Leafs' stick salute controversy a matter of 'changing routine,' says Dion Phaneuf

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Who would have thought that the Toronto Maple Leafs winning 5-2 over the Tampa Bay Lightning would bring controversy the next day?

That’s what happened when the players (apparently no one told Cody Franson as you see above) celebrated the victory by exiting the Air Canada Centre ice without doing their usual post-win stick salute to the fans.

Boy, did that get some fans and some in the Toronto media in an uproar.

It’s already been dubbed Saluteghazi, but according to Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf, it wasn’t meant to be a disrespect to the fans, it was about changing their losing ways.

Via David Alter:

“That was something that we obviously discussed about. To be completely honest with you, it was something about the way that we’ve been playing at home, our record and just changing up routine. At the end of the day, we did a lot of things different throughout the day and that was something that we decided to change.”

“We have great respect for our fans. We’ve got unbelievable fans. We know how much support that we have. This, by no means, was any attack at our fans, or anything personal. It was more about our team and changing up our routine.”

Phaneuf, however, didn't say whether the players realized beforehand how much this move would be misinterpreted (if you’re to believe the “routine” reason) and backfire on them since they play in the media market that is Toronto. It was basically more blood in the water for the sharks.

Things have been coming to a boil in the Big Smoke for a while now, with jerseys being tossed on to the ice and the boos getting louder and louder after each home loss. The calls to fire general manager David Nonis and head coach Randy Carlyle continue to grow as the franchise spins its wheels.

Whether it’s waffles or jerseys or non-salutes, the bottom line is the product on the ice should be the bigger controversy with the Leafs. The off-season changes in the management office was a good first step in the right direction, but as Lambert pointed out on Friday morning, the head coach/GM combo currently employed have done nothing to improve this team.

It's why non-stories turn into dominant headlines, even after they win.

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Sean Leahy is the associate editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!