The Malik Report
by George Malik on 05/17/13 at 10:19 PM ET
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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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.