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As “The Mule” Goes So Do The Wings?

from Ansar Khan of Mlive,

“I thought Mule was fantastic in the middle, dominated the faceoff circle, really played well, went head-to-head against (Matt) Duchene all night long and was very good,'' Babcock said.

Babcock paired Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg together in an effort to energize the team following Thursday's 4-2 loss at Phoenix. He had Franzen center the second line with Valtteri Filppula and Gustav Nyquist.

Franzen, who won 8-of-13 faceoffs, enjoyed the change of pace.

“Little bit more involved in the game,'' Franzen said. “Got some more pucks, a lot more skating, so it was fun.

“Try something new and get a little boost maybe.''

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Comments

Vladimir16's avatar

I still can’t stand Franzen but my disdain for him is much less when he’s in the middle. Keep him there, uncle Mike

Posted by Vladimir16 from Grand River Valley on 04/06/13 at 12:55 PM ET

SYF's avatar

I still can’t stand Franzen but my disdain for him is much less when he’s in the middle. Keep him there, uncle Mike

Posted by Vladimir16 from Grand River Valley on 04/06/13 at 12:55 PM ET

Dude.  You making yourself comfortable in my head?  lol

Posted by SYF from Zata's Epic Viking Beard on 04/06/13 at 12:59 PM ET

gt500x's avatar

Exactly.  It’s hard to float when you’re playing center.  Keep him engaged.  Flip makes more of an impact as a second line winger than a center so he should be looking as dangerous as Nyquist does now.  Oddly, that’s not the case.  Flip seems to have gone into one of his invisible stretches again.  We have to shake him out of it now.

Posted by gt500x on 04/06/13 at 01:01 PM ET

topshelf14's avatar

I hate the fact that the Mule goes missing for huge stretches of games. If this is the thing that can jump start him, keep him there!  I would prefer Filppula at center though being that he is the playmaker and Franzen is supposed to be the scorer.

Posted by topshelf14 from Detroit, MI on 04/06/13 at 01:01 PM ET

OlderThanChelios's avatar

It’s hard to float when you’re playing center.  Keep him engaged.

That’s exactly what I was thinking while watching the game. And the fact that he also played regular shifts on the PK also helped to keep him “engaged.”

When Franzen plays with Pavel, he just seems to float around waiting for easy one-timers. Give him some responsibilty and he simply has to get involved or it’ll be obvious that he’s useless.

And I also liked the line of Andersson, Gus and Cleary. Nyquist has really stepped up his two-way play in the last couple of games. He looks more “determined” right now. Maybe playing with Andersson has something to do with that.

Anyway, it’ll be interesting so see, on a team basis, whether playing hard or hardly playing will be the order of the day on Sunday.

Posted by OlderThanChelios from Grand Rapids, MI on 04/06/13 at 01:15 PM ET

BrendonR's avatar

Franzen is a natural center who has played almost exclusively on the wing since he arrived in Detroit in 2005-06 due to the club’s depth down the middle.

“Usually when you’re playing the wing you have a designated spot, you know where you’re going to be,’’ Franzen said. “Pretty much every time you go back and forth, up and down, you don’t leave that.

“As a center, you can use your, what do you call it … a little more freedom. You try to find openings and you go there. It’s a lot more skating and less stopping.’‘

Maybe this has been the issue all along. As someone who played centre for the vast majority of their hockey career, I definitely think I would have been bored had I been shifted back to wing permanently. I also always like Flip better at wing than centre; he seems to be almost the opposite case. Flourishes when he has more structure to adhere to on a shift-by-shift basis.

Posted by BrendonR on 04/06/13 at 01:33 PM ET

Hank1974's avatar

Not saying this scenario could have played out, but seeing that Erat fetched Filip Forsberg, I couldn’t help wonder if Franzen could have been dangled to get that deal before the Caps did.

Not sure Washington would have liked that long contract, but I would have been thrilled if we could have gotten a blue-chipper like Forsberg for the Mule.

Posted by Hank1974 on 04/06/13 at 01:54 PM ET

Avatar

Franzen is a natural center who has played almost exclusively on the wing since he arrived in Detroit in 2005-06 due to the club’s depth down the middle.

I didn’t realize Franzen was a natural centre, and it raises a question: Why the hell did it take so long for them to try this out?  For the past few years they’ve tried to put Datsyuk and Zetterberg at the beginning of the season with Filppula centring the second line and they’ve always ended up having to split Datsyuk and Zetterberg up to have them centre the top two lines, but it’s never occured to someone to have Franzen centre the second line until now?  That seems ridiculous to me.

If last night is anything to go on, not only does it keep him more engaged in the game, he’s also good at in the faceoff circle which allows Babcock to keep the twins together.

