Dion Phaneuf can’t fight in that situation

Dion Phaneuf, the Captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs, needs to be less selfish and must pick his spots more intelligently (if at all) when it comes to fighting. Even if his honour is at stake, it’s the worst thing Phaneuf can do in any situation, as not just the team’s Captain, but as its best defenseman.

His team’s rivalry with the Ottawa Senators picked up for maybe the first time since Phaneuf became a Leaf.

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The game survived a pointlessly-staged fight between Mike Brown and Zenon Konopka early in the first period, but after Nick Foligno came at Dion Phaneuf with a low-bridge hit earning himself a 2-minute penalty for clipping, the game took on a new dynamic.

Toronto’s powerplay failed to make Foligno pay for his transgression, generating a pair of shots and a how-did-that-not-go-in chance from Joffrey Lupul, who deflected a bouncing puck off the goal-post, and then somehow failed to cash in the rebound. Up 2-1 at that point, Phaneuf responded almost on cue two shifts later. The video is above the post.

It would be too easy to say that this fight tore Toronto apart at the seams, and the team was unfocused from there on out, leading to two quick goals by the Sens separated by a period break. The difference in this game wasn’t the fight. The cumulative shot chart shows that the Leafs out-classed the Sens at every turn:

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(Image grabbed from Behind the Net’s game logs)

The fight, which took place in the game’s 33rd minute, was accompanied with an Ottawa powerplay. That accounts for a brief upturn in shots for the Sens, who were otherwise dominated in this one. The Leafs offensive game was, quite literally, off the charts, but they had no match for Craig Anderson in Ottawa’s net.

I won’t criticize Phaneuf for fighting because it changed the game and allowed Ottawa to come back and win in regulation, but rather, by fighting when he did, Dion Phaneuf proved that he, nor Brown, nor Colton Orr, nor anybody, can change a game with a fight. The Leafs were already rolling at that point.

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“I knew he was coming after me after that whole thing, and I asked him if he wanted to fight, and he obliged,” Foligno said. “We finished what we had started.”

This comes from Sean Fitz-Gerald of the National Post last night. What is Phaneuf trying to prove in fighting Foligno in this situation? As the team’s Captain, regardless of the extra two minutes he was called for roughing, he needs to show that the team is more important than any personal vendetta any individual wants to settle. “I have no problem with it,” said Brian Burke on the fight, who was captured by TV cameras yelling excitedly in support of his Captain.

“Jay Rosehill would have gladly evened that score, but Dion got a chance and wanted to do it himself, and I have no problem with it. It was a cheap hit, Dion went after him, and that’s fine.”

That’s from another Fitz-Gerald article from this morning. We know that Burkie is very pro-sticking-up-for-oneself and very anti-rat, but is Ron Wilson? Whatever Wilson says to the press, we know that his tenuous relationship with the Toronto sports media probably means that he won’t be throwing any of his star players under the bus for a decision that he didn’t think Phaneuf should have made.

There’s too much that can go wrong in a fight for Phaneuf to settle this score. He didn’t go out looking for the scrap, but he didn’t back down. This is a situation where Dion needs to take on a leadership role, say “thanks, but no thanks,” to Foligno, and continue playing, trying to secure the one-goal lead. Putting himself in the penalty box wasn’t going to help the team in any way.

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It was a tough loss.

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  • CdnBarbarian

    Nothing you said in this post is wrong, but it seems like your opinion is that Dion should never fight. I think that there are situations where a fight is warranted, this being one of them. Also, I think that Dion has overall, been very careful about who and when he fights. Example: Not fighting Downie

    Here he fights with his team up by one (I think?), after a cheap shot (which by the way: I can’t tell the difference between what Foligno did and what Marchand did) and he fights a guy who would be considered a top six player on the other team.

    Roughing penalty was a dumb call, let em be stripes!

  • CdnBarbarian

    I agree with your article, the Leafs can’t afford to have their best defenceman in the box for 7 minutes. That is what Rosehill is for, that is why he was dressed for the game, to take care of the “Rats” in the game.