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Addressing speculation regarding Johan Franzen’s ‘ailment’

I've been battling boogers for the last two days, so I apologize for taking a dirt nap, but it was very necessary (and many thanks to Paul for keeping TMR rolling along)...And while I've generally been out of the loop, I'm aware of the fact that both those with good intentions and those who simply don't know have speculated that Johan Franzen's absence from the team is due to some sort of flare-up of his social anxiety issues.

I cannot speak to the accuracy or inaccuracy of such suggestions; all I can tell you is that I did translate an article in which Franzen told Aftonbladet's Mats Wennerholm that he suffered from a pretty moderate-to-severe case of social anxiety as a youngster and teenager back during a conversation held in 2009...

And I can at least speak to you as someone who readily admits that I suffer from a moderate-to-severe anxiety disorder as well as moderate "major depression."

What do I think when I read an exchange like the one MLive's Ansar Khan had with Franzen on Thursday, as Paul noted in his practice post?

Detroit Red Wings forward Johan Franzen, who’s out of the lineup tonight, won’t play Saturday as well, but general manager Ken Holland said the club is hopeful he’ll be ready for Tuesday’s game against the Winnipeg Jets.

“He needs some practice time,’’ Holland said.

Franzen will have sat out five of six games by Tuesday – and the one game he played, last Friday’s 4-3 win in Calgary, he left after two periods feeling nauseous.

Asked if he’s feeling better, Franzen said, “No. Not yet.’’

Asked if he’s sick or injured (club is calling it an upper-body injury), Franzen said, “I don’t know.’’

Then he walked away, not wanting to comment further.

I don't know what to think. I can sure as hell tell you that the sinus bug that's going around lingers like a bad smell--it nailed me after I'd been tangling with it for three weeks...

And I absolutely despise speculating sans information, especially regarding a player's personal life--I hope that I've made it very clear that I try to keep anything from a players, coach, GM or owner's personal life that does not affect their ability to be involved with the Red Wings out of the loop (see: Mr. I's health of late, which is a topic I don't want to touch with a 50-foot pole until the team feels that it wishes to clarify the situation; see also: the occasional prospect's sligthly sudsy Tweet or Facebook post, which fall into the, "They're human beings, too" category)--and I really don't feel that it's fair to just lump someone's "unspecified" injury into the mental illness spectrum when we're dealing with a void in terms of any clarification.

I can tell you that wriggling a substantive quote of any kind out of Franzen is kind of like trying to speak with a brick wall with a calm gaze when he doesn't want to tell you anything.

The man really doesn't answer his phone, he really doesn't empty his voicemail and he really doesn't make himself easy to speak with or to attempt to connect with if he's not in the mood to talk (whether that's due to Franzen's anxiety or due to simply wanting to be hard to get a hold of, beats the *#$%@& out of me), and trying to get the man to display any level of emotional engagement can be maddening because he's kind of in his own world personality-wise.

If there's harder guy to "crack" on the team in terms of getting a straight answer when he doesn't feel like talking, I don't know who that'd be. Franzen can put up quite the wall, and that wall seems to have much less to do with any sort of anxiety issue than it does with, "The Mule being the Mule."

If you were to ask me a direct question as to whether anxiety issues can prevent people from going to work, especially when they don't feel well physically, I'd have to answer honestly: yes, it is entirely possible that someone with anxiety issues end up missing "more time" than the average person, and it is entirely possible that dealing with anxiety issues can hamper someone's comeback from a physical ailment.

All of that being said, I have no idea whether or if Franzen receives treatment for his illness--and like any other ailment, mental illnesses are real illnesses stemming from chemical imbalances in the brain which can be managed like any chronic illness via medication and therapy--or whether Franzen's social anxiety is an issue at all given that some folks who deal with anxiety can learn to overcome their avoidance behaviors.

I certainly hope that Franzen's one of the lucky few who've been able to simply put their anxiety issues behind them via behavior modification, and if that's not the case, I hope that a) his present ailment is physical in nature and b) if it is not, his family, friends and employer are encouraging him to avail himself of his options to address what ails him.

Every person's journey with mental illness is different, just as every person's journey with a chronic physical illness is different. That's not a cop-out or an, "Every person is a butterfly" "line," it's the honest-to-Pete truth.

Dealing with mental illnesses are difficult because treating them is anything but an exact science: for some people, a bout of depression or anxiety is a one-time, brought-on-by-stress-or-illness "blip"; for others, medication does the trick of reining in symptoms; for many, access to congitive behavioral or "talk" therapy or use of support groups helps more than medication ever could; for some, a combination of medication and therapy does the trick; and there are some folks like me, for whom familial history and bad wiring yield every-day discomfort and struggles to get by simply because that's the neurochemical card we've been dealt.

Regardless of where we fall on that spectrum, none of those of us who fall somewhere on that spectrum do not expect your sympathy or pity: we simply want to earn our way toward living our lives with some level of quiet dignity...

