Everybody Lay Off Johan Franzen


May 20, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Red Wings center

Pavel Datsyuk

(13) escorts left wing

Johan Franzen

(93) off the ice in the third period against the Chicago Blackhawks in game three of the second round of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Joe Louis Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

He’s the proverbial “Trade him!” “Buy him out!” “Throw him in a ditch!” rumor mill. Johan Franzen has become the NWB of Detroit Red Wings fans, among the likes of Jason Williams, Brett Lebda, and Andreas Lilja (and Robert Lang, if you want to go there).

It’s up in full-force right now because of the injury that has sidelined him several games. Keep in mind that Franzen usually gets injured at the start of the season, usually in a game against Chicago, and it usually knocks him out for several months. Only being out a few games is actually pretty good for the Mule.

So what’s the deal with the Mule?

Everyone likes to forget about Franzen’s social anxiety. (If you haven’t heard this, read the translated article here). Back in 2009, the Mule admitted to not wanting to score goals because he didn’t want to have to talk to the press after the game. He didn’t want to draw attention to himself. He just couldn’t handle it.

Even though he’s worked through it in the past few years, he probably still has lapses. And that was the thought on Twitter yesterday when his comments to the press asking if he was more injured or sick were very vague and unspecific. Case in point:

Or there’s more going on than we know, which is probably the case. We as fans aren’t privy to all the information.

Look, I know I’m biased when it comes to Johan Franzen. But I’m not one of those fans who feels the need to yell at their own players for struggling*. There’s no point because they aren’t going to see it. To me, it’s like one of those crazy hockey moms at a peewee hockey game, screaming at the refs when everyone knows those refs can’t hear anything coming from the stands. They’re screaming right behind you, making you deaf, and all you want to do is smack them and tell them to sit down and shut up, please.

It does nothing. Except maybe frustrate me, but no one cares about me—that I already know (and I don’t mind).

Maybe it’s a cathartic thing. Maybe venting our frustrations at one player make us feel better at the time, for maybe a day or two. If we feel enough people agree with our opinions, then we’re justified in complaining and doing so constantly. And the fact is that we have no say in what goes on within the organization.

So far this season,  in the seventeen games played, it feels like the Twitterverse and most of the hockey bloggingverse has pinned every single Red Wings downfall on either Brendan Smith or Johan Franzen. And sometimes, Kyle Quincey.

Much has been expected of Franzen in his time here, and it all stemmed from his performance in the 2008 Stanley Cup playoffs. Signing him to the contract Ken Holland did just added to that expectation. Much like with Valtteri Filppula, people hark on his potential and wait for that breakthrough season.

We need to come to terms with the fact that Johan Franzen will be a 45-60 point player every season. He will have an injury at least once a season. There won’t be any 40 goal seasons. There won’t be any 80 point seasons. And if either of those two things actually happen, it won’t be a consistent occurrence. He’s a streaky player, good for a fair amount of points every season at a relatively good cap hit of just under $4 million.

Complain all you would like, but you and I know deep down that the Red Wings issues cannot be pinned on one singular player.


*I yell at Mikael Samuelsson for sucking. There’s a difference… Totally. And Samuelsson hasn’t sucked the last couple games he’s played, so I haven’t complained.