Delayed by immigration issues after being traded to Nashville, Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli couldn’t escape Toronto. They cancelled nine or 10 flights out before finally getting the green light to join the Predators.
More than a week after the deal, Franson and Santorelli have just two games under their belt with their new team. And they still find it difficult to explain what went wrong with the Maple Leafs this season.
“We were in a good position at Christmas and then for whatever reason, we kind of just fell off the train tracks there,” Santorelli said Sunday at the Predators’ Buffalo hotel before their game against the Sabres. “Some games we deserved better outcomes, but then we weren’t consistent enough. We needed to be more consistent.”
A lack of consistency was the reason general manager Dave Nonis gave for firing coach Randy Carlyle Jan. 6. Instead, a 2-7-0 stretch devolved into 4-20-2 by the time Franson and Santorelli were dealt on Feb. 15 for a first-round pick, prospect Brendan Leipsic and veteran Olli Jokinen.
Franson said that kind of losing was taxing, but even in retrospect and out of the Toronto spotlight the defenceman couldn’t put his finger on what caused the skid — or last year’s that cost the Leafs a playoff spot.
“It’s one of those things where we just couldn’t help the snowball effect,” Franson said. “We played better in the games than we had when we were winning and we just couldn’t buy a win. It was really weird.”
Franson said the Leafs tried to bear down defensively from the start of the season and “play a more winning style of hockey.” Interim coach Peter Horachek brought even more fundamentals when he took over for Carlyle, and while the quality of play was better, the results were much worse.
The Leafs went through one stretch where they scored twice in five games and were shut out three times.
“It was insane,” Franson said. “But in those games I don’t think we played bad. I thought we gave ourselves chances to win pretty much every night. We just couldn’t find the back of the net. It was losses that you look at yourself in the mirror after those losses, you weren’t disappointed with the way you played that night.”
It wasn’t all just bad bounces, though. Santorelli, who like Franson is an unrestricted free agent after the season, pointed to a handful of problems.
“I think just maybe giving up too many good scoring chances, not playing a complete game, maybe turnovers,” Santorelli said. “Not playing the right way.”