Once again the Los Angeles Kings have decided to bet big. Last night, the Kings swooped for Dion Phaneuf and Nate Thompson with Marian Gaborik and Nick Shore heading to Ottawa. Without question, LA is pushing for cup glory once again. Getting the 6’3 blueliner is definitely grabbing the headlines. Phaneuf has always had a big presence on any team he has played for. Is this is a move that will bring LA the cup or is it another big and unnecessary gamble?
Let’s look at what the 32-year-old Alberta native will bring to the ice:
Pros of Phaneuf Trade
When your blue line teammates include Norris winner Drew Doughty, Alec Martinez and Jake Muzzin, Phaneuf will be in good company. LA needs another shut-down player to command the ice. LA currently has the fourth highest penalty killing in the league with 83.4%, adding this guy will definitely aide that stat. He can also go for long stretches on the ice. In fact so far in his career, D.P. has averaged 24.10 minutes of ice time per game. Having a player that can keep going is no harm at all.
In the locker room is where he will definitely have the biggest impact. Noted for his leadership skills, Phaneuf will definitely give LA a boost. Never one for passionate displays, he has always retained a calm demeanour both on and off the ice. His tough, physical style and hard hits on the ice will also be another major reason why the Kings traded for him. Unlikely to share top-line billing, expect LA to pit Phaneuf against the more grittier third/fourth line opponents. He might not have evolved into a superstar, but he can certainly make a big impression here.
Cons of Phaneuf Trade
Despite always being a key figure wherever he goes, Phaneuf has always found himself under scrutiny. Back in 2010, he was voted the NHL’s ‘Most Overrated Player’ and some have felt his performances do not reflect his huge contract. As quoted by my fellow 4th Line Podcast writer, Alex Metzger, “he tends to watch the puck rather than moving his feet!” This seems to accurately reflect his play over the last few years. Phaneuf and the teams that he plays for seem to think of him as a big star. The dawning reality has become that very sadly… he is not! He is a big player who can hit big, but sometimes his play can be downright awful. Star D-men like Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns excel as two-way players. Phaneuf has never quite looked comfortable playing either role.
Passing and Defense
Phaneuf’s passing stats are something that has rarely been explored. Let’s compare to him fellow Ottawa teammate Cody Ceci in all three zones (thanks to Chase for the assist and to C.J Turturo for the stats). Ceci racked up 67 zone entries out of a possible 60 and a passing entry of 76%, while Phaneuf could only muster a woeful 19 entries and 26% exits! Pass exits were an even bigger horror show as the big money earner managed only 9 out of a possible 60 exits and a low 21%. Ceci on the other hand while only managing 21 exits, had a pass exit percentage of 54%! There are AHL veterans who have better stats than these and it again begs the question of Phaneuf’s ‘big-time player’ status.
Another troubling area is his possession stats because they do not make for happy reading. Currently, Phaneuf holds a meager 42.5 CF% at 5v5. So what exactly is going on? For a player who is paid handsomely to block and suppress shots- he doesn’t appear to be holding down the fort. In fact, during his three years in Ottawa, he never held a higher rating than 47.6%! When he is on the ice, the team seems less in control. The Kings needs to solve this problem and fast.
The Kings have 3.5 years of Phaneuf’s deal to run and this season the cap takes a $5.25 million hit. Can we expect to see him wearing a Kings uniform for the rest of his career? While I don’t like to speculate, you can’t help that LA views this as a temporary boost. Phaneuf will no question give them the push they need for another playoff run. But he could also become a major bargain chip for offseason trades. Many thought it would be impossible to trade him during his time at the Leafs. His monster deal still seems to find him the right moves so we shouldn’t count anything out. However, he could also become a great servant to LA in the long run. If they make use of his physical strength then a new side of his play could evolve.
Many might sneer upon Phaneuf and call him overrated, lazy and vacant. LA, on the other hand, views him as an essential part of their cup campaign. Is his the missing link this season? We’ll never know until its all over I’m afraid- Hollywood meet Dion!