Cody Franson is hoping that a number change might bring him better luck in his second (and final) season with the Buffalo Sabres. Last summer’s Kris Russell, the negotiation war for Franson lasted until mid-September, when he finally signed a two-year, $6.65MM pact with Buffalo. Expected to be a big piece of their back end, Franson was instead a huge disappointment, playing in just 59 games and scoring a career-low 17 points. Franson stated earlier today that his first season with the Sabres, wearing #46, was the “worst” of his career. Now switching over to #6, Franson looks to get back on track with a number that he “likes”.
More probable than the luck of a jersey number is that Franson’s struggles in 2015-16 were medical. Sabres beat writer Bill Hoppe reports that the big defenseman was in fact having visual processing problems on the ice, with his right eye tracking faster than his left. This makes sense given Franson’s specific issues on the ice last season, as a normally-skilled possession defenseman had a hard time moving the puck and making and receiving passes. With the medical problem now fixed, Franson seems likely to have a comeback season in a contract year.
Elsewhere around the league:
- As training camp begins for the Tampa Bay Lightning, Cory Conacher acknowledges that this may be his ” last chance” at the NHL. The former “future star” is happy to be back with the Tampa Bay Lightning, where his NHL career got off to a hot start with 24 points in his first 35 games in 2012-13, before he was traded to the Ottawa Senators for Ben Bishop in one of the more lopsided deals in recent history. After struggling to find success with several different teams over the past few years, Conacher is back where it all began, looking to carve out a role for himself in the Tampa system the fit him so well.
- Dan Cleary is also getting another chance to extend his playing career, as he has signed a one-year deal with the AHL Grand Rapids Griffins, the team announced. Clearly had previously been invited to Detroit Red Wings camp, but after signing with their affiliate, he is guaranteed a contract for the coming year, while keeping his hopes alive of returning to the NHL. A veteran of almost 1,000 NHL games, Cleary played for Detroit for a decade, from 2005 to 2015, before being relegated down to the AHL level last season. While the numbers have certainly tailed off for the old two-way forward, he still brings leadership, a great hockey sense, and a genuine love of the game to the ice. While it seems unlikely that Cleary will make it back to the big leagues, fans should root for one of hockey’s great guys as he keeps living the dream.
- One athlete who never got his chance to play pro hockey, but has found success (and plenty of money) elsewhere is new Minnesota Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford. In a story by Chris Tomasson of Pioneer Press, he outlines how Bradford is “right at home in the State of Hockey”. As a great young hockey player, Bradford had NHL aspirations that some believed were actually reasonable. However, the struggles of making hockey fit into the life of a multi-sport student-athlete in Oklahoma were too much. Travel and time constraints eventually led to Bradford committing to football. A Heisman Trophy, number one overall selection, NFL Rookie of the Year Award, and more money already than most NHLers make in their whole career seem to prove that he made the right call, but Bradford’s love for hockey is still alive. While the Minnesota Wild likely won’t need his services this season, if he can lead the Vikings to success this season while supporting and frequently showing up at Wild games, he’ll soon make people forget all about Teddy Bridgewater.