A Year Ago Today Dion Was Dealt
It was a year ago today that the Calgary Flames dealt Dion Phaneuf to the center of the universe.
A year? Really? Has it been that long?
The trade was this: Dion Phaneuf, Freddie Sjostrom, and Keith Aulie to Toronto for Niklas Hagman, Matt Stajan, Jamal Mayers, and Ian White.
So who won this deal? Is it still too early to tell? Did nobody win this deal?
What do the stats tell us?
Well from a team standpoint, Toronto is languishing away in 12th spot in the East, six games under .500 and 14 points out of a playoff spot and destined to miss the playoffs for the 6th straight year. The Flames are also in 12th spot in their respective conference but are three games above .500 and only sit two points out of a playoff spot.
Dion Phaneuf, the “best player in the deal”, was named the Captain of the Leafs in the off-season. He has scored three goals and added 21 assists in 59 games with the Leafs while posting a -11 rating. He has yet to score on home ice while playing with the Leafs and from all accounts has failed to live up to his over-billed hype. He can still make the big hit, as was evident last week when he levelled Tuomo Ruutu at center ice, but Dion never really had a chance to begin with as the hype and the pressure to play well in Toronto is simply too much (Even for a guy with his ego), or so it would seem. Maybe a Leafs fan would have a better perspective, but from what I can see he is no better, and possibly worse, than he was in Calgary. He is still, for the most part, a liability in his own zone and, as the stats have shown, still has trouble hitting the net. The Husky sign behind the Flames opposing net is thankful he is gone.
The other players going to Toronto were Sjostrom and Aulie. Sjostrom has nine points in 61 games with the Leafs. He is a third line plug to put it nicely. He was never thought of to be a huge scorer and is a minus six this season with the Leafs, which, by Leafs standards, is pretty good as there are only two players living above the equator in terms of +/- rank.
Keith Aulie, who I thought was the biggest steal of the trade, has tallied zero points in 12 games with the Leafs. It’s still too early to tell with this guy, but I was angry then that the Flames put this guy in the deal, and I’m angry now. How do the Flames give up the best player in the deal and the best prospect? The guy who did this better be fired! Oh wait...
Coming to the Flames were four different very average players – two of which are now on other teams. White went to Carolina for Babchuk and Kostopoulos, while Mayers signed with San Jose in the off-season. Mayers is a dime a dozen player, so that was no real big loss. I figure Jackman replaced him and has outperformed Jay Mall in a big way. White had something to give but his contract situation paved the way for him to be dealt. Babchuk replaces Dion on the PP. He, like Dion, is a liability in his own zone but, and the stats don’t lie, seems to be able to find the net more often.
Kostopoulos is a 31-year-old third line grinder – a Flames speciality. Sure, he has played reasonably well, but he can be replaced and it wouldn’t make a difference (See 6 games where he sat out due to suspension).
The two players that still wear the Flames logo are Hagman and Stajan. Stajan has scored six goals, while adding 33 assists in 72 games with the Flames. He was awarded a ridiculous 4-year $14 million salary seven games into his Flames career. For what? Well, this is a true conundrum. The only person who knows why, might be Darryl Sutter. Stajan is at best a number two center and has proved to be in-effective during elongated spurts this season. Attention Flames fans, this guy is going nowhere so get used to him and his underachieving ways.
Niklas Hagman has scored 14 goals and added 20 assists in 77 games with the Flames. He is on pace for his lowest goal output since 2006 and lacks consistency – a common trait amongst these traded players. He not a superstar, but he is not a grinder. He is one player who could be dealt at the deadline if teams are willing to take a gamble that he will re-discover his scoring touch and are willing to take on his $3-million contract for this year and the next. Not out of the realm of possibility IMO.
So who won this trade?
As of right now, neither team did. Neither team is substantially better or horribly worse. Both are on the outside looking in at the playoffs. Since the trade, Darryl Sutter has been canned, while Brian Burke has done his best to convince the Toronto fans and the surrounding media that they are headed in the right direction.
The deciding factor in this trade will be Keith Aulie. He is only 21 and given the right grooming techniques could turn into a premier shut-down defenceman. If this is the case, Flames fans might want to drive to Viking, AB, and beat down the door of the Sutter farm to thank Darryl for all the great work he did in the last few years as the Flames GM.