Dion Phaneuf is out week to week with an upper body injury, according to Peter Horachek.
— Jonas Siegel (@jonasTSN1050) January 26, 2015
The tweet above says it all. Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf will be out on a week-to-week basis with an upper-body injury. The Leafs are already dealing with a number of injuries, and losing their long-time #1 defenseman certainly won’t help. So with Phaneuf out for the foreseeable future, what can we expect to see from the Leafs’ blueline in the coming games?
Phaneuf has been Toronto’s #1 defenseman since the team first acquired him in 2010, with the team consistently relying on him to play the most and toughest minutes, anchoring a shaky blueline in all situations. However, Phaneuf has seen a decreased role of late, especially under Peter Horachek. In fact, while Phaneuf has played the toughest 5v5 minutes under Horachek, him and Franson have actually been playing the least amount of time at even strength among Leaf defenders. In fact, the young and blossoming Morgan Riely is averaging the most minutes among all Leafs since Horachek took over behind the bench 8 games ago. With Phaneuf out for now, you can expect to see that trend continue to grow. It will also be interesting to get an elongated look at what the Leafs defense might look like without Phaneuf, who has been the target of some trade rumors since the Leafs began to fall apart in the last month.
As for what the pairings on defense would look like, you can expect Morgan Rielly to play on the top pair either alongside Phaneuf’s partner Cody Franson, or Rielly’s own partner Roman Polak. Jake Gardiner would likely slide in alongside whichever partner is left alone. What I’m curious to see is how the Leafs balance the imbalance on the left side of the blueline. The Leafs recalled Petter Granberg today and Korbinian Holzer is the only other unmentioned blueliner the Leafs have at their disposal. Both are right-side defensemen. Barring a recall of Stuart Percy, it seems likely one of them will shift to the left side.
It’s believed Phaneuf aggravated hand injury in fight with Staal and caused further distress vs Ottawa. Not believed to be structural.
— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) January 26, 2015
As Darren Dreger notes, Phaneuf’s injuries are the result of fights against Eric Staal and Milan Michalek this past week.