|Toronto Maple Leafs Dion Phaneuf during drills at a rare Sunday practice at the Mastercard Centre on October 31, 2010. (MICHAEL PEAKE/QMI Agency)
TORONTO - Ten games in and the love affair between Toronto Maple Leafs fans and Dion Phaneuf is starting to show signs of strain.
The boo birds that so often greeted Phaneuf at the Saddledome his last two years in Calgary apparently migrated east to the Air Canada Centre, where they were loud and not-so-proud during Saturday's 2-0 loss to the Rangers. Phaneuf drew their scorn following a sloppy play that led to a breakaway and subsequent penalty shot that put the Blueshirts up 2-0.
This just days after Phaneuf received his first negative press clips in Toronto due to the fact he's gone scoreless with just four assists to date.
It took three years for Flames fans to become uncomfortable with Phaneuf's defensive adventures -- something Leafs fans are starting to pick up on less than a dozen games in.
With the Leafs coming down to earth with losses in four of five, how the relationship proceeds will be as intriguing as No. 3's defensive approach.
Now for more notes, quotes and anecdotes from a sports world wondering if Flames backup Henrik Karlsson could cease and desist using my patented road hockey move to try stopping NHL shooters. It appears The Desperation Back Flop works better stopping tennis balls anyway.
Around the horn
Ian White's days as a Flame are now numbered thanks to the five-year, 20.1 million deal signed by Mark Giordano Friday. White avoided arbitration this summer by signing a one-year deal five dollars short of $3 million and is a pending UFA next July. With the Flames sitting at $18 million committed to four defencemen next year (Jay Bouwmeester, Robyn Regehr, Giordano and Cory Sarich) it's clear White will be too expensive to retain and isn't needed thanks to the emergence of T.J. Brodie. Should the Flames drop out of the playoff race, look for White to be moved at the deadline. Six years after signing a three-way ECHL deal with the Flames for $16,000, the undrafted Giordano definitely left some money on the table to stay with Calgary as he would have been one of the NHL's most attractive UFA's next summer at age 27 "¦ Sweet tweet from Phoenix Coyote Paul Bissonnette after eating a sausage/hotdog during the second intermission of a game in Detroit: "Did I mention I paid $4.25 for the sautdog? Now I know how they can afford to pay us. I thought I was getting a Zetterberg jersey with it." "¦ With apologies to Alex Tanguay and Brendan Morrison, the best Calgary Flame so far this season has been Curtis Glencross. That said, his silly shorthanded penalty Saturday was the beginning of the end against Washington.
Interesting addendum to the 1000th-game love-in held for Craig Conroy last week: A poll in the Sun following Conroy's arrival in 2001 found only 85.4% of respondents said the Conroy for Cory Stillman trade wouldn't help the Flames "¦ Jay Leno after the Oakland Raiders scored 59 points against the Broncos: "Usually, when someone gets beaten that bad at a Raiders game, it's in the parking lot." "¦ With Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon contemplating a motion at the upcoming GM meetings to consider the possibility of coach's video challenges with regards to calls like goalie interference, several players and coaches dismiss the notion outright. A straw poll of almost two-dozen players found almost all of them against it as additional reviews can halt the momentum of a game for players and fans ... Jimmy Kimmel during a recent taping that saw most of the Carolina Hurricanes in attendance: "We have an NHL team in the audience tonight. This is the fewest teeth we've had in our studio audience since, I think, the cast of 'Dog the Bounty Hunter' was here."
Eric Francis appears regularly as a panelist on CBC's Hockey Night in Canada