As an extension to the forward ranking thread, how would you rank the leafs' d-men?
Phaneuf is our captain and IMO our best defenseman facing and thriving against the toughest competition. However, after him, there is a lot of mixup. Our defensive system and our goalie have helped highlight how great our defense corps has been this season.
Franson's played really well this season doing everything except fighting
Fraser's been solid, hitting and fighting and clearing the front of the net
Gunnarsson's been solid but unspectacular, with his injury not greatly affecting his play
And then we have the rest:
RoB had a bad game recently, but has played really well defensively
Liles has been unfairly sat IMO. Still has the same defensive weaknesses he has had throughout his career, but his skating and passing are quite helpful
Gardiner is not playing like he was in his rookie year. Takes too long to make a play and makes errors
Kostka has been assigned roles over his head--he'd be an amazing second pairing or third pairing defenseman
Same with Holzer, except less offense than Kostka and more grittiness
Franson is good, in his role. But he is being used against the weakest forwards the other teams have to offer, he has the lowest QoC on the team (aside from Gardiner who's only played a handful of games).
So yea, he is a very effective 3rd pairing defenceman. But how do you think he would look on the top pairing with Phaneuf and how would Gunnarson look on the 3rd pairing? Franson would look terrible and out of place, while Gunnarson would look fabulous.
Have to take into consideration where each player is playing and who theyre playing against. No question Dion has been the #1, I'd even go as far as tossing him a couple Norris votes. After that its Gunnarsson, and thats even after him being injured and unable to play at 100% this year.
Further on down the list its a toss up. Carlyle has done a good job of playing players to their capabilities (at least in the past 25 games). Franson and Fraser are both playing beyond themselves, but because theyre being used where they can succeed. Liles has been pretty good, but not great. Gardiner has started to rev up a bit here in the past few games and showing his old self again, but he hasnt played enough to make a definitive decision. Kostka was a nice story for training camp, on a team that wasnt expected to go anywhere, but hes not an NHL defenceman. Or at the most hes a tweener. And ROB has been meh. Quiet in his first few games but started to show his old Av self in last nights game.
Ladies and gentlemen, the most underrated Maple Leaf.
Yep. Gunnarson plays effectively on the top pairing, Franson plays effectively on the 3rd pairing. And then everyones rankings have Franson as our 2nd best defenceman.
If he was the 2nd best defenceman, he'd be getting more ice-time, and he'd be used against tougher competition from the opposing teams. He IS have a very good year (by his standards), and has been contributing offensively. But he's not playing key minutes, which makes a huge difference.
2 - Gardiner (when on his game, has shown flashes this year, but the lockout and injuries slowed his progress a bit. He'll get there though, he's only 22)
3 - Gunnarson - perfect number 3 guy who can play number 2 in a pinch. Steady, good puck mover, reliable. Good at everything, great at nothing. Still, fantastic pick for the 7th round.
4 - Franson - last season, he was a 5/6 defenseman, he has improved in every aspect and I am now completely comfortable with him in the top 4. Good puck mover who is learning to use his body more thanks to playing with Fraser.
5 - Fraser - A gem of a find for a career AHLer. Solid, stay at home presence. Might be able to play in the top 4 like Franson, and does on occasion, but for now is a solid #5
6 - Liles - offensive defenseman who moves the puck very well. Little physicality due to size and sometimes gets caught out of position. Will likely be traded as soon as Reilly is ready.
7 - O'byrne, Holzer, Kostka - depth defensemen who can play in the #6 spot, just not everyday, with Holzer the only one signed beyond this season.