Dion Phaneuf- The Captain everyone loves to hate.

I have been writing about the Leafs since early March of this year, and I have usually discussed games, trades, and opinions on those items. Today, however, I want to try something different. I am going to voice my opinion on the following question:

Why do people hate Dion Phaneuf so much?

As the captain of the most valuable hockey franchise on the planet (the Leafs are the 26th most valuable sports team in the world, highest NHL team and hockey team in general), Phaneuf has been given some high expectations to perform at his best every single night. In fact, some believe that Phaneuf is supposed to be this "super-human" player who never makes a mistake and is the best player to ever lace the skates. The reality is that Phaneuf has been a really good defencemen in the past and has shown signs of his potential during his time with the Leafs.


Yet, fans of the Leafs and hockey fans in general only notice the screw-ups Phaneuf makes every single night as if he is not allowed to do so. The same could be said about Lanny McDonald who, while not the captain, was under the microscope on every single play that he made and was literally booed out of town to Colorado. The same exponential pressure placed on an important player can be linked to modern day Leafs like David Clarkson, who signed a 7 year deal last summer and went through a disappointing season. As a result, fans were heavily upset at his lack of offense that he was supposed to bring along with his toughness (like Wendel Clark), hence the Wendel Clarkson nickname.

Clarkson is one of many examples of big name Leaf players criticized for every 
play he makes. This traces back to the big contract he signed in 2013.

Back to Phaneuf, I honestly think that he is a good defenceman and I don't fully understand why fans love to hate him so much. However, I could try to underline where this hate started and why it has gotten to this point right now. Remember, this is my opinion.

Let's travel back to January 31, 2010, the day Phaneuf was acquired by the Leafs. On that very day, Burke gave Phaneuf very high praise as if to say that he is the new top 2 defenceman for the Leafs. At the time, fans of the Leafs, including myself, were really excited and shocked by this trade. Maybe it was because of what the Leafs gave up, or flashbacks of the Gilmour trade. Either way, Phaneuf was given a huge task to live up to.

Once the 2009-10 season was over, Burke continued to give Phaneuf more responsibility by naming him the 18th captain of the Leafs on June 14, 2010. Again, Burke gave Phaneuf the high praise (and by high praise, I mean making it seem like he is the guy that will lead the Leafs to the Cup). Phaneuf was happy to be named captain, knowing very well just how much responsibility he had on his shoulders. 

As you can see, Phaneuf was always an important player given a lot of responsibility early on. By being this big name player, he became part of the core that Burke began to build earlier that season. 

So that is what I think made Phaneuf become the big name player he is now in Hogtown. Not only was he considered the best Leaf defenceman, but he now had to lead the Leafs back into the playoffs and the Stanely Cup. But this doesn't answer the question: where did all of the Phaneuf hate stem from?

A really good place to look as to why this is so is the 2011-12 season. You know, the "18-wheeler going off a cliff" season.

The previous season saw the Leafs make a huge push for the playoffs falling just short of their goal. Despite that disappointing end, there was high optimism for the future. In the new season, Phaneuf, once again, was given the task of leading the Leafs back into the playoffs. In the early going, the Leafs were "on fire," and were first overall in the NHL on November 4.

NHL Standings - November 4, 2011
NE13931194839+95-0-14-3-0-6-3-1WON 2
ATL14833194930+194-1-14-2-2-5-3-2OT 1
NW12822183216+166-1-12-1-1-7-2-1WON 6
CEN12822184529+165-0-23-2-0-7-1-2WON 3
SE10820164327+166-0-02-2-0-8-2-0WON 1
PAC11830163323+105-1-03-2-0-7-3-0WON 1
ATL13742165141+103-3-24-1-0-4-4-2OT 1
NW12633153724+134-2-12-1-2-5-2-3WON 3

Wait, Edmonton was in third on November 4?

To make a long story short, the great start turned into one of the biggest collapses that I have ever seen. From early February to late March, the Leafs went from being in contention to make the playoffs to having a lottery draft pick in a matter of weeks. It was during this adversity that for the first time, people began to question Phaneuf's leadership skills. The first signs of this can be found in interviews and some of the mistakes he made on the ice.

Soon, images like Pylon and Phaneuf looking down as he leaves the ice started to overflow the internet, (aka memes) making a mockery of the Leafs captain. As a result, Dion Phaneuf became public enemy number 1. This was simply because of the letter on his chest, which is unfortunately.

Ironically, he had a fairly successful season.

Unfortunately, Phaneuf has since been criticized for his leadership, and it continues to this day. Since that dreadful collapse, the Leafs have experienced two other collapses: one during the playoffs and another during the month of March this year. And who did most people blame for both of those screw-ups? Why, none other than Dion Phaneuf.

The point I'm trying to make is that while Phaneuf is not the best defenceman in the NHL, Leaf fans need to cut the guy some slack. It is really difficult for a star player to be given a chance to be loved when he is constantly being under the microscope day in and day out. There is no denying that the hate on Phaneuf will continue up until the day he is traded away or wins the Cup, but thats not the point.

In my opinion, I say this to the Leaf fans that can't stand Phaneuf:

Don't say that trading Phaneuf will make the Leafs instantly better, because it won't. Stop giving him all of the low class nicknames that he gets every single day. I think he doesn't care about what you think, so why bother? Don't assume that Phaneuf is this perfect player who never makes mistakes,  because everyone is human.  Appreciate that the Leafs have him and understand just how much worse the team would be if he was not there. As the old saying goes, "You don't know what you got until it is gone."

That is what I think about this Phaneuf hatred. What do you guys think? Leave your responses in the comments below.

Good bye!

P.S. What should I write about next? If you have an idea that involves the Leafs, leave a response in the comments below.


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