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Detroit Red Wings Olympians: Why They Should Heed Johan Franzen's Example

Detroit Red Wings left wing Johan Franzen (93) of Sweden celebrates the goal by teammate Henrik Zetterberg during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Carolina Hurricanes in Detroit, Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Carlos Osorio/Associated Press
Isaac SmithAnalyst IFebruary 2, 2014

Detroit Red Wings forward Johan Franzen will not play in the Olympics for Sweden due to lingering concussion symptoms, per NHL.com.

Being chosen to represent one's country in the Olympics is one of the highest honors that can happen to a hockey player. While Franzen is likely disappointed that Sweden's coach Par Marts announced that Franzen will not be partaking in the Olympic Games, it is important that Franzen's health be his primary concern.

Franzen's concussion is severe enough that he has played just one game since December 15.

"The Mule" is one of a few Detroit Red Wings that are currently injured, but had been selected to play for their respective countries in the Olympics. But he should not be the only injured Red Wing that sits out the Olympics due to injury.

 

Sitting Out versus Playing Injured

Johan Franzen has been his usual dominant self this season—when he's been healthy.
Johan Franzen has been his usual dominant self this season—when he's been healthy.Carlos Osorio/Associated Press/Associated Press

It doesn't take a doctor or an athletic trainer to know that playing through an injury is a decision that can end up costing a player and a team over the course of the season, or even a player's career.

Playing through an injury can diminish performance and prolong the time needed to fully recover from said injury.

While injured teammate Pavel Datsyuk is the only Red Wings Olympian that is still out of the lineup due to injury, Daniel Alfredsson and captain Henrik Zetterberg have also missed substantial time with groin and back injuries, respectively.

Games missed due to injury in 2013-14
Henrik Zetterberg13
Johan Franzen *Out of Olympics*23
Daniel Alfredsson12
Pavel Datsyuk18
NHL.com

So would either of those three players join Franzen in sitting out (or being ruled out of) the Olympics?

Datsyuk sitting out the Olympics is almost laughable to some—he is the captain of the host nation Russia's hockey team. Same goes for Zetterberg, as the captain of Sweden's squad.

As for Alfredsson, this will be his last Olympics, as he would be 45 years old at the next one.

 

Who Pays the Bills?

But the Red Wings organization should strongly encourage some of their top players to consider taking a limited role at the Olympics or sitting it out completely.

Mike Ilitch, pictured here at Nicklas Lidstrom's retirement press conference.
Mike Ilitch, pictured here at Nicklas Lidstrom's retirement press conference.Carlos Osorio/Associated Press/Associated Press

This would be an extremely difficult conversation to have, but not having a combination of Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Franzen and Alfredsson in the lineup over the past two months have pushed the Red Wings to the cusp of falling out of the playoff race on a couple occasions.

The players are paid by Mike Ilitch and the Detroit Red Wings, not for playing on their country's Olympic squads. Ilitch is an very understanding owner, but neither Datsyuk, Alfredsson nor Zetterberg are 100 percent healthy.

Time for someone to speak up.

 

Alfredsson's Last Chance at a Cup Ring?

Daniel Alfredsson wanted to win a Stanley Cup in what could be his final NHL season.

Alfredsson was quoted by Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun, saying, "This is purely a situation for me where this is about me. This is a decision I make for myself, not for anybody else. It's all about trying to get the Stanley Cup."

Alfredsson came to Detroit to win a Cup. Will his dream be sacrificed if he is injured again at the Olympics?
Alfredsson came to Detroit to win a Cup. Will his dream be sacrificed if he is injured again at the Olympics?Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

While Alfredsson wants to win a Stanley Cup, the fact is that the Red Wings are in a struggle to make the playoffs. He might not even get a chance to win his first ever Stanley Cup if he can't get healthy and into the lineup for more than a few games at a time.

The aging Swede has 32 points in 42 games for Detroit, but he will need to hope that he doesn't re-injure his groin or aggravate another injury at Sochi if he chooses to continue playing.

 

Conclusion

The Red Wings are finding ways to make it work without some of their top players in the lineup for long stretches of time. 

The problem for Detroit is that it is likely going to be in a dog fight to make the playoffs down the stretch, just like last year when it had to win its last four games to make it in.

But Detroit's injuries this year seem more persistent and affect more of the scoring portion of the lineup than they seemed to last season. 

Of the 139 goals scored by Detroit this season, 52 of them have come from Datsyuk, Franzen, Alfredsson and Zetterberg. 

Plain and simple, if Alfredsson, Zetterberg and Datsyuk are serious about contending and actually winning a Stanley Cup this season, they should have a reality check of what playing in the Olympics actually means for each of them.

 

All statistics via NHL.com.

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