An exciting Saturday night is shaping up in Ontario, Canada. Two provincial rivals will face off after the Toronto Maple Leafs just last month traded their Captain to Eastern conference rival, the Ottawa Senators.
In dealing Dion Phaneuf to Ottawa, the Leafs took another step toward in their slow rebuilding process in efforts to have a postseason contender one day. 30th in the league, the Leafs have a long way to go.
The Senators are hoping that Dion, the veteran defenseman will be that missing piece that could help them reach the playoffs this season, But that’s a tall order for any one player to fulfill. But if Phaneuf plays hard he just might be able to help the Sens remain perfect in this season series against the Leafs by giving the Leafs a fourth straight loss tomorrow night.
Coming to Toronto for the first time since he was dealt should be slightly uncomfortable for the ex-Captain. But no matter how the fans feel and how experts around the NHL define Phaneuf, Toronto’s general manager Lou Lamoriello had nothing but good things to say about the former Maple Leaf when he made the transaction to Ottawa who has a record of 30-28-7, which was only one part in a nine-player deal completed on Feb. 9.
“I’ve been extremely impressed with Dion from day one,” Lamoriello said at the time of the deal. “As I mentioned consistently, I came in with no preconceived notions so I really didn’t know what to expect other than what there was as far as hearsay at different times. He has been impressive in every way whatsoever.”
It was a huge and surprise trade by the Leafs who were able to ship Phaneuf out very secretly, ridding themselves of the remaining five years of his contract whch was a cap hit of $7 million per year. That’s no small feat in itself in the NHL in the cap era.
“This was a transaction that certainly wasn’t for today,” Lamoriello said last month.
Leafs fans probably won’t greet Phaneuf very warmly, and evry time he touches the puck there should be jeers, but Torontonians should be pleased with some of the early return from one of the four players the Leafs got in the deal. Forward Colin Greening alreadly has five points in 11 games already, including a goal and an assist in the last two games, even though the Leafs lost those games.
Even though they are last in the league and and have purged a lot of veteran salaries prior to Monday’s trade deadline, the Leafs are 21-32-10, and have been playing hard even though they resemble an AHL club more than a NHL team, but management is saying that that’s part of the plan. They’ve only gotten five goals in the last four games but the last three were close and decided by one goal. And those teams were titans, including the Tampa Bay Lightning, and the Washington Capitals.
“There’s lots to learn obviously and they’re works in progress,” said Leafs coach Mike Babcock to local media. “But it’s got to be a night-on every night.”
Phaneuf will probably be on the ball tomorrow night and make sure his game is on Saturday night as the Senators try to improve to 3-0 this season against Toronto. It could be a high scoring event since their last 2 matchups yielded 10 non-shootout goals.
Ready to turn 31 next month, Phaneuf has a goal and six assists with a minus-2 rating this season, while the Senators have gone 5-5-1 since the trade. He was a minus-3 in Thursday’s 4-1 loss to Tampa Bay so hopefully that number will start to rise.
Currently, the Sens are 12th in the Eastern Conference and a huge seven points out of the final wild-card spot which could start feeling like a mountain with only 20 odd games left in the regular season. They are not helping their cause either, since Ottawa has dropped three of four games after winning four in a row.
“I liked a lot of things (Thursday), but we’ve said all along it’s about results,” said Sens coach Dave Cameron.
Sens goaltender, Craig Anderson, is still day to day with a lower body injury. And it’s still uncertain how much time Ottawa defenseman Mark Borowiecki will need to sit out after he suffered a knee injury on Thursday. With two key defensive injuries, Ottawa should have a tougher time winning on the Leafs home ice, and Toronto is probably looking to play spoiler and get some revenge.
It should be a close but high scoring game.
Our Pick: Leafs over Sens, 5-4