Saturday, January 21, 2012

Weekender: Slappiest Slapshot

Shea Weber
This from Scott Fitzgerald at The National Post awhile ago: "Cody Franson has an old friend with a famous shot. It burned through the mesh of an Olympic hockey net two years ago in Vancouver, and it has accidentally left at least three teammates with broken bones, making Shea Weber one of the most feared point men in the game. “It could hit you in the pad in your pants, it could hit your shin pad, you’re still getting a bruise,” Franson said. Franson has scorched the netting and shattered panes of arena glass, too, but with a vastly different approach to shooting the puck. Dr. Kevin Robinson at Belmont University in Nashville analyzed the techniques used by Weber, Franson and teammate Jordin Tootoo. The results raised an interesting question. He measured the speed with which all three players struck the puck from the top of their backswing. Weber clocked in with the fastest, at about 715 degrees per second, meaning if his stick was a spoke in a bicycle wheel, it would spin through two full rotations in a second. Tootoo was second (668 degrees a second), and Franson was third fastest (405). Both Weber and Franson have won hardest-shot competitions: Weber was clocked at 104.8 mph before last season’s NHL All-Star Game; Franson was measured at 95.4 mph before the 2009 AHL All-Star Game. “The difference in Cody’s shot is that, if you look at the top of the backswing for Jordin and for Shea, their stick is literally perpendicular to the ice,” Robinson said. “If you think of it like a clock face, with their sticks being at 12, Cody was more like 10. He barely gets his stick above parallel to the ice.” The question Robinson could not answer is how Franson generated as much power as he did behind those shots without as much of a backswing. Franson, who is an inch taller but about 15 pounds lighter than Weber, offered an answer. He uses a more flexible stick - “a whippier stick” - than Weber. That whipping effect, combined with his upper body strength and wrists, is what the Leafs defenceman says generates most of his power. The shorter backswing provides a quicker release, which can make Franson a threat in his own right from the point. “The whole thought process is to get it off quick enough where guys can’t get in my shooting lane and, secondly, to get it off before the goalie knows I’ve got it,” Franson said. “When a goalie’s got to move through traffic, he usually loses the puck for half-a-second. If I can get it off my stick before he picks up that I have it, he’s going to have a tough time finding it in a crowd.” Weber famously blasted a shot through the netting in Vancouver two years ago as part of the Canadian team, and he has accidentally injured a handful of teammates in Nashville, including Tootoo (broken foot) and David Legwand (fractured cheekbone). “If I’m a goalie,” Robinson said of Franson and Weber, “I don’t want to see either one.”