Dion Phaneuf

Tuesday Tire Pump: Dion Phaneuf

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Every Tuesday at PHT, we’ll pump a player’s tire. Because every player likes it when nice things are said about them.

This week’s tire pumpee: Dion Phaneuf, Toronto Maple Leafs

Neon Dion’s taken his fair share of heat since being traded to the Leafs in early 2010. Some of it deserved, some of it overly harsh. Such is life in Toronto for big-money players.

Indeed, plenty was expected of the hard-hitting defenseman after he was acquired from Calgary by Leafs general manager Brian Burke

“[Phaneuf] is a warrior. He’s got a cannon for a shot,” Burke said at the time. “He plays the game hard and I want players who play the game hard because they’re hard to play against.”

And it wasn’t just a bruiser the Leafs had added. In 2007-08, Phaneuf racked up 60 points with the Flames and was a finalist for the Norris. He never reached those heights again in Calgary, but the potential was obviously there.

Unfortunately for Phaneuf, he failed to make an immediate impact with his new team. Or not enough of an impact anyway.

Last season, his first full one with the Leafs, he managed just eight goals and 22 assists in 66 games. This after he’d been named team captain the previous summer, further adding to the already-immense pressure.

But it’s been a different story so far this season. In Toronto’s first eight games, Phaneuf has two goals and seven assists and is being celebrated by the fans, media and his teammates.

“Since I’ve been here he’s been our best defenseman pretty much every night,” said Leafs forward Joffrey Lupul, as quoted by TSN.ca. “He’s been consistent, physical, he’s a guy the opposing team doesn’t like to play against and he’s got a big shot too.

“You’ve got be aware if you’re on the other team and he’s on the ice because it can be a rush, a shot or a big hit. I think he’s a guy that when he goes against the other team’s skill players they know every time he’s on the ice.”

It’s true — everyone knows when Phaneuf is out there.

Well, everyone except Stephan Da Costa.

Dion Phaneuf, everyone.

Habs claim Byron off waivers from Flames

Paul Byron
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Montreal added some forward depth on Tuesday, acquiring diminutive forward Paul Byron off waivers from Calgary.

Byron, 26, is a veteran of nearly 150 career NHL games, most coming with the Flames. Despite fairly solid production over the last two years — 40 points in 104 games — he was exposed to waivers on Monday, along with fellow forward Mason Raymond.

(Calgary does have a logjam of players at forward, hence parting ways with Byron and Raymond.)

Byron can play both wing and center but, at 5-foot-7, 153 pounds, is one of the most undersized skaters in the league. Thankfully for him, Montreal has an affinity for undersized forwards, with the likes of Brendan Gallagher (5-foot-9, 184 pounds) and David Desharnais (5-foot-7, 174 pounds) already on the active roster.

Byron could also fill Zack Kassian‘s roster spot. Kassian is currently suspended without pay while undergoing Stage 2 of the NHL’s Substance Abuse program.

Isles claim goalie Berube off waivers

Evgeny Kuznetsov, Jaroslav Halak
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The New York Islanders have claimed goalie Jean-Francois Berube off waivers from the Los Angeles Kings, the club announced today.

Berube won the Calder Cup last season with AHL Manchester, but the 24-year-old has yet to appear in an NHL game.

That the Isles claimed Berube could be evidence that Jaroslav Halak will not be ready to start the season after all.

If that’s the case, Berube would back up Thomas Greiss, with Stephon Williams expected to go to the AHL.

The Isles open their regular season Friday at home versus the Blackhawks, then play the next day in Chicago.