaneuf in the lineup may be a few percentage points better than without him, but it is very hard to quantify what he does on the ice that is making an impact on the team’s performance.
Case in point, on a team that is desperate for goals, Phaneuf has managed just one goal on the season, on December 14thagainst the Edmonton Oilers.
Phaneuf’s eight points in 28 games equates to a paltry 0.28 points per game, a far cry from the 0.40 points per game he was averaging with the Flames prior to joining the Buds. It’s an even bigger gap when you consider his career high of 60 points in 82 games with the Flames during the 2007-2008 campaign, which equates to 0.69 points per game.
The reality is, through 54 games with the Maple Leafs, Phaneuf has just three goals and a total of 18 points. That equates to 0.33 points per game, which just isn’t good enough for a player that carries a cap hit of $6.5 million.
Worse yet, for a player that averages 3:30 of power-play time per game, Phaneuf has yet to score a power-play marker, and has no goals and just four assists on the PP this season.
Mediocre five-on-five play followed by questionable power-play output is enough to make a case that Phaneuf simply is not pulling his weight. Never mind the fact that he rarely fights, never mind the fact that his bone-crushing hits (he has 43 hits on the season through 28 games) look to be a thing of the past. The fact is Phaneuf is living a very quiet existence here in Toronto, both on and off the ice.
Those in the know (mainly Brian Burke and Leafs’ head coach Ron Wilson) say that Phaneuf has been the catalyst behind the Maple Leafs’ change in attitude. Given the fact that not much has changed in the standings and that the team has been void of any personality for much of the season, the question I would pose to Burke and Wilson is this: what attitude change are we talking about here?
This group of Maple Leafs rarely plays any bigger than last season’s edition. Sure, Luke Schenn looks to be hitting more, as does Francois Beauchemin, but Phaneuf (who had 69 hits in 26 games for the Maple Leafs in 2009-10) is taking a nose-dive in that department, which is not what he was brought to Toronto for, was it?
Leafs fans could accept Phaneuf’s disinterest in hitting if he was getting it done on the scoreboard and the fact is, he is not. Perhaps the Leafs Nation could cut Phaneuf some slack if he was contributing exceptional numbers on the power play—sadly, he is not.
Let’s face it, Leaf fans, as good as Phaneuf has been in spurts, he has failed to make an impact and unless he changes the way he plays, we’ll probably never see him reach the potential that everyone in the hockey world thought he could hit after his first three years in the NHL.
Can you imagine if a player of Phaneuf’s ilk was selected as the captain of the Montreal Canadiens and proceeded to play as poorly as he has in Toronto there? They would be serving his ribs at the Bar-B-Barn! And that’s no word of a lie!
Phaneuf has three years left on his contract after this season. Each of them carries a cap hit of $6.5 million. It would be nice if Phaneuf started to earn his paycheck—then again, Toronto always seems to forgive their under-performing players—lord knows we Leaf fans have endured many.
Until next time.