Just like in the NHL draft, even NHL regulars can find themselves victim to whatever old boy's club sorcery has the public questioning a player's value. Cody Franson isn't a dramatic example, but he's an elegant one, as his name only generates whispers these days.
The former Nashville Predator turned former Maple Leaf turned former Predator again was originally drafted by Nashville in 2005 as a third rounder. Like a lot of Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman, he got paired with mediocrity while trusting a system operated by a man who thinks helmets cause more brain trauma than actual trauma. This despite being paired with players like Mark Fraser, maintaining strong possession numbers throughout.
Want to see what this chart is not supposed to look like?
Here's Trevor Daley's attempt at a Rorschach in the wrong quadrant.
Franson's offensive production doesn't immediately jump out at you. With 169 points in 400 regular season games, he's well behind Alex Goligoski with his points per game average; Goose is generally a polarizing figure and not thought of as an offensive dynamo despite being labeled as one. But Stephen Burtch crunched Franson's numbers to put his production in context:
Since entering the NHL in 2009, amongst defenders with 2,500-plus minutes at 5v5, Franson ranks seventh overall in points per 60 minutes.
Similarly, he is 20th in points per 60 minutes of power-play time among defencemen with 500-plus minutes of PP TOI over the same 2009-2015 time span. What the 5v5 and PP scoring numbers mean is that, offensively, Franson is among the top-20 defencemen in the NHL.
Despite all the metrics in his favor, he didn't earn himself too many fans upon coming back to Nashville. Nashville head coach Peter Laviolette, generally regarded as a solid coach and not easily confused by the magic of a toaster, limited him to 10 and 13 minutes against the Chicago Blackhawks while sophomore phenom Seth Jones played almost triple that amount. Our yellow mustard friends at On the Forecheck didn't mince words despite their awareness of his fancy stats prowess.
He never meshed with Jones, and he never really looked comfortable when he was skating. He was always a step behind and hesitant, which puts a damper on any of the good underlying numbers he had. At the end of the day, with his limited role and lack of production, he wasn't a help to the team, nor was he a detriment. But that's pretty damning of a trade when a player(s) comes in and has no real effect.
I don't doubt that there's truth to this. Hockey writers tend to get carried away with numbers these days, as if intangibles aren't conditions of events in a manner similar to the events themselves that can be directly measured. So we've grown a little averse to words like "clutch", "soft", "gritty", and other buzzwords you find on a Skip Bayless napkin. But there should be a helpful balance to color within the boundaries of analysis. Like a hockey NOMA, if you will.
After all, Franson played limited minutes on a stacked blue line in Nashville. It's hard to establish a dominant role for yourself when your role is inherently restricted in the first place.
For the Dallas Stars, the question is, do they need him? In general, I don't think Dallas' blueline will crumble without a big signing or trade. Other than Daley, everyone generally regards the veterans as serviceable to solid in Goligoski, and Jason Demers (does Jordie Benn count as a veteran?). On the other end, fans and management are excited about the pups in John Klingberg, Patrik Nemeth, Jyrki Jokipakka, and to a lesser extent, Jamie Oleksiak.
The signing would force a pair of defenders out of the picture. But who? One of the positives to having a good prospect system in the first place is being able to move them for pieces. Other teams will covet some of the Stars' prospects, as Dallas is generally regarded as having a solid overall group. We'll have to wave goodbye to some of them eventually. Signing Franson doesn't require Dallas giving up prospects, but functionally it does by virtue of the Stars carrying so many defenseman.
It's hard to imagine a scenario where Franson doesn't fit into Dallas' blueline though. You could keep the Goligoski-Klingberg pairing intact while putting Nemeth next to Franson. Or keep Nemeth with Klingberg (who Nemeth was not surprisingly at his best with, despite the small sample size) and let Goose do what he's always done, which is be underrated and good.
All of a sudden Dallas has a big bodied top four, and a trio of pairs that has left shot-right shot symmetry. All of this depends on things like term, and just how much Franson would cost, but it's hard to imagine a scenario where Franson doesn't actively help the Stars. Help that the Stars will need if they want to make it in a division that has sent all of its teams to the playoffs in the last two seasons with blue line depth, including the defending Stanley Cup champions.