The captaincy in hockey is largely a symbolic measure nowadays. However, that still doesn’t diminish the significance of choosing a captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Despite the recent struggles of the franchise and the vaunted “curse” of 1967, only the Montreal Canadiens can compete with the Maple Leafs when it comes to hockey history.
From the echoes of Maple Leaf Gardens, names such as Clancy, Apps, Kennedy, Armstrong, Sittler, Clark, Gilmour, Sundin all reverberate throughout the decades. Is Dion Phaneuf the right choice for captain? Time will tell, but the decision was certainly not taken lightly.
Needless to say, Phaneuf wasn’t bestowed captaincy for his oratory skills. I doubt he inspires many teammates with a rousing speech in the locker room. But Dion’s legacy is ultimately tied to General Manager Brian Burke. Phaneuf is Burke’s marquee acquisition and gamble. If Phaneuf succeeds and reclaims his status as one of the NHL’s best players again (and Phaneuf will have to come close due to his hefty $6.5 million cap hit), Burke ultimately succeeds.
Phaneuf wasn’t chosen captain necessarily because he oozes leadership on a level where fellow teammates will follow him no matter the cost. Dion Phaneuf will be an incessant thorn to the other Leafs pushing them to play better and prove his doubts wrong.
Dion Phaneuf is essentially Brian Burke. This is why it is so critical for Phaneuf to become an excellent captain. If captain Phaneuf fails to materialize, then the Brian Burke era will be just another memory in Toronto Maple Leafs lore.