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All About Hindsight


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Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images

Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images

Nashville parted ways with Matthew Lombardi and, as a bonus so that the Toronto Maple Leafs would accept the trade offer, Cody Franson was added as a sweetener. The Predators received Brett Lebda and Robert Slaney as compensation. Some thought at the time it was a great example of the Predators shaving down cap space in order to sign Suter and Weber.

In short: Lebda got bought out, Slaney never hit the NHL ice surface, Suter went to Minnesota and Cody Franson has turned into a top line defenseman for the Maple Leafs.

In this shortened season, Cody Franson played only 45 games and led the Toronto Maple Leafs defensive corp with 29 points, one more point than Nashville’s Shea Weber. If Ryan Suter is up for Norris consideration, Cody Franson also would have a strong case. Franson may be penalized in the eyes of the nominators of the Norris trophy because of his lack of minutes and his being used as a power play specialist, however something has to be said for getting one more point than Weber (and Maple Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf) with a only 18:47 minutes a game.

Franson was a +4 on the year, +2 higher than Ryan Suter. He also ranked fourth on the Maple Leafs in points and was third in assists. In the Player Usage Chart of 2011-2012, Franson was one of the best defenders when it came to Corsi ratings, although his quality of competition was a little lacking. His scoring skills have improved every year since being drafted by the Predators. With 29 points this season, Franson tied his highest output in the NHL, and he did it in 35 less games.

Pointing out these accomplishments is a necessity for the realization that the Predators may have been a little short-sighted when it came to how valuable a player like Cody Franson has become. Nashville received the physical equivalent of a bag of pucks for Franson and Lombardi. Toronto’s playoff hopes and a second round appearance almost came to fruition because of the outstanding play of Franson with his six points (three goals and three assists) in the seven game series, two goals coming in the final game.

In hindsight, Franson may have been the answer for what the Predators could have done when Suter left. The main culprit wasn’t the absence of Suter, since Josi stepped up and played the hard minutes alongside Weber, it was the hole left by Josi moving up a defensive pair. That gap wasn’t filled next to Kevin Klein until Victor Bartley was called up in the latter part of the year.

Unfortunately, the past cannot be undone and the Predators will still need to address the sizable hole in the defensive unit this off-season. The UFA pool of quality defensemen isn’t the strongest this year so Nashville will have a hard time scraping for talent over the summer. Grant Clitsome and Sergei Gonchar might be good possibilities, but not at the price of a Cody Franson ($1.2M this year and an RFA).

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So what are your thoughts? Who has been cast off from the Predators organization that you would have wanted to keep? Who would you want as a veteran defenseman this off-season? Should the Predators stick with what they have? Comment below or shoot us a question on Twitter @Preducated or @ThePredatorial.

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