DETROIT >> The Detroit Red Wings know what they have in Johan Franzen and they’re not willing to part with what’s already been invested in him.
“I just think Mule has been a streaky scorer,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “When he gets into a groove, he rides the wave. When it’s not going, it’s not going in.”
It wasn’t going for Franzen over the last part of the regular season and five playoff games the Wings played.
After a stretch of six goals over four games from late February to early March, Franzen had just one goal over the final 18 games of the regular season and none in the postseason.
“He had 16 goals in 54 games,” Holland said. “I know he didn’t score down the stretch, he didn’t score in the playoffs. We had a lot of guys that didn’t score in the playoffs. I look around the league and I kind of hear this talk about players in other teams a year ago and this year those players are scoring. It’s a hard league every year to score come playoff time.”
“Mule’s a big body,” Holland continued. “Coming out of the Olympic break, he was on a hot streak and I think that hot streak is part of the reason why we were able to play our way into the (playoffs). To go on the open market, 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, they’re playing in, where you can go get superstars. Those days are over.”
Franzen, who still has six years left on a deal that has an average annual salary cap hit of just under $4 million, had just two assists in the five-game series with the Boston Bruins and 14 shots on goal.
In his last 23 games, playoffs and regular season, he had one goal, eight assists and a minus-8 rating. In the previous 23 games, he had 13 goals, 16 assists and a plus-14.
“It’s hard league to score,” Holland said. “You score 20-25 goals now, it’s a lot of goals. Other than superstars, we don’t have 60-goal scorers anymore. I don’t even know 50, but obviously (Alex) Ovechkin. What we need, 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 players that can score 25. I think that’s the way to be successful.
“Mule can score 20 goals,” Holland added. “We need more Mules. We need more players who can score 20 goals. If you had nine forwards who could score 20 goals, you could go into a playoff series, you’re not sure who’s going to score. But you feel you’re going to score because you’ve got lots of people who have scored over the course of the year.”
In Franzen’s last 32 playoff games since the start of 2011, he has seven goals (one game winner), five assists and a minus-11.
In his previous 51 playoff games from 2008-2010, he had 31 goals (nine game winners), 28 assists and a plus-29.
“I like Mule,” Holland said. “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 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 league where there’s 30 teams and most of them think they’re going to be a playoff team as we head into this offseason. I don’t have any plans to buy Mule out. I don’t know where you go replace these people.”
Perhaps the best example of how streaky of a goal scorer Franzen is game in the 2010-11 season. After a five-goal game against Ottawa, he went on a 14-game goalless drought and ended the regular season with just two goals over his last 27 games.
“You don’t really go into a game, ‘Oh, I’ve got to score, I’ve got to score,’” Franzen said after the Wings lost in Game 5 to the Bruins. “You go out there and try to do your job. I always want to play defense first and make sure I don’t (make) any mistakes in my own end and try to help out the D. When the goals are coming, they’re coming. You get confidence and it’s easy to score. You can only go out there and do your best and try to battle as hard as you can.”