Thursday, December 16, 2010

Lots of talk, few results in the months since the Flames/Leafs trade

Providing he makes the flight connections from a cross country journey, Dion Phaneuf will make a much anticipated return to Calgary tonight, as his Toronto Maple Leafs make a rare visit to the western reaches of the NHL.

Phaneuf, who spent most of this week making arrangements to attend the funeral of his grandmother in Prince Edward Island, has been the topic of much of hockey media in both Toronto and Calgary this week, featured in the spotlight over the debate over the trade of last year that brought him to Toronto from Alberta.

It was the signature trade thus far for Maple Leaf's President and General Manager Brian Burke, who brought the intense nature of Phaneuf's hockey make up into the boiler room that is Toronto, which like Montreal is where hockey players are placed under a microscope like few other locations in the NHL.

When he arrived in Toronto eleven months ago, it was considered perhaps another one of Brian Burke's greatest thefts, bringing a key member of the Flames into the Maple Leaf dressing room to serve as one of the major building blocks in Burke's blue print to return the Leafs to greater glory.

However, like any construction project it would seem that there have been setbacks along the way, the Leafs this year don't seem much better than they did last, Phaneuf has struggled at times with the leadership role thrust upon him with Toronto and along with injuries hasn't quite provided for the dividends that Maple Leaf fans are anxious for.

Still, for Burke it was a trade he would make again in a minute, taking time this week to recount the reasons why he set out to acquire the defenceman and how he still believes that the plan in progress will eventually come to a successful conclusion.

Over in the Calgary dressing room, the return of their former team mate once again has Flame players speaking out that any perceived animosities between themselves and the former Flame have been greatly overblown.

Flame captain Jarome Iginla would seem to be getting a little exasperated with all the attention to what may or may not have happened in years gone by within the Flames dressing room, outlining how players in Canadian cities seem to have to deal with far more attention to personality issues and personal inquiries than other locations.

The fact that the return of Dion and his struggling Leafs to visit the Flames who are very much in the same situation as Toronto, has attracted such attention, seems to prove out Iginla's thoughts.

As the two teams prepare to meet in Calgary tonight, the focus it seems is on personalities rather than what's been happening on the ice, indicative of the troubles of two teams that seem stuck in a rut. leaving their fans to watch in frustration as expectations of progress seem rather distant to say the least.

For the followers of the Leafs it's the frustration that the arrival of Phaneuf hasn't translated into a major move upwards in the NHL standings, while Flames fans can commiserate with the realization that the blockbuster announcement of last year hasn't resulted in a change of direction for the Flames.

In fact, for Calgary, this season so far is worse than last, which if one is scoring at home would suggest that if you're looking for winners and losers in the trade of last year, the Leafs may be ahead of the Flames, though not by a very wide margin.

Both teams continue to make headlines from their trade of almost a year ago, however, the bottom line thus far is  that  neither can claim a massive shift in results that came from it.

A digest of the accounts of the return of the prodigal Flame can be found below:

Globe and Mail-- You think Toronto is a mess?
Globe and Mail-- Burke would do Phaneuf deal all over again
TSN-- Your call: Would you rather be the Leafs or Flames right now?  
Yahoo-- Diminishing Return: Dion Phaneuf comes back to Calgary as a Leaf
CBC-- Leaf's Phaneuf makes return visit to Calgary
Calgary Herald-- Will the real Dion please stand up
National Post-- Leafs won Phaneuf trade by default 
National Post-- Wilson boos Phaneuf at Leafs practice
Vancouver Sun-- Captain Phaneuf's circus sideshow lands in Calgary
Toronto Sun-- Darryl would do Dion deal again
Sportsnet-- Dion of a new era
Toronto Star-- Less hype, more hockey: Phaneuf set to return to Calgary
Toronto Star-- Leafs have emerged as clear winners of the Phaneuf trade
Toronto Sun-- Phaneuf helping Leafs find identity
Calgary Sun-- GM Sutter fails to clarify 'issues' in dressing room, defers to players to answer
Calgary Herald-- No masking anticipation of Phaneuf's return
Calgary Herald-- Iginla downplays match vs Phaneuf
Calgary Herald-- Polarizing presence returns to the Dome

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