|Nobody is better then me.|
The other day on Twitter I had a little Tweet explosion comparing John-Micheal Liles to Cody Franson, I figured i may as well write up what was said as it wasn't very understandable. I have also since changed my view point slightly.
On the surface the two Maple Leaf defensemen look like similar players, both considered offensive guys that are not that particularly great at defense, similar to Tomas Kaberle. But one of them has to be better right? Who do you want to put on in the last minute of a one goal lead, if you had to chose one?
How did we come across these two defensemen? John-Micheal Liles was acquired from the Colorado Avalanche for a 2012 2nd round pick, not bad for the most handsome guy in the league. Cody Franson, as you all know, was apart of the historical trade that sent well known pylon Brett Lebda to Nashville.
Now that they are both playing for the Leafs I get to scream at my TV when they do something wrong, and high five my friends when they do something right. But who is the better defenseman? Let's take a look a little deeper into their play, this year and last.
2010-11 Stats for Franson and Liles
|Liles (COL)||Franson (NSH)|
|OFF Zone start%||55.6||50.3|
|OFF Zone finish%||50.8||47|
|Corsi REL QoC||0.484||-0.673|
Liles was a little bit out of his element last year, as he was playing against tough competition. He didn't do horribly last year defensively though, but he also didn't do great, evidenced by his low Corsi and negative OFF zone start/finish ratio. Liles just plain and simple is not good enough defensively to be playing against top competition, but he held his own, and what other choice did the Avs have?
Usually a high Corsi REL is a good thing, but since Colorado was so terrible last year it just shows that Liles was a lot better then a bunch of really crappy defensive players, still not something to snub your nose at though.
Despite Colorado's terrible season Liles was actually very good (he was obviously a little bit over his head defensively), he was still able to put up 46 points in 76 games, a solid amount of points, and not get absolutely humiliated in the defensive zone.
Looking into Franson's season shows quite the opposite, a player that was used within his skill set and was set up for success. Franson played against weak competition, not surprising for a young offensively talented defenseman, but he was able to handle that workload, and he thrived, having the best GA on/60 on the Nashville defensive squad, and seeing a stellar .943 Sv% behind him. He did only put up 29 points in the 80 games he played, but this was with significantly less power-play time then Weber and Suter.
Both players were used in offensive roles at even strength, meaning they would start the majority of their shifts with the puck in the offensive zone, with Liles being used that way a little more, shown by his 55.6 offensive zone start %. Franson and Liles both weren't able to finish in the O-zone more then they started though, but this isn't entirely surprising from an 'offensive' defenseman, as in theory once the other team gains control of the puck they don't exactly know what to do.
Besides from being a offensive specialist, another reason Liles was pushed back so often was sure to be the competition that he faced, he was facing the second hardest competition of D-men on the Avs in terms of Corsi, and Corsi REL. Franson, however, was facing pillow soft competition and probably should have been able to have a positive O-zone start/finish ratio, he faced the weakest competition of all Nashville players that played more then 15 games.
Lets quickly take a look at this years stats:
|OFF Zone start%||51.1||52.5|
|OFF Zone finish%||52||50.6|
|Corsi REL QoC||-0.054||-0.562|
After a quick look at this years stats for Liles and Franson it seems that their play is similar to last years. Liles has started finishing shifts in the O-zone more then he's started. That is likely because he is facing much weaker competition. He is also continuing to be a very offensive defenseman with 21 points in 34 games.
Franson has seen his ice time go up from last year, probably because of some injuries to the blue line, and he has seen some good results so far. Cody is also playing against slightly tougher competition (not by much though), with that he's seen more goals scored against him. Although a big reason for that would be the change in quality of net-minder behind him with last years on ice Sv% at .943 slipping to .910 in 2011/12.
Franson is still growing as a defenseman, he's getting more ice-time and still seeing good results. At 24 he still has the potential of maturing into a solid defensive and offensive player. Since he has been promoted from the press-box (and also maybe since people have forgotten about his complaints at the beginning of the year) he has definitely opened some eyes, and seen his stock rise within the Maple Leaf organization.
Liles is a great offensive, power-play guy, however he doesn't have too much to offer defensively. At 31 he's most likely hit the ceiling of how good defensively he is going to be in his career. But, there is no question that when healthy he holds a top 4 spot on this hockey team, something that Cody Franson cannot lay claim to yet.
Throw any opinions in the comments section
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