Cody Franson looks back on 4-1 collapse, would re-join Maple Leafs

Buffalo Sabres defenceman Cody Franson (Jeffrey T. Barnes/AP)

BUFFALO, N.Y. – Cody Franson doesn’t so much reflect on the blown 4-1 lead as much everything that happened because of it.

Four years on from the Game 7 meltdown in Beantown, the subject doesn’t come up much now around the current Toronto Maple Leafs, but it continues to haunt a guy like Franson since he believes it expedited his exit from his childhood team.

“For me, I think about it in the sense what would have changed in the summer following had we won that game,” Franson said Monday before his Buffalo Sabres hosted the Leafs. “We made a number of changes to the roster after that season. For myself, I was having a good playoff series, I had two goals in that game. I’ve always kind of had that ‘what if?’ kind of feeling, you know, would it have led to me spending a lot more time in Toronto at the time?

“It’s one of those things that I’ll always wonder about.”

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Former Leafs general manager Dave Nonis overhauled his roster following that loss to the Boston Bruins and nearly traded Franson to the Montreal Canadiens in June 2014 – a move that was blocked because Josh Gorges refused to waive no-trade clause on the Habs end of things.

The right-shot defenceman would eventually be dealt to Nashville a couple weeks before the 2015 trade deadline.

He had turned down an extension from the Leafs that season and the team had entered a mode of selling players for future assets. Toronto added Brendan Leipsic and a first-round pick. There was also an understanding he might return as a free agent that summer, according to Franson.

“It’s funny the way it works,” he said. “You’re in a place that you really enjoy, a place that you like, people you like, they make the trade to make sure they get something and they knew that I wanted to be there so I think part of it was if they did trade me that I’d possibly be able to come back. Then there was a number of management changes, and so on and so forth, that just led to the eventual different direction, I guess you could say.

“Unfortunate the way it worked out.”

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What makes Franson’s comments so interesting is that he is again coming up on unrestricted free agency this summer.

When asked if he’d be open to a return, he said: “Oh yeah, for sure.”

“For me and my family, that was probably some of the [most fun] we ever had,” said Franson. “Like I’ve said in many interviews, Toronto was a dream come true for me. It was big for my family, they could watch it all the time. Everything about Toronto for us was a great experience, obviously outside of the losing seasons and the playoffs and everything.

“That aspect of it wasn’t as much success as we would have liked, but we don’t have a bad thing to say about our time in Toronto.”

The Leafs have some needs on the right side and Franson would be considered a depth option at this point. He’s had an up-and-down season with the Sabres, playing well for stretches but also missing time with foot issues and a groin injury.

The 29-year-old would be considered a depth option at this point.

He’s not too sure what the future will bring, saying that he’ll go back to his summer home in Kelowna, B.C., and “wait for the phone to ring.”

Franson also plans to watch this next Leafs playoff run closely – assuming they get in – and might even cast his mind back to the 2013 history-altering series against Boston.

“That whole experience was probably some of the [most fun] hockey I’ve ever played,” said Franson. “You know, the Maple Leafs Square, and how passionate everybody was to be in the playoffs. The unexpected success that we did have in that series. People didn’t really count us in for that one too much – Boston was a real strong team and I thought we played really well against them.

“I mean, there’s no way we should have lost that series.”

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