This has often been debated among Leafs fans, but the short answer is yes.
A leadership role wasn't something new for Phaneuf when he arrived in Toronto. He was an alternate captain with the Calgary Flames, where he was able to watch Jarome Iginla, one of the best leaders in hockey, set a fantastic example.
Is Phaneuf a good captain?
Phaneuf has also served as an alternate captain on the international level with Team Canada on multiple occasions.
Becoming captain just after coming to Toronto would be difficult for any player, especially when the most recent captains were Leafs icons Mats Sundin and Doug Gilmour.
The intensity that Phaneuf brings to the ice, and the toughness he displays on each shift is exactly what you want in a captain. It's not his fault that few of his teammates are neither willing nor capable of playing the same physical style he does and at a high level.
Phaneuf also isn't helped by the fact that his alternate captains don't provide much assistance. Alternate captain Mike Komisarek is a terrible leader. Mikhail Grabovski is capable, but he is entering just his first full season as an alternate in Toronto this year.
When teams lose as often as the Leafs did last season, lots of the blame is placed on the captain. Phaneuf did deserve some of the blame for the team's poor performance, but the amount of criticism he's received has been unfair.
Very few players could still play like an All-Star while dealing with the pressure that comes with being the captain of an Original Six franchise. Many players would want no part of this job.
Phaneuf accepted the challenge and has been a fine captain, while still being productive at both ends of the ice.