Prior to this season, the away team’s center had to put his stick down in the circle before the home team’s center. It didn’t matter what zone the faceoff was in or which team was currently attacking. This gave the home team’s center a distinct advantage as he could see how his opponent is set up and with a high Hockey IQ, could likely determine where the opponent wanted to put the puck once the referee dropped the puck and how to best counter it.
This past offseason, the General Managers (led by Carolina GM Ron Francis) proposed a rule change to the faceoff procedure that was later ratified by the NHLPA’s Executive Board and the NHL’s Board of Governors. Rule 76.4 now reads:
At the eight face-off spots (excluding center ice face-off spot), the defending player shall place his stick within the designated white area first followed immediately by the attacking player. When the face-off is conducted at the center ice face-off spot, the visiting player shall place his stick on the ice first.
The faceoff advantage has now shifted from the home team to the attacking team. The objective of this rule was to create more offense and by giving the attacking team’s center a faceoff advantage, it will likely lead to sustained pressure and more scoring opportunities.
Unrestricted free agent Cody Franson’s contract with the Buffalo Sabres was rumored to be close Wednesday night and was finalized this morning: 2 years, $6.65M ($3.325M AAV). Franson was one of the most talked about free agents this summer as he was without a contract after the initial big free agent signing period early in July. It was rumored that he was close to finalizing a deal with Boston and he confirmed that he was in talks with several teams late July. In the end, Sabres General Manager Tim Murray and Head Coach Dan Bylsma likely sold Franson on being a large part of the team’s rebuild rather than a depth defensemen elsewhere.
Franson joins a particularly weak defensive core that boosts as Zach Bogosian, Mike Weber, Josh Gorges, and Rasmus Ristolainen as regulars. Buffalo’s thin blue line was part of the reason they struggled so mightily last season, giving up the 2nd most goals in the league(Edmonton gave up the most). As Franson plays the right defensive side, he’ll likely fit in with Weber or Gorges, both whom had a negative impact to the team (Gorges posted a –10.6 Goals Above Replacement (GAR) and Weber posted a –3.8 GAR – compared to Franson who posted a 3.49 GAR this past season).
Franson has primarily been a depth defenseman in his career but will be taking on a larger role with Buffalo. Advanced statistics show that Franson is ready to make the leap.