Faced with what must have been no ideas an hour before a deadline, Dave Feschuk watches one game then goes to the Mad Libs Book of Cliches to do a hatchet job on Dion Phaneuf in the Toronto Star today. Some highlights from the logical fallacies:
Veteran Character: "if one thing has become obvious in Leafland in the past six weeks or so, it’s that an influx of veteran character is required."
Clubhouse Gravitas: "Phaneuf, best known for his Day One command of the dressing-room stereo"
Leadership: "As a leader, Phaneuf has, from the outside, appeared to be an ineffectual force...powerless to stop a season’s death spiral...While NHLers are usually quick to praise teammates, the Leafs have danced around the subject of Phaneuf’s leadership at the best of times this season."
Manliness: "On Thursday night...Phaneuf and the men he is supposed to lead [were] standing dumbfounded and still and beaten."
Short-term performance *and* Pride: "As an on-ice performer, Phaneuf has appeared to regress as his team’s results have become grislier; his minus-2 [in a single game]...was as prideless a performance as he has registered since arriving in Toronto."
Summary Opinion: "Ron Wilson...[called] Phaneuf the NHL’s 'best defenceman ... by a country mile' even though Phaneuf...is clearly not in that conversation."
CLUBHOUSE CANCER: "the tension that exists between Phaneuf and Toronto’s Schenn is a cancerous dressing-room presence"
Failure to Pay Sufficient Tribute to the Don: "at least three former players...say Phaneuf never showed up to pay his respects to Sundin...'That’s part of learning what it’s like to be a captain. (Phaneuf) has a lot to learn.'" (anonymous sources!)
Failure to Pay Sufficient Tribute to the Media: "Perhaps it hasn’t helped that Phaneuf, who wasn’t made available to the media after Thursday’s loss or Friday’s practice...has come off as incapable of self-criticism."
A two-win player made the Leafs miss the playoffs by 5+ wins: "Phaneuf...has been granted a mulligan by management for his role in the epic collapse of a once-promising campaign...close observers of the team aren’t so sure the 26-year-old defenceman is deserving of the grace..."
Anyone who's interested in writing a similar piece should just give it a shot. All you need to do is take your #1 defenseman (at even-strength, on the PP and on the PK) and ignore how bad the goaltending was behind him. Everything else writes itself.