Dion Phaneuf vs. Dustin Byfuglien

steve laidlaw




Happy Festivus everyone! It truly is a Festivus miracle that every year the NHL shuts down for two days around the holidays. It is the perfect time to gather your fantasy squad around the aluminum pole and take part in the airing of grievances. Here is an excerpt from my Festivus dinner this past Friday evening:


Welcome new acquisitions, the tradition of Festivus begins with the airing of grievances. I've got a lot of problems with you players. Now you're gonna hear about them!

You, Carter, my dad tells me your team stinks!

Quiet, Cam Ward, you'll get yours in a minute.

Mike Green, either play the damn games or get your butt on the IR!

Semin! You couldn't smooth a silk sheet if you had a hot date with a babe… I lost my train of thought.

Now it is time for the feats of strength.

There are numerous reasons why the Chicago Blackhawks franchise has been better than the Calgary Flames' over the past few years but probably the biggest one has been drafting/development. The Flames have a deplorable draft record over the last ten years. I mean, they have really pooped the bed in that regard. You have to go all the way back to 2003 when the Flames took Dion Phaneuf in the first round of what was perhaps the most loaded draft ever to find a quality player drafted and developed in house. Meanwhile, the Chicago Blackhawks have become the class of the league in terms of drafting and development.


Take that same draft for example. The Blackhawks would take stalwart defenseman Brent Seabrook five picks after the Flames selected Phaneuf but they also landed current starter Corey Crawford in the second round. What's really amazing though, is that the Blackhawks somehow managed to draft a player who is (at least on paper) the exact same guy as Phaneuf all the way down in the eighth round.


Some may call that luck. I call it guile. The Blackhawks are able to snake out good picks in late rounds because they take chances and develop well. The irony of course is that the Blackhawks would ultimately miscast Byfuglien as a forward. Byfuglien certainly played the role to perfection and helped them win a Cup in the process but it was not until he left Chicago that he reach his full potential as one of the most dynamic offensive defensemen in the game. Without his move out of Chicago we would not have this week's Cage Match. It's Phaneuf vs. Byfuglien, let's rumble!


I know what you are thinking – wouldn't a Cage Match between Byfuglien's gut and Phaneuf's forehead be way more compelling? And yes, yes it would but I'll just let you guys imagine how that one would play out.


A patented three-year average comparison will not do much good in this comparison. Before last season Byfuglien spent a good amount of time playing forward so that skews his stats. Similarly Phaneuf was hurt by the move out of Calgary and the subsequent let's make Kaberle look as appealing as possible for a trade that we are "not trying to make" campaign by the Leafs front office. It really was not until after the trade deadline last season that we really saw who Phaneuf really is. Instead of a three-year average comparison let us instead look at what Phaneuf and Byfuglien have done in the first half of this season.