in the past few weeks i've taken an unforseen renewed interest in watching toronto maple leafs games.... hey, i used to watch that team all the time when i lived in toronto, and i will freely admit that without the likes of kaberle, antropov, and stajan (for good) and lumme, berg, and svehla (for humour), i probably wouldn't be half as interested in hockey as i am currently.... i've got a ton of friends who bleed blue, and i felt for all of them while they helplessly watched some idiot (*ahem…jfj*) completely dismantle any trace of hope they had for a successful team this decade...
since the flames suddenly, and without warning, dealt them a kid who was once considered a cornerstone of the core group, i've been trying my best to watch any/all leaf games televised and a few extras online.... i suppose this is a misnomer, since i don't even really watch the GAME per sé (jeez, that kessel guy's got some skill and luca caputi is currently making burkey look like a visionary), i just wait 'til #3 takes the ice and then examine every move he makes.... maybe it makes me a bad person but what i really want to see (and i admit that this could explain why i see it) are the bad defensive habits that dion picked up along the way... i really want to see confirmation that daz did the right thing; that we gave up on jovanovski not scott stevens....
the first few games in leafs blue made dion a veritable toronto superstar. he came out huge and made some monster hits, got in a fight, scored a goal. the crowd at the ACC, eager to welcome him after an enormous first performance, chanted his name.... but now we're just over a month in and i wonder if the honeymoon period might be over. the bloggers over at PPP seem to be noticing that dion's advertised "bullet shot" is actually generally off target:
"if you had to estimate, how often would you say a phaneuf shot actually hits the net? 5% of the time? 10%?" ---daoust
"1.09%" ---chuck diesel
"i was all worried that i was going to miss poni and his high and wide shots, but with phaneuf it’s like poni never left. thank you dion!" ---daoust
for me, the biggest concerns about dion are his pricetag, his lazy own-zone play, his ill-timed huge hits that take him away from the play, and (quite possibly the biggest detriment) the effect he might have on the development of luke schenn. having not watched a whole lot of leafs hockey earlier in the year, or late last season, i can only imagine that schenn's been struggling in the bigs... but it wouldn't surprise me if his stats have actually degenerated since the arrival of phaneuf, because to my eye: he looks to be taking notes (and all the wrong ones).
anyhow, here are the three boston goals from last night ---all with dion in good position but not engaging the play, except when he unsuccessfully (!!) utilizes the warrener move in clip#2, and blatantly crosschecks/interferes with a bruin crease-side in clip#3.
sure, you can argue that the leafs have a lot of problems defensively and that dion is really just a bystander in all of it. you could insist that the leafs' forwards need to be more responsible, and that the goaltending needs to be more reliable.... but my thesis in this "report" is that dion has NOT improved at all in the last six weeks, and whether or not he improves in the future is moot. lockerrom 'cancer'* aside, daz needed to make changes and i fully support the shipping of dion out of town before the word got out any further that he was a dud on the blueline....
*my buddy's buddy is buddies with matt keetley's sister (true)... ;) apparently when he started with the flames, he thought dion was a pretty good dude but the big contract turned him into a douche and the rumours of lockerroom strife were totally bang-on.
[sutter(s) dismissal countdown: day 7]