EL SEGUNDO, CA — It didn’t take long for veteran defenseman Dion Phaneuf to make his presence known after he was acquired by the Los Angeles Kings from the Ottawa Senators on February 13.
In his first four games with his new team, the 32-year-old, 6-4, 225-pound native of Edmonton, Alberta scored three goals, and was the physical, sound defensive presence the Kings were hoping he would be.
“[Scoring those goals], that’s just a bonus,” said Phaneuf. “To be honest with you, I’ve had the opportunities—great passes. You work with your teammates and you try to contribute in any way you can, and luckily, they went in.”
“He’s been terrific,” said head coach John Stevens. “He’s a veteran guy who’s come in and played like a veteran guy but has also been very respectful to the people who [have already been here].”
“It’s early, but he’s come in and checked a lot of boxes,” added Stevens. “He’s played really well and has been a good addition to our team. I think he brings an edge to his game, and he puts some points on the board, which has certainly helped us, but also helps him settle in. I just think he’s got a well-rounded game, and he can help you in a lot of different situations. He’s a physical player, he moves the puck well, he’s got a good stick, and he’s got size. Every time he gets the puck offensively he looks to get it to the net. When he gets the puck, whether it’s breakout or transition, he’s always looking to move the puck forward. On top of all that, he’s got a lively personality, which I think is good for any team.”
Indeed, Phaneuf is definitely not the shy, quiet type.
“Dion is a really good presence on the team,” Stevens noted. “He’s got a really good personality, and he communicates really well. We’ve always said that when you talk, you’re faster. If you’re just waiting for visual confirmation, you become a little hesitant. But when everybody talks, you become a faster team.”
“My job is to come in here, and do what I do,” said Phaneuf. “The vocal side is, for me, something I’ve always done. I think communication on the ice is a big thing, and I try to talk as much as I can out there, because I’m a big believer that it really does help. It’s about bringing energy, it’s about doing your job, and my job is to communicate, and defend. When you communicate, it gives you a better chance of defending.”
Phaneuf indicated that his transition from the Senators to the Kings has been incredibly smooth.
“The bottom line is that you come in and try to fit in and help the group,” he said. “For me, the guys—I can’t thank them enough for making me feel comfortable. They welcomed me in the room, and as a player, you can’t thank them enough for making you feel comfortable, because it makes your transition easier. They made me feel comfortable, they welcomed me, right from day one. My job is just to try to help the team and try to fit in in any way that I can.”
“The biggest thing when you to go to a new team, and it doesn’t matter if you’re a veteran guy [or not], everything’s new,” he added. “New teammates, new training staff, new staff in the front office. You’re learning every day, you’re trying to get to know everyone well, and then you go outside the rink, the traffic is a little bit different here than it is in Ottawa. I’m just trying to get familiar as quickly as I can, and thank God for GPS, because I’ve been using it a lot.”
“I’m still learning different things about the system and the structure,” he noted. “That just comes with time and experience. But the guys, the staff—everybody has made my transition all positive and much easier to focus on what matters, and that’s playing hockey. But the way the guys have welcomed me into the room is the thing that sticks out for me the most.”
Phaneuf said that he knew some of his new teammates already.
“During the last lockout, I spent the whole time here, skating with the guys [at the Toyota Sports Center],” he said. “Some of the guys I’m familiar with, but the group has been really welcoming to me, right from everyone in the front office, the trainers—the bottom line is that when you get moved, everything gets turned upside down. But from the equipment staff getting my equipment here as quickly as possible, I can’t thank everyone enough for making my transition here seamless.”
Being able to meet the Kings in Pittsburgh—he played there with the Senators just prior to the trade being announced—was a big help.
“[When] I look at the way the trade happened—being able to meet the team in Pittsburgh—I was already there,” he said. “I really think that was a bonus for me because I got to practice with the team right away. Usually, when you get traded midway through a trip, you’ve got to travel to meet the team. That really helped me get to know the way that we play, a little bit, system-wise. That was a good experience, to have that full practice before starting games.”
Phaneuf indicated that he is playing a slightly different role with the Kings.
“Every time there’s a change in scenery, there’s different expectations and different roles,” he noted. “I’m in a bit of a different role here, but the bottom line is that our job is to defend, and we’ve got to continue to build that. If you look at our team game in Winnipeg, that’s a really tough back-to-back, and we stuck to it. We played a really solid team structure. That allowed us to stay in the game and find a way to win it.”
LEAD PHOTO: Los Angeles Kings defenseman Dion Phaneuf. Photo: Gann Matsuda/FrozenRoyalty.net.
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