Poile’s gamble on Franson just didn’t pay off

By Jim Diamond

At a Tuesday morning press conference wrapping the team’s recently completed 2014-15 season, Predators general manager David Poile was asked about the Feb. 15 trade that brought defenseman Cody Franson and forward Mike Santorelli to Nashville from Toronto, in exchange for Nashville’s first round pick in June’s Entry Draft and Brendan Leipsic, a prospect with a penchant for drinking out of his opponent’s goaltender’s water bottle, which is awesome.

Sitting next to head coach Peter Laviolette Tuesday, Poile addressed the trade. Neither player gained much traction with the Predators and both were largely ineffective in what was the second stint for both players in the organization.

“I think we had very thorough discussions with our staff as to what we needed and our goal was to add one more forward and one more defenseman,” Poile said Tuesday. “There wasn’t a huge crop of defensemen. We’ve also talked about some of our past dealings at the trading deadline in terms of fits and specifically chemistry. Arguably in the past, I think I basically said this publicly, that I think we did some things that maybe weren’t a perfect fit if you will.”

At the time of the trade, the Predators were 38-12-6 and looked like they had a shot at winning the Presidents’ Trophy. Poile has shown a penchant for making trades prior to the deadline, as was the case with Franson and Santorelli.

The trade for Franson and Santorelli almost seemed doomed from the start. The President’s Day holiday and a freak ice storm that grounded the city of Nashville pretty much to a halt combined to prevent the players’ immigration paperwork being completed for six days, keeping them off the ice for almost a week following the deal.

In speaking about Franson specifically, Poile brought up the fact that he was a right-handed shot, something the Predators were particularly deep in with the likes of Shea Weber, Seth Jones, and Ryan Ellis already in the fold. In fairness, Ellis was still on the shelf at the time with a lower-body injury that kept him out of the lineup from early January until early March.

Very effective on the power play in Toronto, Franson couldn’t get much of a look with the man advantage in Nashville. Weber and Roman Josi made up the team’s top pairing, while Jones and Ellis ran the points on the second unit. In several games, Franson was stapled to the bench for long stretches of time due to ineffective play.

“I think, to be very honest, the fact that Franson was a right-handed shot, and we probably had the lefty/righty thing all year was working really good for us,” Poile said Tuesday. “The righty/righty thing was, I’m not making an excuse, but it wasn’t the perfect situation for Franson or for us.”

It was a curious statement indeed, as Poile was asked specifically about having four right-handed defensemen in the lineup with Franson’s addition.

“Four right-handed D, and we’re really happy with that,” Poile said at the time of the trade. “We’ve liked the lefty/righty thing. There’s no question that we spent a lot of time talking to our coaches about that before we made the trade. Again it’s up to Peter to solve that.”

The righty/lefty thing was the reason Poile gave for making the January 2014 trade that sent right-handed shooting Kevin Klein and his fairly magnificent contract to the New York Rangers for Michael Del Zotto, a left shot. That trade proved to be an unmitigated disaster for Nashville as Del Zotto played his way out of Barry Trotz’s lineup while Klein helped the Rangers to the Stanley Cup Finals.

With six blueliners (Weber, Josi, Ellis, Jones, Mattias Ekholm, and Victor Bartley) under contract for next season, the Predators have three right-handed and three left-handed shots coming back.

Franson looked decent in the opportunities he had in the Western Conference Quarterfinal series against the Chicago Blackhawks, but there’s virtually no chance that he returns to play for Nashville next season.

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