Wilson all but names Phaneuf as Leafs captain

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:48 PM ET

TORONTO - Dion Phaneuf says he wants “a good summer of training” for the 2010-11 season.

That’s now sure to include public speaking and crisis management classes for himself as the next captain of the Maple Leafs.

Though the choice has been getting fairly obvious the past few weeks as Phaneuf took charge of the dressing room, he insisted the subject wasn’t raised at Monday’s exit meeting with Ron Wilson. But the coach told the media the past 48 hours that the 25-year-old from Edmonton is best suited for the job. On Tuesday, Wilson said on the Fan 590 that it will be a formality later in the year, likely around training camp.

“We would have to make a mega-deal to bring the greatest captain of all-time in order to not name Dion the captain,” Wilson told the station.

Wilson repeated that most Leafs see Phaneuf as their on-ice general already, in everything from dressing room music selection to pump-up rituals before the game. Wilson credited Phaneuf with playing a big role in the club’s March-April push.

“He’s vocal. He plays aggressive. He cares about his teammates and he’s really highly involved in the community already,” Wilson added. “We wanted to let everything play out over time, let him get comfortable here, let him get to know everybody, everybody get to know him.

“But right now I’d be perfectly comfortable with Dion as the captain of the team.”

Wilson did not replace Mats Sundin as captain when he arrived in the 2008-09 season, believing that the rebuilding Leafs were not stable enough to give someone the ‘C’, a position he knew as an ex-Leaf player carries a lot of weight in town. But apparently he has seen enough from Phaneuf in two months to think he’s the man the young Leafs can rally around.

“It doesn’t change anything for me,” Phaneuf said Monday about how such an appointment would alter his summer. “I’ll take some time to rest and get ready.”

Phaneuf turned 25 on the weekend and would be just the second defenceman in the post-expansion era to be Toronto’s captain, with Rob Ramage serving from

1989-91. There are 18 Leafs captains listed beginning with Bert Corbeau in 1927, with Ted Kennedy serving as both captain and co-captain in different years. Phaneuf would be the eighth captain since George Armstrong was last presented the Stanley Cup in 1967.

“We took a lot of strides in the right direction these past 20 games,” Phaneuf said. “We’re a young team and it’s an exciting team to be part of. The biggest thing for us to have a good summer of training and come back with a mindset of one goal. And that’s to make the playoffs.”

lance.hornby@sunmedia.ca


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