Franson still playing small
Terry Koshan, QMI Agency
|Cody Franson skates during Leafs practice in Toronto, October 14th, 2011. (Dave Abel/QMI Agency)
Now that Cody Franson has played his first game as a Maple Leaf, perhaps he and coach Ron Wilson can put their differences aside.
Wilson didn’t like it, but Franson was not in the wrong to say publicly he was upset about being a healthy scratch for the first two games.
What was strange about the whole situation was that no one among the Leafs coaching staff apparently told Franson that he would not be playing, nor that he would be going back in the lineup for the game Saturday night against the Calgary Flames.
Head coaches usually don’t relay such messages to their players, but an assistant should have been responsible for doing so. Franson, as a veteran, deserved as much.
Franson got some power-play time but did not stick out for good or bad, overall, though he did assist on Phil Kessel’s winning goal in the third period.
One thing to remember about Franson: Despite his 6-foot-5, 213-pound body, he is not an overly physical player. With the Nashville Predators last season, he was credited with 81 hits in 80 games, which is not a lot for a big defenceman.
In the first period, Franson stepped up to pinch along the boards and could have levelled Rene Bourque with a hit. Instead, Franson avoided checking the Flames forward.
Now, the question becomes how much longer rookie Jake Gardiner sits.
Kessel drew a large cheer from the Leafs scratches in the press box when he muscled past Flames defenceman Chris Butler to beat Miikka Kiprusoff for a beautiful goal in the second period. Kessel usually has not been able to physically outwork opponents, but he could smell blood as he sped past Butler. Kiprusoff didn’t see Kessel’s shot, which is not surprising as it came from one of the quickest releases in the league ... So, the Leafs battle back from a 2-0 deficit in the second period and skate off the ice to barely a whimper. In many NHL rinks, the home side would have been sent to the dressing room for the intermission with a standing ovation. Would hate for the sushi to go bad ... How was it that former Leaf Lee Stempniak, never known to be a big-time mucker, manage keep both Nikolai Kulemin and John-Michael Liles at bay before eventually setting up the first Calgary goal? Not only did Stempniak carry the puck around the net, he then passed to Curtis Glencross, who tapped the puck behind James Reimer even though Kulemin and Liles were standing right there ... After he apologized to Chris Nilan, Stu Grimson and Jim Thomson on Coach’s Corner, Don Cherry said you have to “admit it when you’re wrong.” If Cherry truly acknowledged all of the times he was wrong about something, the apology would still be happening ... After serving a two-game suspension, Clarke MacArthur made his regular-season debut, nine days after the majority of his teammates, and looked like he was a little off. Even missing just two games can put a guy behind a bit ... Stempniak thought he had cleared the puck out of harm’s way on Kessel’s second goal, which came on a backhand at 41 seconds of the third period. But he swatted the puck away after it had crossed the goal line ... Who needs Tim Connolly? Kessel, Tyler Bozak and Joffrey Lupul have been forming some solid chemistry through the Leafs’ first three games.
From the hash marks
Even if Brian Burke received just Dion Phaneuf in the blockbuster trade with the Flames on Jan. 31, 2010, Toronto would be considered the winner. Matt Stajan and Niklas Hagman barely were noticeable ... Flames captain Jarome Iginla failed to capitalize on several good scoring chances ... Reimer had to be sharp to stop a backhand deke by Olli Jokinen in the second period. The play happened because of a perfect saucer pass from Glencross that eluded Mike Komisarek and landed right on Jokinen’s tape ... If Arron Asham is not the type of player to disrespect his opponents, then why did he do it to Washington’s Jay Beagle in the first place? After Mike Brown landed a pile of rights to the face of Tom Kostopoulos before sending the Flame to the ice in a fight, Brown skated directly to the penalty box. Brown is not the kind who would have thought of calling attention to himself with a dumb post-fight celebration ... Colton Orr and Jay Rosehill were healthy scratches for Toronto. Brown is a better player than either and demonstrated that the club can get by without the other two ... The Leafs finally got to play after having six nights off between games for just the second time (excluding all-star and Olympic breaks) since 1956. The other time it happened was in October of 2009, and the Leafs lost the games before and after the break ... Reimer’s shutout string of 101 minutes 41 seconds, which ended in the third period last Saturday against Ottawa, was the third longest in Leafs history to start the season ... It’s great that Kessel has opened with five goals in three games. The challenge soon will be avoiding those long goal-less streaks that have been a part of his NHL career so far.