Cody Franson‘s defensive play has been called into question quite often by Toronto Maple Leaf fans this season. Franson is a -7 and has come under fire for poor coverage at times in his own zone. The 26-year-old Franson definitely needs to make some adjustments to his game before he gains the full trust of his coaching staff.
Randy Carlyle has the tendency to play older, more experienced D-men over younger ones who still have some adjustments that they need to make to their game. However, it is sometimes wiser to let younger players get experience in critical times in a game in order to let them experience growth.
In my opinion, this is why Franson should not be mentioned as trade bait by the Leafs. He has been putting up points at a decent rate (20 points in 41 games) and can move the puck well and set up teammates.
Also, Franson shoots right-handed, which is a rare thing on a Leafs D-corps that is dominantly left-handed. For that reason, I would say that he provides useful balance in their attack. Right-shooting D-men who can put up points are actually much less common in the NHL than one would think.
I think Cody Franson will bring some growing pains for the time being, and as a fifth-year NHL player, one might argue that he should be beyond those mistakes. However, given that Jake Gardiner is younger than Franson and is only a -2, I would say that it makes sense to consider trading Franson instead of Gardiner.
However, I think that Franson has more upside than Gardiner does in general. A consistent point-scorer at the NHL-level, I find Franson the superior offensive player between the two. Cody Franson’s passing and hockey IQ exceed that of Jake Gardiner’s, who has actually already been traded twice and is only 23 years old.
Should Leafs GM Dave Nonis decide that no more moves are necessary after swapping Liles for Gleason, I think that the defense will come up just a little bit short of what is necessary to help them secure a playoff spot. If I were Nonis, I would certainly continue to pursue a top-four D-man.
I simply do not think that Gleason really provides much help to the Leafs at this time. Where Tim Gleason is at this point in his career certainly does not merit giving him top four minutes in my mind. However, there might be pressure to play Gleason in order to justify the trade that occurred.
In my mind, the Leafs need one more insurance player just so that the top six could be all that much more solid. I would feel better with Gleason in the No. 6 slot as I would with him slotting at No. 5, or worse No. 4. That being said, I would be much more comfortable with Gardiner being swapped than I would be with Franson.
Gardiner may even fetch more because he is younger, and some scouts regard him as better than Franson. Watching the Leafs this year, I would say that Cody Franson seems to be the better skater.
I would hate to see the Leafs deal the wrong player without a good return.