Jon Francisco is currently visiting his family in Minnesota, but didn’t really feel as though he had left Southern California when it was suggested he “would be returning” to the Reign. That was the plan all along, said the team captain, who was among the first to re-sign with the team in June.
How does it feel to be coming back?
“Great. (laughs). I never really left. I’m back in Minnesota right now, but just for a week.”
You missed all of 2007-08 with knee injuries. How do they feel after playing 70 games?
“They’re great. Everything’s good. Fully functional working order.”
You played in almost every situation last year, including penalty kill and power plays. Do want to have that do-everything role again next year?
“I would hope to have it. I don’t like to play any other way than being involved in the game. Any player wants to play. Whatever chance or opportunity is there, I’m going to take it.
What do you know about the direction the team will take next year?
“I know there’s a handful of guys (coach Karl Taylor) probably wants back. I think we had a pretty good group of guys last year. Anybody we get back is a plus for the game. We might have msised a few pieces of the puzzle, but all in all, we set the bar high. Whoever comes in or returns, either way, we set the bar high.
Do you think you have more to give next year?
“I think so. At the beginning, it started off great for me. I got a lot of ice time and took advantage of those opportunities. Come midseason, I didn’t pay very well. I wasn’t personally where I wanted to be. That’s something that pushes me and drives me to get better. At midsesason, I didn’t feel I was putting up the numbers that I was doing at the beginning of the year to help the team win. It’s not just a personal thing. It’s keeping the team at an even keel and just pushing forward. I let myself slip a little bit.”
Were any of those struggles tied to being the captain?
“I don’t think that was any added pressure on me. I put so much pressure on myself at the beginning. As I generated a lot more offense, I felt maybe I should have done a little more. It all comes with it. You’re gonna get peaks and valleys over a long season.
On the new playoff format:
“It doesn’t change my thoughts much. My thoughts are always, do as much as you can during the season, make playoffs and go at it from playoffs. Try to win every game, obviously. If you end up in first, great, you get a (first-round) bye now. If not, you win the first three games. I don’t think personally it changes much. I expected something like this to happen, just because you never want to give anybody a free ride into the playoffs. You want to feel like you earned it. The important part of the season is the end of it. The beginning’s very important as well.”