Defending the Captain: Phaneuf Doesn't Deserve the Hate He Gets

Photo retrieved from CBC

The topic of Dion Phaneuf being a great player is highly debated in the hockey world. For many reasons, he should be considered a highly skilled defenceman who can contribute in all areas of the game. What occurs is the opposite, as he is thrown much hate his way from hockey fans. If one were to analyze his situation in Toronto, they would see his greatness despite the difficulty of what he is up against. 

Fan Problem: His Contract! 7 years at $7 million per season

Before you go hating in the comment section or just in general, just think of WHY he is paid $7 million a season. First of all, he is the Leafs #1 defenceman; and with that responsibility comes a lot of hard work. He quarterbacks the 1st line powerplay, runs the 1st line penalty kill, and is asked to be Captain. He plays as the Leafs top shutdown defender against the leagues best superstars every game at even strength, and leads the team in ice time per game, usually in the 25-29 minutes per game range. Any player who does this much will be making at least $7 million a season on a new contract, regardless if people like him or not. The fact is, for the Leafs he is worth every penny of his deal because of what we tell him to do. Now, if he were to be traded he probably wouldn't be worth $7 million to his new team because he would see his role dwindle, but the point is on the Leafs his contract reflects his job. Phaneuf's cap hit of $7 million does make other teams scared because they know that if they acquire him his role would lessen, probably making him a $5 million player to that team. For this reason, if the Leafs were to trade him they would have to eat some of his salary because of that fact that his role wouldn't be as big on another team. But, as I said before, on the Leafs he is worth every cent. The term on the other hand I will say is silly, as 7 years is a bit much. Most of the negative comments come from the amount he is making though, and other teams don't seem to have a problem when asked about his contract for the amount of years he is signed for. 

Fan Problem: All the on ice mistakes

Sometimes Phaneuf does catch himself out of position, but mistakes are made by every player. All of the NHL's superstars make mistakes, including the likes of the Crosby's, the Doughty's, and the Sedin's. In the hockey capital of the universe that is Toronto, his every mistake is glorified by the media and people just seem to eat it up. What fans need to realize is that most of the time his misplays occur near the end of the game when he is all gassed out. As I said before he plays 25-29 minutes a night against the leagues best players for most of his shifts. That would take a tole on anybody, and fans need to be more lenient because of that fact. If anybody watched the Leafs last 20 games or so of the 2014-2015 season, they would have seen a better Phaneuf. The reason? His ice time was lessened. Interm head coach Peter Horacek upped Morgan Reilly and Jake Gardiner's ice time and gave Phaneuf some much needed rest. He was playing around the 20-24 minute range, proving that when he isn't asked to play so much he is more effective. He is a great defenceman, but for anybody it would be very difficult to play almost half the game. Also add on to the fact that he has never had a true defence partner, and never had a consistent player to play beside. It seems every couple of games his partner switches, and different players get a shot at playing along side Phaneuf. Look at other teams who have strong defence cores; they always have a No.1 and a No.2 playing together, never switching. Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook on Chicago, Dennis Seidenberg and Zdeno Chara on Boston, Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo on St. Louis. The list continues, but the point is that every other no.1 defender seems to have a consistent no.2 along side. Playing with a new partner constantly doesn't allow Dion to gain any chemistry; something that is important in this sport. The Leafs should have found him a partner a long time ago.

The end conclusion is that the Leafs simply ask too much of him, and the worst part is the fans seem to expect 100% efficiency from Dion. His contract is justified as a Leaf (note I said as a Leaf), and his mistakes only seem to occur when he is dead tired. Give the guy a break Leafs fans. Phaneuf is a team player, and you can argue all you want that he's not a captain or he's not a number 1 defenceman, but the reality is on the weak Toronto Maple Leafs HE IS. He's the best player for the job on this team, but everyone seems to hate him because he isn't doing it perfectly. He sticks up for his team mates and fights, he throws big hits, and his style of play is entertaining to watch. Phaneuf haters need to think logically and look at all the factors that contribute to his play, and then and only then will they wake up and realize what the Leafs star defenceman has gone through after all he has been asked to do. 

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