This will probably be the most controversial inclusion in our All-Time Flames Team. We debated. We went back and forth. We drafted a team. We mulled it over. We argued a bit.
But ultimately, we needed seven defenders to make a 23-man roster. And when you come down to it, Dion Phaneuf was a pretty damn fine hockey player when he was with the Calgary Flames.
So he’s on our team. Here’s why.
Dion Phaneuf was the first draft selection made by newly-minted general manager Darryl Sutter back in 2003. Phaneuf was tailor-made for Darryl: big, mean, sturdy and from the West. Heck, Darryl’s brother Brent – a future Flames coach – coached Dion in junior. His first season in Calgary, he scored 20 goals. In each of Dion’s five seasons in Calgary, he hit double-digits in goals. He put up between 40 and 60 points each year like clockwork and was on pace for just shy of 40 points when the Flames traded him away.
Was Phaneuf perfect? Nope.
But for several seasons, he was a damn fine defender. And if your team has guys like Al MacInnis, Gary Suter and Paul Reinhart on it, you’ll need a guy that can lean on the opposition a bit and create room.
I can’t find a video, but Phaneuf’s response to the “Where do you go from here?” question when he was traded was priceless: “Toronto.”
- 33rd in All-Time Flames Points (228)
- 7th in All-Time Scoring Among Defensemen (Mark Giordano passed him last season)
- Finished top 10 in Norris Trophy voting in each of his first three seasons in Calgary.
The trading of Dion Phaneuf may be the nadir of Darryl Sutter’s run as general manager. Cashing out your most valuable defenseman in the middle of the season without much fanfare is a panic move. And the trade? It was a panic move. It garnered the Flames a bunch of spare parts and Matt Stajan.
Years later? The Flames still have Matt Stajan, and Stajan is now what he was then: a valuable role player, but not the type of guy you should be looking back upon as the centerpiece of a trade. (Aside: I’m pleased that Stajan’s turned it around, as I was worried he’d become this generation’s Gary Leeman.)
The circumstances of Phaneuf’s departure and the disappointing nature of his tenure in Toronto shouldn’t diminish what he was: a very solid young player for the Calgary Flames when he was wearing the Flaming C.