By Ashley Dunkak
JOE LOUIS ARENA (CBS DETROIT) – Johan Franzen signed an 11-year deal with the Detroit Red Wings in 2009, and despite a disappointing season from the man players call “Mule,” general manager Ken Holland has no intention of buying out the 34-year-old forward.
“I know he didn’t score down the stretch, didn’t score in the playoffs,” Holland said Tuesday. “We had a lot of guys that didn’t score in the playoffs. I looked around the league, and I kind of hear this talk about players in other teams a year ago. Those players, this year, are scoring. It’s a hard league. It’s a hard league every year to score come playoff time. Mule’s a big body.Coming out of the Olympic break, he was on a hot streak, and I think he – that hot streak is part of the reason we were able to play our way into the Boston series.”
Indeed, Franzen did look solid between Feb. 26 and March 27, chalking up 11 points in a five-game span. Franzen had two assists at Montreal Feb. 26, scored three goals the next day at Ottawa, turned in one goal and one assist March 4 against New Jersey and recorded two goals and two assists – again against New Jersey – March 7.
In essence, Holland holds the opinion that Franzen can give the Red Wings what most other players cannot – 20 to 25 goals per season – and the players who can give more are not necessarily readily available.
“I think there’s this perception that July 1 free agents, there’s this hockey store, there’s this fantasy hockey league that I’m running, playing in, and that we can go get superstars,” Holland said. “Those days are over. That was a bit of the league prior to 2005. Those days are over. This is a league now where you’ve got to draft, you’ve got to develop, we’ve got to make people better. You can have some cap space, but I’m not going to spend money just for the sake of spending money so that six months later people can say, ‘Well, the decisions we made in July were no good. How can they get rid of that guy?’
“I like Mule,” Holland continued. “He’s a big body. When he gets on a roll, he can carry a team. He’s a streaky scorer. We’ve had other streaky scorers. We’ve had some streaky scorers here that are in the Hall of Fame that I’ve gone to Toronto for a Hall of Fame ceremony. This is a hard league.”
Franzen, who missed all but one game in January and all but two games in February with a concussion, scored 16 goals in 54 games this season. He also recorded 25 assists, bumping his point total to 41. Franzen played just 41 games in the 2012-2013 season. Before that, he had scored 27 or more goals in four of the previous five seasons.
“I don’t have any plans to buy Mule out,” Holland reiterated. “I don’t know where you go replace these people.
“When he gets into a groove, he runs it,” Holland continued. “He rides the wave. When it’s not going, it’s not going in. It’s a hard league to score … We need six or seven or eight guys that score 25. Mule is a guy that has the potential to score 25 … We need more Mules. We need more players that can score 20 goals. I think if you had nine forwards that could score 20 goals, you’d go into a playoff series, you’re not sure who’s going to score, but you feel you’re going to score because you have lots of people who have scored over the course of the years.”