Born 10 days apart in 1985 and drafted within an hour of one another in the first round at the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, Calgary's Dion Phaneuf (April 10th, ninth overall) and Chicago's Brent Seabrook (April 20th, 14th overall) are meeting here in the playoffs for the first time and a question needs to be asked:
Who would you rather have in a Flames Jersey now?
Dion rocketed to stardom with a breakout first year, collecting 20 goals (he was only the third rookie defenceman to score 20 goals in NHL history), 29 assists, a +5 rating. He also experienced many "nice to meet you" moments where NHL veteran heavies like Bill Guerin got to know the new tough kid personally (which was unfortunate for them in most cases).
Most years, a first season like his would have seen him claim the Calder Trophy as the rookie of the year. But this was not most years. It was 2005-2006, and that season saw two other stud rookies enter the league. Maybe you've heard of them: Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin.
However, fame did follow as Phaneuf made it to the All-Star game the next two seasons, and is currently featured on the cover of EA Sports NHL '09.
Come to think of it, that could be the reason for his crappy play. Who says the curse of being featured of the cover of those games has to be a physical injury, why not a mental one?
This season his play has regressed, his goal totals are down, he's turning the puck over, and getting beat flat footed at times. He has been looking not unlike a donkey, but on ice. A -11 donkey to boot.
He's played A LOT and eats up big minutes. When you do that and are YOUNG, you're going to make mistakes. Is his head in the game at all times? Elisha is in the crowd, and boys are talking to her? What? Who said that?
Is it? It's exactly why Roman Turek could never be consistently good and live up to his potential, remember him?
Moving on to Seabrook who, like Phaneuf, made the jump to the NHL immediately following the lockout year of 2004-2005. In his first season he played in 69 games, scoring 5 goals while picking up 27 helpers for 34 points. All this while sporting a +5 with a very bad Chicago team (26-43-7-6).
Similar years have followed for Seabrook as he learned how to defend after his somewhat of a disappointing second year (81GP 4G-19A-24PT, -6).
But he rebounded, and along with the Blackhawks turn-around Seabrook has become a shut down defenceman, often (if not always) on the ice against the other teams top guns, along with his defense partner Duncan Keith.
While Seabrook has good size (6'3", 220lbs) and he's a good technical defenceman who will finish his checks, most wouldn't have categorized him in Dion Phaneuf's physicality range in his first couple years. His reputation wasn't as great as Phaneuf's whose offensive totals helped him stand out in the crowd.
But this season, Seabrook has thrown 224 body checks to Phaneuf's 159 (both team leaders) and his +23 makes Dion's -11 standout somewhat gawkishly.
Four seasons and five years after being drafted that June afternoon in 2003, the two heavyweight rearguards are clashing in a very close one sided playoff series where both Phaneuf and Seabrook are playing integral roles for their teams.
Both are 24-years-old. Phaneuf is physical offensively, while Seabrook is physical defensively.
- Phaneuf is scheduled to make $6,500,000 annually until the end of the 2013-2014 season.
- Seabrook is scheduled to make $3,500,000 annually until the end of the 2010-2011 season.
In the end, what it comes down to is what your preferences are. Is Phaneuf having a learning year, or is his ability to learn being somewhat hindered?
Seabrook either has a smoking hot model of a girlfriend named Lauren who lives in Calgary, or she's just a myth or ex-girlfriend by now. If it's the latter, at least he left her in Calgary.
Phaneuf has a smoking hot Hollywood starlet on his arm and she's real, sometimes even visible in the flesh, so he wins this portion of the discussion.
So who do you want? Do you want the renegade wild cannon who can win the game for you or lose the game for you? Or do you want the guy who won't lose the game for you and may keep the other team from winning?
Hmmm, this post was supposed to end a few moments ago but I was working on the graphics so you're getting game three updates while I finish it up.
And of course, Phaneuf does have that upside and potential to be amazing if he can just learn to play defense with his stick and mind.