And, and perhaps moreover, regardless of wherever Franzen falls on that spectrum--I certainly hope it's on the, "It was a blip, I was able to change my behavior and get past it" "color of the rainbow"--I wish him well and I hope that he's availing himself of whatever treatment he needs to recover from what's ailing him so that he can get back to driving all of us "crazy" on the ice.

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All I will say is that it is November not the playoffs. When a player who is supposed to be top 6 and making what he makes is out for a mystery reason it kinda brings my piss to a boil. If he’s sick whether its physically or mentally come out and say “he’s sick no further comment”. If he’s injured there’s no reason at this time of year to keep the injury location a secret.

Posted by brians neck on 11/09/13 at 03:28 PM ET

calquake's avatar

If he’s injured there’s no reason at this time of year to keep the injury location a secret.

Posted by brians neck on 11/09/13 at 02:28 PM ET

Here I disagree unless you mean “lower body injury” or “upper body injury” because teams will go after any perceived weakness whether physical or mental.  That he is injured is good enough for me.

Posted by calquake from a.k.a. Uniquake, workin' on my manifesto on 11/09/13 at 03:40 PM ET

Down River Dan's avatar

Interesting post George. Just this morning I was looking at Franzen’s stats on the TSN site. Looking back at his games missed due to injury section, I noticed several games he missed back in 2011 and it listed the reason for being out as ” personal” . Now, I have no idea what that means and speculating on someone’s personal issues is never good, but he has only 26 shots in 13 games. Hopefully whatever he is dealing with is not too serious. Not to put Franzen’s health before the team’s , but the Wings could definitely use some production from someone other than #40 & #13.

Posted by Down River Dan on 11/09/13 at 03:58 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

Thanks for posting this, George.  I wasn’t comfortable putting up an entire post on this because all I could really do is speculate based on what evidence is available, but the more important part is the window into the fact that anxiety disorder is a real-life illness and not something that you can just will yourself out of (rather seemingly something you have to at least partially will yourself into avoiding through behaviors meant to avoid the “slippery slope”).

I think you did a very good job it it here.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 11/09/13 at 04:25 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

I wish it was something one could will oneself out of. It’s a complicated illness, and treatment for mental illnesses is as much art as science, even these days—where you’ll find commercials for antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications honestly stating, “X is *believed to work by restricting chemical so-and-so*” because we really don’t know how everything works.

These kinds of illnesses depend on the person, but that’s not to say that it’s someone’s “fault” if a genetic predisposition’s “trigger is pulled” by life events, or whether their incidence of illness is sporadic and based upon stress or lack of sleep or battling other physical ailments.

There’s no one answer as to how to treat one illness, just as there’s no one way to, deal with the various ingredients that make dealing with a “bad back.”

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 11/09/13 at 04:40 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

Ultimately, I think it was Zetterberg calling for a “Mule Game” against Calgary that got me thinking it may not be a musculoskeletar ailment affecting Franzen and that it may not be just the flu that seemed to have gone around when the illness-ridden Gaborik got into the lineup against the Wings.

Honestly, this was the season that I had committed to having finally lost patience with Franzen.

If this is indeed what’s happening, I feel like a real dick for it.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 11/09/13 at 04:52 PM ET

Kate from PA now in SC-made in Detroit's avatar

Whatever is affecting Franzen needs to be addressed. He needs to be honest with himself and his employer. Doesn’t matter what the fans think. It is none of our business..
But the bottom line is, it is/ has been affecting the Team.  He is a professional, and as such should do what he must to get well. Even if it means a lengthy time off, or an early retirement.

Lets Go Red Wings!!!!!

Posted by Kate from PA now in SC-made in Detroit on 11/09/13 at 06:10 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

Personally speaking, I’ve never found that “extrinsic” motivators are the primary source for anxiety or depression—i.e. people calling me bad names or having to deal with criticism generally aren’t issues that depress me or make me anxious as much as I’ve found that internal reactions to stuff that happens are my issue.

There’s nothing wrong with any of us criticizing Franzen. Dealing with criticism is part of his job. Dealing with internal issues tend to fuel the fire, if you will.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 11/09/13 at 07:22 PM ET


I’m pro-Franzen but I’m beginning to feel he is almost completely useless. A handful of multi-goal games with 10 game goalless droughts in between is his M.O and it really sucks and does little for the Wings. How long will we ask if only he was consistent before we realize hes never going to produce/live up to his potential.

Posted by Bay Area Wings fan on 11/10/13 at 02:47 AM ET

Slumpy's avatar

He needs Dr Melfi to tell him to blame his mother for all his troubles.

Ugh, keep it simply, crash the net, forecheck, shoot a lot skate hard and it will all work out.

Read once Mario Lemieux never read newspapers reviewing his team or play and think he probably doesn’t follow that policy, instead gets upset over fans and media criticism.

What did Joe Pesci say in Easy Money: Money can’t buy happiness but you can sure pick your own kind of misery.

Cheer up Mule, pick up lunch pale and go to work.


Posted by Slumpy from Under My Wheels on 11/10/13 at 07:04 AM ET

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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.