|Having spent seven years in with the Maple Leafs himself, Bryan McCabe believes Dion Phaneuf will be a good fit in Toronto. (CRAIG ROBERTSON/QMI Agency)
SUNRISE, Fla. — Bryan McCabe spent seven years in the fishbowl.
He prefers swimming in the Atlantic Ocean as a member of the Florida Panthers.
Another young defenceman with a big slapshot is now on display in Toronto with former Flame Dion Phaneuf traded to the Maple Leafs last week, and McCabe figures it’s a good fit.
“I think (Phaneuf) will thrive there. He’s got that type of personality — loves to be in the spotlight, centre of attention,” said McCabe, whose outspoken nature earned him that title in Toronto from 2000-2008. “He’s a great player. He’s gonna bring a lot to that team, for sure.
“The first trade’s always the hardest, but he’s an exceptional player. They need some leadership.”
Some fans in Calgary turned on Phaneuf over the last couple of seasons.
The big defenceman wasn’t a media darling, either, based on his short responses and businesslike demeanour.
But he was always available to answer questions, which not all his former teammates choose to do.
That alone might appeal to broadcasters in Leaf Nation.
Then again, it will depend on his on-ice performance. As McCabe knows, things can change in a hurry in Toronto.
“Toronto’s totally different. Playing in Canada gets you ready for that, but going to Toronto is a totally different monster. You’re very scrutinized. You can’t really walk the streets or anything. It’s pretty crazy there,” said McCabe, who waived his no-trade clause to join the Panthers before last season.
“People live, die, breathe, eat, sleep hockey there. They bleed blue. When the team’s winning and doing well, it’s the best place in the world to play. But on the other hand, when you’re not doing well it’s horrible.
“When the team’s struggling and things aren’t going well, they turn on you pretty easily.”
Phaneuf has seen that before, going from Norris Trophy finalist to a lightning rod for criticism with the Flames.
Even now, he’s the hottest topic for exaggerated and bogus Internet rumours surrounding the team he’s no longer part of.
But McCabe figures Burke has the Maple Leafs heading back in the right direction, even though he has no plans to return to the fishbowl for a second stint in blue.
“I had seven years of it,” he said. “That was plenty.”