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Cody Franson - 1324 days as a Maple Leaf

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A quick recap of "Fruit Cup's" career in Toronto.

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July 3rd, 2011 - Leafs trade a fruit cup for Fruit Cup

BRETT LEBDA. TRADED. FOR WARM BODIES. WHO CAN PLAY HOCKEY.

That is how PPP announced the beginning of the Cody Franson era in Toronto, though it was really more of a celebration of the end of the Brett "-3" Lebda era. As reality sank in, it started to look like maybe a classic Burke swindle had been pulled off, and PPP focused their attention to wondering 'just who is this Franson guy anyway?'

I’m thinking Franson is more likely a top 4 in the longer term… Aulie is a 4th-6th guy based on his shut down abilities… but his offense will likely prevent him from being top notch.

by Steve Burtch on Jul 3, 2011 | 2:48 PM

I’m not sure Franson is the player some people are talking him up to be. Don’t get me wrong, this is still a solid deal for Toronto, but Franson is still a 3rd pairing guy.

by birky on Jul 3, 2011 | 1:53 PM

@mirtle Top six now Aulie-Phaneuf, Liles-Schenn, Gunnarsson-Franson.... promising offence, problematic defence. He’s huge but doesn’t play like it. A third-pairing d-man who can play PP.

Suffice it to say no one was really quite sure what to make of Franson (or Keith Aulie!) at that point. But our thoughts were similar to at least one Predators' blogger.

He'll be fine on most nights and in most situations. But, instead of consistency across the board, you get rollercoaster highs and lows.

I've never been able to figure out how he wound up with the nickname Fruit Cup, though Bill Watters thought he did.

2011-12: The first season

Right now I'm not too thrilled with it. You've got to just, I don't know, stick with it. It's a tough situation. We've got some good players here. Be interesting to see how it turns out.

Cody Franson, 10/4/2011

Franson's first season start as a Leaf was a rocky one. Ron Wilson scratched him for the first two regular season games, along with MacArthur(!) in favour of Mike Komisarek(!!). Burtch speculated it could be because Burke was showcasing Gunnarsson for a trade. Eventually, Franson would draw in for a game vs. the Flames.

He plays the next game and the rest is up to him. He put a lot of pressure on himself talking this week. Now he’s got to perform.

Ron Wilson, 10/14/2011

And perform he did.  On October 15th Franson played his first game as a Leaf, vs. the Flames at the ACC. In the third period it was tied 2-2 when Kessel made a classic Ron Wilson 'run and gun' charge into the Flames zone. Feeling pressure from the Flames defence, he snapped it back to Franson who was just passing the blue line. Franson saw the Flames defense take the bait, so he snapped it right back forward to Kessel, who bee-lined for the Flames net, and dumped it in for the game winning goal. A truly 'fantastic debuted'.

Brian Burke even went on record to say he was "deluged" with trade offers, though with Burke that could just mean one....

Franson continued to impress to the point he made number 7 on the inaugural PPP Top 25 under 25 in early 2012, just edging out Matt Frattin (!) and Jesse Blacker (!!).

As the 18-wheeler careened toward the cliff, Franson was fortunate to avoid a serious injury when Tim Connolly poked him in the eye with his stick.

Franson finished the season with 21 points in 57 games.

The Lockout and the 2013 season

Franson went to the SHL for the 2012 lockout. He played for Brynas. not norm ullman didn't care.

Franson was an RFA with no contract, so there was some confusion if he would bother to come back, but on January 13, 2013, he signed a new one year contract.

Franson wormed his way into the hearts of some Leaf fans. Draglikepull noted in March 2013 why you should love him:

So what a team should want is players who drive possession. Neutral zone play, not defensive zone play, is the primary way that a defenceman can do that. That's why concerns about Franson's play in the defensive zone are not nearly as important as how he controls play heading into and out of the neutral zone. His consistently good puck possession numbers suggest that he's very good at that. And that's why you (and Randy Carlyle) should Learn to Love Cody Franson.

If that's not enough for you there was also that time in March 2013 he hip-checked Crosby to the moon (no Crosbys were harmed [short term] in the making of this GIF)

Franson ended the regular season with 4 goals and 25 assists in 45 games. A clear career high.

Playoffs! It's 2-1!

Franson was a key contributor in the 2013 playoff series vs. the Bruins. He scored 3 goals total, but the two most important were the ones in the infamous Game 7. Trailing 0-1 in the first, Franson tied the game with a PPG. You can watch the TV footage of it on Youtube here, but a far better way to watch it is from the perspective of the crowd outside.

Then he nailed another shot behind Rask giving the Leafs a 2-1 lead in the most important game they had played in years.... we all know how it turned out, but let's just enjoy this moment.

2013-14: Franson doesn't sign - sell high?

PPP collectively agreed the number one priority of the 2013 off-season was to sign another top-4 defenseman.

So what did the Leafs do for the defense core? They signed Paul Ranger! But there was still that whole issue of Franson's one-year contract expiring. Franson didn't like the Leafs' offers and ended up missing the whole pre-season while holding out for a contract. Eventually, just before the regular season started, Franson re-signed. Everyone was excited!

It is nice waking up to good news. It's also nice waking up next to JvR.

In the end, Franson chose to play for less money today and hope that his play lands him a bigger payday at this time next year.

Michael Traikos, 9/26/2013

That one year contract was an ominous sign though. Franson actually was improving, but would he want to stay with a team that was imploding because of crappy coaching and management and still constantly jerking him around?

This is my dream place to play. I’m hopeful there’s a long-term deal coming up after this.

Cody Franson, 9/26/2013

Well that settles it, I guess!

But should the Leafs have sold high? The start of the 2013-14 season wasn't kind to Leafs' defenseman. Our own not norm ullman had this to say in early December 2013

Cody Franson is troubled. He is great on the PP, but his 5v5 scoring stinks, his Corsi's awful, he's giving up Holzerian numbers of shots, and there are no obvious excuses - not ice-time nor partner certainly. And he's clearly playing differently this year - fewer wrist-shots, fewer rushes. Maybe he needs to do a Jake, and watch some film of when he was successful. Then pair him up with someone to settle him down. Turns out, that can't be Fraser this time. Also, maybe give him a physical. He may not be 100 %.

Uh-oh. That defensive liability issue talked about two years earlier was still there.

Franson ended the 2013-14 season with 5 goals and 28 assists in 79 games. Not bad for another season of the eighteen-wheeler driving off a cliff.

2014-15: Franson re-signs and the end is nigh

The 2014 off-season brought yet another round of Fanson re-singing drama. This time there was no hold-out situation because Franson elected to go to salary arbitration. The Leafs and Franson actually almost made it to the arbitration hearing, but on that morning of that very day they finally hammered out a deal. $3.3M, again for one year.

In all honesty I personally feel that if you look at ALL of these numbers, consider Franson's usage and the "context" of his play and still come away thinking "skates bad - not worth keeping" I think you're sort of crazy.

Stephen Burtch, July 30, 2014

So it was just like business as usual with Franson, right. Oh... this time his contract would expire with him as a UFA. Would Toronto keep him? Could they afford him?

Franson's 2014-15 season started rather ominously with this hit into the boards during a pre-season game vs. Buffalo.

He ended up missing two weeks.

And once again the Leafs season went off the rails.

And thanks to the disastrous cap-management of the Leafs front-office. Franson had to go. It all happened so fast. But I am happy for him to get the chance he deserves with an actual cup-contender.

So long, and good luck

1324 days.

236 regular season games.

95 assists.

20 goals.

7 playoff games.

Number 4.

So long Cody. Thanks for everything, and good luck with the Predators.