As captain of the Maple Leafs, part of Dion Phaneuf’s unofficial job description is to stand up and take the heat.
So was it better late than never?
With one of the team’s worst losses at one of the more crucial points of the season Tuesday, the Toronto defencemen declined to meet with the media following a 5-3 defeat to the St. Louis Blues. That prompted some harsh criticism for the captain - much of it justified - considering the team he leads had hit its low point of the 2013-14 campaign.
Though the team was given a full day off on Wednesday, Phaneuf addressed his actions when he called into Sportsnet Radio to explain - and ultimately apologize - for an off night at the office.
“With the way the game went, I decided not to talk,” Phaneuf told the Tim and Sid show. “You can have your opinion on whether that is right or wrong, but I didn’t want to say something when my emotions were running high.
“At that point in time I was disappointed in the way I played and I was emotional. I made some mistakes that are uncharacteristic of the way I play and take responsibility for those mistakes."
Despite the team’s six-game losing streak, Phaneuf believes the team will climb back into the playoff race over its remaining eight contests, beginning Friday night in Philadelphia.
“There’s no quit in our room,” Phaneuf said. “We’re going to get out of this and we’re going to come out of this together.
“It’s not like we’ve forgotten how to do what we do. We believe in the group. We believe inside the group that we are capable of doing more and playing better. We have to get that swagger back and we will.”