Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Maple Leafs Player Preview: Cody Franson


The NHL Season is quickly approaching, with that in mind we’re going to take a look at who is (likely) to be on the Leafs roster come October 1 in Montreal. Contract numbers via CapGeek.com; Regular Stats via Hockey-reference.com; Nerd stats via behindthenet.ca. For the rest of our Player Previews go here.

Who: Cody Franson, No.4, defenseman| 6’5″, 213 LBS | 27-years old.

ToT Approved Nicknames:

None.

History:

4 NHL seasons, 2 with Nashville, 243 GP

Contract Status:

A freshly signed $2-million 1-year contract

Career Stats:

243 GP 23 Goals 77 Assists 100 Points

2012/2013 Stats:

45 GP 4 Goals 25 Assists 29 Points

Nerd Stats

On-ice Corsi: -10.41; PDO 1040

You Oughta Know:

Franson was traded along with Matthew Lombardi to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Brett Lebda and Robert Slaney, in yet another example of Brian Burke making a very nice, and under the radar move for the team.

Looking Back:

In his first 2 seasons in the NHL, Franson was a solid but unspectacular defenseman, for the Nashville Predators. With Ryan Suter and Shea Weber in their line up, the Predators did not have room, nor could they afford a defenseman like Franson any longer.

In his first season in Toronto Franson was essentially the same player that he was in Nashville, albeit with an uptick in his offensive production. His offensive production was not enough to keep him out of Ron Wilson‘s dog house and he was only able to get into 57 games.

Last year’s lockout shortened season was Franson’s coming out party, he was able to record 29 points in just 26 games, good to lead the Leafs blue line, and sixth in the NHL among defenseman.

In the past, Franson was considered a defensive liability, something that was reflected in his offensive zone start %, which had never dipped below 50% (meaning that his coaches deployed him in the offensive zone more than 50% of the time). In his breakout campaign last season, Franson’s offensive zone start percentage was a career low 45.9%.

That means despite be given less of an offensive opportunity, Franson actually produced at a higher level, which is clearly a good sign for his development and for the Leafs.

What to Expect:

With Franson now under contract, the Maple Leafs now have the arduous task of deciding which defenders they will be keeping in the line up on October 1st. Due to their current salary cap situation the Leafs will likely have to go with a bare bones NHL roster, barring of course a trade.

With 7 defenseman on the roster that have NHL experience, plus Morgan Rielly, the Leafs may be forced to send down one or two of their NHL veterans in order to become cap compliant. The most likely candidates are Mark Fraser and John-Michael Liles, but it will be interesting to see how it plays out.

Franson will likely see time on the Leafs second defense pairing. I expect him to be partnered with Paul Ranger to begin the season, but again this largely depends on the moves that are to be made in coming days. Franson and Ranger are both big bodied defenseman that can move the puck and skate, and could be a nightmare for opposition.

Franson’s passing ability makes him an offensive threat at all times, I fully expect that Franson will build upon his breakout campaign of last season and easily surpass his career high of 29 points. Expecting around 8 goals and 30 assists out of Franson seems reasonable to me, and if Franson does perform at that level he will be in line to get the money he deserves.

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