Dion Phaneuf’s future with the Toronto Maple Leafs remains up in the air, even with the addition of newly hired head coach Mike Babcock.
But the Leafs captain made it clear on Thursday that he’d like to stay in Toronto and play for the Stanley Cup and Olympic gold medal winning coach next season.
Phaneuf told Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman that he’s “in” with Babcock in charge and is ready for a long and painful rebuild.
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“I’m excited. And the guys are excited, too. It’s big for our fans and our organization,” said Phaneuf, adding he’d spoken to a few of them. “There was a lot of interest in where he was going to go, and rightfully so. You want to play for a coach of his calibre. You can see how prepared he is, how he makes a plan. He’s won at every level and I’m looking forward to working for him.”
The question is, does Babcock want Phaneuf?
Judging by his comments during Thursday’s news conference, it seems as if Babcock wants to at least give Phaneuf a chance. The 30-year-old blue-liner is coming off an average season offensively, where he scored three goals and 26 assists in 70 games.
But it’s been Phaneuf’s defensive play and lack of leadership that has Leafs president Brendan Shanahan wondering if he’s the right guy to lead this team.
Babcock, however, may want the chance to resurrect Phaneuf’s career.
“I’m a fan of Dion,” Babcock told media on Thursday. “I think he works hard and he tries hard. I think…you have to help your leaders. I think that’s what your job is (as coach), is to help them do things right.”