The Toronto Maple Leafs haven’t had a captain since Mats Sundin departed the team after the 2007-08 season, but if TSN reports are accurate, that will change on Monday. The Leafs are expected to hand the ‘C’ over to hard-hitting (and shooting) defenseman Dion Phaneuf.
The former Calgary Flames product has had a rocky few years. After taking the league by storm with a couple great seasons that mixed brutal checks and powerplay mastery, his offensive numbers began to decline while his defensive prowess came into question. Blame it on him becoming the cover star of the video game “NHL ’09” or perhaps call it “The Curse of Cuthbert,” but for whatever reason Phaneuf fell apart for a while.
Brian Burke made a big trade for Phaneuf during last season and it seemed like the defenseman started to eke out an improved existence in Toronto. That’s not to say he lit the world on fire, but the wayward franchise seems impressed with him right now.
If nothing else, the Leafs and Phaneuf will sink or swim with each other. The team made a big investment when they took on his contract, and while they have some modest cap space, my guess is that they’ll live and die by the splashy trades Burke made for Phaneuf, Phil Kessel and even J.S. Giguere.
Will Phaneuf lead the Leafs to glory or failure? We’ll just have to wait and see.