Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Leafs Line - Eneuf of Phaneuf

Forgive the title folks.

There used to be this game called hockey, it was a glorious thing. Centremen and wingers knew to tread carefully as they crossed the opposing blue line. Defensemen spent their minutes eagerly awaiting a cocky forward's headstrong approach to their net for which they could answer with a resounding, bench-clearing-brawl-starting hit... May that sport rest in piece.

Hockey as we used to know it died years ago, but some players fought valiantly to prevent the NHL's higher-ups from really putting those last nails in the old gal's coffin. One of those champions of good, full-contact play was none other than Dion Phaneuf. You would hear of him -to borrow from basketball's vernacular- 'posterizing' players with hits that left them wondering which way was up, and they were GOOD hits. He was a player that a young physical player could look up to as a role model for their own style of play. He'd take aim, step up and go body-on-body with anyone crossing the blue line and take them from full-speed to a dead stop in an instant and he was prized for it. Add to that the fact that he could send in bombs from the point and you had a pretty lethal player. Unfortunately it would seem that the Phaneuf we knew, loved, and acquired from Calgary is also dead and gone.

Yeah, about that 'C'...
Now I wasn't all that fond of Phaneuf by the end of the 2011-12 season. I'd set aside a page on my old blog known as "Dion's Phan-omenal Hit List" and for the first two months he gave me something to post about to the tune of a highlight per game. By the end of the season? I'd be lucky to find ANY Leaf with something worth mentioning, much less Phaneuf whose play seemed to die. He lost any 'oomph' he'd had in years past, players just blew by him on the ice... It was as though the game had just gotten too fast for him and he couldn't catch up.

Jeremy Roenick, Scott Stevens, Chris Pronger, Cam Neely, Eric Lindros, Wendel Clark, these names all have something in common... They're not in the game anymore. Pronger being the latest to hang up the skates DID manage to hold true and stay relevant in his play however when you're one of the best defencemen to ever play in the NHL, and I believe I'm more than justified in calling him one, you tend to stick around. However, the guys who hit, and did little else, just aren't in the game anymore because the game was simply made too fast for them to follow and I fear that's what's happening to Dion Phaneuf. Players skate by him, he can't get the puck on-target with his slapshots from the point... The man's just not the weapon he used to be.

Now I'm positive that he no longer deserves the 'C' on his jersey. I don't care at this point what he might be like OFF the ice, he's not putting in enough ON ice effort for it to matter. Maybe that's not fair though, maybe he IS putting in the effort, it's just not amounting to anything. Either way, a player who just can't get results isn't usually kept on the team, much less on as the team's captain.

I'm not going to start bringing up who should hold the captaincy over him, because really, there aren't many players who I'd say aren't ahead of him in that race. All I'll say is that it's about time we shopped him around while some of the other clubs may still find value in him and try to pick up someone better. Honestly, if it meant getting a veteran goaltender, I'd sell Phaneuf in a second. It's not that I feel Reimer is inadequate for the job, just that he COULD stand to be mentored by an older, more experienced netminder as opposed to forcing him to get his experience via firing squad as we've been doing the last couple year.

So, to sum this up:

  • Phaneuf's slacking.
  • He sure as hell doesn't deserve the 'C'.
  • He's getting to the point of not earning his roster spot.
  • Shop him around in search of something better (like a bucket of pucks or 10-12 rolls of hockey tape).
Enjoy your swim folks!

Joshua J. Taylor

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