Phaneuf Looking to Lead the Leafs Next Season

Leafs defenceman Dion Phaneuf was Dion Phaneuf was born
April 10, 1985, in Edmonton, Alberta. Phaneuf excelled at hockey from a young age and was focused
on a career in the National Hockey League (NHL). His father maintained a
backyard rink each winter that the young hockey lover practiced on. He also
helped his son develop a powerful slapshot and an aggressive style from an
early age. Phaneuf also practiced his shot relentlessly in the basement,
frequently breaking the nets his father bought. His mother, a former figure
skater who competed for Prince Edward Island at the 1975 Canada Winter Games,
taught him to skate.

The Red Deer Rebels selected Phaneuf in the third round of
the 2000 WHL Bantam Draft. After one season, he joined the Rebels for the
2001–02 WHL season and recorded 17 points in 67 games. He added two assists in
21 games as the Rebels lost in the WHL final against the Kootenay Ice. He
improved to 16 goals and 30 points in 2002–03 as the Rebels again reached the
WHL finals, again losing, this time to the Kelowna Rockets. Phaneuf’s
development earned him comparisons to Hall of Famer Scott Stevens. He was every
scout’s dream because of his physical style and ability to excel both
defensively and offensively.

Calgary Flames general manager Darryl Sutter selected
Phaneuf with his first choice in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. Phaneuf quickly established himself as one of junior hockey’s top
players following the draft, collecting 42 points in 62 games. His efforts
earned him the Bill Hunter Memorial Trophy as the top defenceman in the WHL. He
was also named an Eastern Conference All-Star by the WHL, and a First Team
All-Star by the Canadian Hockey League. He was considered a candidate to join
the Flames in 2004, but the 2004–05 NHL lockout forced him to play one final
year of junior hockey. He scored 56 points in 55 games to finish his junior career
with 146 points. He repeated as the WHL’s defenceman of the year, and was again
named to both WHL and CHL All-Star Teams.

Prospects Hockey rated Phaneuf as the top player in the CHL
in both 2004 and 2005, ahead of Sidney Crosby, naming him one of the best
junior defencemen of the previous decade. Not surprisingly, Phaneuf’s NHL career got off to a blistering start. He made
his NHL debut on October 5, 2005 against the Minnesota Wild. Five nights later,
he scored his first career goal, assist and points against the Colorado
Avalanche.

By January, Phaneuf was named alongside Crosby and Ovechkin
as a candidate for the NHL’s top rookie. He finished the season with 20 goals,
only the third player in NHL history after Brian Leetch and Barry Beck to score
20 as a rookie defenceman. His 20 goals also broke the Flames franchise record
for goals by a rookie, surpassing Gary Suter’s total of 18. He was named a
finalist for the Calder Memorial Trophy as top rookie, but lost out to
Ovechkin.

A 50-point sophomore season earned Phaneuf his first NHL
All-Star Game appearance in 2006–07. He participated in the hardest shot
competition at the SuperSkills competition, losing to Zdeno Chara, and scored a
goal and an assist in the game itself to help the Western Conference defeat the
East 12–9.

The Flames signed Phaneuf to a six-year, US $39 million
contract extension midway through the 2007–08 season. He responded by posting a
career high 60 points, and was voted into the starting lineup by the fans for
the 2008 All-Star Game. Phaneuf was named to the NHL First All-Star Team
following the season, and was a finalist for the James Norris Memorial Trophy
as defenceman of the year, losing to Niklas Lidstrom.

The 2008–09 season was a frustrating one for Phaneuf, as he
recorded a career low 11 goals and 47 points, and his poor plus/minus rating of
?11. His weak play led fans to question his defensive commitment. His poor
season and high salary also led to speculation that Phaneuf might be traded.
Despite of his struggles, Phaneuf averaged 26 minutes and 31 seconds of ice
time per game, fourth highest in the league. He missed the final game of the
Flames quarter-final series against the Chicago Blackhawks with broken ribs,
after battling a hip injury during the season. Flames management defended
Phaneuf, claiming that the injuries he battled affected his play.

Phaneuf is a two-time NHL All-Star. He has represented
Canada internationally three times in his career, winning silver and gold
medals at the World Junior Hockey Championship in 2004 and 2005 and a gold
medal at the 2007 Men’s World Ice Hockey Championships. The smooth-skating defenceman is also feared by his opponents for
his physical play. He has been rated one of the NHL’s top hitters by his peers
while also accused of trying to injure his opponents at times.

On January 31, 2010, the Flames dealt Phaneuf, along with
Fredrik Sjöström and Keith Aulie to the Leafs in exchange for Matt Stajan,
Niklas Hagman, Ian White and Jamal Mayers. Phaneuf made his debut for the Buds on February 2, 2010,
leading all Maple Leafs players in playing time. He ended the night with a
fight and was voted second star of the game. He recorded his first point as a
Leaf, an assist, four nights later in a game against the Senators and scored
his first goal on April 7, 2010, against Henrik Lundqvist of the New York
Rangers.

Phaneuf was named an alternate captain in Toronto, just nine games after
being acquired from Calgary and after Mike Komisarek suffered a season-ending injury. While
Phaneuf struggled offensively to begin his time in Toronto – he played 25 games
in Toronto before scoring his first goal – Leafs coach Ron Wilson credited him
with creating a positive change in the mood in the Toronto dressing room. Phaneuf has since been seen as a top candidate to become the
next Toronto Maple Leafs captain, a vacancy left open since Mats Sundin
departure after the 2007-2008 NHL season.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Comments are closed.