TORONTO, CANADA - JANUARY 7: Phil Kessel #81 and Dion Phaneuf #3 of the Toronto Maple Leafs celebrate Dion Phaneuf goal against the Detroit Red Wings during NHL action at The Air Canada Centre January 7, 2012 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images)
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.