Toronto Maple Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf observed his team’s summer of change and expressed his willingness to do adapt, if needed. He told the Toronto Star that he’d be willing to shift from his typical (in Toronto) right side to the left, if asked.
“I played both (sides) my whole career,” Phaneuf said. “When you do what we do, you go where you’re told, you play where you’re going to play. I’m open to either side. Wherever I’m slotted, I’m going to play and do the best I can.”
The Toronto Star points out that the Leafs’ offseason tweaks open up this possibility because they now boast three defensemen with right-handed shots. That extra versatility would allow Phaneuf, 29, to play on his “natural” side considering his lefty shot.
While there are some clear advantages to putting him on the left side, there’s at least one area where the Leafs might want to stick him on the right: the power play. Maple Leafs Hot Stove captures why the hard-shooting blueliner is probably more dangerous on offense this way:
… Phaneuf is a rare case as a defenceman who plays 5-on-5, PK and PP best when he’s on the right side despite being a left shot. The angles work better for him, his sweet spots on the boards are always in the same spot, and from a young age his slapshot was always used as a weapon in the arsenal of any team he was on. Under the guidance of Randy Carlyle and left in the hands of assistant coach Dave Farrish, Dion Phaneuf’s slapshot has been taken away in favour of “holding the line.”
It started to manifest itself in the playoff series against Boston last spring; Phaneuf, who is uncomfortable playing his correct side at both 5v5 and on the PK, and Franson, who is not the fleetest of foot on the best of days, are getting beat “holding the line” and are spending too much time in their own zone, giving up scoring chances against, unable to gain the zone with any efficiency and set up cleanly.
Really, Phaneuf might benefit more from cushier deployment than tweaks to where he lines up on the ice. Few defensemen of his offensive skills began such a disproportionate amount of their shifts in the defensive zone last season, so maybe others can shoulder some of that burden so he can use that dangerous shot – one of his greatest weapons and one of the reasons he’s getting paid big bucks in the first place – more often?
Either way, the right vs. left side debate is an interesting one. Which way would you lean?