With the Maple Leafs beginning training camp Thursday, we thought a good starting point would be addressing one of the most polarizing athletes in Toronto: Dion Phaneuf.

It only heightened when Toronto GM Dave Nonis signed the Leafs captain to a monster 7-year, $49-million US contract last December.

That’s the type of contract reserved for a No. 1 defencemen, the type of which Phaneuf is not.

Naturally the contract gave fans fuel to ridicule the Leafs’ blue-liner, whose defensive breakdowns continually trigger humourous reactions on social media.

In a piece that my colleague Mike Dennis wrote regarding the eight worst NHL contracts for Canadian teams, more than 56 per cent picked Phaneuf’s deal as the least desirable in a CBCSports.ca poll, easily outdistancing the Sedin twins, who were second at 17.25 per cent.

This is a critical season for Phaneuf and the Leafs. Toronto has missed the playoffs in eight of its last nine years, and don’t expect Phaneuf to get a ringing endorsement from new president Brendan Shanahan if he or the franchise gets off to a slow start.

But should the Leafs even take a wait-and-see approach with Phaneuf? After all, he was constantly linked to trade rumours throughout last season.


As I've noted, Phaneuf gets roasted by Leaf fans on a regular basis.