Flames defend Phaneuf

NHL players voted Leafs' Dion Phaneuf as the leagues most overrated player. (Jim Wells/QMI AGENCY)

NHL players voted Leafs' Dion Phaneuf as the leagues most overrated player. (Jim Wells/QMI AGENCY)

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:28 PM ET

Dion Phaneuf said the diss didn’t bother him.

One of his former Calgary Flames teammates says he knows better.

“I know Dion. He takes things hard. He probably wasn’t too happy about hearing that,” Craig Conroy said, when he heard the young blueliner was named the NHL’s most overrated in a poll of players published in the latest issue of Sports Illustrated. “But he’ll get through it and move on.

When the issue was brought up by Toronto reporters this week, the Maple Leafs defenceman suggested he wasn’t insulted.

“No, not one bit,” said Phaneuf. “That players don’t like playing against me, is that what it is?

“It comes with the territory of being a well-known player. Everyone has their own opinion, and I respect that. To be honest with you, it doesn’t hurt my feelings any.”

The poll results were overwhelming. Of the 272 players surveyed, 21% put the 24-year-old Phaneuf’s name at the top of their list.

New York Rangers defenceman Wade Redden was next with 7% of the votes, followed by Montreal Canadiens centre Scott Gomez (6%), Rangers pest Sean Avery, and Edmonton Oilers centre Shawn Horcoff both with 5%.

“He was always a gamer for us,” said Flames forward Eric Nystrom. “He played hard every single night. I think the expectations on him were really high — they wanted him to score three goals a game and kill six people every single night. Those are unrealistic.”

Scoring 20 goals and 49 points as a rookie, Phaneuf followed up his freshman season with 17 goals and 50 points, then in his third year posted a 17-goal, 60-point campaign set the bar high with a Norris Trophy nomination.

With 11 goals and 47 points last year, and 10 goals and 29 points as of Friday this season, he hasn’t lived up to his potential.

“For a young guy, if you look at his stats over the course of his career, I bet you there’s a lot of guys that would take those stats that said he’s an overrated player,” said Conroy.

“People expect so much out of him. It’s tough.

“In one year, he can turn this all around and be back heading towards the Norris.”

steve.macfarlane@sunmedia.ca


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