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The Hossa-vs-Franzen debate, directly referenced, series-pertinent for the Hawks and Wings

I've not wanted to step into this minefield since the summer of 2009, but the Free Press's Helene St. James is a seasoned pro in navigating these sorts of things, so she went out and plainly stated that, for the Red Wings-Blackhawks series, anyway, Detroit needs Johan Franzen to match or eclipse the play of one Marian Hossa, and this is just a snippet from a much longer article:

Franzen himself repeatedly has said this time of year is, for him, “more fun. It’s tighter out there. More energy out there, and that’s fun. When you win, it’s fun. That’s all I care about, is if we win.”

It seems incongruous that Franzen doesn’t care more whether he scores, that he doesn’t connect him scoring with the team having success. It’s how it works, especially this time of year: Star players have to be star players. Like Hossa, who has seven points in six games.

Once upon a time, of course, Hossa was with the Wings, and it’s borderline folklore how that ended. In the spring of 2009 the Wings had to decide whether to keep Franzen or Hossa, because re-signing both wasn’t going to be possible under the salary cap. Hossa gave the Wings 40 goals in 2008-09, adding to his history of being a goal-scorer. Franzen had 34 goals, building on the breakout year he’d had the previous season. Franzen was much newer to the NHL at the time, not having come over until 2005-6, while Hossa played his first full NHL season in 1998-99. The two are very close in age, with Hossa being from January 1979 and Franzen a December 1979 baby.

Hossa was going to cost more to keep, so the Wings made a long-term commitment to Franzen: 11 years and $43.5 million, while Hossa found long-term happiness with Chicago at 12 years and $63.3 million, a good $1.25 million average salary cap hit above Franzen’s.

It is folklore. Franzen wasn't Hossa and was never going to be Hossa, but he and his agent were willing to talk contract turkey with Ken Holland around the same time that Holland inked Henrik Zetterberg to an extension, and if we are to believe the Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson, the Wings pressed very, very hard to keep Hossa--much harder than Jimmy Devellano suggested to Fox Sports Detroit's Art Regner today, to the point that the Wings were willing to have half their cap space tied up in Nick Lidstrom, Brian Rafalski, Zetterberg, Franzen and Hossa--but Hossa's Edmonton-based agent, Rich Winter, expected the Wings to pay maximum cap dollars for Hossa, and after a last-ditch, pre-June bid that ended up somewhere between $8-12 million short of what Hossa got with the Hawks (and it was all back-end money, the stuff that got Chicago in CBA trouble), in no small part because the Wings knew that Mikael Samuelsson was bolting, but they didn't know that Jiri Hudler was going to spend a year playing for Dynamo Moscow...

The Wings allowed the Los Angeles Kings to chat with Hossa at the draft before eventually losing Hossa to Chicago, who we all know brought Tomas Kopecky into the mix as a deal-sweetener.

It has not worked out to be the fairy tale the Wings hoped for. Hossa won the Stanley Cup in 2010 and the Blackhawks are favorites to win the Cup again this year. Franzen has been a gentle giant, hard to spot the previous two playoffs. This year, he was a monster down the stretch of the regular season, and it’s that creature the Wings need now, need to tease and render testy, whether by sending him their dinner bill or slipping a pea under his mattress.

The rest of St. James' story is the pertinent-to-now stuff, discussion of the fact that the Mule needs to be prodded, even come playoff time, and that his teammates tend to hold Franzen's power forward and goal-scoring abilities in higher regard than the sometimes self-confidence-lacking gent with a slight anxiety issue tends to suggest (trust me, person with anxiety issues and being in the spotlight do not generally mix)...

But you've got to read that part, and I figured that the Hossa-vs-Franzen debate would eventually blossom into a debate...So have at 'er. After you've read the rest of St. James' story.

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Comments

Vladimir16's avatar

the sometimes self-confidence-lacking gent with a slight anxiety issue tends to suggest (trust me, person with anxiety issues and being in the spotlight do not generally mix)...

I think this is a huge part of what is “wrong” with Franzen when he’s not scoring. Reminds me a little of Keith Primeau.

Detroit needs Johan Franzen to match or eclipse the play of one Marian Hossa,

Won’t happen. I wish it will….but it won’t.

Posted by Vladimir16 from Grand River Valley on 05/17/13 at 09:51 PM ET

RWBill's avatar

OK you made me do this.  I wrote this after watching Hossa play only 8 games with the Wings just starting the 2008-09 season.  Keeping Hossa at the risk of losing Franzen was the obvious choice to me, even though at the time I wrote this no one was bitching at Franzen yet because we were just coming off a Stanley Cup win.

