Johan Franzen was a force in the 2008-2010 playoffs, putting up 59 points n 57 games. For three years, he was a guy you could count on to come up and produce big points when the games really mattered. Since that 2010 playoffs, he has 10 points in 31 games. This is just simply not good enough for a guy who is expected to produce points.
This got me thinking a little bit, how has Franzen’s game changed in the last few years. His regular season numbers haven’t changed all that much and although he is still a player who can score between 25 and 30 goals a year, he looks much less dominant and much less menacing. I want to take a look at some of the goals that Franzen used to score and look at the way he plays now and see if there isn’t a reason for his lack of production.
When I first thought of writing this article, my original idea was that I was going to show some tape of his successful years and then juxtapose them with what he is doing currently, however, there isn’t much difference. Franzen is pretty much playing the same way as he was before. The main difference is that he isn’t shooting the puck as well. Franzen shoots at a rate of a 11.8% for his career. However, for that three year playoff hot streak, his shooting percentage(goals/shots) was 16% and for the first two years, it was 19%.
A lot of the criticism of Johan Franzen generally revolves around his low compete level and his lack of physicality. That’s just not who Franzen is. He isn’t a high motor guy who will go into tough areas and hit someone hard. Franzen is a really hard player to peg, he’s big and strong, but he’s not physical, he puts in rebounds, but he doesn’t screen the goalie in front of the net, he has a great shot, but he doesn’t shoot enough.¬†Franzen is definitely a finisher, and like most finisher, he is only effective when he gets placed near the right kind of players. Chris Kunitz scores so much not because he’s all that good, but because he plays opposite Sidney Crosby.
My interest in Franzen lies mostly in curiosity. His game hasn’t changed much over the last 5 years, he has just become less effective as time goes on. Franzen is a player who excels at finishing and working with the puck in congested and small areas, however, he has trouble creating those situations on his own. For any player to succeed they need the right supporting cast and Franzen is no different, he needs to be with possession players who pass well. Franzen cannot create his own offense, most of his goals come off rebounds or pass and shoot plays. When Franzen was most effective this year, he was playing with Nyquist and Zetterberg. These are two players who can both pass well and get the puck into productive offensive areas.
The following play takes place in the first round of the 2009 playoffs. The game is tied at 5(wow) and the Wings are leading the series 3-0. With under a minute to go the Wings go on a power play.
Things to notice here,
- Zetterberg is fighting for the puck at the bottom of the picture
- Franzen is at the other side of the rink, near the Tim Hortons sign.
- The Wings are on a power play, and have just re entered the zone.
- Hudler is down low on the near side of the play right below the face-off dot opposite Franzen
Onto the next picture.
Things to notice here,
- Franzen is now going towards the net.
- The puck has moved down low to Hudler
- Columbus used a box formation to kill the penalty, it only works if they can keep the puck to the outside. Once the puck gets inside the box has to collapse and things get a little crazy.
Onto the next picture.
Other things to notice,
- Hudler moved from the corner and took a bad angle shot on Steve Mason.
- Franzen is now in front of the net and has inside positioning on his man
- The Columbus box has collapsed. Three Red Wings in front of then net as opposed to all 4 Blue Jackets
Onto the next one.
Finally, Franzen touches the puck and puts it in. So let’s go over exactly what Franzen does in this play to get this goal,
- He enters the zone away from the play
- He slowly moves towards the net
- Gets his body in the right position
- Gets a rebound and is able to put the puck in the net
So why does this one play matter? After all, it is just one play. This one play is a great example of Franzen not doing anything other than wandering around for about 10 seconds and then scoring. This play shows that Franzen’s biggest asset is his positioning, he knows where to go. He goes the front of the net, but he is the only player who goes to the right spot on that, the near side post. Franzen was able to take a chance that the Jackets were containing, drift to the net, find a rebound and score. He doesn’t touch the puck before he taps in a rebound.
Now, this isn’t to say that Franzen’s lack of goals is on his teammates, because it’s not. What separates good players from better players is their ability to adapt their game. Franzen has the tools to be a better NHL player than he is, but he doesn’t have the toolbox. Regardless of all this, Franzen is the most disappointing player on the Red Wings right now and he needs to figure out how to get his game back.
So how does a player like Franzen adapt his game and get better? He needs to a be more aggressive with the puck. Franzen is a player who drifts to the outside and will take a low percentage shot from there. For him to get better, he needs to drive the puck to the inside and use his strength and size more. Franzen’s shot will be much more effective if he can shoot it from a better spot. For Franzen to really reach the next level, he needs to drive to the middle, shoot from better spots, and follow his shots to the net aggressively.
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