Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Phaneuf Evolved into More Effective Leader with Leafs

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Phaneuf Evolved into More Effective Leader with Leafs

Article excerpt

Sens hope to benefit from Phaneuf's leadership


Promising young defenceman Morgan Rielly was preparing for his second season with the Toronto Maple Leafs when team captain Dion Phaneuf offered some advice.

During a conversation over dinner one night, Phaneuf told Rielly to ignore any talk from the media and fans that a sophomore slump was inevitable. He recounted his own experience with the Calgary Flames, when he followed up a Calder Trophy-nominated rookie season with 17 goals and 50 points.

Different perhaps from public perception, Phaneuf evolved into a well-respected leader during a six-year run in Toronto and his wisdom made an impression on Rielly.

It's that kind of leadership the Ottawa Senators hope Phaneuf can bring to their inexperienced defence. Senators general manager Bryan Murray said leadership and experience were crucial factors in the nine-player trade that landed Phaneuf in the nation's capital earlier this week.

Murray hopes Phaneuf will be a presence for his young stable of defencemen, including 22-year-old Cody Ceci, Phaneuf new partner on the blue line.

"He does a little bit of everything I think," Rielly said of Phaneuf's leadership skills. "He wants to make everyone comfortable, try to make sure everybody knows what's going on, take care of guys."

Leafs head coach Mike Babcock often raved about that ability.

"What I like about Dion is Dion looks after our kids real good," Babcock said at one point. "From the Christmas party to when they're supposed to show up to when they're allowed to leave to if you don't compete hard enough on the ice, if you don't compete hard enough in the gym. When those guys get drifting mentally he keeps them in line."

Thrust into a previously vacant Toronto captaincy after just 26 games with the club, Phaneuf grew admittedly more comfortable with the role as time wore on. He learned to temper a once overly enthusiastic presence, leading with a work ethic that teammates and coaches, past and present, said was never in question. …

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