Posted by Garth on 04/06/13 at 01:54 PM ET

Hank1974's avatar

Garth, I’ve wondered that about a number of players in the league.
For Franzen, I wonder if they wanted him on the wing because:
1. His size and ability to grind in corners and along the wall.
2. His skating isn’t the best.
3. Scoring wingers are hard to come by.
4. The Wings have always had a lot of centres.

I do like him at the centre ice position. Especially after seeing how he did last night.
I hope they keep him there for a few more games. Having a big centre like him will help in the playoffs against guys like Getzlaf and will always give us an advantage if going up against a team with smaller centres.

Another guy I think looks really good at centre is Taylor Hall. He’s a natural pivot who moved to the wing when he was drafted by the Spits due to Windsor’s depth down the middle.
Last year he played about 10 games as a centreman and he did really well. He was over a ppg during that time.
He has great speed and vision and I felt he had more freedom to use those skills as compared to as a winger.
Of course, he looks great as a LW as well and since the Oilers have a lot of options down the middle, they’ll most likely keep him there - especially now that his line of Hopkins and Eberle is clicking on all cylinders right now.
But I loved watching him play centre for that short period of time last season.

Posted by Hank1974 on 04/06/13 at 02:05 PM ET

Hootinani's avatar

I didn’t realize Franzen was a natural centre, and it raises a question: Why the hell did it take so long for them to try this out?

He was Detroit’s 3rd line center for a couple of years before he found his scoring touch, and then he went on to put up a bunch of goals while on Pavs (or sometimes Z’s) wing.  So, why they didnt try it earlier this season, no idea.  Why not the last few years?  Because was still basically a 30 goal winger, so not much motivation to move him.

Either way, hes a little behind his normal goal scoring pace, but right on his normal point pace even playing wing all season.

And Duchene ate him alive defensively.  But Duchene does that to alot of people.

Posted by Hootinani on 04/06/13 at 02:12 PM ET

Hootinani's avatar

By the by, anyone see anything more on Z’s groin issue?  Hate to think what tomorrow looks like without him in the lineup.

Posted by Hootinani on 04/06/13 at 02:17 PM ET

Avatar

And, also, it’s not like this year is the first time he’s played center on the top two lines.  During Injury-palooza in 10-11 Franzen had a handful of games at #2 center.

But, yeah, having D, Z and Fil ahead of you at the position was a problem, as was that for as much as the fans here like to whine about him, Franzen’s been the best pure goalscoring forward on the whole team, D and Z included.  If you put him at center you mitigate his goalscoring.  So, considering there hasn’t been a depth problem up the middle, and that he scores more on the wing than anyone else on the team does anywhere else on the ice, moving him to a different position didn’t make a lot of sense.

Now that Fil’s falling apart and Z doesn’t score goals at ES, having Franzen at center isn’t a wildly stupid adjustment to make because those other two dudes desperately need the jumpstart.

Posted by HockeyinHD on 04/06/13 at 02:35 PM ET

EDJ's avatar

A couple of years ago I think either Datsyuk or Zetterberg was injured and maybe Filppula too, and they tried putting Franzen at center and it didn’t click so well, especially in the faceoff circle and defensively. I think they did this for two or three games, and this was only one game, so maybe it won’t work next game. Whatever the reason, I hope this decision works out this time.

Posted by EDJ on 04/06/13 at 02:38 PM ET

gt500x's avatar

Maybe this has been the issue all along. As someone who played centre for the vast majority of their hockey career, I definitely think I would have been bored had I been shifted back to wing permanently. I also always like Flip better at wing than centre; he seems to be almost the opposite case. Flourishes when he has more structure to adhere to on a shift-by-shift basis.

Posted by BrendonR on 04/06/13 at 01:33 PM ET

I don’t think see.  Franzen’s compete level was too low.  It seemed like he was fine letting someone else pick up his slack.  Now he absolutely has to battle for the puck because he has even more responsibility out there.  He can’t get away with making half-hearted attempts to fight for the puck.

Posted by gt500x on 04/06/13 at 03:49 PM ET

Avatar

It’s funny, I actually was thinking for several weeks now that Dats and Z would be better together, and should play with Filp or Brunner to keep either of them going, while Franzen could center Nyquist and whichever of Filppula and Brunner is available.

The entire idea is that the Euro twins are enough together to make whoever we stick up there good, and Franzen won’t be able to float as much if he’s the biggest, most experience player on that line, and he’s in the middle and taking faceoffs most often.

I just hope we stick with this experiment, because it just feels right.

Posted by CrimsonPhoenix on 04/06/13 at 04:55 PM ET

Bradley97's avatar

I would prefer Filppula at center though being that he is the playmaker and Franzen is supposed to be the scorer.

Posted by topshelf14 from Hockeytown, USA on 04/06/13 at 01:01 PM ET

St. Louis is the setup man for Stamkos. Before that he set up Lecavalier. It can work with the setup man on the wing and the scorer in the middle if the scorer has a shot, which Mule does.

Posted by Bradley97 on 04/06/13 at 10:03 PM 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.