ANN ARBOR, Mich. Vapormax Australia . – Tucked in the warmth on the surrounding grounds of the Big House, Maple Leafs general manager Dave Nonis made one point urgently clear as he announced the signing of Torontos captain through 2021. "We signed Dion to this deal because he deserved it," said Nonis on the eve of Wednesdays Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium. But the success of the seven-year extension between the Leafs and Dion Phaneuf wont just be about the 28-year-old defender, but the ability of Nonis and the organization to surround him and the Toronto core with capable talent. Right now that core includes at least six players; Phaneuf along with Phil Kessel, James van Riemsdyk, Joffrey Lupul, David Clarkson and Tyler Bozak – all signed until at least 2017. And while that group must remain productive – and increasingly so from a generally disappointing first half – the overall team success is likely dependent on the quality of talent the club adds in the coming years. "Weve added these pieces because we think that they can help us win long-term," said Nonis of that core group. "Its now going to be up to us to add players around them. We feel we have some pieces coming, but were not where we need to be yet. We still need to add some pieces around players like Dion and Phil and [Lupul], JVR. Those are players that will help any team in this league win, but we need to continue to add to that group." No team has done a more efficient job of surrounding their impressive core than the Chicago Blackhawks (though the Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins could make equal argument). "I think theyre a model for the league, not just our hockey club," Randy Carlyle said of the defending Stanley Cup champions earlier this season. Chicagos core is among the more dynamic in the league – much of it built through the draft – but the organization has done well in surrounding that group with wave upon wave of helpful young players and outside talent. In recent years, the likes of Andrew Shaw (fifth round pick), Marcus Kruger (fifth round), Bryan Bickell (second round), Corey Crawford (second round) and Brandon Saad (second round) all proved invaluable toward the Blackhawks capturing their second Cup in four years last season. For the Leafs that means improved drafting and development. It means finding more capable assets through the draft, ever an important tool in todays cap age. "Theres still only three ways to do [build around the core] – trade, free agency or the draft," said Nonis. "We have to do a better job in all three areas. But the draft is going to be more and more important as players start to earn six, seven, eight, nine, 10 million – who knows what the numbers are going to end up being. "If you have players that are entry-level players or just coming out of entry-level that are earning substantially less that can contribute youre going to have a better chance of winning. We need to try to find some of those players." Not only does that mean the continued development of young players like Morgan Rielly, Jake Gardiner, Nazem Kadri, Peter Holland and Jonathan Bernier, but success here and there from a solid and yet unspectacular prospect pool that features Matt Finn, Connor Brown, Petter Granberg, Dominic Toninato, and Josh Leivo. It also means finding more useful players to contribute right now. Chicago found help for example in the form of veterans like Johhny Oduya and Michal Handzus. Uneven all season, Torontos patchwork defence – which featured no major additions last summer – is a source requiring definite upgrading in the summer of 2014 and beyond. As for Phaneuf, he may be an imperfect first defender, but is a capable first defender no less in a league where commodities of such kind are difficult to find and then keep. More and more teams are locking up their most talented players long-term leaving the free agency pool increasingly weak and short of high-impact options, especially on defence. Among the top unsigned defenders for the summer of 2014 are 37-year-old Dan Boyle, 35-year-old Andrei Markov, and 29-year-old Dan Girardi. Internally, the Leafs have promising long-term options for the top of their defence in the 19-year-old Rielly and 23-year-old Gardiner, but neither is near ready to assume the difficult duties Phaneuf holds at the moment. And while the likes of Finn, Granberg, Stuart Percy, and Tom Nilsson offer prospective hope further on down the line, they are suitably unknown commodities. "If youre signing players because you dont have anyone to replace them youre making mistakes," said Nonis. "Hes going to play at this level and beyond, I feel, for seven years and maybe beyond that. Its not that you dont have anyone to replace Dion, its that hes done enough to prove to us that he is a player that is near the top of the league in terms of how he stacks up against the top defencemen." The difficulty of his minutes is easy to overlook. His role on a generally unstable Toronto defence requires him to match up nightly against the most difficult competition in the league. In Wednesdays Winter Classic for example, that tall challenge will include large quantities of Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. "I dont think you can look beyond the situations and positions that Randy puts him in," said Nonis. "Theyre not always the best situations. He plays some pretty tough minutes." In fact, no defender in the league has faced more challenging competition in the past two seasons than the Leafs captain, this according to ExtraSkater.com. And though hes struggled to produce offence this season – 15 points in 39 games – Phaneuf has ranked amongst the top-20 at his position in offensive production in each of the past two seasons. The Leafs were in a surprise in 2013, finishing fifth in the conference while nearly upending the eventual Cup finalist Bruins in the first round. But theyve fallen under considerable strain this season – just four regulation wins since Nov. 1 – and have proven a poor defensive contingent again after struggling in that regard a year ago. Phaneuf is more solution than problem. The Leafs simply need better players around him. "You see some of the best players around the league," said Nonis, "if you put them on a team by themselves theyre going to have a hard time winning. We think were adding pieces that will help us win." Cheap Nike Air Max 95 Australia . Louis second-period goal increased the New York Rangers lead but Dustin Brown has countered for the Los Angeles Kings who now trail the New York Rangers 2-1 in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final at Madison Square Garden. Discount Vans Shoes Australia . - Veteran Kings defenceman Robyn Regehr, sidelined since Game 1 of the Anaheim series, says hes close to returning.Phaneuf got traded to Toronto where his defensive play has had its good days and its bad days. The embarrassing plays have continued as we recently saw this massive collision with his own teammate. Would this happen to any other player but Dion Phaneuf? :But still he has gained many fans in Toronto, especially when he takes out rivals with their heads down:The high risk high reward style of Phaneuf could not have been more evident during last years playoffs. After poorly executing a pinch in Game 4 and costing the Leafs the game, it seemed like everyone in Toronto had finally hhad enough of their captain:But of course what did Phaneuf do next in that series? He pinched again, and it worked. Nike Shoes Discount Australia. . In Game 6 he jumped up in the play and scored a third period goal which propelled the Leafs to victory:Redemption. That took a lot of guts considering what happened the last time he pinched at home.It is clear that Phaneuf brings the good and the bad no matter where he plays. It will be interesting to see how the Leafs end up handling him. Do you think he should be traded, or kept as the captain of the Maple Leafs? Tweet us @BarDown. ' ' '
Tucked in the warmth on the surrou
Tucked in the warmth on the surrou