Dion Phaneuf

How will the Leafs look without Phaneuf?


For the first time in three years, the Toronto Maple Leafs are going to experience life without Dion Phaneuf.

The last time was early in the 2010-11 season, when Phaneuf missed 16 games with a leg injury. Toronto went 5-8-3 without him, and he’s been healthy ever since.

But Phaneuf will be suspended for Wednesday’s home game versus Los Angeles and Thursday’s visit to St. Louis — two pretty tough opponents for a team with just a pair of regulation wins (over the basement-dwelling Sabres and Islanders) in its last 17 contests.

How will the Leafs fare without their top d-man this time around?

Those who argue they’ll miss him a lot will point out that no Leaf has played more minutes than Phaneuf this season. In fact, his 24:13 average ice time is more than three minutes higher than any other Toronto blue-liner.

And it’s not just the number of minutes, it’s the type. Based on one measure, he’s been deployed against the toughest competition of any regular defenseman in the NHL.

On the other hand, Phaneuf’s occasional (or frequent, depending who you ask) defensive gaffe — like the one in Game 4 of the Leafs’ first-round series versus Boston — has the tendency to bring out the knives in a big way.

Looming over all of this? Phaneuf is a pending unrestricted free agent who just saw teammate Phil Kessel sign an eight-year, $64 million extension.

So for the Leafs, as much as they disagreed with the suspension, if there’s a bright side to his two-game ban, at least they’re about to get a brief glimpse at how they’d look without him.

Because that remains an option for the future.

Related: Nonis says ‘no reason to think’ Phaneuf won’t remain with Leafs

Friday’s loss serves as ‘harsh lesson’ for Blue Jackets

Jasper Fast, Nick Foligno, Henrik Lundqvist
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Late in the third period of Friday’s game against the New York Rangers, things were looking good for Columbus.

Brandon Saad, who the team acquired from Chicago this off-season, scored his first goal of the season to give his team a 2-1 lead with under four minutes remaining in the contest.

Unfortunately for the Jackets, that’s as good as it would get.

The Rangers responded with three unanswered goals from Oscar Lindberg, Kevin Hayes and Mats Zuccarello to spoil Columbus’ home opener.

“When something like that happens at the end, I think we’re gonna be a better team because of it,” defenseman Ryan Murray told reporters after the game. “It’s a harsh lesson, but it’s a good one.

Luckily for Columbus, they won’t have to wait very long to try and get their revenge.

The Blue Jackets and Rangers will finish off their home-and-home series at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night, which might not be such a bad thing for Columbus.

“It’s good that we get another chance tomorrow,” Saad said after Friday’s game. “We were high on emotions (after the go-ahead goal) and they scored and it took the wind out of our sails, but we have to keep playing. We have to learn to keep doing our thing, regardless of the score.”



Kings GM says Mike Richards went into ‘a destructive spiral’

Mike Richards

The Los Angeles Kings may owe Mike Richards money until 2031 (seriously), but in settling his grievance, the team and player more or less get to turn the page.

Not before Kings GM Dean Lombardi shares his sometimes startling perspective, though.

Lombardi has a tendency to be candid, especially in the press release-heavy world of sports management. Even by his standards, his account of Richards’ “destructive sprial” is a staggering read from the Los Angeles Times’ Lisa Dillman.

“Without a doubt, the realization of what happened to Mike Richards is the most traumatic episode of my career,” Lombardi said in a written summation he provided to the Los Angeles Times. “At times, I think that I will never recover from it. It is difficult to trust anyone right now – and you begin to question whether you can trust your own judgment. The only thing I can think of that would be worse would be suspecting your wife of cheating on you for five years and then finding out in fact it was true.”

Lombardi provides plenty of eyebrow-raising statements to Dillman, including:

  • He believed he “found his own Derek Jeter” in Richards, a player who “at one time symbolized everything that was special about the sport.”
  • Lombardi remarked that “his production dropped 50 percent and the certain ‘it’ factor he had was vaporizing in front of me daily.”
  • The Kings GM believes that he was “played” by Richards.

… Yeah.

Again, it’s a powerful read that you should soak in yourself, even if you’re unhappy with the way the Kings handled the situation.

Maybe the most pressing of many lingering questions is: will we get to hear Richards’ side of the story?