4 1/2 years later I still stick with this.  This was written the morning after Hossa beat the BlackHawks with a blistering Shootout goal, the Wings record was 6-1-1.
————————————————


THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM.

I’ll go ahead and say it.

We loves us some Franzen.  The Mule.  Put an end to kal-Gary in the playoffs.  Gutsy playoff goal leader last year.  Willing to take physical abuse. Growing up before our eyes with puck controlling moves that end up in the back of the net.

But honestly, if it comes down to finding room for Hossa by replacing Franzen with a $500K Griffin?  Done.

Hossa is a keeper.  Hossa dominates like few others in this Bettman-NHL can do it.  Hossa has a world class quick-release blistering shot that goalies don’t even see and only stop if by luck it strikes them square in the chest.  Hossa possesses the puck as few others in this league can and is a perfect complement on a puck possessing team…witness the textbook give and go with Datsyuk last night.  Video games should look so good.

I had the misperception about Hossa, because he was part of a high scoring Ottawa team that collapsed in the playoffs every year, that he was a talent we’d have to sacrifice Defense for.  I was wrong.  Dude is a hustling, skating machine that gets back to pick pockets and can kill penalties on any PK1 unit.

Hossa is as close to a franchise player as there is in this league. If this franchise has to jettison the Mule, Happy and Sammy and replace them with hungry, minimum wage Griffins in order to keep the 81 in the Red Winged Wheel, then that is a no-brainer and will not be second-guessed.

Oh yeah, and if being a consummate two-way player is not enough, Marian is that rare offensive wizard that may even exceed Pav and Zetts.  If you have any question, witness the laser, pinpoint game winning blast to the very upper right, 4 inch circle above Khabibulin’s glove shoulder and just under the bar.  Unstoppable.

Hossa must be resigned even at a cost as staggering as Datsyuk’s then eyepopping $6+ multi year deal.

Mule gone to someone else?  Hell, I love the Mule, but Hossa is Money and a difference maker in those tight playoff games.  Hossa is a ticket to a Cup, several Cups.

If they can keep them all then great, but with the Cap possibly even shrinking the Wings will have to sacrifice, unless Franzen et al sign for an impossibly small, insulting amount.

The Bettman Marxism in the NHL will cause us to sever an arm to keep a leg.

Posted by RWBill from the Land of 12 in 12. on 10/26/08 at 04:14 PM ET
_______________________

Note:  Hudler and Sammy left anyway.

Posted by RWBill from cruising Brush Street with Super Creepy Rob Lowe. on 05/17/13 at 11:33 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

Better to have said it out loud.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 05/17/13 at 11:43 PM ET

Primis's avatar

Franzen has a stupidly-low cap hit for what he is/does.  Open market he’d make much, much more than he does on that contract so many Wings fans hate.

I like Hossa.  I liked Hossa.  It’s worth noting that since that 40-goal season, Hossa has basically turned into a 30-goal guy instead.  You start pro-rating his numbers to 82 games and you see a slow decline since joining CHI.  Last season Hossa had his highest G total in CHI—29G in 81 games.  I realize Hossa has a bit more offensive ability than Franzen, but then again Hossa isn’t asked to take abuse in front of the goalie like Franzen is either—different tactics.  To top it all off, Hossa gets hurt similar to Franzen.  57GP and 65GP before last year’s 81GP, and he did get in 40 this year.

I don’t think Hossa leaving was some pivot point everyone thinks it was though.  And I don’t think DET necessarily would have been better off with Hossa over Franzen.  DET’s forward problems lie and have been with guys like Hudler, Bertuzzi, Samuelsson, a spurting-then-disappearing Dan Cleary… and yes, like I’ve said before, from Z going from being a 40-goal guy to a 20-goal guy.  Kenny let Maltby, Draper, and probably Homer all hang around a year or two too long, stalling things for the kids like Tatar and Nyquist and so we’re seeing growing pains with them now rather than earlier.

Bertuzzi in particular irks me as a Holland “reclamation” project that probably should have been abandoned as quickly as it was the first time they tried it.

Hossa, and letting Franzen go, likely would have ended up as a sideways-ish sort of move or path compared to now.  There are just other decisions that have been made that have had equal or more effect, and that’s not even getting into the blueline and that whole fiasco…

Posted by Primis on 05/18/13 at 12:13 AM ET

shanetx's avatar

Bertuzzi in particular irks me as a Holland “reclamation” project that probably should have been abandoned as quickly as it was the first time they tried it.

