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Saturday, 24 March 2012

Captain no Captain

I'm going to get right to the point here, Dion Phaneuf may wear the "C" symbolizing he is the captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs, but Phaneuf does not lead this team and is frankly not captain material. You have to wonder why the Calgary Flames let go of their prized first round draft pick, who was supposed to be the future of the team- I think Leafs fans are getting a clear picture.

The Calgary Flames drafted Phaneuf 9th overall in 2003, had his rookie season in 2005 in which he scored 20 goals and broke a Flames record for goals scored by a rookie, and became just the 3rd defenseman in NHL history to score 20 goals as a rookie. He was the semi finalist for the Calder trophy losing only to Alexander Ovechkin. He then followed that up with a whopping 50 point season, but after his sophomore year his play started to drop drastically! He had a career low 11 goals and 47 assists and a plus/minus of -11 a rating that is horrid for an NHL defenseman. Questions quickly came about Phaneuf's commitment to defense, the Flames defended him and then threw him to Leafs like a hot potato. The Flames were anxious to dump Phaneuf, but Why?
How desperate were the Flames to dump Phaneuf? Well look at the trade; They took on Matt Stajan, Ian White, Nikalas Hagman and Jamal Mayers (only Stajan is still on the Flames roster) in exchange for, potential franchise player Dion Phaneuf, Keith Aulie and Fredrik Sjostrom. Talk about a steal for the Leafs!

Upon arrival in Toronto, Phaneuf played 26 games scored 2 goals and added 8 assists, and then was named the 18th captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Yes that's right you read that correctly after playing just 26 games he was appointed the Leafs' Captain! In a recent poll done by Sports Illustrated magazine, Dion Phaneuf was named the most overrated player in the NHL by fellow NHLers and I'm starting to see why.

I don't know if it's just this season but Phaneuf looks absolutely atrocious out on the ice, it is extremely easy for opposing players to skate around him and get a solid scoring chance. From what I've seen when Phaneuf is out there on D, it's a liability to the Leafs and that's certainly not something you want from your captain! It's ridiculous when watching him play D, players skate right around him and he looks like he's probably the worst player I've seen above squirts skating backwards! Phaneuf was Ron Wilson's captain, he could do no wrong in the eyes of the former coach and was given full reign over the team and players, but Wilson is gone, Carlyle is in. The way Phaneuf is playing D right now is not what Carlyle wants or expects, I kind of wish he'd strip Phaneuf of his captaincy.

A captain is supposed to be a leader on the team, step up to the plate and take responsibility for not only their own play but the play of their team. If I'm the Leafs coaching staff or management I don't want any young defenseman following in Phaneuf's footsteps! He jumps up in the rush at the wrong times, coughs up the puck before getting it in the oppositions end, is far too easy to go around, doesn't back check hard enough, and misses the freaking net 80% of the time! Doesn't matter how good your shot is if it misses the net!
He is too offensively minded, he doesn't worry nearly as much as he should about his play in the defensive end, he's more offensively focused! He is far too lackadaisical out there, like he doesn't care and frankly he doesn't!

He doesn't care because he was just handed the role of captain, he didn't have to work for it, prove he could handle it or frankly earn it. They didn't give him an "A" first to test his leadership. Nope after just 26 (less than impressive) games they held a press conference and named him captain. As I pointed out earlier, Ron Wilson and Phaneuf were buddies, Wilson wanted him as the captain. Notice in all the time Wilson was the Leafs head coach I don't recall him once calling out Phaneuf or saying that he was responsible for goals, he was always Wilsons little angel and he was never criticized for his play thus making him not care to change. He's been playing like crap all season long and he's been responsible for a majority of the goals. After having a meeting with new head coach Carlyle, Phaneuf summed up what they talked about; "I'm going to keep playing the same way I have always played, and carry myself the same way" Well I sure as heck hope he doesn't because he's been playing horrible all season. The Leafs are going on their 7th year of missing the playoffs,  anyone born around 2000 doesn't really remember the Leafs being in the playoffs (heck I barely do and I'm 18). Fans aren't going to watch this Leafs team play, they're going to notice the so called captain as the worst player on the ice, they're not going to grow up being Leaf fans!

A true captain let's his teammates know that they're screwing up or not playing well, Phaneuf isn't in to that. He has said numerous times that the Leafs are not in a state where he needs to call players out! What the heck is he waiting for? Ron Wilson called players out, the media calls players out, hockey analysts call players out. A captain that is confident and has the whole team behind him should feel comfortable calling a couple players out or going to them privately and talking about their game.

Another major reason why I think Phaneuf is playing such crappy D is his weight, he's frankly too big! He's always tired by the mid second period which is why he is getting lit up in the defensive zone, and guys are blowing right past him. He needs to work on his conditioning! He's 6'3" 218 pounds, now that's not a horrible wieght for a guy of his size, but he's most defiantly out of shape it is extremely evident on the ice, he's always huffing and puffing and it seems like he's hitting a lot less this season. I don't know if he's hurt or what but he's hurting the Leafs!
If you don't want to hustle and battle every night get the heck off the ice, there is a team full of Marlies that would love to take your spot! To be honest Phaneuf is a joke as a captain, teams laugh at the fact that the Leafs have Phaneuf as a captain, the Leafs and Dion Phaneuf are one of the biggest laughingstocks of the NHL.

I'm sorry but Phaneuf is not captain material, the Leafs need someone else to be captain. His play all season has been poor to say the least, his "I could care less" attitude needs to go, and his responsibility to defense needs to improve (considering he is a defenseman). I think Carlyle should sit Phaneuf when he's not playing well, bench him for a few games get his attention, he thinks he's untouchable.
Bottom line, the Leafs will never win the Stanley Cup with players like Phaneuf leading this team!

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