The Maple Leafs Are Better With Phaneuf in the Lineup

Dion Phaneuf has been arguably the most scrutinized player on the Toronto Maple Leafs, but hate him or not the Buds are a better team with him in the lineup.

On Monday the Toronto Maple Leafs announced that captain Dion Phaneuf is injured and will be out week-to-week. The team stated that he will be sidelined after sustaining an upper-body injury during the team’s last game against the Ottawa Senators. TSN’s Darren Dreger reports that the 29-year-old aggravated a hand injury when he fought Eric Staal last week and then did even more damage in a fight with Milan Michalek.

Leafs Win More With Phaneuf

The stats suggest that over the years the team has been better with their captain in the lineup. He has been very durable since joining the Buds, having only missed 18 games during his six years with the team. Of those, 16 of the games came during the 2010-11 season where he missed time with a leg laceration. During that stretch the team went 5-8-3, a winning percent of just .313% while the Leafs winning percent with Phaneuf in the lineup was .485%.

Phaneuf also missed two games last season after he was suspended for a hit on Boston Bruins Kevan Miller. The Maple Leafs lost both those games, 3-1 to Los Angeles and 6-3 to St. Louis. In total the Leafs winning percent with Phaneuf out of the lineup is .278%.

The native of Edmonton, AB has 22 points this season, second most among Leaf blueliners, behind Cody Franson. He also averages over 23 minutes of ice-time a night, the most on the team, while playing against the oppositions best players.

Despite only being with the team since the end of the 2009-10 season, Phaneuf is already the franchise’s 15th all-time scoring defenceman. He has 41 goals and 165 points in 350 games as a Leaf and is eight points away from jumping up two more spots past Bob Baun and James Benning.

Dion Phaneuf Leafs
Dion Phaneuf has gone -15 during the team’s last 14 games. (Rich Kane/Icon SMI)

Poor Season Hurting His Numbers

Last season the Leafs had a huge falling out during the second half of the season, ultimately finishing nine points out of the final Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference. Despite this, Phaneuf still finished the year with a +2 rating. This season the Leafs started off strong, including a stretch where they went  10-1-1, but have since dropped off losing 14 of their past 17 games.

Phaneuf is currently a -4, but this is arguably because of the team’s poor play and their dried up offence, which has caused his plus-minus to suffer. The Leafs defender has not been a plus in a game since the team’s 4-0 win against the Dallas Stars back on December 23. In the 14 games since, in which the Leafs lost 12, Phaneuf has gone -15, meaning prior to that he was a +11.

The good news for the Maple Leafs is that the injury is not believed to have caused any structural damage so surgery shouldn’t be necessary and he shouldn’t be out for too long. In the meantime the Buds called up Petter Granberg from the Marlies to fill in on the back end and the team is expected to have Peter Holland, Leo Komarov, and Joffrey Lupul back this week.

Phaneuf is an important part of the Leafs, he plays all situations and is the leader of the team. He may get burned here and there, but in the end the Leafs have a better chance of winning with him in the lineup.