I mostly agree with you, though I think Bertuzzi was one of the smaller parts of the problem.  Perhaps I should say that without the others being held on too long, Bertuzzi wouldn’t have been a problem.  He’s been really good.  He finished second on the team in goals one year (the year Cleary led, was that three years ago?) and adds a physical presence the other teams respect.  The problem is you can’t have both Bertuzzi and, as you noted, Maltby, Draper, Homer hanging on too long, Z declining and- don’t forget- Franzen’s knee being blown up twice.

I still think Franzen’s knee affects him.  He was a much better skater prior to the injuries in ‘10 and ‘11 than he seems to be now.  I even think some of what we see as effortlessness comes from it being laborious to skate for him at times when it’s acting up.  That obviously couldn’t have been forseen when the contract was signed.  Futhermore; the Wings signed the guy that was important to a cup run and a finals run, had a definite chemistry and place in the locker room and was a home-grown dude with lower miles on the odometer…  while letting the more expensive guy who choked in the playoffs go.  I’m pretty much always going to be fine with that, however easy it is for others to paint it as a bad decision with revisionist-tinted glasses.

Posted by shanetx from Floydada, Texas on 05/18/13 at 01:40 AM ET

Avatar

It really isn’t as simple as Hossa or Mule.  Its Hossa and Kopecky or Mule, Filppula, and Hudler.  Not saying everything turned out as we hoped with those players but at the time, they produced a whole lot more for the salary then combining the two slovakian sensations.

Will anyone claim to have wanted Kopecky back on the team?  We didn’t win the cup with Hossa and he didn’t exactly dominate the postseason for Detroit.

Anyway, hindsight, yada yada.

Posted by maltby18 on 05/18/13 at 01:41 AM ET

George Malik's avatar

I liked Kopy. I liked him a lot. He offered the kind of size on the fourth line that the Wings didn’t replace until Joakim Andersson played far too well far too regularly for Babcock to sit him. But I’m not a time-reversing general manager, and if Kopy doesn’t go, we don’t get that, “Holy crap, Drew Miller can do pretty much everything well on the fourth line without any prodding by the coaching staff or his teammates” moment, and we don’t get the Human Log slowly developing into Tomas Holmstrom’s interim replacement.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 05/18/13 at 02:14 AM ET

Vladimir16's avatar

It really isn’t as simple as Hossa or Mule.  Its Hossa and Kopecky or Mule, Filppula, and Hudler.  Not saying everything turned out as we hoped with those players but at the time, they produced a whole lot more for the salary then combining the two slovakian sensations.

Will anyone claim to have wanted Kopecky back on the team?  We didn’t win the cup with Hossa and he didn’t exactly dominate the postseason for Detroit.

Anyway, hindsight, yada yada.
   
    Posted by
     
    maltby18
     
      on 05/18/13 at 02:41 AM ET

I’d take Hossa and Kopecky over Franzen, Filppula and Hudler any day. It’s neither here nor there though, this is an argument that’ll never go away. Ever. The reasons I pick those two are: Having a true all-star sniper on your team is HUGE….and rare. Hossa and Kopecky bust their asses, every shift. They backcheck, go into tough places and aren’t scared. Filpulla? He hustles a lot but mostly to no avail. Hudler? Yeah, he was a gamer but busting his hooker-lovin ass was not in his DNA. The Mule? Are you kiddin me? He’s a heavier, younger Robert Lang.
Blah, blah, blah…..

Posted by Vladimir16 from Grand River Valley on 05/18/13 at 07:04 AM ET

Kate from Pa.-made in Detroit's avatar

At the risk of sounding like a dick, get over the Hossa thing for chrissakes. It’s been 4 years. I get the venting, four years ago.

If Hossa really wanted to remain in Detroit, he would have made that happen himself.


Lets Go Red Wings!!!!!

 

Posted by Kate from Pa.-made in Detroit on 05/18/13 at 07:11 AM ET

calquake's avatar

If Hossa really wanted to remain in Detroit, he would have made that happen himself.

Ain’t that the truth.

Posted by calquake on 05/18/13 at 09:43 AM ET

Vladimir16's avatar

Posted by Kate from Pa.-made in Detroit on 05/18/13 at 08:11 AM ET

But its so hard when we have to watch Franzen float around every game.  *ducks and runs*

Posted by Vladimir16 from Grand River Valley on 05/18/13 at 12:09 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.