Johan Franzen. Is there anyone on the Detroit Red Wings roster that inspires more debate? Maybe Jimmy Howard, but the debate on Howard is inherent on playing goalie in Detroit. Still, when it comes to a love him or hate him player, Franzen tops the list. Ryan Reynolds, the main admin on this page, may have summed up my feelings on Franzen best, when he called him the most frustrating player in professional sports. When Franzen is playing at his best, one could argue that he’s one of the top 10 forwards in the NHL. Then there’s the other half of the time when he’s on the ice and is virtually unnoticeable, unproductive, and seemingly unmotivated. After the lockout, many people, including me, wondered if the Wings would use a buyout on “The Mule”. With an annual cap hit of about 4 million dollars and a contract that doesn’t expire any time soon, it seems fair to question the long term status of Franzen. Before the buyout period even started, Holland came right out and told us that the team wouldn’t be buying out Franzen in the off season. Although I have mixed feelings regarding the future of “The Mule”, I was glad Kenny came right out and told us that Franzen was going to be on the team next year, snubbing the debate before it took over the down time of the off season.
Since Detroit’s last trip to the Stanley Cup Finals, Franzen has been a top 5 forward on the Wings roster. When you look at his total points for the last 3 seasons, he has led the team in goals in 2 out of 3. That alone should answer why the Wings were not ready to buy him out this off season. Franzen also has an internal calendar that seems to know when it’s April and when the team is ready to make a playoff push. If it meant we would get “April Franzen” all season, I would gladly listen to those terrible “April in the D” songs for the rest of the year. Having a player get hot at the right time in the season can mean the difference between playing for the Stanley Cup or playing 18 holes. Clearly the guy knows how to maximize his value to the organization.
Then we have his “cold streaks”.
Aside from the occasional scrum in front of the goalie where he face washes someone and ends up in the box for 2 minutes, “The Mule” has a tendency to vanish from the ice. Still, for the most part, even when Franzen is in a slump, he doesn’t typically play stupid. I don’t think he puts the team in the position where they lose games because of him.
Detroit saved their second buyout option, so in theory they could still use it next season. It seems likely that they have a plan for what to do with that buyout. I still can’t see them using it on Franzen though, even if he has a terrible season. Franzen is still a guy that has a track record of scoring about 30 or more goals per season, which obviously is a valuable asset. If Detroit finds itself in the position where Helm is still struggling with his back problems, or the newly signed Weiss doesn’t meet the teams expectations, I could see either one of those guys being a stronger candidate to be bought out. If the team does decide to cut ties with Franzen, for any reason, I think he would be a better candidate to try to trade. Surely, there would be a number of teams that would have interest in trying to acquire the guy, and it doesn’t seem logical to cut ties with one of your top players without getting something in return. My gut tells me that Franzen is going to be wearing the winged wheel for the long haul. There is no other player on the team that makes me scream at my t.v. more than Franzen.
However, there is no question that he has the ability to be a special player, and he isn’t a player I would want to see in any other sweater.