To the surprise of hockey fans everywhere, yesterday Dion Phaneuf officially retired from the NHL and professional hockey, and while the most surprising part of that might have been that he wasn’t already retired, it’s only right to take this opportunity to remember his long and very storied NHL career.
After all, Phaneuf had the greatest years of his career in the Flaming C, and was arguably the third most popular Flame of the 2000s behind only Jarome Iginla and Miikka Kiprusoff.
Where it all started for Phaneuf
Edmonton born, Dion Phaneuf was drafted in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft with the ninth overall pick. While in hindsight picking him over players such as Ryan Getzlaf, Shea Weber, and Corey Perry might seem regrettable for the Flames it was easy at the time to see why the Flames were excited about Phaneuf.
Before he joined the Flames in the 2005–06 season, he played four seasons in the WHL with the Red Deer Rebels. Phaneuf was an exciting defensive prospect—in both the 2003–04 and 2004–05 seasons he was awarded the Bill Hunter Trophy for the WHL’s best defenceman. Additionally in 2003–04 Phaneuf was also a silver medalist in the U20 World Junior Championships, and the following year he won the Gold medal with Team Canada and was also named the U20 WJC Best Defenceman.
Phaneuf’s gritty defensive play and ability to shoot the puck made him a very valuable young player.
Golden days in Calgary
Phaneuf played with the Flames from 2005 until being traded away to the Maple Leafs in 2010. His best season was with the Flames in 2007 where he had a career-high 60 points as well as an additional seven points in seven playoff games against the Detroit Red Wings in the first round. Phaneuf was also in contention for the Norris trophy, which should really help demonstrate just how great he was that season.
Phaneuf also had a phenomenal rookie season with the Flames scoring 49 points. He was a finalist for the Calder trophy that year, and it’s worth keeping in mind this was also both Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby‘s rookie season. Phaneuf played a huge role in keeping up the excitement in the C of Red—being one of the hardest hitters in the league with highlight-reel hits every game.
In his four full seasons with the Flames he never had less than 40 points, and he also played a huge role in helping the Flames get to the playoffs in each of those seasons. Unfortunately each playoff campaign ended in a first round exit.
While a Flame, Phaneuf was named an All Star twice in both 2007 and 2008, and also won the World Championship for Team Canada in 2007.
Phaneuf was also an active community member and leader throughout his tenure with the Flames even winning the team’s humanitarian award in 2008 due to his work with the Alberta Children’s hospital.
Unfortunately in 2010 his off ice persona caught up to him and the Flames decided in order to keep their locker room from fully combusting that they would send him off to Toronto. On January 31st of that year he would be sent away with teammates Fredrik Sjostrom and Keith Aulie, in exchange for Niklas Hagman, Ian White, Jamal Mayers, and longtime Flame Matt Stajan.
A controversial captain
After being traded to Toronto, Phaneuf played roughly seven seasons with the club. Despite being moved from Calgary due to locker room problems, he was almost immediately assigned as an alternate captain in Toronto. Then was named captain of the team the following season.
With the Leafs, Phaneuf never reached his early career point totals, and only had one first round playoff series appearance.
Leafs fans don’t have the same fond memories of Phaneuf that Flames fans tend to and it’s easy to see why.
After helping lead the Leafs to the first pick in the 2016 draft where they were able to select Auston Matthews, he was traded to the Ottawa Senators in a massive nine-player blockbuster trade.
On the road again
After first arriving in Ottawa Phaneuf continued to struggle at first, but was named alternate captain for the third time in his career that following offseason.
In 2017 he had somewhat of a bounce back, and helped the Senators reach the Eastern Conference finals, where for the first time in his career he made it past the first round of the playoffs.
Then he was once again traded for the final time now to Los Angeles after waiving his no movement clause. He finished that season with another first round exit. His final season in the NHL came in 2018–19, where he would reach the 1000 game milestone. Despite that, his on-ice results made it easily his worst season. It unfortunately resulted in the last two years of his contract being bought out by the Kings.
Hanging up the skates
Phaneuf never quite found success after his first couple seasons in the league and it’s truly unfortunate as those first couple seasons of his with the Flames were exceptionally exciting. He may not be a Hall of Famer like Iginla or someone likely to see their number up in the dome’s rafters like Kipper, but he’ll always be a huge part of this team’s history and no one is going to be forgetting his impact on the Calgary Flames anytime soon. Besides, he’ll always have the distinction of being one of only two Flames to get on the cover of an NHL game.
Phaneuf finishes his NHL career with 494 points (137 goals and 357 assists) over 1,048 regular season NHL games. Nearly half of his career points came in his first four seasons, as he scored 228 points as a Calgary Flame. More synonymous to the Phaneuf brand though, were his thunderous hits—some of which are rumoured to still be echoing in the Saddledome if you listen closely enough.
Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images