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Title - Rob McPhee
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Maple Leafs would be wise to keep Phaneuf around
By Rob McPhee
HometownHockey.ca

Maple Leafs would be wise to keep Phaneuf around
With the Stanley Cup Finals upon us and the draft on the horizon, NHL trade talks are heating up and it would appear that all bets are off across the league. Rumours are swirling around the first overall pick as well as many top tier players across the league. Amongst all the star players rumoured to be dealt, one you should not expect to see moved is Toronto Maple Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf.
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Toronto - June 11, 2014 - With the Stanley Cup Finals upon us and the draft on the horizon, NHL trade talks are heating up and it would appear that all bets are off across the league.

Rumours are swirling around the first overall pick as well as many top tier players across the league. Ryan Kessler, Joe Thornton, James Neal and Jason Spezza have all been linked to trade talks, and surprisingly all seem likely to be moved this off-season.

Amongst all the star players rumoured to be dealt, one I do not expect to see moved is Leafs Captain Dion Phaneuf.

After signing a 7 year $49 million dollar extension earlier this season, Dion’s play suffered down the stretch and he received a hefty amount of criticism for it.

As a result it has been reported that Leafs GM Dave Nonis has been shopping the 29 year old blue liner asking for at least a first round pick in this year’s draft as well as an NHL ready defensemen and a prospect.

Acquiring Dion will not be cheap for any team interested in doing so, however this is not why I think a trade is unlikely.

The Maple Leafs finished dead last in the league in shot differential averaging almost 36 shots against per game. The Leafs also allowed the most shots ever seen in an 82 game season and were outshot in 65 of the 82 games this season. A good team does not get outshot in 80% of games played in a season, even a mediocre team does not allow this. Besides adding some insight into potentially why the team collapsed in March and April, it also tells us where the team needs help the most. The Leafs defense was arguably the worst in the NHL, so does it get better by trading Dion Phaneuf?

Probably not and despite the numbers above it’s far easier to argue that Dion Phaneuf is part of the solution to that problem rather than the cause of it. A key aspect of this is how Dion was used last season. Phaneuf and defense partner Carl Gunnarsson lead NHL defensemen in 2 very important categories shown in this chart;

Quality of competition and percentage of starts in the defensive zone.

Phaneuf was consistently playing against the best the NHL has to offer and most of the time was doing so in his own end. There is no defensive pair in the NHL that had a more difficult season than Phaneuf and Gunnarsson in this sense, which would seemingly make the case that they are better than what they showed us last season. If they had more support odds are they would be able to do more than solely focusing on shutting down the Crosby’s and Towes.

The sharp decline in play from Mark Fraser and Cody Franson forced far more defensive responsibility on the Leafs Captain, stripping him of the ability to play at his full potential, especially offensively. The Maple Leafs defense was a disaster in 2013, this cannot be argued. The same defense though without Dion Phaneuf would have been at best an AHL defense. The Maple Leafs need depth on the blue line and some patience as Morgan Riley and Jake Gardiner develop, but they simply cannot afford to deal Phaneuf this off-season. This does not mean they won’t trade him, it just means they shouldn’t.



Follow Me on TwitterRob was born in Toronto's East end and has been a Maple Leaf fan his entire life. He is currently a student at York University in Toronto and is studying writing. He has always loved the blues and sports of all kind. If you have any questions, feel free to contact him at rmcphee@hometownhockey.ca







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