When Brian Burke acquired Dion Phaneuf this past winter it was obvious almost immediately he would be named team captain before the new season began. The team was desperate for a player with the right level of talent and presence to hang the "C" on and to change the culture ofthe team. To a certain extent, the selection of Phaneuf also reflects the lack of candidates for captain. Other than Phaneuf, would you pick? Maybe Mike Komisarek.
Being a captain in Toronto has it's own set of challenges. There is a very large mass of reporters that follow the team and require stories to feed a fan base that is hungry for Leaf news 365 day a year. The captain becomes a spokesperson for the team. As you can see below from the statement Phaneuf read at yesterday's press conference, he has a long way to go in becoming comfortable in that role. He was wooden and emotionless. Yet that will not sink him. Many of his predecessors were not great public speakers. Both Sundin and Clark were pretty bland. They grew into the role.
However, Phaneuf comes with some baggage and throwing more on this young man's shoulders will not make life easier for him in Leaf Land. He was a 1st round pick of Calgary, 9th overall in 2003. He played in the All Star game in 2007 and 2008 and has been a Norris Trophy finalist. Yet he became a salary dump by the Flames for a package of Leaf spare parts in a matter of 2 years. Although he continues to be a physical presence on the ice, other parts of his game have left him. He has gone from scoring 60 points in a season to just 32 last season including just 10 points in 26 games with the Leafs. At 25 he still has time to develop to his full potential but it will only be that much more difficult under the Maple Leaf microscope. I am one that believes he will do it.