Darryl Sittler, Rick Vaive, Wendel Clark, Doug Gilmour, Mats Sundin and Dion Phaneuf.
One of these things is not like the other.
On Monday, June 14th Dion Phaneuf was announced as the newest captain of my beloved Toronto Maple Leafs. To mark the occasion, Phaneuf read from prepared remarks with all the earnestness and awkwardness of a grade four student's first speech arts class.
I think Phaneuf is a serviceable hockey player. Coach Ron Wilson and GM Brian Burke are rather enamoured with him and their opinion counts for a whole lot more than mine. But I do have two concerns with Phaneuf wearing the C.
- A one-time Norris trophy nominee, Phaneuf needs to re-establish his game as one of the premiere d-men in the NHL. Is the added responsibility and pressure of being captain going to help or hinder him?
- Does he have the softer, off-ice skills to be the face of the Leaf franchise?
Phaneuf responded to the media and overall attention of playing in hockey-mad Toronto by scoring 2 goals in 26 games, that's despite playing over 26 minutes a night.
To my eyes, he didn't appear to thrive on the new pressure and attention of playing in TO, but it's not like I have game film of his last few years in Calgary. (It should also be noted that he shot an abysmal 2.3% in Toronto and will likely regress to his norm of about 6% next year. No doubt, many will ascribe his renewed goal scoring production to the bright shiny C that has been freshly affixed to the front of his jersey. Don't believe it).
My second concern with Phaneuf as captain is somewhat related, but rather than getting his own game back on track in this hockey mad market, I wonder if he has the stuff to be the so-called player face of the franchise.
If his speech at the newser is anything to go by, this is not a man that will impress in the scrums, shield his fellow players when they need it or distract the media hordes when things on the ice aren't going well. He may steal the pucks to draw media attention away from a loss, but I have the feeling he'd do it in warm-up.
Maybe it's just me, but I prefer my leaders to be a bit more cerebreal or for them to burn with a passion for hockey. When I looked in Wendel Clark's or Doug Gimour's eyes, I got the feeling they'd do anything to win. When I look in Dion's eyes, I get the feling he's having trouble sounding out a multi-syllabic compound word.
I don't suppose it matters much. The Leafs won't get better until the get more talent and several great players have worn the C in Toronto while the team crashed and burned.
How many Leaf Captains?
The Globe and Mail said Phaneuf is the 17th captain of the Leafs; the CBC said he's the 18th...here's the wiki list:
- Bert Corbeau, 1927
- Hap Day, 1927–37
- Charlie Conacher, 1937–38
- Red Horner, 1938–40
- Syl Apps, 1940–43
- Bob Davidson, 1943–45
- Ted Kennedy, 1948–55
- Sid Smith, 1955–56
- Jimmy Thomson, 1956–57
Ted Kennedy, 1957
- George Armstrong, 1957–69
- Dave Keon, 1969–75
- Darryl Sittler, 1975–79
- Rick Vaive, 1982–86
- Rob Ramage, 1989–91
- Wendel Clark, 1991–94
- Doug Gilmour, 1994–97
- Mats Sundin, 1997–2008
- Dion Phaneuf, 2010