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Dreger: Keenan confirms Phaneuf locker room issues

Darren Dreger

12/16/2010 6:11:25 PM

Former Flames coach Mike Keenan won't get into specifics, but he confirms there were issues in Calgary's dressing room involving Dion Phaneuf.

Veteran players referred to Phaneuf as "Neon Dion" and found him, at times, overly confident, if not cocky, on and off the ice.

There were arguments, and some wanted Keenan to tighten the reigns and discipline Phaneuf, but the former coach enjoyed Phaneuf's sometimes, combative nature and verbal approach and was willing to live with his mistakes as he developed.

Keenan compliments the 25 year old defenceman for always showing drive and arriving at the rink everyday, fired up, and ready to play.

At times there was friction in Calgary's dressing room, and perhaps a sense of jealousy over the 6 year, $39 million dollar extension Phaneuf signed with the Flames in 2008.

However, Keenan says he very much enjoyed coaching Phaneuf and says he would have him on any team he's associated with in the future; adding former NHL stars such as Jeremy Roenick, Chris Chelios, or Ed Belfour, all had their issues, but all were thoroughbreds Keenan found very coachable.

Why Dion Phaneuf fell out of favor with Flames general manager Darryl Sutter isn't clear, aside from the cap relief Sutter received in trading Phaneuf to Toronto.

Phaneuf's fate in Calgary may have been determined in June, 2009 when the Flames signed Jay Bouwmeester to a 5 year deal, committing $27 million of Calgary's cap space to its blue line.

Perhaps, the lethal combination of friction and finances determined "Neon Dion's" future from that point.