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’scheaper 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.
I decided to embark on a new five part series in which we will debate and argue the merits of the top five Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Raptors and Toronto Blue Jays as well as the top five overall athletes in Toronto sports history and finally as a contrast we will do the top ten athletes currently residing in the ‘Big Smoke’. Feel free to comment and please post your own opinion on any of the top five lists, I am sure there will be seriously differing opinions across the board and people definitely place a different emphasis on things like winning, personal stats and overall impact on the city.
This will be a quick breakdown of the top athletes currently residing in Toronto and it is a down and dirty look at the athlete’s ready to contribute on the Toronto sports scene. This certainly won’t be referred to as the golden era in Toronto’s sports history, but I’d say the scene is definitely on the up-swing and improving almost daily. The Jays are looking to be competitive in the next 1-2 seasons, the Leafs look to be in good hands with Brian Burke and the Raptors aren’t as bad as most think, though they are looking lottery bound in 2010/11 (not such a bad thing though?). Well, here is my list for the top ten current Toronto athletes.
-A hugely talented arm with untapped potential, he might have the most upside of any of the current Blue Jays arms. Putting together a great first season in Toronto, the future is bright and price to acquire him was right.
9) LW Kris Versteeg – Toronto Maple Leafs
-Coming over from the Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks (thank you salary cap) in which he was a key third line member and a heart and soul type player described as having a wicked wrist shot. Only 24 years old and coming off back to back 20 goal seasons, I think Toronto fans are going to really like this kid.
#8) SP Shaun Marcum – Toronto Blue Jays
-Looks to be completely back after undergoing TJ surgery and has been the Jays best pitcher this season with 151 IPs, 3.70 ERA, 3.83 FIP and an impressive 3.8 K/BB. Marcum will look to score a longer term contract in the next year or so and will hopefully continue to put hitters away with that nasty changeup for many more seasons.
7) SG Demar Derozan – Toronto Raptors
-The 7th overall pick out of Compton, California and USC University, the sky is the limit for Derozan and the ‘Young Gunz’ (along with Sonny Weems and Amir Johnson), fans are hoping for a big breakout year for Demar to give them some (any) hope for a Toronto Raptors eventual resurgence. The kid has all the talent and skills you could want and just needs seasoning and some refinements to certain aspects of the game (mid range jumper and handle) to really take that next step.
6) RF Jose Bautista – Toronto Blue Jays
-Bautista leads the majors in homeruns and has been a total beast for the Blue Jays this season (41 HRs, 607 SLG%, .416 wOBA – 4.9 WAR), he has been so good there is some talk the Jays might be best served dealing their top slugger while the getting is good and his value is at an all-time high. The most debated/discussed Blue Jay player this season, mixed opinions on whether or not he should be around long term.
-What would a Toronto article be without Kaberle, fact remains he is still one of the best defensemen to suit up for the Leafs and if he remains this season will be counted upon to contribute a huge season.
-The smooth, sharp shooting 7-footer was the 1st overall pick in the 2006 NBA Draft and has shown steady improvement each season (in scoring) over the past three years scoring 10.2, 15.4 and 17.2 PPG. He still needs to improve his overall game, with more focus on rebounding and weak side help defense, however a big man with the ability to drive and dish the rock who will likely average 20.0+ PPG, shoot around 48-49% from the field, 37-38% from 3-point land and hopefully average 7-8 rebounds and 1.5-2 blocks per game don’t exactly grow on trees. Andrea doesn’t get enough credit for the player he has become, expect that opinion and sentiment to change with a huge 2010/11 season as the Raptors go to guy.
3) SP Ricky Romero – Toronto Blue Jays
-JP Ricciardi envisioned this type of success for his first pick (6th overall) in the 2005 MLB Amateur Draft but it took Ricky a few seasons in the minors to finally flourish and make it to the big leagues (too little, too late for our old buddy JP though) but flourish he has. The Jays lefty recently signed a contract extension that will keep in Toronto for the next 5 seasons, hopefully his prime years are still to come. In 2010, Romero has been great, in 172.2 IPS he has a 3.54 ERA, 3.59 FIP, solid ground ball rate and a pretty good 7.7 K/9.
2) D Dion Phaneuf – Toronto Maple Leafs
-When you are the new captain of the most popular team in town, you are going to get some attention and since entering the league Phaneuf has definitely drawn his fair share. The top scoring defensemen since joining the league, the hard hitting Alberta native is being counted upon to lead the Brian Burke era in team history and fans are excited and anxious to see what a full season of a motivated Dion Phaneuf can bring to the team.
1) RW Phil Kessel – Toronto Maple Leafs
-There haven’t been many better skilled Leafs than Phil the Thrill in the team’s long history and the slight forward will again be counted upon to lead the woeful Maple Leafs forward core to the hopeful goal of making the playoffs. Playing with a relatively unknown (and rookie) centre in Tyler Bozak, Kessel still managed 30 goals in 70 games and fans are hoping he can take his game to the next level and become a 40-45 goal scorer with a full season to come in 2010/11.
Drafted in the first round (5th overall) in 2006, he has been called the ‘American’ Sydney Crosby with his unbelievable level of skill and shooting ability. Kessel will only be 23 at the start of the season and though the trade and cost to acquire Kessel is hotly debated, the player we received certainly cannot be, Kessel is legit and one of the most skilled players in the game.
This concludes my five part series looking back at some of the greatest players to ever play for our beloved Toronto sports franchises and also a quick glimpse at who is currently leading the charge for hopeful future success.