Maple Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf is taking his critics head on.
The day after Toronto lost its sixth game in a row and fell out of playoff contention, Phaneuf responded to a rant by Sportsnet Fan 590’s Sid Seixeiro — who blasted Phaneuf for not speaking after the loss, adding Phaneuf “has forgotten how to play the game of hockey,” — by calling into the station and defending himself on air.
“To be completely honest with you, I was emotional about the game,” the Toronto captain explained. “I didn’t want to let my emotions get the best of me when I was going to do a scrum.
“Now that I look back on it, I feel bad about not being available. But at that point in time, I was disappointed in the way I played and I was emotional after the game. So that’s the reason why I did not talk.”
Phaneuf then addressed his recent erratic play. He’s minus-4 over the current six-game slide, which included last night’s ugly performance in which he fought the puck repeatedly, made poor passes and was on the ice for three St. Louis goals, including Alex Steen’s game-winner:
“I made some mistakes that are uncharacteristic of the way that I play,” Phaneuf said of Tuesday’s loss. “I take responsibility for those mistakes.”
With the defeat, Toronto plummeted to 10th in the Eastern Conference. Though four teams — Columbus, Detroit, Washington and Toronto — are all tied on 80 points, the Leafs are on the outside looking in due to a low regulation/overtime win total (27) and the fact they only have eight games remaining (whereas the Jackets and Wings have 10).
That said, Phaneuf says the Leafs are confident they can turn it around.
“There’s no quit in our room,” he said. “We’re going to get out of this and we’re going to come out of this together.
“It’s not like we’ve forgotten how to do what we do. We believe in the group. We believe inside the group that we are capable of doing more and playing better. We have to get that swagger back and we will.”