Starting to Really Wonder. . . .
So today's column says new Leaf captain Dion Phaneuf is no quote machine or particularly media friendly, but that it doesn't matter. He'll be judged on whether he's a good player and how the team does, not by his relationship with the media.
Read the column. That's exactly what it says.
In response, there are some apparently offended by the column, twisting it to be criticism of Phaneuf for not being a pal of the media and thus turning thumbs down on his captaincy.
Never said any such thing.
One thing you realize is that people will believe what they want to believe. If you write something they agree with, they think its great journalism. If it opposes their opinion, they think its horrible and undeserving of publication. Sometimes they twist things around. I included a Larry Murphy anecdote I thought some readers would find amusing, and one accused me of driving Murphy out of town. Such power I wish I had, but I don't.
So you shrug. The readers are entitled to their opinion, and more and more in today's interactive media world they are given an opportunity to make their thoughts and feelings known, which is a good thing. (Watch: Some reader will take issue and say I'm trying to shut everyone else up).
What I was pointing out in today's column, rather clearly I thought, is that it's the Leafs who are seemingly at odds with the captain's job description. They - not I - say a big part of the job is handling the media, then they go out and give the "C" to a player not known for his affability with scribblers and microphones.
Seems a bit contradictory. Me? I wouldn't factor media friendliness into picking a captain at all. I might measure how thick a guy's skin is, but in Toronto its not about public relations. There aren't tickets to be sold, so I don't know why the Leafs believe - or say they believe - they have to award the captaincy to a player with polished media skills.
Far from condemning the decision to give Phaneuf the captaincy, I said we'll have to wait and see, and he'll have to show individual personality skills he hasn't had to use so far in his career. Didn't say he couldn't do it. Said it's going to take some time. Said he's never done the job before so it's an open question as to whether he'll be able to handle it.
To re-iterate, I think Phaneuf has a chance to suceeed if he gets his game back together and if the Leafs win hockey games. He's a lousy interview, which means I probably won't talk to him a great deal, but that certainly doesn't mean I'll hold it against him. The guy's never turned me down for an interview since I first started dealing with him at the world junior championships in 2005, he's just almost never had anything to say and clearly would prefer not to be interviewed at all. Which is his prerogative.
What matters is what he says on the ice, not what he says or doesn't say to me. There's a fair number of players on the team and on other teams who are more than willing to share their insights and thoughts. Not everybody can be Chris Pronger or Patrick Sharp or Mike Cammalleri or Dominic Moore or Daniel Briere or Mike Komisarek or Ryan Miller or Martin Brodeur or Ilya Bryzgalov or even Sidney Crosby, and that's cool with me.
I do think Phaneuf has got to show up, win or lose. If things go well, he needs to speak. Same if things go terribly. Wendel Clark, Mats Sundin and Doug Gilmour always did that, and were respected by their teammates and members of the media. It's called accountability, and while the media end of its is just a small part, it's a part that many notice.
Fact is, the Leafs don't really know how Phaneuf will handle the captaincy. It might make him a better player, it might be a burden that detracts from his game.
We'll see. It's not like there were any other viable choices, which is usually the case with young teams that have finished in the bottom of the league.