BY MICHAEL GARDNER – FAN FUEL BLOGGER
Is Ron Wilson’s coaching style ruining Dion Phaneuf? The thought arose when I read a comment by the Maple Leafs head coach in a national newspaper. Wilson was being interviewed about his captain and in the article he remarked that “in San Jose, we used to kind of take advantage when Dion was on the ice. He got a lot of hits, but we scored a lot of goals.”
Wilson continued by saying, in effect, that Phaneuf has become a better player by trying not to do too much. That statement really took me for a loop. It makes complete sense from a conservative perspective. All the cliches seem to fit such as “keep it simple” or “don’t get caught out of position.” But when you look deeper at it, the message is troubling and not really true.
Can you imagine saying that you wouldn’t want Wendel Clark trying to make a big play or hit to change the flow of a game? Or telling Doug Gilmour not to “do too much?”
It’s ludicrous. He’s a game changing player being told not to try to change the game. Apparently, he is listening to his coach.
In his time in Toronto, Phaneuf’s production has dropped. He averaged 45.6 points per season in Calgary. His best season in Toronto is the current one which will see him finish below that average based on trends.
If you are a points per game stat person, Phaneuf averaged 0.603 PPG in Calgary compared with 0.487 under Wilson.
Like plus minus stats? In Calgary, Dion was plus-19. In Toronto, he is minus-eight to this point of his tenure.
How about the rough stuff? Want to bet his penalty minutes are down in a conservative environment? They are. From an average of 1.38 PIMs per game in Calgary to 1.22 in Toronto.
It appears that Wilson’s philosophy is working. Phaneuf has successfully lowered his contribution in virtually every category since joining the team. This, despite now being an older NHLer in what is considered his prime years and earning a much bigger pay cheque.
For the record, I think Dion has the hunger and drive to be the player he once was. Sure would be interesting to see what he could do under a coach that aims to make a difference over one that aims to not making a mistake.
Follow me on twitter @GardnerFanFuel
More Hockey: Leafs don’t need a No. 1 centre