GARRIOCH: Dion Phaneuf wasn’t long with the Ottawa Senators, but he had a big impact

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Dion Phaneuf officially hung up his skates on Tuesday.

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The news, which was first delivered by Postmedia columnist Steve Simmons for those who receive the newspaper in the morning, was not unexpected, but it was a chance to celebrate the career of a defenseman who has played 14 seasons and 1,048 career games.

Phaneuf, 36, did not play in last year’s 56-game season that was shortened by the global pandemic, but he waited for the 2021-22 campaign to start because he had to accept that he had adapted. for his last league game.

Phaneuf, ninth overall in the 2003 draft, began his career with the Calgary Flames. He was then traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2010, before being traded to the Senators in February 2016. He ended his career with the Los Angeles Kings after spending part of two seasons in Ottawa.

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He is one of the few players who can say he saw the battle for Ontario from both sides.

As captain of the 2011 Leafs until he transferred to the Senators, at the time, anyone in Ottawa would have told you that they had little use for Phaneuf because they didn’t didn’t like what he brought to the table. Either way, sending the Leafs captain to rival Senators didn’t feel right to me in any way.

But about five minutes after arriving in the Senators’ locker room, that attitude completely changed.

Everyone quickly discovered that Phaneuf was a great person who treated everything he interacted with with respect during his two seasons with the Senators.

Dion Phaneuf is playing his first game in Detroit after being acquired by the Senators on February 10, 2016. GETTY IMAGES
Dion Phaneuf plays his first game in Detroit after being acquired by the Senators on February 10, 2016. GETTY IMAGES

On the day of the trade in Ottawa, Phaneuf flew to Detroit at the end of the day to join his new teammates. He had been with the Leafs on the road and was preparing to face the Flames after the trade was over. He drove to the Westin in Detroit and was downstairs on game day when he joined rugged winger Chris Neil for breakfast.

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The two haven’t missed battles over the years, but it wasn’t at all awkward.

“He had been traded to a new team, he got up early and he was excited when he came down to the hotel restaurant,” Neil said Tuesday from his home in Ottawa. “I usually got up early and was the only one sitting there, so he asked if he could join me and I said, ‘Sure, sure’…

“It was one of those things where we got off to a good start. He was a great teammate when he was here with just his leadership skills and what he brought from Toronto when he was there. He’s also learned a lot in his career, so when you bring in an older player like Dion back then it helps with the leadership role.

“He was awesome.”

Let’s be honest, there were a lot of people in Ottawa who couldn’t stand Phaneuf because of misconceptions.

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“I don’t think, for the most part, too many guys had a lot of respect for Dion,” Neil said. “In the locker room he was one of those guys you hated playing against because you knew he was going to play hard every night and you would see him in practice. He made the people around him better through his work ethic.

Dion Phaneuf and Senators badass Chris Neil have had plenty of battles over the years, but none of that mattered when the defenseman was acquired by Ottawa.  GETTY IMAGES
Dion Phaneuf and Senators badass Chris Neil have had plenty of battles over the years, but none of that mattered when the defenseman was acquired by Ottawa. GETTY IMAGES

Phaneuf was acquired because the late Ottawa general manager Bryan Murray wanted a defenseman who could play in the club’s top four. The Leafs wanted to take their pay off the books and were looking to change the dynamics in the room. Former Leafs general manager Lou Lamoriello wanted to turn the page on this era in Toronto.

There is no doubt that Phaneuf was part of something special here. He reunited with former Leafs teammate Clarke MacArthur in Ottawa. They’re not just close friends – they’re also cousins ​​who have spent a lot of time together over the years, and their time as teammates in Ottawa surely has a special place in their memories.

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The following season, 2016-17, saw one of the most notable playoffs in franchise history when the Senators lost in Game 7 to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Conference Finals. ‘East.

Phaneuf scored the game-winning overtime goal in Game 2 against the Boston Bruins in Ottawa to tie the first-round series at 1-1 as she returned to Beantown. Then, in Game 6, MacArthur, back after missing most of the season with post-concussion syndrome, scored the overtime winner to advance the Senators to the second round against the Rangers.

Left to right: Senators Dion Phaneuf, Chris Kelly and Clarke MacArthur face the Bruins in the playoffs in 2017. Phaneuf and MacArthur weren't just teammates, they were close cousins ​​as well.  WAYNE CUDDINGTON / POSTMEDIA FILES
Left to right: Senators Dion Phaneuf, Chris Kelly and Clarke MacArthur face the Bruins in the playoffs in 2017. Phaneuf and MacArthur were not just teammates, they are close cousins ​​as well. WAYNE CUDDINGTON / POSTMEDIA FILES

It was a magical time for the organization, but when the reconstruction began midway through the 2017-18 campaign, the decision was made to relocate the veterans. Phaneuf spent most of the first period on the Ottawa bench on February 13, 2018, in Pittsburgh, and found out ahead of the second period that he was heading to Los Angeles.

After concluding a post-game scrum that night at PPG Paints Arena, Phaneuf shook hands and thanked every member of the Ottawa media on the road for the treatment he received with the Senators.

Phaneuf has been a leading professional throughout his career. It hasn’t changed.

He deserved the chance to receive a proper goodbye – and that’s what he got from the Maple Leafs on Tuesday night.

[email protected]

Twitter: sungarrioch

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