Not since Chris Osgood—and that was back in the '90s—has a Red Wings player caused so much aggravation among Detroit’s fanbase.
Indeed, in a recent Q&A with fans, Ansar Khan at Mlive.com fielded questions about trading Franzen right out of the gate.
Red Wings general manager Ken Holland on Johan Franzen: "I don't have any plans to buy Mule out." http://t.co/N4W2BGpPMw— Brad Galli (@BradGalli) April 29, 2014
Last month, right after the Red Wings were unceremoniously bounced from the playoffs by the Boston Bruins, general manager Ken Holland was almost immediately questioned about the possibility of divesting his team of Franzen‘s services via Detroit’s last remaining compliance buyout.
Of late, Franzen’s own words haven’t done much to help him in the fan club department, either.
Prior to the playoffs, in an interview with George Sipple of the Detroit Free Press, Franzen bristled when addressing his goal-scoring responsibilities:
"That’s not why I go out and play games, to score goals. I got a lot of things to do before that. It’s not even fifth on the list when you go through a game."
Added to all of this, fans continue to blame Franzen for the loss of Marian Hossa in 2009. As George Malik at Kukla’s Korner and Graham Hathway at SB Nation both eloquently address, the Hossa-Franzen debate that still rages on some five years after the two men shared a locker room. The fact that Franzen hasn’t figure out how to morph into Hossa seems to be his principle flaw.
To believe the validity of all this doubt and criticism is to believe that Franzen is an ineffective player, a waste of a roster spot, and all at the cost of a disastrous long-term contract.
In other words, Franzen is a real problem for the Detroit Red Wings that needs solving.
Well, he’s not.
Now, inasmuch as Franzen built his career in Detroit on his ability to score goals, statements such as the ones he made about scoring—or not scoring—goals are understandably irksome.
To be sure, since 2009-10 season, Franzen has developed into a notoriously streaky—that’s a nice way of saying “inconsistent”—scorer and has exhibited a tendency to play a peripheral game far too often.
However, since that time, he’s also amassed 97 regular-season goals in 275 games and led the team in that department in 2010-11 and 2011-12.
Reasonable people can argue about how timely or important those goals have been, but that Franzen has potted them is simply a matter of fact.
Franzen’s effectiveness is certainly a reliable bone with which fans often pick, and there’s no doubt he has proven to be capable of being more effective when he wants to be—or perhaps, when he can be.
Over the past five seasons, Franzen has dealt with a myriad of injuries, including a torn ACL, prolonged ankle and back injuries and multiple concussions and head injuries.
In fact, Franzen hasn’t played anywhere close to a full 82-game schedule since he appeared in 77 contests in 2011-12. Franzen finished that season with 29 goals among 56 points and a plus-23 rating.
Still, despite what some might view as excuses, Franzen apparently remains a big problem in Detroit because of his ridiculous contract and corresponding cap hit—or so the narrative seems to go.
However, as per CapGeek, the three players with the most comparable cap hits to Franzen by percentage are Boston Bruins forward Marc Savard, Columbus Blue Jackets center Brandon Dubinsky and the Toronto Maple Leafs’ Tyler Bozak.
Of this group, Savard (post-concussion syndrome) hasn’t played a game since 2010, Dubinsky has eclipsed the 20-goal mark just twice and Bozak has yet to reach that total in a single NHL season.
Considering the amount of cap space Franzen’s contract occupies, his production is far from deficient.
By the numbers and by the dollars, Franzen doesn’t appear to be much of a problem for Detroit.
However, he’ll likely continue to be a big problem for fans—well, until he figures out how to morph into Marian Hossa.
All data courtesy of NHL.com and CapGeek unless otherwise noted.