'Mule' Over Hank

Move over Henrik Zetterberg, there's a new number two in town.

More like "Mule over."

Johan Franzen is having a dominant season, with 18 goals, 22 assists and 40 points in 48 games, on pace for around 75 points by season's end. Zetterberg has come on statistically lately, and now has nine goals, 25 assists and 34 points in the same number of games.

There was once a time after the 2009 season after the Red Wings lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stanley Cup final where fans and media weighed Detroit's options when it came to keeping either Franzen or then-Red Wing turned Blackhawk Marian Hossa. They were both power forwards with a nose for the net. Hossa had 40 goals that year and Franzen had 34 in only 71 games. So, who to keep? The guy you drafted or the one that choked in the playoffs after being injured?

Ultimately, Franzen was resigned and Hossa left for Chicago because of a tight salary cap, something that the Wings have a little room with this year. 

That sets up where we are today; the Red Wings' big three up front since then has been Pavel Datsyuk along with Zetterberg and Franzen. Has the day come where Franzen has leap-frogged Hank for that number two spot? It certainly seems so.

Statistically the two forwards put up the same number of points, but Mule scores the goals, and he doesn't need help from anyone else. Sure, playing with Datsyuk has huge benefits, but the amount of chances he gets during a game are almost 50% of his own doing. Todd Bertuzzi is taking advantage of those chances, but most of the time it has to be a nice set-up by Datsyuk.

If you take time to analyze more than statistics, like I normally do, Franzen is Zetterberg's superior. There is no doubt in my mind that if I had to choose between the two today, I'm taking the Mule 9 times out of 10. The one time I'll take Hank is in a penalty kill situation like the 5-on-3 in game four of the 2008 finals.

Franzen is better on the powerplay and at even strength. Zetterberg's stride is surprisingly slow. In an interview a few years ago, the Sedin twins commented that they never thought Zetterberg would even be drafted (they were in the same draft class and same junior national team in Sweden), mainly because he wasn't a strong skater.

That might be catching up to him now.

Franzen is a powerful skater and he's physical and nasty. He mixes it up and he shows emotion on the ice. The knock on him is that he isn't consistent. Seriously though, is there someone that actually resembles consistent? And what does it mean anyway? Jonathan Ericsson is more consistent than Mule I would say. You know what I mean.

We all know that Zetterberg needs to pick up his socks, but while Franzen is firing, fans might not need to worry. He puts the put in the net and dominates games, something Zetterberg used to do. Once they both are clicking at the same time as well as Datsyuk, the Wings will be even more dangerous than they are now.

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Kyle Busch


George Prax's picture

Wasn't this supposed to happen a couple of years ago after he had that ridiculous playoff run? Love the mule, glad he's playing well.

Kyle Andrew Busch's picture

That was when Zetterberg won the Conn Smythe though so at that point it was actually Datsyuk being questioned. Clearly that isn't the case now.

George Prax's picture

Well it sounds like ihe's the go-to guy if someone starts to falter. That's good to have.

Kyle Andrew Busch's picture

For sure, but it would be nice to see Z take over games like he used to