Monday, April 28, 2008
Really? No, REALLY?
Well, he is, and there, I said it.
What else is he though? For some, unfathomable reason, Dion Phaneuf is a Norris candidate. Why? Well, honestly, I don't know. I cannot find a single reason why he should be a Norris candidate, besides the fact that he was on the ice a lot, has a good slapshot, and is a physical hockey player.
That's it. Problem is, the all the tools in the world don't make you a Norris defenseman if you don't have the toolbox, and as was said in a Calgary Sun article, and voted on by NHL players, Dion Phaneuf is one of the most over-rated players in the NHL.
But, in fairness, lets try to first make a list of things we would expect from a Norris caliber defenseman. We would reasonably expect that he can play at both ends of the ice, and in all situations, and excel. That means EV, PK and PP. We expect that he would constantly play the other teams best players, especially at home, and out-play them. We expect he would be called "complete" and make the other players around him better, instead of victimized.
Does all of this seem reasonable so far? As far as I can tell, this is what I would expect of a Norris defenseman. A Lidstrom, Pronger, Timonen, Gonchar, etc.
Lets take a look at Phaneuf now, shall we?
The Flames played 5 home games against San Jose, 4 against Colorado, 4 against Minnesota, 2 against Detroit, 2 against Anaheim, 2 against Dallas, and 2 against Nashville. The highest scoring player on each of these teams was: Joe Thornton, Paul Stastny, Marian Gaborik, Pavel Datsyuk, Ryan Getzlaf, Mike Ribeiro and JP Dumont.
In these 21 games*, Dion Phaneuf played a whopping 359.1 minutes, equal to 17.1 ES minutes a game. Yet, against the top scorers on each team, he played a combined, get ready for this, all of 115.1. That's not even 1/3 of his ice time. This was at home. With Keenan having last change.
Worse yet? How did he fair against these players?
Lit up. Like a Christmas tree.
But hey, he had that dominating physical play right? That makes up for it? Well, sure, if you want to consider the fact that he lead the league in minor penalties with 60, and the Flames were more likely to go to the PK than the PP with Phaneuf on the ice. Did he put up some nice counting stats? Absolutely. But not against anyone whose name we know. And I'm pretty sure, that should be an important criteria when deciding if a guy is a top defenseman or not, should it not be?
I won't comment on his PP ability - I think he's one of the better triger men in the league.
However, his PK ability, another important facet of the game, is yet another problem for 'the Dion.' A quick look at behindthenet.ca shows he played a lot on the PK, about 2 and a half minutes a game, and was the third most often used defenseman in Calgary on the PK. So, he was second unit on the PK, and, once again, likely saw softer competition on the PK. So his PK numbers should rock, correct?
Well. Not really.
When Phaneuf was on the ice, the Flames were scored on about 7.15 times every 60 minutes. When Phaneuf was off the ice, the Flames were scored on about 6.13 times every 60 minutes.
In other words, when he killed penalties, the puck ended up in his net more often than when he rode the pine.
So... my question is, how on Earth is he a Norris Nominee? Anyone? Are the MSM writers really THIS dumb that they couldn't notice that A) he was being sheltered B) he got lit up when he wasn't sheltered and C) he can't play defense to save his life?
*During two of these games, one against Minny and one against Colorado, the offensive star was injured, so I took the second leading scorer in each case - Bouchard, and Brunette, for that specific game.