TORONTO – Cody Franson carefully reviews the tape after each and every game.
The 24-year-old credits his near-daily video work alongside Leaf assistant coach Rob Zettler for an ongoing improvement which saw him lead the Leafs with a plus-6 rating in December, also tying Dion Phaneuf for top spot in points (6) on the blue line.
"I like using video as a tool," he told the Leaf Report. "It's nice when you can go see yourself and answer your own questions I guess you could say. You take a shot and it gets blocked and you want to know how did that happen, 'really, I thought I had a good lane there' and then you can kind of see it on the tape after as to how it went about. You can study your own game and learn from your mistakes out there."
Of late, Franson has been scrutinizing a recent struggle with getting pucks through to the net. He misfired in all six attempts against Winnipeg on Thursday night, four that were blocked and two that missed entirely.
"I'm pulling my hair out trying to figure that out right now," he said. "I've been watching some clips of my old games where I was having success in that area and trying to compare them to the games now and I'm not seeing a whole bunch of difference. It's just one of those things where you've got to ride it out and try and figure it out as fast as you can."
While he'd occasionally look to video during a two-year stint in Nashville, Franson notes that in Toronto they "really stay on top of you" with a greater emphasis on individual assessment. Almost down to a routine for the day after, Franson and Zettler will sift through clips from the most recent game, scouting what went right and what needs to be improved.
"He shows me what I'm doing well or what I've corrected from what we used to work on," Franson explained. "'This is what we want you do that you weren't doing before and you're doing a better job of that' or it could be 'you got yourself a little too far outside on this play or you've got to box this guy out a little different, try and save yourself from a penalty or something'.
"You can go out and have a good night, but no night's perfect," he continued. "There's always one thing you can do better, whether it be the way you check somebody down low in your own zone or how you play a three-on-two or two-on-one or one-on-one, there's always little areas of improvement you can make. It's what keeps you on your toes is to keep watching the film and keep trying to critique your game."
Franson began his Leafs career on rocky footing, the unexpected seventh defenceman at the end of training camp and a regular in the press box for the opening month and a half. Mike Komisarek's broken right arm in mid-November opened the door to some opportunity and after a few initial stumbles Franson has found a comfort zone, at ease with the aggressive mind-set and game expected of him in Toronto, averaging over 16 minutes per game last month.
"At the start of the year it was more trying to figure out the system and trying to assert myself out there I guess you could say defensively more than anything," he concluded. "Just trying to adapt to the way things work here. I've got a pretty good handle on that now and it's made the game easier."