He is trying to follow six players who are in the top 10 of all time in points while on the Leafs, Stanley Cup winners, hometown heroes and a guy who scored 10 points in a single game.
He is one of only six defensemen to receive the honor of team captain, and the first one since 1991. He is a gritty player who knocks opposing skaters off their feet.
And yet, he is perfect.
Phaneuf is the perfect player to lead Toronto out of its rebuilding stage and back into relevance and everything they could hope for right now. Captaincy shouldn't be handed out to the best player on the team, but rather the most fitting one.
Phaneuf is a leader, the quintessential trait of a captain.
I believe that Phaneuf is the only player on Toronto's roster capable of holding the position, but where does he place among former greats?
Statistically, nowhere close.
However, hockey as well as leadership, is not measured merely by stats.
Phaneuf has the ability to rev up his team with a big check or menacing slap shot and keep it steady in a close game. He has only been given the reins for a short time, but he seems to be handling that responsibility rather well.
If I had to put a number on it, I'd place Phaneuf within the top 10 of Leafs' captains.
He has a much younger and inexperienced roster than any other captain in Maple Leafs history, and many of them are still learning how to play with each other.
You look at previous captains like Mats Sundin, Darryl Sittler or Dave Keon and you just think of the Hall of Fame. Phaneuf is likely not headed to the Hall but being captain of the Leafs in a time of need may be one of the most meaningful moments in his young career.
Phaneuf was also elected captain during a full rebuilding period in Toronto, something that is not easy to handle, especially in the pressure cooker that the city is.
What's worse is that the Leafs were without a captain after Sundin left the club in 2008 and Phaneuf was asked to step in and be the solution that was previously lacking.
That's not an easy thing to do.
Sure Phaneuf isn't an All-Star talent or a player competing for awards, but he does bring it every night and instills it in his teammates to do the same.
As a defenseman, Phaneuf is not meant to score as much as the forwards and we can therefore excuse his low point totals in ranking him.
That being said, I am willing to take his low scoring with a grain of salt and say that Phaneuf has been a real leader for Toronto at a time when the team really needed him.
With three more years on his contract and plenty of time left until Toronto becomes a real contender, Phaneuf's presence should be one that has a real effect on Maple Leafs history.
He's a natural leader with decent scoring ability and an uncanny talent for bone-rattling checks. What more could you ask for in a captain?