Leafs GM Lou Lamoriello ‘extremely impressed’ by Dion Phaneuf

Maple Leafs GM Lou Lamoriello joins Prime Time Sports to discuss the rebuild, Mike Babcock as a coach, and Dion Phaneuf’s performance on and off the ice.

Dion Phaneuf has been a polarizing figure throughout his tenure with the Toronto Maple Leafs, but he’s made quite an impression on general manager Lou Lamoriello.

In a guest appearance on Prime Time Sports Thursday evening, Lamoriello raved about the Maple Leafs captain and how he’s helped change the culture within the organization.

“This man has extremely impressed me,” Lamoriello told co-hosts Bob McCown and Ken Reid on Sportsnet 590 The Fan. “Watching him, how he’s handled the young players, watching how his work ethic has been, watching how he’s handled the media. He’s been one of the most impressive individuals I’ve been around. The leadership qualities that he’s shown me are genuine.”

Phaneuf has become a steadier player under head coach Mike Babcock. The team has decreased his minutes from last season and as the team put in a more structured system and it has helped the defenceman limit his mistakes and improve his play in the defensive zone.

Lamoriello also had high praise for Babcock and has been blown away by his consistency and positive mindset on a daily basis, despite the team having one of the worst records in the Eastern Conference.

"I had not worked with Mike (Babcock) on a day-to-day basis but admired his work from afar," Lamoriello said. "We were in the Stanley Cup together when he was in Anaheim. I had opportunity to watch him over seven games. I had players play for him in the Olympics. What I didn’t know was the type of energy he has and how it spreads throughout the staff. I have tremendous respect for that.

"We’re extremely fortunate here in Toronto. In my opinion, we have the best coach in the game. His enthusiasm and the way he teaches and the way he comes to work each and every day no matter what transpires the day before. We have the right person. Mike is a winner."