What's it like to play in the biggest fishbowl of the NHL? Exactly how bad was it after that Nashville loss? And what is it going to take for the Toronto Maple Leafs to get back to the playoffs? Leafs defenseman Cody Franson answers that and more.
KATIE STRANG: We've seen some pretty drastic contrasts from the Leafs in terms of highs and lows. What do you make of how this season has gone?
CODY FRANSON: There were definitely areas of our game that we were trying to figure out early on, and I think we've done a good job of figuring those things out and continually improving on them. There's definitely games where we get away from what makes us successful and we get exposed a little bit, but I think we're maturing as a group in terms of rebounding from those and understanding what made us have trouble the night before.
STRANG: How much of that maturation is learning how to handle the type of scrutiny you endure in the Toronto market?
FRANSON: I think that's a big part. When things start going badly for us, we really feel it. I mean, it's something that gets talked about a lot. It's tough to get away from it in Toronto, but we've got some older guys in our room now that are helping us out with that, and our group is continually getting better at it.
STRANG: Is there any particular way you've learned to tune it out?
FRANSON: For me, I don't watch any sports channels on television. I don't listen to any radio. When the media asks to talk to me, I'll talk to them, but I'll never read what they're writing the next day or anything like that. You try to distance yourself from that side of things without getting too involved or too distracted with that.
STRANG: Do you think it takes a certain type of player or personality to deal with playing in Toronto?
FRANSON: I think you have to have a thick skin to be comfortable in our circumstances. Sometimes we have those off nights and they can blow up on you pretty quick, and you have to be able to accept the punches and move forward with no issues. You definitely have to have thick skin.
STRANG: In terms of rebounding, how big was bouncing back after that Nashville game (a 9-2 loss on Nov. 18)? Was that a turning point?
FRANSON: That one was a game where we got away from our system, and Nashville [is] a great team and they exposed us for doing so. You can't play loose hockey against teams that are that sound structurally and have that much offensive power. [After] that game, we watched a lot of film, we saw the mistakes we were making, and they were very correctable mistakes. It was just a matter of buying in, and I think we've done a good job of buying in since then.
STRANG: What is it going to take for the Leafs to be a playoff team this season?
FRANSON: I think we're on the right path of doing that, but it's a matter of consistency for us. We still have the odd night where we're not sharp in the first five minutes or a small pocket at some point of the game. The good teams, they become very well aware of that and they adjust to that right away. We're getting there, but we're not there yet.
STRANG: This is a big season for you as a pending unrestricted free agent. Do you see Toronto as a place you'd want to stay?
FRANSON: Definitely. When I got traded to Toronto, that was a goal of mine -- to continually improve and to become one of those guys they can rely on and see as a guy they can have here for a long time. I'm continually trying to prove that, prove my worth, and hope they feel that way.