Franson Deserves Promotion

Cody Franson is finally being recognized as a capable offensive defenseman for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

But how high is the 25-year-old’s ceiling and how can Randy Carlyle utilize him? Let’s take a closer look at the underlying statistics.

Franson currently averages 12:49 even-strength ice-time per game with 2:50 on the PP (and 27 seconds on the penalty kill). He’s logged a total of 196:49 minutes of ES ice-time, and has produced an impressive 8 points 5-on-5 (1 goal, 7 assists—4 were primary assists). That’s a lot of points for the ice-time he receives. In fact, his points/60 rate is 2.44, which ranks him first among NHL defensemen. To put that in perspective, here’s the points/60 rate of those below him:

Kris Letang—1.86 (289:49 ES TOI)

Francois Beauchemin—1.86 (258 :11)

Jakub Kindl—1.82 (164:28)

Oliver Ekman-Larsson—1.78 (303:24)

Kevin Shattenkirk—1.69 (283 :57)

Franson’s assists/60 at even-strength also leads defensemen at 2.134, the next closest player is Shattenkirk at 1.69. Franson also leads in first assists/60 with a 1.219, while the next closest is Michael Del Zotto with .923, so he’s not living off secondary assists either.

Franson also ranks third on the Leafs in Corsi Relative, a statistic that measures on-ice minus to off-ice puck-possession, with a 13.6 rating (Nazem Kadri  and Clarke MacArthur rank ahead, respectively). He has been capable in a sheltered role with a Corsi QoC rating of -0.476, which ranks last among Leafs defensemen who’ve played at least 15 games. Basically this means that Franson consistently faces the weakest lines, and excels in doing so as proven with the statistics above. It’s also worth noting that his PDO rating (sum of on-ice shooting percentage and on-ice save percentage) is 1110, which suggests he may level off in terms of production, but that can be misleading due to the weaker opposition he currently faces.

It is clear Franson has outperformed the limitations of his role as he continues to supply ample evidence to warrant a promotion. While he has defensive limitations (he has 51.9 per cent offensive zone starts for a reason), it’s difficult to gauge Franson’s ceiling until he’s played as a second-pair defenseman with tougher minutes.

Korbinian Holzer is getting shelled as a top-four defenseman with a Corsi Relative rating of -22.5. Unless Carlyle wants to overwork his goaltenders because of an AHL-caliber defenseman in the top-four, it’s time to give Franson and shot and assess his talent-level.

Follow me on Twitter @RonGuillet

*statistics retrieved from www.behindthenet.ca and www.hockeyanalysis.com, respectively*