PPP's Top 25 Under 25 - #7 Cody Franson

Even though this is our first instalment of the Top 25 Under 25 series, I feel pretty confident in saying that doing rankings during the middle of the season can be a tough task.

Already during this countdown, we've had one member of the team be traded out of the organization, and no fewer than eight of our Top 25 have moved from one level to another. We've also had about 20 additional games worth of information about these guys to process. So while the rankings reflect how we felt back at the start of December. Nearly two months later, things might have changed quite a bit.

So with that in mind, maybe it isn't entirely a surprise to see Cody Franson ranked at #7. Franson had some difficulties settling into his new home in Toronto. With an overcrowded right side, Franson was forced into starting his Leaf career playing on the left side. But after a period of early struggles, and being outplayed by rookie Jake Gardiner, Franson found himself the odd man out, making matters worse by creating a minor media controversy about his (lack) of playing time, and earning no favours from Leaf fans becoming used to the idea that all players have to earn their spot in the lineup.

But Franson has been one of the biggest benefactors of Mike Komisarek and John-Michael Liles injuries, and uneven play from Luke Schenn. Franson has established his position in the line-up, and could force the Leafs into a difficult decision on how to allocate ice time when Liles returns from a concussion.

Cody Franson

#4 / Defenseman / Toronto Maple Leafs

6-5

213

Aug 08, 1987

Let's quickly talk about what Franson brings to the table.

Cody Franson is a power play specialist. He gets more shots toward the net than just about anyone, he's got an uncanny knack for keeping pucks from passing over the blueline and he can bring the puck up ice with the best of them. That being said, that's about the extent of his value.

. He rarely played against top competition and while his positioning is solid, his skating leaves him vulnerable. If he's the last one back and someone gets a step on him, you'd have better luck if he headed to the bench for a change than have him try and get back in time. Put simply, he doesn't possess a lot of speed. Okay, he possess no speed. Hence why he's a power play specialist. On the man advantage, his solid positioning is enough. With only having to worry about a small area of ice, Franson it is at his best. All of his strengths glow like a beacon of light. Unfortunately, when he's responsible for the entire sheet of ice, things can get ugly.

Don't get me wrong, (Franson) is a solid defenseman. He'll be fine on most nights and in most situations. But, instead of consistency across the board, you get rollercoaster highs and lows with him.

Those were the thoughts of Nashville Predators blogger, Jeremy K. Gover, who runs the Predators blog Section 303. He was kind enough to provide those thoughts after a hilarious bit of business in July, when the Maple Leafs were actually willing to convince a National Hockey League team to trade useful NHL players in exchange for Brett Lebda.

Go read this thread chronicling PPP's reaction to the removal of Brett Lebda from the organization. I'l wait.

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Okay, so saying that his most positive contribution is not being the guy that put up a valiant challenge to Andy Wozniewski's title of "Worst Maple Leafs Defenceman" is underselling Franson a little. But Franson has been as advertised. He's helped out on the second unit of the powerplay, and has shown that he has a tremendous shot that other teams have to respect when he's on the ice. His skating appears to be a little better than what was described above, but that may be just in comparison to other Leaf defenders who aren't exactly fleet of foot.

Overall since his early struggles he's capably performed as the team's #5 defenceman, and has shown signs of improvement as the season wears on.

JP Nikota PPP Chemmy SkinnyFish birky PFACNF clrkaitken
5 8 7 7 6 8 10

So why stick Franson at #7? For starters, many of the other defenders that he's been ranked above might become the guy that Franson already is; an established NHL defenceman. As far as why he couldn't move up higher, the six remaining prospects all possess a higher ceiling as a player, and all of them with the exception of Phil Kessel are at least one year younger than Franson. His age works against him in that respect.

The timing of the voting hurts him too. He hadn't really shown much in December, which is why I had him at #10. At the time I cast my ballots, Franson was a non-entity to me. I had no real take on what his place in the lineup was, and at 24 years old he wasn't going to have a ton of time to move past some of the team's better young players and prospects.

JP Nikota took a different approach when ranking him at #5:

As with my other picks, NHL playing time is the single largest factor in determining ranking. Maybe this is taking the easy way out, since, in a sense, ranking players this way makes Brian Burke and Ron Wilson do the ranking for me. Have the coach and GM given him time in the bigs? Move him on up the depth chart.

Now, Cody Franson has had to fight for a roster spot all year, but he's come back from a poor showing in the first half of the season to actually fit in quite nicely. His Corsi On and Corsi Rel numbers are among the best on the team, even if he is a little sheltered with a 53.5% OZ starts.

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