Brian Burke’s legacy with the Toronto Maple Leafs will be forever tied to one player he acquired via a major trade and it’s not the diminutive scoring sensation Phil Kessel, it is the new Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf. It’s hard to find anybody that didn’t like the trade (though Ian White outperformed Phaneuf last season) and if Keith Aullie (included in the deal) continues to progress into a top six defenseman it will look even better. When Burke named Phaneuf as his captain he also firmly tied his anchor to the hard hitting defenseman, for better or worse.
If Dion Phaneuf turns out to be a bust, or even slightly disappointing over the next two to three seasons in the blue and white I don’t think Brian Burke will be around much longer after that. The city of Toronto is a cruel one to the beloved boys of winter and will turn on you in a country minute if you fail to live up to expectations, even if you are captain and maybe especially if you are captain in Dion’s case. The list of failed (in the fan’s eyes) players is a long and in some cases illustrious one and who will ever forget Larry Murphy being booed out of town, or Bryan McCabe.
Ahh Brian McCabe, the scary part for me is if you squint your eyes just slightly while watching your television set and watch #3 Dion Phaneuf on the ice, you almost see a little #24 (McCabe) in him don’t you? They almost look similar with their receding spiky haircuts, they both skate a little awkwardly and handle the puck like a grenade at times (does the puck not just seem to bounce on Dion’s stick more than other players?) but both also possess very solid hockey skills with booming shots and a physical edge. While one is being celebrated and touted as a potential franchise saviour with little to no success in his short reign the other was essentially given the boot even after scoring 83 goals, 297 points and was a plus +63 in 7 seasons and 523 games.
Phaneuf is 6’3”, 214 while McCabe is 6’2”, 220 and though they are separated by ten years in age there are definitely some similarities to their respective games. Phaneuf broke into the league in 2005/06 and let’s compare the two over that same time span:
It has to be pointed out that we are comparing the first five years of a defenseman’s career in Dion Phaneuf and more of the middle aged years for McCabe but I think this does show us that the comparison might have some merit.
For fun, if these numbers are averaged over an 82 game season:
Phaneuf has been a model of health over his first five pretty successful seasons while McCabe has definitely started to show his age with more than a few injuries mixed in over the years but again this is just to make a comparison. One player was vilified and one of the most hated players at the end of his Leafs career while the other has been celebrated as one of the best defenseman in hockey, something just doesn’t add up in this equation. Bryan McCabe was not without his weaknesses (thank you captain obvious) but this is also a man who once scored 19 goals and tallied 68 points in only 73 games in 2005/06.
I don’t think I am going out on a limb when I say that Dion Phaneuf is a tad overrated.
In the super scientific poll conducted by Sports Illustrated, a player poll ranked him as the Most Overrated Player in the NHL. The magazine asked 272 players in the league to name the player whose reputation exceeds their performance. Phaneuf ran away with the title, capturing 21 per cent of the vote, next was the Rangers’ Wade Redden with 7 per cent followed by Montreal’s Scott Gomez with 6 per cent.
Based on the early returns during Phaneuf extremely limited tenure I can see where some of this noise is coming from. However I also see a talented and physically dominating player who can hopefully turn his game around and lead the blue and white on the backend for more than a few years. Not many will argue against the trade that brought the future captain to the Leafs and I won’t either but that doesn’t mean that a team using a player like Phaneuf as one of its building blocks isn’t playing with just a bit of fire, especially in this market, just ask Bryan McCabe.
What are your expectations for Dion Phaneuf?
WOULD LEAFS CONSIDER SHELDON SOURAY VIA RE-ENTRY WAIVERS?
If the above situation came to fruition and the Edmonton Oilers bit the bullet and put Sheldon Souray on waivers (with no takers) and then placed him on re-entry waivers would the Maple Leafs bite at a half priced Souray (approx 2.7 million hit)?
I know what you are thinking and the Leafs clearly have a glutton of defensemen but at least here me out. Souray when healthy is a step up offensively over all of our defenseman (including Phaneuf) and has been a beast on the power play over his career. In his past two full healthy seasons (2006/07) Souray tallied 26 goals and 64 points with 19 coming on the power play and in 2008/09 he notched 23 goals with 12 via the man advantage.
Obviously not a terrific defensive or all-around player the Leafs could risk this and allow him to build up some trade value while simultaneously helping their horrific power play (he would be a HUGE step up on Tomas Kaberle) and possibly trading him when a team desperate for some backend help comes calling at likely only a prorated portion of his 2.7 million cap hit if moved around the trade deadline. Or they could keep him if he shows an improved game as Tomas Kaberle’s cheaper replacement and be able to move Kaberle and a Francois Beauchemin (or Mike Komisarek) if the right deals were presented.
Somebody more familiar with the CBA and salary cap ramifications could enlighten me if the Leafs would be able to first trade Souray and would the team acquiring him only be on the hook for his re-entry waivers price tag and cap hit? Not sure what Brian Burke would think of something like this but I am confident he has at the very least pondered such a scenario.