Now as captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Phaneuf returns to the Saddledome on Thursday night for the first time since the Flames traded the former Calder and Norris Trophy candidate nearly one year ago.
After making his NHL debut in October 2005 until Jan. 30, Phaneuf led all defensemen with 75 goals and was fifth with 874 hits in 378 games—all in a Flames uniform. On Jan. 31, though, Phaneuf was the centerpiece of a blockbuster seven-player trade with Toronto that was expected to shake up two struggling teams.
“It’s part of the business,” Phaneuf said. “It’s a cliche. If Wayne Gretzky can get traded, anyone can get traded.”
Neither Toronto (12-14-4) nor Calgary (13-15-3) have enjoyed any great success since the swap. The Maple Leafs have gone 25-24-7 while the Flames posted a 26-27-5 record, and both clubs are currently among the worst in their respective conferences.
“He was a guy who never wanted to leave. He wanted to stay here,” Jokinen said. “He scored over 20 goals in his rookie year, a Norris Trophy candidate. … I never had any problems with him, you know? He’s a good teammate who played hard and practiced hard. I would take him on my team any day.”
Phaneuf returned to his hometown of Edmonton in grand style by opening the scoring with his first goal of the season in a 4-1 win over the Oilers on Tuesday.
After playing in his third game after missing 16 with a lacerated leg, Phaneuf was already looking ahead to Calgary.
“I played a lot of hockey there,” he said. “I have a lot of respect for the organization and the players I played with there. A lot of good friendships were made and I am looking forward to going back.”
While the Maple Leafs are looking for their third straight win and fifth in seven games, Calgary will be trying to notch back-to-back victories for the first time since a season-high three-game run Oct. 22-26.
The Flames captain has been red-hot lately, totaling five goals and six assists in an eight-game point streak. However, the team is ready to face Phaneuf - and knows what he’s capable of delivering.
“When has he ever played a quiet game out there?” defenseman Cory Sarich(notes) said. “You don’t expect anything but vintage Dion. I’m sure forwards, whether you guys print it or whether we say it, make sure you’ve got your head up because he’ll definitely be looking to make a statement.”
Calgary has won five straight at home against Toronto since December 2002, including four one-goal victories and two in overtime.