Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Untouchable Defenceman is Touchable After All

On Sunday (January 31), the Calgary Flames embarked on a seven-player deal to send defenseman Dion Phaneuf, forward Fredrik Sjostrom and defensive prospect Keith Aulie to Toronto for forwards Matt Stajan, Niklas Hagman and Jamal Mayers and defenseman Ian White. Phaneuf’s season has been less than stellar, not to mention he was cut from the Canadian Olympic team. But there is no doubt he has been a formidable force since he entered the league. His point shot and his hits are second to none – well maybe the point shot could be second to Rob Blake (in his prime).

I’m not totally shocked by the trade because the Flames had to do something. Phaneuf was always considered untouchable, but factor in his less than average season and his contract.

Making a deal these days always has to work with the bottom line as much as results and chemistry.

But the trade shocked many, in particular the players in question. The married players admit their minds were scrambling as to how they pack up their household as quickly as they can pack their suitcases.
“I was very surprised,” says Phaneuf, “but on the other hand, I’m very excited to be going to the biggest hockey market in the world.”

White: “It’s difficult going through this. I don’t think you could be prepared for it. I have a young child right now and a family. It’s difficult, especially when you have a couple of hours to pack up a life that you made here.”

Hagman: “Hockey is the same in Calgary and Toronto or wherever. It’s the off-ice stuff that kind of shocks you a little and makes you wonder what you’re going to do.”

Mayers: “Any time you get that call, it does come as a surprise. You first think about your family and logistics in regard to what you’re going to do. That’s probably the most important thing. The easy part for us is going to the rink and have an instant 23 friends.”

You have to know it wasn’t an easy trade. Brent Sutter was Phaneuf’s coach in junior, so you’d have to believe that the bond is like a father-son relationship. But from what we’ve seen on some of these movements, players that may have been slumping a bit on one team will move to another and excel. That would be Toronto’s gain, for sure.

As for the guys in return, Jarome Iginla desperately needs someone he can play with who will complement his offensive talents. He just doesn’t have a playmaker to get him the puck. If the trade doesn’t boost the offensive touch, and soon, the Flames are in dangerous territory of missing the playoffs.

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