The Toronto Maple Leafs are poised to name their next Captain. The team hasn’t had one since Mats Sundin flew the nest a few years back and newly acquired defenceman Dion Phaneuf is going to be the man.
This isn’t an attack on the move or the guy. Let me remind everyone that if you’ve read this website since the beginning, I have always thought that being Captain was over hyped. I’m a firm believer that good leaders lead by example and they don’t need to be appointed in a team setting in order to display leadership. By all accounts much of the new attitude in the locker-room was a result of the addition of Phaneuf. So this isn’t to say he shouldn’t be the guy. (Granted it could be argued that the change in the room was equal parts subtraction and addition- but I digress)
I do have a couple of questions though. Wilson and Burke have waited to name a captain. Perhaps only due to the fact that they both get asked all the time, in doing so they’ve made it out to be a big deal. My question is why now? Doesn’t this add a lot of pressure on a kid like Phaneuf? Dion started out as a big deal in Calgary. He was dealt for various reasons, none of which was overly positive. That is things weren’t going well for him OR the flames and it was time for a change. If he were all things that being Captain of the Maple Leafs means, then surely no one in their right mind would trade him right? You know what I mean… And yes I know all about the need for change of scenery.
He came here and immediately had an impact. Fine, great, terrific. But why do this now after you’ve waited so long?
Would anyone have wondered why another training camp began or ended with the Leafs still being captainless? If Burke or Wilson said, this isn’t the right time would anyone have gone ballistic?
Because we haven’t had one for so long this will be made into a big deal. The pressure on Dion just got way more fierce. Its one thing to be the rah rah guy in the room, but this is now Dion’s team. Others will look to him. He is the measuring stick. When they have a bad night, and some players try to sneak off, Dion has to stick around. When the tough questions get asked, he has to answer them. Cue the Dion marketing campaign.
None of this says he isn’t up to the task. Burke and Wilson have to make progress this year. The team has to get better. The pressure on guys like Dion to perform will be immense. Is adding this type of pressure really necessary? Better yet is it wise??
Despite what Burke said on the pressbox, this town, be it media, fans or both have a habit of churning out defencemen. The captain of the Maple Leafs as so presented almost has to perform at Norris trophy levels to be worthy of the honor. The captain of the Maple Leafs can’t be at the bottom of all the major stat categories. The captain of the Maple Leafs can’t be prone to turnovers or bad decisions. This is the pedestal, the mystique that has been created.
I hope Phaneuf is up to the challenge. I hope he is the guy. I also hope that he hasn’t been set up to fail. He has the big money contract. He has the hype. Given the little price the Leafs paid to get him he didn’t have HUGE unrealistic expectations on him. Most wise people recognized big upside, flashes of brilliance and the absolute low cost of acquisition. This is now a big deal. The pressure is absolutely on.
Exciting? Yes. We’ve been led to believe that this a very big deal. No one who played for this team over the last couple of years was worthy of this honor. Dion suddenly is. I don’t see anyone else in the room right now who is capable. I like Phaneuf, I just am not sure this was necessary right now.