by PuckStopsHere on 07/23/14 at 10:43 PM ET
Dion Phaneuf was a star as soon as he entered the NHL. He was a Calder Trophy nominee in the strong class of 2005/06 where he beat out Henrik Lundqvist to earn a nomination alongside Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin. The next season he made the First All Star Team and was nominated for the Norris Trophy as best defenceman in the NHL. His career was then on a Hall of Fame track but he never arrived as a Hall of Famer. He failed to progress. Perhaps he had come too far too fast but he developed a bad habit of abandoning his defensive responsibilities to take offensive risks that rarely panned out. As Phaneuf became less defensively responsible, he was forced into a more significant defensive responsibility. Phaneuf played a tougher role and he played it less responsibly.
This is shown when we look at the worst players by team adjusted Corsi. Phaneuf has the third worst rating of -295.2. It doesn't help that his usual linemate of Carl Gunnarsson is worst in the league at -332.2. The fact that Toronto's top defensive pairing were among the worst puck possession players in the NHL last season helps to explain why the Leafs missed the playoffs.
Dion Phaneuf has shown that he is capable of being a top level defenceman in the NHL. He is also capable of struggling in other situations and he often is in those situations with the Leafs. Phaneuf would likely do best if he was on a team with a top flight defensive defenceman to keep Phaneuf from tough defensive responsibility.
Corsi does not say that Phaneuf is the third worst player in the NHL or anything similar to that. He isn't the third worst puck possession player in the league either. Phaneuf does play in tough situations with many defensive zone starts. That partially explains his poor puck possession numbers and when zone starts are adjusted for Phaneuf will climb from third worst.
Dion Phaneuf has struggled as a Toronto Maple Leaf defenceman. He has shown some poor puck possession. With proper coaching, I think it can be turned around, but it won't be easy. If Phaneuf can turn his puck possession numbers around, the Maple Leafs will likely climb in the standings.
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