Shooting pucks redux


I can bear witness to the fact that when Iain was 22, you would have found his picture next to “bad decisions” in the dictionary…  🙂

I gotta say, the fact that this was reported in a couple of different blogs on the Web hardly establishes anything, other than how easily stuff is repeated in blogs on the Web (case in point…um…well…you’re reading one). Still, it restores at least some of my faith in Darryl Sutter if there’s any truth to it.

I’ve spent the past several months grumbling – way, way too often, to the point where a hockey-writer friend of mine in Toronto literally rolls his eyes every time I get started, usually in the middle of our second pint of Guinness (God bless the Irish, may I add entirely off-topic) – about how Sutter screwed over the Flames for years to come by trading a once-in-a-decade asset away for so little in return. Phaneuf, like him or not, is still the kind of high-potential impact defenceman that a lot of teams would kill to have – and is worth another top-line impact player, a top prospect and/or a top-five first-round draft pick to the right team. Sutter got none of this; instead, he got a couple of second-liners and a couple of spare parts from a last-place team. Not nearly good enough, and a huge opportunity lost to set the Flames up for the next 10 years.

But in this context, I could see Sutter acting on principle – protecting the team and setting a standard by which it will be run, even if it meant doing it sooner and for less value than he would have liked. In that case, the deal may not be great, but the reasons are honourable – you don’t let someone like that stay in your dressing room, you cut off the gangrenous limb before it rots even more of the team.

Remember, Sutter is an old-school guy, and very big on the respect teammates have to have for each other. If he’s trying to build a team that would step in front of a bus to protect a teammate, but instead has one where a supposed leader is screwing another respected leader’s wife behind his back, there’s just no way he can allow that. You mess with your teammates that way, there’s a price to pay.

Ironically – since Phaneuf and his sex life were front-and-centre in this other one, too – that’s the decision Dallas made a couple of years ago with Sean Avery, after he was suspended for making tasteless public remarks about Phaneuf’s girlfriend (who was Avery’s ex). They bit the bullet, paid a lot of money to sit the guy, and got absolutely nothing in exchange for him when they let him go. But they felt it was worth it for the sake of the team. They were right then, and (if this Conroy rumour is true) the Flames were right, too.

I do believe the Flames got a keeper in Ian White – a top-four defenceman that came cheap and should be around for years to come. But as my Leafs-covering sportswriter friend insists, he doesn’t bring to the table what Phaneuf can bring. He says that with Phaneuf back there for the Leafs, it’s the first time in years that you can see opposing forwards visibly afraid to enter the zone with speed. He’s an intimidating force that can turn the game around with a single hit, and can send a guy to the DL in the process, and opponents know it. Calgary is now lacking that one big physical force, and will have to find a way to make up for it.

However, Dion’s immaturity and selfishness isn’t something they’ll miss – and the Leafs will either have to hope he grows out of it, or they’ll have to get used to it. (You’ll have to ask Iain’s wife which one it was in his case…)