January 12, 2012
Leafs dismiss SI poll
By TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency
TORONTO - Dion Phaneuf slept like a baby, Luke Schenn thought it was ridiculous and Joffrey Lupul didn’t even know what it was.
The reaction in the Maple Leafs dressing room on Thursday to a Sports Illustrated NHL players poll in which Phaneuf was voted the most overrated player in the league had some variety.
But to a man, the players got behind their captain, who shrugged off what bothered others.
“I’m not worried about it,” Phaneuf said. “I won’t lose sleep over it. The only thing that matters is the way we play as a team and how I am perceived in this room by my teammates. That’s all that concerns me. I have not thought too much about it.”
Phaneuf, with seven goals and 21 assists in 42 games, recently was voted by fans to play in the 2012 NHL all-star game. Some will argue that he can be a defensive liability, but his knack for knowing when to throw an open-ice hit isn’t matched by many and in the first half, his average of 25 minutes 13 seconds a game of ice time was 11th in the NHL.
And we should mention Phaneuf helps lead a team that presently has a playoff spot when many picked the Leafs to finish out of the post-season derby again this spring. That could still happen, but Phaneuf will be a big reason if it does not.
It’s not just on the ice where Phaneuf has been of value to a franchise that general manager Brian Burke has been trying to turn around for three years. Phaneuf has been a steadying force in the dressing room, helping to mould an all-for-one, one-for-all mentality. That might not have been the easiest thing to do, considering Burke’s overhaul of the roster.
“I think it is kind of ridiculous,” Schenn said of the poll. “He has had a great year and for people to say he is overrated right now, I don’t know why he is even mentioned in that sentence. He has proven he is one of the top defencemen in the league, putting up points and playing against other top players.
“He gets along well with everyone. He has done a great job here. He has really grown on people here in Toronto.”
The results of the poll, in which 161 players were quizzed, took away a bit from the fact the Leafs will play in Buffalo on Friday night for the back end of a home-and-home set with the Sabres.
Leafs coach Ron Wilson said Jonas Gustavsson will start, making it five in a row for the Swede, and Wilson indicated he had not decided if James Reimer would get a look on Saturday night when the New York Rangers visit. Gustavsson made 32 saves against the Sabres on Tuesday for his second shutout in three games as the Leafs won their fourth game in a row.
Lupul, who learned Thursday that he and Phil Kessel will join Phaneuf in Ottawa for the all-star festivities, apparently did not know an SI poll had been conducted, asking, genuinely, “Oh yeah? Voted by who?” when told Phaneuf was judged to be overrated.
But Lupul had a theory as to why Phaneuf, who also received the dubious distinction in 2010, caught the attention of opposing players.
“He is not a guy who is well-liked,” Lupul said. “He is always mixing it up after the whistle and kind of irritating the opposition. So it’s not really that surprising. I think when guys get asked that question, they are answering it more on who they least like to play against.”
Mike Komisarek provided a laugh at the poll’s expense. The defenceman, the poll concluded, is the 10th most overrated player in the NHL.
“Good thing my fiancé subscribes to Shape magazine and not SI,” Komisarek said. “She wouldn’t marry me.
“(Phaneuf) has been one of the top guys in the league this year. I’m sure a few of (the guys who said Phaneuf was overrated) are some of the guys he has rocked.”