|Could Dion Phaneuf lead these dudes to a winning record?|
Sports media in Toronto seem to be grasping at straws on things to talk about. I don’t necessarily blame them, as any writer or fan would have a hard time just thinking about the Maple Leafs after what has transpired the past two months. However, I think it’s the job of the media, of the people that have a rabid fan base waiting for analysis of their team to give their fans quality information. Information that is going to educate new fans, console old ones and spark a real interest in the team, not an interest in talking about how much they suck.
There are many examples of newspaper writers, bloggers and fans writing stupid, untrue and generally unhelpful articles. One of the biggest story lines this spring has been that Dion Phaneuf is a terrible captain: He sucks and if the Leafs had a good captain there is no question that the Leafs wouldn’t have lost nearly every game for two months.
On Wednesday Dave Hilson of Toronto’s most famous tabloid had this to say about the Maple Leafs long slump:
So what happened? Who’s to blame for the freefall? There are no easy answers. But one thing is clear: There simply wasn’t any leadership in the dressing room.
If you really want to wade your way through the sludge that is the whole article, here is the link.
Multiple things are wrong with Hilson’s take on the Maple Leafs leadership situation, I’m just going to stick with this quote though.
First of all, Hilson likely hasn’t had a chance to be in the Leafs dressing room while Dion Phaneuf is giving his pre-game pep talk. So without knowing how Dion acts around the team when the media isn’t around, how is a media member able to accuse a Captain of not being a good leader? With their on-ice performance of course!
Lets take a look at Dion Phaneuf’s performance this year:
What you see here are some stats that I feel are important in judging how a player has performed, Dion Phaneuf’s value on those stats and how he matches up to the rest of the Leafs players.
Dion is leading the Leafs in 5v5 TOI, the next player closest to him is his regular defensive partner, Carl Gunnarsson. Now, a case could be made that the Leafs suck because Dion plays so often. The rest of those numbers there will disprove that.
Dion is facing the toughest competition of any Leaf skater and is performing, possession-wise, better against them then the rest of the team is doing against weaker opponents (3.2 Corsi REL).
As is the case with most Leaf players, they are getting a horrible 5v5 On-Ice Sv%. Dion’s Sv% On is about .02% lower then the average. That doesn’t seem like a lot but as I showed in an earlier post it really does add up. Players can be judged unfairly if they have a very high or low quality of net-minder behind them and that is a part of what is happening with Dion. With a normalized 5v5 On-Ice Sv% Dion would look a lot better defensively in the eyes of the MSM because most shots wouldn’t be squeaking through Jonas Gustavsson’s armpit.
Not only is Phaneuf a quality defenseman in his own zone he is also a great defenseman in the offensive zone. Phaneuf is currently tied for 13th in scoring by defensemen with players such as Bieksa, Yandle and Shattenkirk.
I’m not telling you that Phaneuf is a good captain, I don’t know if he is or not. No one should be commenting on Dion Phaneuf’s leadership qualities with any sort of know-how but the coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Randy Carlyle is the only one who knows what he wants in a captain and sees how Dion handles the players.