Onrait: A Double Dion Double Take

Jay Onrait
1/31/2010 8:17:22 PM
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You know that feeling when you first hear the news about a blockbuster deal?

Just that "Holy $#&@!" feeling when two teams pull the trigger on a trade that may alter their future this season and beyond?

That's the reaction I had when I saw Darren Dreger's tweet that the Calgary Flames had sent Dion Phaneuf to Toronto.

True it was 3:30 Sunday afternoon and I had just woken up, but a trade like this is enough to cure any hangover.

There has been so much talk about Dion Phaneuf this season: He doesn't know how to play without the puck and never will. He has torn apart the Flames dressing room. He peaked as a player at age 22. He's not even listening to the coach who had him in junior. He's about to start a reality show with Elisha Cuthbert called "Two For Snuggling" (I made that last one up).

You knew there was a very good possibility that with four more years on his contract at more than $6 million a season Dion was on his way out the door.

What you did not expect was for that door to lead to Toronto, who on paper didn't seem to have the assets to acquire him.

A quick check of Calgary Flames fan message boards upon the first leak of a possible Phaneuf to Toronto deal featured posts like this:

"We'd better be getting Schenn, Kadri and Hagman... and even then I don't like this deal."

Now do you see what happened there? That poster was under the impression it was still the February of 2008 and Dion was in the midst of another great season. Not February of 2010 where he is in the midst of another average one.

Now how about this post:

"...hopefully it's the red hot Mayers..."

Wish granted! Though that sounded suspiciously like sarcasm.

This one really made me chuckle:

"...we better be getting huge returns... Kessel at least.... 1st rounder..."

Silly Flames fan! You should know the Leafs don't have a first rounder to trade you! Not even next year!

It's perfectly understandable why Flames fans would react this way to a deal with the Leafs. Just two years ago Dion Phaneuf was as close to an untradeable player as you can get. He was like Scott Stevens with offensive upside. Sure he had less charisma than his GM, and that's saying something, but you can't have it all. Calgary locked him up and we waited for the day when his #3 would be raised to the rafters of the Saddledome.

Nike even put him in their pre-olympic campaign featuring TV on the Radio's "Wolf Like Me". The Oregon-based company made the assumption that like his teammate Jarome Iginla, Phaneuf was an absolute lock to make the Canadian Olympic Team.

But then something very strange happened. And by "strange" I mean "the same thing that happens to players in every sport after they sign a fat contract and start believing their own hype". Dion stopped being the best defenceman on the Flames. Actually as of Saturday night you probably could have made the argument that Dion had become a somewhat ineffective fourth defenceman making over $6 million dollars a year right behind Mark Giordano, Robyn Regehr, and Jay Bouwmeester.

Not to mention that as Bob McKenzie pointed out in his post-trade analysis, as of right now the best player in this seven-player trade is actually Leafs defenceman Ian White. Ian White is the kind of player that the Sutters will instantly want to adopt and take home to Viking for Thanksgiving dinner.

But I think it would be ridiculous to suggest that this is a bad deal for the Toronto Maple Leafs. In fact, I think you might say that in one cold Sunday afternoon Brian Burke actually got Leaf Nation on his side again after foolishly dealing his first round picks this year and next.

Let's face it the Leafs were going nowhere this season and if any team could take a chance that Phaneuf was going to return to form it was The Buds, even with that massive contract.

Not to mention the fact that Burke managed to get someone to take Jason Blake off his hands with two-years left on his deal. Truly amazing. I realize Giguere is making a lot of money next season and has a history of injuries but, seriously, have you watched Jason Blake play since he joined Toronto? All in all it was a good day for Brian Burke.

Some are even comparing the Phaneuf trade to the monumental Gilmour to Toronto 10-player blockbuster orchestrated by Cliff Fletcher back in January of 1992. Calm down people. For the Flames there is clearly more to this deal. They are going after Kovalchuk and that's that.

Maybe after a few hours of reflection those same Calgary Flames fans would have a different take on the deal on their message boards. Here's one I just read 5 hours after the deal was completed:

"Sutter was baked... for sureeee."

Uh, maybe not.

Cabbie on

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