Phaneuf wants to build on promising end to Leafs' season

TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:08 PM ET

TORONTO - Dion Phaneuf is comfortable in his role as the Maple Leafs captain. But as the leader of a team that missed the playoffs again last spring? “Not happy,” Phaneuf said on Friday. “We take the positives out of the way we finished and how we played. The last 30 games, everyone talks about (how) it is easy to play when you are out of the playoffs. Well, we weren’t. We were in the race until the last two games. “I like how we grew as a team. That experience will help us.” The 26-year-old Phaneuf was slowed by a deep cut on his leg last season, and acknowledged he returned from that injury too soon. In the bigger picture, the Edmonton native is like every other youthful Leaf. He remains on a learning curve. “When he got hurt, he was really pressing and then he was out for five or six weeks,” coach Ron Wilson said. “It gave him an opportunity to watch the game from afar, where it is easier. He saw some changes he had to make to his own game. Once he started playing well after his injury, he was a little more relaxed and he was a better leader.” Phaneuf’s mentors when he broke into the NHL with the Calgary Flames in 2005-06 included Roman Hamrlik and Bryan Marchment. As captain, he will be a role model for others, but will continue to soak up his surroundings. “When I started in the league, I came in with the attitude that I wanted to get better every day and learn as much as possible, and that has not changed,” Phaneuf said. “It’s the same thing with leadership."

Videos

Photos