Johan Franzen is one of the more polarizing members of the Detroit Red Wings. When the Mule kicks, he kicks hard. When he doesn’t kick, well.…
The reality is that Franzen’s numbers are respectable, his cap hit is manageable (term, not so much) and he is a serviceable top-six player. On the flip side, he has also had his fair share of injuries – specifically, concussions. His latest occurred during a game on January 6th against the Edmonton Oilers, when he collided with Rob Klinkhammer. The injury kept him out for the remainder of the 2014-15 season, even rendering him unable to participate in full practices with the Red Wings.
Despite it looking like Franzen may never play again, the signs point to the 35-year-old Swede having another go at it. He will attend training camp for the 2015-16 season and see his body responds. On Friday, mLive’s Ansar Khan posted an article regarding Franzen’s future. Ken Holland had the following to say about the Mule:
“I’m told he’s working out every day,” Holland said on Thursday. “The expectation is that over the course of the summer, he’s going to be healthy. I expect to see him in training camp. I expect to see him playing hockey next year. Until I hear otherwise, that’s how I’m going to proceed.”
Personally, I was a little shocked to read the news – I was almost certain that Franzen would at least begin the year on the long-term injured reserve list. I envisioned a scenario similar to that of Marc Savard or Chris Pronger – players sitting on LTIR, but not officially retiring. It appears as if the Mule is going to have another go at it, but should he?
Top-Six Numbers, Reasonable Cap Hit
Despite many fans asking for more from Franzen, his point totals are solid, especially when you consider his cap hit. Since his new deal took effect in 2009-10, he has consistently scored at, or above, .72 points per game in five of six seasons. His 2014-15 campaign was one of the worst of his career, as he scored at just .66 points per game.
Franzen’s known for his success in the playoffs. From 2007-08 to 2009-10 scored at or above a point per game pace. The truth of the matter, though, is that he has not been as successful in the post-season since. It makes you wonder if the Mule is slowing down because of his age or the toll that injuries have taken on his body.
Is It Worth The Risk?
This is what it all comes down to for me. Sure, the numbers are there – I would still take Franzen in a limited, top-nine role if concussions were not an issue. However, Bill Roose estimates that Franzen has had at least 10 concussions throughout his hockey-playing career. 10. Let that sink in for a moment.
Never mind his playing career; the concussions have affected Franzen’s time with his family, too. In mid-April, he told the Detroit Free Press’ Helene St. James:
“This time was scary,” he said. “For two months, not being able to pick up your kids, or play with your kids, for more than 2 minutes — it makes you think a little bit. I was in a really dark place, maybe not the first month because then you still think it’s going to get better, but then when it doesn’t get better, you kind of start wondering.”
That one hit me right in the gut. I know athletes are proud people. It is tough to walk away from something you believe unfinished, or thinking that you have more to give. The prospect of not being able to play with your children, though, has to push you in another direction. Right? If Franzen can safely continue his NHL career, I will welcome him back with arms wide open. However, if there are any lingering issues related to his concussions, I believe it’s one time the Mule shouldn’t be stubborn.
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I am a writer from Windsor, Ontario who has covered the Detroit Red Wings for The Hockey Writers. I have had the pleasure of doing so since February of 2015. Previously, I have written about Red Wings prospects for Hockey’s Future. I am always up for chatting about the Red Wings and hockey in general, so leave me your comment and/or tweets. Follow me on Twitter at @BrandonPeleshok.