Leafs Talk: Should Dion Phaneuf Be on the Powerplay with Phil Kessel?
Minus All-Star Joffrey Lupul, forward Clarke MacArthur, rugged defender Mike Komisarek and super-rookie from last season Jake Gardiner, the Leafs have amassed a record of four wins and three losses.
As it stands as of tonight, the Leafs sit in a tie for the sixth spot in the conference with Montreal and Pittsburgh with eight points, closely by teams such as the Buffalo Sabres, New York Rangers and Carolina Hurricanes nipping at their heels.
It's been a rollercoaster year with some very bright moments such as the win against Pittsburgh in the Penguins' home opener, and two highlight reel game-winning goals by Matt Frattin, who is cementing himself as a fixture in the teams' top nine forwards.
But with the highs come the lows, and the largest low this season had to have been the game against the Islanders, which saw the club lose a 3-1 lead as they proceeded to give up 5 unanswered goals en route to a 7-4 loss to the lowly Islanders.
What has been ever apparent throughout this season has been the noticeable absence of Dion Phaneuf and Phil Kessel in the goal column.
Kessel leads the team in shots on goal with 33. The second closest is James van Riemsdyk with only 21 shots.
Kessel is merely gripping the stick too tight right now, and his teammates are making matters worse for him by looking to make a pass to him or the goalie overplays the pass and there you have it, Kessel is robbed. Same goes for when Kessel's on a two-on-one with another player. The goalie knows Kessel will be shooting.
Kessel does lead the team in shots on goal, but on the contrary, $6.5 million dollar defenceman Dion Phaneuf leads the Leafs in shots missed. Lets just say if the net was the size of a soccer net, Phaneuf still couldn't hit the net.
Its been that kind of a year for Phaneuf. Noticeably better this season defensively, Phaneuf has logged major minutes in all situations for the Leafs.
With Kessel and Phaneuf struggling both at even strength and on the powerplay, I think it's time for John Michael Liles and Cody Franson to get more first unit power play time.
1.) Franson and Liles are just as experienced as Phaneuf and Mike Kostka, but with one glaring difference, the shooter is right-handed, the passer is left-handed.
What does that mean? A pass from the point into Kessel could come more from Liles. A left-handed pass is easier to make to a right-handed shooter, than a right-handed passer passing to the right-handed sniper.
2.) Franson gets his shot through routinely. He knows how to shoot and shoots in a variety of ways. Whether its a slapshot, snap shot, wrist shot or a pass, Franson has shown a very good sense of what to do in any situation. Phaneuf on the other hand these days can't hit the ocean from the beach.
3.) There's less of a risk of anyone getting injured in front of the net with Phaneuf not out there. With Joffrey Lupul out for another month after taking an errant shot from Dion Phaneuf in the arm, the Leafs surely don't want to injure guys like James van Riemsdyk and Nikolai Kulemin either. Until Phaneuf can either keep his shot down, or hit the net, Leaf forwards will be extremely leery of standing in front of the goalie.
4.) Leafs are doing absolutely nothing out there on the power play with Phaneuf and Kessel out there at the same time. The forwards are looking to pass to Kessel, who is being overplayed, and the other defender is looking to set up Phaneuf for one timers.
The one timers at times are being overplayed, but teams are beginning to realize Phaneuf's marksmanship and accuracy with his slapshot leaves little to be desired.
Mix it up. Give Kessel a look with Franson and Liles, or Jake Gardiner when he returns.
I won't call them trade bait yet, but if things continue this way, Kessel and Phaneuf could land on the trade block if they don't start producing on the power play.
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