Monday marked the one year anniversary of the trade by the Calgary Flames that sent a package of players including embattled defenceman Dion Phaneuf to the Toronto Maple Leafs. It sent shockwaves through the hockey world. A seven player swap that Toronto seemed to win hands down. Maybe they did. Only one year later though, it seems clear the outcome is not as big of a slam dunk as many declared it to be at the time.
Very few Flames fans will be able to defend the deal triggered by Darryl Sutter. The transaction screamed of desperation. The team was in danger of missing the playoffs and those who were staunch defenders of the General Manager were beginning to question their allegiance. Just days earlier, Sutter emphatically told the fans that he was not trading Phaneuf. To see the once prized possession and Norris trophy finalist hastily jettisoned out of town frustrated many within Flames nation.
The package of Matt Stajan, Niklas Hagman, Ian White and Jamal Mayers didn’t excite many in Calgary. Mayers and Stajan’s contracts expired at season’s end. Hagman was a number of years removed from his best season as a member of the Dallas Stars. Ian White would assume Phaneuf’s number but would likely be hard pressed to replace the production. As it turns out, any offensive contributions what so ever have been hard to come by. Stajan signed a long term extension (which also had many pundits scratching their heads) in spite of mustering just 3 goals in his first 27 games in Calgary. White put up 18 points on the back end before being shipped out to Carolina. Mayers left in the offseason as a UFA after scoring just 1 goal in 27 games as a Flame. Hagman has tallied 14 goals in 77 games. The package failed to get the Flames into the post season last year and has done little to justify the return.
But what of Phaneuf?
The brash blueliner has not blossomed in the Big Smoke. Granted, he missed time after suffering a severe skate cut injury to his leg earlier this season, but the point production has dried up. In spite of possessing one of the biggest shots in the league and enjoying top powerplay minutes, Phaneuf has just 3 goals in 59 games as a Leaf. The especially harsh media and fanbase in Toronto has soured with #3, who wears the Captain’s “C”.
How could not one individual in a 7 player swap flourish in his new surroundings?
Could it be that Keith Aulie, the little mentioned minor league blueliner end up being the best asset from the deal in years from now? Or, does Phaneuf regain the form that had many in the hockey world raving just a few short years ago?