What to Expect in 2011-12: Cody Franson


Source: mapleleafs.nhl.com

Sometimes miracles do happen. In one of the more lopsided trades of recent memory, the Leafs dumped Brett Lebda (and our weakest prospect in Robert Slaney) on Nashville, in return obtaining the oft injured Matthew Lombardi and young defenseman Cody Franson. The deal was done on the basis of Nashville being unwilling to pay $3.5 million for Lombardi, who will likely sit out this next season and possibly be forced to retire. As for Franson, he was one of Nashville’s best defensive prospects and has spent two seasons in the NHL.

Franson was a high price to pay for a salary dump, but just how high a price was it? Looking at some advanced statistics, I’m sure we can find out.

Here are the offensive stats for Nashville defensemen who played at least 40 games:

NameGms PlayedGoalsAssistsPoints
S. Weber82163248
R. Suter7043539
C. Franson8082129
K. Klein8121618
F. Bouillon441910
S. O’Brien80279

*Stats encompass ES, PK and PP

Franson slides nicely into the third spot on Nashville, working as a third pairing powerplay specialist. He came in second in goals with 8, which is about what you’d hope from a player playing on the second powerplay unit. For even strength, he was tied with Shea Weber for highest goals per 60 minutes with 0.35. He had the highest primary assists per 60 minutes with 0.64 and was tied for highest secondary assists per 60 with Kevin Klein at 0.35. Franson was once again in first place for points per 60 with 1.34 at even strength, with Shea Weber being second at 1.09. He did all of this while averaging the fewest even strength minutes per game (12:50) on Nashville’s defense. His most frequent partner was Shane O’Brien, who managed the fewest points on Nashville. It’s pretty clear that Franson has a large amount of offensive talent, but he still only managed 15 minutes a game. Just from looking at that, an easy conclusion would be that his defensive play is not so great.

On that note,  let’s take a look at some defensive stats:

NameOzone%Fin Ozone%Corsi ONCorsi OFFCorsi REL
C. Franson50.347.02.45-3.065.5
S. O’Brien47.649.3-3.78-0.79-3.0
S. Weber45.348.42.69-4.537.2
K. Klein44.749.4-9.662.39-12.0
R. Suter44.748.14.34-4.558.9
F. Bouillon42.648.2-7.713.44-11.2

*Only ES counted

Ozone% measures the number of shifts a player start in the offensive zone, while Fin Ozone% tracks how many of their shifts end in the offensive zone. Franson leads the defense corps in Ozone% with 50.3%, suggesting that he’s being sheltered from defensive play. In addition, every player ended their shifts in the offensive zone more frequently than they started except for Franson.

As for Corsi, it looks at the possession of the puck a team has when that player is on/off the ice. It does so by counting shots directed at the opponent’s net (shots on goal, missed shots and blocked shots all count) and then subtracting shots directed at the player’s own net from it. Franson has a Corsi ON of 2.45, meaning his team outshot the opposition by a decent margin when he is on the ice. His Corsi OFF of -3.06 tells us that his team is outshot by a wider margin when he’s not on the ice. Thus, his Corsi REL tells us his rating in comparison to his teammates. At 5.5, Franson comes in third place in this important possession stat. Looking at his Ozone% and Corsi in tandem, we can confirm that the coaching staff had little trust in his defensive ability, but realized his offensive gifts and utilized them wherever possible.

Let’s just look at a few assorted stats before we finish. If we look at QUALCOMP, a statistic that measures a player against the opposition he faces directly, Cody Franson bottoms out the list at -0.097. He played against the weakest competition on Nashville. So at this point you may be wondering if his towering 6’4″ frame is utilized to its full extent and the answer is no. Franson’s 81 hits in 2010-11 were the second fewest on Nashville’s defense. His blocked shots tallied to 52, again the second fewest on the team. However, one thing he didn’t trail behind in was shots, where his 152 ranked him second behind only Shea Weber.

So where does he fit on Toronto? The obvious choice seems to be with Gunnarsson, but I’m going to break the mould a little and say he should be paired with Schenn. If you remember my previous article on John-Michael Liles, I had said the very same thing about him. However, Franson has more warts to his defensive game than does Liles, so having that steadying presence of Schenn could do him worlds of good. Franson scored most of his points at even strength, which is well suited to Toronto’s more attacking style of play in comparison to Nashville. Were he put out with Kessel’s line consistently, who knows how many points he could improve by this season? I’m anxious to find out.