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On the 'D'-fence: Phaneuf reliving his glory days?

Tuesday, 10.25.2011 / 12:21 PM / Fantasy Hockey Draft Rankings, Advice and Analysis

By Brian Metzer - NHL.com Correspondent

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On the 'D'-fence: Phaneuf reliving his glory days?
Dion Phaneuf's furious point-scoring pace to begin the season could be an indication that the Maple Leafs defenseman is poised to regain the form of his early days with the Flames.
Every Tuesday during the season, NHL.com Correspondent Brian Metzer will provide you with an in-depth analysis of fantasy defensemen in our weekly segment: "On the 'D'-fence." From updated defensemen rankings to guys you should keep a close eye on and much more, Metzer will be your fantasy d-man expert all season long.
Promotional studio portrait of the 'Bundy family' cast of the television series, 'Married...With Children,' circa 1996. L-R: David Faustino, Katey Sagal, Ed O'Neill and Christina Applegate. (Photo: Fotos International)

Al Bundy, patriarch of the rag-tag Bundy clan on the now defunct show "Married With Children," spent his days peddling shoes and thinking back to his glory days -- or should I say glory day. Bundy, portrayed by Ed O'Neill, often reminisced about a singular day back in 1966 that would forever be his defining moment -- a four-touchdown affair against his nemesis "Spare Tire" Dixon and Andrew Johnson High School in the city championship.

Though Al scored four touchdowns, won the game, got the girl and was on top of the world, somewhere it all went wrong. As mentioned above, he didn't go on to a career in football, but to one selling shoes, and he was left with nothing but memories of his former greatness.

Though the above is a story about a fictional man, it could just as easily be the story of Dion Phaneuf -- a fantasy darling upon entering the League during the 2005-06 season with his surly on-ice demeanor, howitzer shot and all-around complete game.

During his first four seasons in the League he never scored less than 47 points, 11 goals, or 21 power-play points, with high-water marks of 60 points, 17 goals and 33 power-play points coming during the 2007-08 campaign. Phaneuf had scored his four touchdowns in one game.

Unfortunately things started to get a whole lot more "shoe salesman" than fantasy/NHL stud during the 2009-10 season. Phaneuf didn't get off to his typical high-scoring start, notching just 22 points during the season's first 55 games, and rumors started to swirl. As the calendar flipped to February, he said goodbye to the "Red Mile" and hello to Yonge Street, as he was dealt to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The 6-foot-3 Phaneuf was immediately embraced in his new environ, but it seemed as if his high-scoring glory days were a thing of the past. Sure, he was more than capable of notching 30 points a season as he had done since arriving in Toronto, but no one thought he could recapture the magic of 2007-08, when he put up 60 -- until now.

TOP 60 FANTASY DEFENSEMEN

These modified re-rankings are based on expectations of the season going forward (including injuries). The plus or minus for each player is movement based on our most recent rankings from last week. (NR means not ranked in previous rankings.)
Phaneuf is off to one of the fastest starts of his career and has notched 9 points (2G-7A) in the Maple Leafs' first eight games this season. He has picked up a third of those points on the power play, is a plus-6 and is averaging 3 shots on goal per night.

You might be asking yourself how the magical four touch … 60-point season started off back in 2007-08?

Phaneuf picked up 9 points through his team's first 10 games that season, was taking 3.3 shots per game, had scored roughly a third of his points on the power play and was a plus-9. It all looks pretty familiar.
 
Ed O'Neill's career sputtered a bit after playing Bundy, but has since reached new heights as the veteran actor is one of the network TV's biggest stars thanks to the success of his new show "Modern Family," and there is no reason to think Phaneuf, who is on an insane 93-point pace, can't reclaim his former greatness on one of hockey's biggest stages in Toronto.

TRENDING UPWARD

Dennis Wideman -- It is easy to forget about Wideman, as he plays on a team with a couple of highly-regarded fantasy defensemen in Mike Green and John Carlson. Heck, some might even be looking at Roman Hamrlik or Karl Alzner before considering the 28-year-old from Kitchener, Ontario, but that would be a mistake, especially when you look at who is leading the Caps' blue line in scoring -- yep, it's Wideman. He notched 10 goals and 30 assists last season and is the only player in the League to score at least a point in all of his team's games this season. He has 2 goals and 5 assists and would be a great asset to any fantasy team.

Ryan Whitney -- Finally healthy, this high-scoring defenseman is ready to make an impact with the young guns in Edmonton. Whitney has been held scoreless during his first three games of the season, but that is more a product of rust than anything else. Before he was knocked out of the lineup last season with ankle issues he was on pace to surpass 60 points and may have an outside shot at doing that this season. He has long been one of the better offensive defensemen in the League, and being the unquestioned No. 1 on the blue line for a team with such high-caliber young talent up front will only help him.

Kyle Quincey -- In keeping with the finally healthy trend, Quincey is back in the saddle after missing most of last season with injuries. He is getting time on the power play and looks like he could be returning to his 2008-09 form, when he scored 38 points for the Kings. It is worth noting that Quincey at times can be a streaky player, so you will have to contend with some peaks and valleys, but he is a worthy pick-up for any fantasy blue line that needs some depth scoring.

TRENDING DOWNWARD

Grant Clitsome -- Clitsome had a huge opportunity to become the top offensive option for the Jackets while James Wisniewski was serving his eight-game suspension; unfortunately, he didn't seize it. The young blueliner was only able to pick up 2 assists and will likely see his power-play opportunities limited now that Wisniewski has returned. It is advisable to keep an eye on Clitsome, as he thrived last season down the stretch, so he could always rebound once the pressure of being "No. 1" is removed.

Tyler Myers -- Myers is worth having on fantasy teams, but he just isn't producing to his draft position at this point in the season. The youngster has just 2 assists in his first seven games and may be in danger of becoming the dreaded "more valuable in real life" defenseman. Sure, he still has value based on the team he is playing on, his talent and situations he gets to play in, but you probably don't want to rely on him as your No. 1 source of scoring from the blue line.

P.K. Subban -- Subban has all of the talent in the world, but it hasn't necessarily translated into success at the NHL level yet. Yes, he sometimes looks as if he is taking the next step, but he hasn't been able to fill in for the injured Andrei Markov as the Canadiens had hoped.  The 22-year-old is just one of the many in Bleu, Blanc and Rouge who are struggling to start the season, and those struggles have helped the Habs get off to their worst start since 1941. There are rumors swirling regarding some changes, but until those occur keep Subban, his 2 assists and minus-6 on your bench.

KEEP AN EYE ON... 

Ryan McDonagh -- McDonagh has always been a highly-touted prospect, but the numbers have seemingly been stacked against him -- until this year. The youngster is taking full advantage of Marc Staal's concussion, as he has been given more minutes and responsibility, and is flourishing. He has notched 4 points in the Rangers first seven games, including a big overtime goal against Calgary, and has registered a plus-2. His play is a big reason why the Rangers have been able to go 3-2-2 without their No. 1 rearguard and will definitely give coach John Tortorella some tough decisions upon Staal's return.
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