Dion Phaneuf: Wha' Happen?

If you don't understand the title, here's the inspiration.  In Fred Willard I trust.  Also, this was written last week Thursday.

A friend decided to ask the oft-repeated question of "Who is this doddering doofus and what has he done to Dion Phaneuf?", so I figured I'd take a glimpse to see what's up with the guy.  After running through all of the wonderful Corsi/QualComp/QualTeam/Zone Starts data, the picture is pretty clear.

Season Team ZoneS% ZoneF% BZS QualComp QualTeam SF On/60 SA On/60 GVT/G
2007-08 CGY 56.8 52.1 0.462 0.005 0.250 27.9 27.3 0.217
2008-09 CGY 58.2 53.6 -0.140 -0.030 0.085 31.6 28.5 0.108
2009-10 C/T 54.8 52.9 0.129 0.070 -0.102 28.6 28.5 0.104
2010-11 TOR 50.2 51.2 1.035 0.004 -0.006 26.8 28.3 0.070

It's worth pointing out that Phaneuf spent about 2/3 of 2009-10 with the Calgary Flames, so that high ZoneS% might have been strongly influenced by the cushy starts he had been obviously getting in Alberta.

Different usage, not quite as much help from his friends as Joe Cocker gets, and tougher competition have been the major results from his move to Toronto (his QualComp has been the toughest among TOR defensemen since arrival).  He also switched from a power-play unit where he was the focal point to a power-play unit that was putty in Tomas Kaberle's hands (easy, ladies and gents, he's taken).  Combine that with shooting talent that clearly was not at the level with his rookie season, and you have a guy that looked like a complete defenseman by the boxcars and highlight-reel hits but was really a big-bodied average offensive defenseman.  He's a classic case where you shouldn't confuse hitting with using your body for defensive purposes, as well as a classic case for regression to the mean (because, seriously, defensemen just do not shoot at the league average for all players for long...even the best ones).  He's just a classic case in general, he should have a class called "Dion Phaneuf 100": no reading, guest speakers Elisha Cuthbert and the Boogeyman, a special slideshow called "How to Lose Your Shot in 80 Games," and the final's a coloring book.

So what is Dion Phaneuf now?  He's certainly not the offensive stalwart Toronto hoped he was, but he's also not (yet) the shutdown defenseman that Toronto is trying to make him become.  With Kaberle gone, he might gain a more prominent role in the power-play, but I don't think they will stop using him in tough matchups and giving him more defensive zone starts at even-strength.  He's a guy who could very well end up somewhere in the middle of all this, scoring a bit more and improving defensively, but it's doubtful he will fulfill Burkie's wildest dreams.

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