Shanahan: Stripping ‘C’ from Phaneuf a copout

Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf struggled in the final month of the 2013-14 season.

Brendan Shanahan is not sold on the suggestion that the Toronto Maple Leafs should strip Dion Phaneuf of his captaincy.

“I don’t know if it (stripping the captaincy) is a solution,” the Leafs president told a group of reporters at the Toronto Star on Wednesday. “I think it’s a cop-out, to a certain degree an easy way out.

“Has it happened on some teams? Yes. Is it something I’m thinking about since I’ve been here? Ultimately this will be a group decision. But I can tell you it’s not something I’ve contemplated. Just the opposite. I want to help enhance the player and leader that Dion is.”

Phaneuf has been harshly criticized for his lack of leadership during the Leafs’ late-season collapse, which included losses in 12 of their final 14 games to end the 2013-14 season.

Despite his support for the Leafs captain, Shanahan added that he wants to improve the overall leadership in the dressing room and believes that Phaneuf’s late-season struggles were a result of trying to do too much.

“I look at a guy like Dion before I had any thoughts of coming to Toronto, I’ll say that I felt that he . . . there are certain times when less is more,” said Shanahan. “(I) really felt that he was trying to be all things at once. I admire the fact he was trying, even though it wasn’t successful, it probably worked in the opposite manner.

“I’ve heard too many times in my life, talking about leadership, this team can’t succeed with this leadership group until they do. That’s something that can be developed.”

Phaneuf, 29, signed a seven-year contract extension worth $49 million in December. He was originally scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent after the 2013-14 season. The Alberta native registered eight goals, 23 assists, 144 penalty minutes and a plus-3 rating in 80 games this year.