In the weeks leading up to the upcoming season, we'll preview the Nashville Predators on a player-by-player basis, examining their role on the squad and expectations relative to capabilities. So come along for the ride as we look ahead to 2010-11, from Andersson to Wilson. Next up: Cody Franson.
Had Patric Hornqvist not scored 30 goals, we'd be looking at Cody Franson for the Predators' biggest surprise in 2009-10. The rookie defenseman stepped into shoes previously held by one of Greg DeVries or Greg Zanon, and while not as effective defensively, provided an alarmingly good offensive presence on the blue line.
No, he doesn't have a new contract yet. But as a restricted free agent, there's very little chance that a deal doesn't get done between now and the opening of training camp. With that in mind, we'll preview his upcoming campaign.
5th defenseman. As it stands, Franson is behind Shea Weber, Ryan Suter, Kevin Klein, and Francis Bouillon on the depth chart. You know that the Predators' defense is in good shape when a player of Franson's talent will only be playing 17:00 or so a night. Additionally, Barry Trotz will probably have Cody anchoring the 2nd power play unit, as he did much of last year.
Franson will need to play solid defense, yes - but it won't be his primary function. Trotz will likely pair him with someone more defensively oriented like Ryan Parent, which will free up Franson a bit more offensively. I think its fair to say that the coaching staff expects him to finish with the 2nd or 3rd most points by a defenseman on the squad.
It took Cody a while to become a staple on the roster (and really, you could say he never did - he was scratched for Denis Grebeshkov in Games 5 and 6 of the Chicago series). He was sent down, called up, and injured before finishing the year with 61 games played, 6 goals, 15 assists, and a +15 which lead all rookies.
If you make the assumptions that the Preds' power play will at least be slightly improved with three new offensive players to try out; and that Franson will get more time on the ice without Dan Hamhuis to compete with, then Cody's numbers will see an increase. He's not yet capable of putting pucks in the net like Shea Weber, but mark him down for 9 goals and 17 assists.