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Toronto Maple Leafs 2014-15 Player Outlook: Dion Phaneuf

For the month of August, Editor In Leaf will take a look at the Toronto Maple Leafs roster, previewing what could happen in the 2014-15 NHL season. Next up is captain Dion Phaneuf.

Position: Defense

Age: 29

Years With Leafs: Five

You’d be hard-pressed to find a more polarizing player on the Leafs than Dion Phaneuf. Phaneuf arrived in Toronto amid great fanfare as he was pried away from Calgary for a collection of spare parts. Unfortunately, Phaneuf hasn’t been able to repeat the offensive success he had in Calgary, and at 29 years old, it’s hard to imagine he’ll be able to regain it.

A big reason for Phaneuf’s struggles lies in his usage. Here’s a great chart from @MimicoHero which shows his offensive zone starts and Corsi For percentage by coach:

Under Randy Carlyle, Phaneuf has received only around 40 per cent offensive zone starts. That means he’s starting the majority of his shifts in the defensive zone, making it difficult for him to get in situations to get a shot attempt on net. Predictably, his Corsi (shot-attempt differential) has suffered greatly.

When you factor in Phaneuf’s age and Carlyle’s usage, it’s really no surprise he’s struggled.

Big Question: Can Stephane Robidas help ease Phaneuf’s load?

Robidas had what can be adequately described as a nightmare season in 2013-14. He broke his right leg twice, once in November and the other in April, limiting him to only 41 regular season and playoff games.

The Leafs signed him to a three-year, $9-million contract in hopes that he’ll stay healthy. It’s a risk, but when Robidas is on the ice, he’s effective. He’s had a positive Corsi relative to his teammates every season since 2010-11 except one and has done that starting more shifts in the defensive end than the o-zone.

Robidas plays the right side, while Phaneuf is a lefty who prefers the right. That might be a problem in terms of playing them together. Another potential partner for Phaneuf is Jake Gardiner, who is by far the Leafs’ best possession d-man. Whatever Carlyle decides to do, it’s clear the status quo isn’t working. After signing Phaneuf to a seven-year, $49-million contract last season, they might as well try to get more use out of all that money.

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Tags: Dion Phaneuf Jake Gardiner Randy Carlyle Stephane Robidas Toronto Maple Leafs

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