|Maple Leaf captain Dion Phaneuf's face says it all about the Leafs first half of the season. (Craig Robertson/QMI Agency)
TORONTO - Dion Phaneuf marked his first year as a Maple Leaf on Monday with a vow to do much better in the second.
“It’s definitely been a year to remember,” Phaneuf said of the trade with Calgary and being named to the prestigious post of Toronto captain. “We aren’t where we want to be in the standings, so it hasn’t been all positive. But we’re getting there.
“Individually, I’d like to be better, I’d like my numbers to be better (one goal, 10 assists in 33 games). But as I said, you have a major (leg) injury, you miss a lot of time. I put lots of pressure on myself. My numbers aren’t where they’ve been in the past, but I’d not had a major injury, either.
“I’m starting to feel back to my old self. It’s going to be a big second half for our team and I have to have one personally.”
In the games leading up to the all-star break, Phaneuf started every match with a huge hit. Though the Leafs lost all three contests, it was a glimpse of Phaneuf as the Norris Trophy candidate of a few years ago. He’s also having some impact off the ice, claimed goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who also marked one year in Toronto on Monday.
“There are a lot of things he’s done that I’ve noticed, in terms of guys being accountable, coming in early doing gym work, stuff like that. There still is a lot to be changed here, but he’s done his part. It’s difficult for a young guy with a lot of pressure on him. Bottom line, we have to help him more. We’ve all played a little bit under our expectations.”
Assistant coach Tim Hunter strongly echoed those comments.
“You can put Dion in with the rest of the group that hasn’t performed — coaches and players,” Hunter said. “We haven’t got the job done and we’re all in the same boat.
“We wanted Dion joining the rush and we haven’t had that to date. You look at (fellow defender) Carl Gunnarsson, who has done it two times and scored two nice goals. We want our defence showing numbers in the rush and Dion should be leading in that way. His perfect game is banging bodies and being in on the offence and he is slowly starting to come back.
“No question it’s also forwards going to the net and using the D when they are part of the rush. You have to use them, otherwise they aren’t going to be coming up.
“Get the pucks out to the point quickly and let our D get the shots.”