During a segment on Hockey Night In Canada that ran this past Saturday night, Damien Cox and Elliotte Freidman speculated about Dion Phaneuf’s availability and possible suitors. When they mentioned Los Angeles, it made some sense to me – after all, there were rumors of a potential Mike Richards for Phaneuf swap not long ago. When the conversation turned to Detroit and their possible interest in bringing Phaneuf to Detroit, I scoffed and shot down the idea immediately.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) February 15, 2015
However, after having a few days to collect my thoughts on the matter, I am not nearly as opposed to the idea as I was on Saturday night. There are several reasons why Phaneuf will not become a member of the Red Wings – his cap hit/term, Toronto’s expected return and the two teams being in the same division are just a few of them. Certainly, the Red Wings would want the Leafs to retain some salary, and in turn, Toronto would likely want some high-end assets from Detroit. It would be a very complicated situation.
Let’s push past all of that for two seconds and ask ourselves: would Phaneuf be a good fit in Detroit?
(Further) Boosting The Powerplay
It’s a tough sell to suggest that Detroit’s powerplay could improve. They are currently atop the league in that regard, cashing in at 26.0% on the man advantage. Danny DeKeyser has done a commendable job in his role as the team’s second unit quarterback. In an article from MLive’s Ansar Khan, Mike Babcock heaps a ton of praise on DeKeyser (and deservedly so), though admits that playing on the powerplay is not necessarily DeKeyser’s forte.
“Is he an offensive defenseman? No. Is he getting better every day? Absolutely,” Babcock said. “Is he a guy that one day can run a second power play? He’s doing it for us right now, so obviously he’s getting better. Is that his calling card? No.”
Phaneuf has a respectable 12 points on the man advantage, and joining a well-established structure in Detroit could boost those numbers even further. His booming shot and offensive instincts would be boon for Detroit’s second powerplay unit. He’s not the right-handed, offensive defender that many Red Wings fans desire, but I believe he would find success on Detroit’s powerplay.
Smaller Role, Less Responsibility
In Toronto, Dion is the go-to-guy for on defense. He plays in all situations, and leads the Maple Leafs in TOI/GP with 23:05. Detroit has the veteran talent to insulate Phaneuf, allowing him to play his game under the radar. With less pressure on his shoulders, he could serve as a very solid number two or three defender on Detroit’s blueline. Dion would also add a physical edge to Detroit’s back-end, something they are currently lacking. While his aggressive style can sometimes get him into trouble, you have to imagine that Babcock would do his part to refine that aspect of Dion’s game.
As I mentioned earlier in the article, a trade between Detroit and Toronto for Phaneuf would be a rather complicated situation. Ken Holland has a history of standing pat, and not making a big splash at the trade deadline. If the two teams can find the right deal, I believe Phaneuf would be a valuable addition to the Red Wings’ defense corp.