Saturday, August 30, 2008

Dion Phaneuf

07-08 Prediction:
Had an up and down season in 06-07. Opposition began to compensate for Phaneuf’s presence on the blueline, but he still managed 17 goals, 4 game winners. Destroyed Denis Hamel early on in the year with a thundering check, but was quieter than his rookie year. Did not mesh well with Robyn Regehr. Ice time increased. Asked to play a pure shutdown/containment role for Canada in the World Championships, Phaneuf was nothing less than spectacular.

07-08 Evaluation:
Phaneuf's counting numbers continued their increasingly impressive rise to 17 goals and and 60 points. I don't think he had any single highlight reel hits this year but that's ok, I'm more concerned with his actual defensive presence.

I don't think there was any better illustration of Phaneuf's shortcomings than in the playoffs against San Jose. While there was no doubt he was contributing offensively (3G, 7PTS), it was nothing less than heart attack hockey seeing him go against Joe Thornton. It's unfair to accuse Phaneuf of not being strong enough, but quite frankly, he just couldn't handle Thornton, especially down low. There's no shame in that obviously, Thornton is one of the league's elite. It just appears that Phaneuf isn't, at least when it comes to defensive zone coverage. Not yet anyway.Looking at numbers I think we can get a bit of a year long illustration of what I'm saying. His offensive numbers are all stellar, (1st in GFON for defencemen, 1st in pts/60 for defencemen, etc). He's obviously a workhorse (1st overall in EVTOI/60) but I have to think that at least some of his totals are because of the fact he gets top notch teammates.

The disappointing part of the numbers come in the fact we can see he's facing 2nd tier opposition and not really stopping them from scoring goals. He's not even in the first half of defenceman in terms of opposition shutdown ability.

Right now Phaneuf is a very good defenceman, but if he ever hopes to win that Norris he was nominated for he needs to tighten up his defensive zone coverage.

Projection: number 1 defenceman
Key Stat: 1st for defenceman in GFON and PTS/60


Kent W. said...

Phaneuf certainly has his short-comings in the defensive zone. Still, he go through spans of being absolutely dominant at either end of the ice last year (he was massive in October and March I believe), which is encouraging.

Also, as I maintained during the RS, Phaneuf was stuck dragging around sub-par partners all year (Aucoin and then Eriksson). If he actually plays with someone decent this season, I think it would go a long way to helping him take "the next step".

Kent W. said...

*he went through

Lowetide said...

It takes forever for defensemen. I don't know if he's ever going to be as dominant as Flames fans think he already is, but he's clearly a player and as the game slows for him the decision making will improve.

therealdeal said...

Kent, it's true that Dion played with Eriksson and Aucoin, but desjardins still has him as number 1 for quality of teammates so while he often had to deal with poor partners he probably overall still had better teammates than the rest of the defensive group.

I think that he has the skills, its just that he often seems unfocused in his own end.

I completely agree with LT though, it just takes a very long time for defenceman to get smart about decisions. I think Phaneuf will get there no doubt, he's just not there yet.

Kent W. said...

True, Phaneuf played behind Iginla all year, which helps. I would like to see something that investigates the effect of a quality of a d-mans partner on his performance, though. That'd be very data intensive I imagine.

MattM said...

Right now Phaneuf is a very good defenceman, but if he ever hopes to win that Norris he was nominated for he needs to tighten up his defensive zone coverage

That should probably say if he ever hopes to deserve that Norris.