Time For More

The following is a quote given by Leafs coach Ron Wilson during the Leafs and Canadiens post game press conference regarding Dion Phaneuf’s offense. 
“We’re encouraging that,” Wilson said, but repeated he thinks too much is made of Phaneuf’s frequent gaps on the scoresheet. “He played really well defensively, yet he’s supposed to score for some reason, and if he doesn’t he’s not a good player. I’m glad he did to silence those people who criticize him. He’s here to stop the other team from scoring.”
While I definitely agree with Wilson, even if Phaneuf does not provide offense he is still the tone setter for this Leafs team. I wrote this article a couple of months ago, and I stand by it. The main point was that Dion’s character and ability to initiate physical play makes him the most important player in blue and white. However, if the Leafs are going to take that next step and make the playoffs this season Phaneuf will need to return to the form that saw him produce four straight 10 + goal and 45 + point seasons to begin his career. 
Scoring Problems 
In 2010-2011 The Leafs finished in the bottom third of many offensive categories: 21st overall in goals scored, 21st in offensive production from the defense and 22nd on the power play. As The Globe and Mail’s James Mirtle pointed out Mikhail Grabovski, Phil Kessel, Nikolai Kulemin and Clarke MacArthur scored 53% of the Leafs goals last season. For the Leafs to emerge this season, and improve on those terrible rankings more balance is needed in their offensive lineup. It is expected that a full season in the blue and white from Joffrey Lupul, as well as healthy seasons from both Matthew Lombardi and Tim Connolly should provide more support to the Leafs big four, but offense from the blueline is the area that must improve dramatically. The main guy on the blueline should be  Phaneuf. He has the pedigree, and has proven in the past that he is capable of putting points on the board. During the preseason, and early in this season John Michael Liles has demonstrated, to great results, that he can and will shoot from the point on the power play. This will now prevent teams from overloading on Phaneuf (something teams did when Tomas Kaberle was here) allowing clear shooting lanes for the former 20 goal and 60 point player. 
Not being a reactionary fan I’m going to need some more time to fully believe the old Dion is back, but early in this season he has looked great leading the rush and getting involved in front of the net (particularly on Matthew Lombardi’s goal against the Habs). So far though the stat line for the Leafs captain is pretty impressive: 2 games played, 1 goal, 2 assists, +4 while averaging 25:26 of icetime.
As Wilson said, whether Phaneuf scores or not he is still a good player, who is on the Leafs to prevent the other team from scoring. But isn’t Dion capable of being more than good? The Leafs need a great season from their captain, and for him to have a great year he’s going to need to put points on the board. I am happy with what Phaneuf brings to the Leafs, but it’s time for more. 
The Sports Forecaster this fall predicted a season of 13 goals and 45 points for Phaneuf, while The Mckeen’s yearbook has Dion finishing with 9 goals and 40 points, but also ends their synopsis with “look for a return to 50 points”. These two publications (especially Mckeen’s) are usually accurate in their prognostications, early into the season their predictions are looking good. 
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