It was a blockbuster trade that saw seven different players moved between two teams. The Toronto Maple Leafs sent Niklas Hagman, Ian White, Matt Stajan and Jamal Mayers to to the Flames in exchange for Fredrik Sjostrom and prospect Keith Aulie. The main centrepiece of the deal was young, bruising defenseman Dion Phaneuf.
Phaneuf was named the 18th captain in Maple Leafs history on June 14, 2010, which was less than five months after they acquired him in the huge deal. It was a move made by Brian Burke, who wanted to change the fortune and direction of the franchise.
A few years down the road, and many Leafs fans are ready to see their captain traded away or stripped of the captaincy altogether. Despite everything that has happened these past few seasons, Phaneuf remains adamant that he wants to stay a Maple Leaf and return as the captain. It’s a situation that can have many different scenarios attached to it.
The Maple Leafs Could Trade Him
Many fans have been clamouring for this decision to be made. Phaneuf is a polarizing figure in Toronto for his sometimes lacklustre play and defensive miscues. Trading him is a potential option. Near the trade deadline last season, there were reports of multiple teams being interested in him including the Los Angeles Kings, Dallas Stars and Detroit Red Wings.
The Leafs could facilitate a deal, but the fear there is that they will not get a fair return coming back. Still, it’s a risk that they will be considering very carefully in the coming months.
Give Babcock A Shot With Him
Mike Babcock is a proven winner. He knows that coming to Toronto and coaching the Maple Leafs is easily his biggest hockey challenge to date. Having a new coach and different attitude may hugely benefit Phaneuf. The former ninth overall pick is the type of player who could flourish under Babcock, if handled correctly.
The beleaguered captain was basically anointed as a saviour by former members of Leafs’ management. They put everything on his shoulders early on and it backfired because of unrealistic expectations. Babcock will take his time and do his research before making any significant roster decisions.
Go With The Rotating “A”
A third option exists for the Maple Leafs. However, for this one to happen, Phaneuf would either need to get traded or he would have to voluntarily relinquish the captaincy. Stripping him of it could also happen, but the potential fallout is simply too much of a risk.
Maybe giving Phaneuf an “A” could be a good thing. He wouldn’t be the sole leader and whipping boy after every loss. It would also enable other Leafs to step up into leadership roles and assume collective responsibility when the team doesn’t play well.
The Maple Leafs have a ton of options when it comes to their captain. Each scenario holds interesting potential that will have some type of ramification on the team. It will be up to the new coach and the management team to decide exactly how to tackle this situation.