At this point of their respective careers, Johan Franzen and Tomas Holmstrom are seemingly heading in opposite directions. Holmstrom was at one time the most feared net presence in the league. But over the past few years, his production has declined significantly while Franzen's has increased significantly. There's a new dominant power forward in Hockeytown and the number is "93", not "96".
I'll give Holmstrom the benefit of the doubt because he has had his injury problems recently and has not played in the same number of games that he used to. That being said, his production is down and all of those years he spent aggravating goalie and defenders might be catching up to him in the injury report. But is there much concern with Holmstrom's numbers when you consider the ones Johan has put up?
Let's compare their numbers over the past four seasons, or in other words, since Franzen came into the league. Oddly enough, it was the only season in which either player notched 80+ regular season games. In the 2005-2006 campaign, Holmstrom turned in a 81 Game, 29 goal, 30 assist, + 14 season with 3 points in that all-too-short playoff run. Franzen's rookie year saw him in 80 games with 12 goals, 4 assists, and a +4 rating with 3 points also in the playoffs. Good season for Holmstrom, the expected season from a rookie. It's the next three that are real eye openers.
Franzen's first year saw him earn 1/5 of a point a game. That number ballooned from .2 to .43 the next year and then to .53 to a whopping .83 points per game in the '08-'09 season. Holmstrom's numbers on the other hand, have gone from .72 points per game to .675 to .677 to .69--nothing to scoff at for sure but a slight decline. Clearly, over the last four seasons, Holmstrom has had the upper hand statistically over "The Mule" and has earned every bit of respect that follows him to arenas around the league. But for a mere four seasons in the NHL, Franzen has showed remarkable improvement and tremendous potential.
Perhaps the most telling signs of the emergence of a new power forward are the late season/post-season numbers put up by Franzen and the vast amounts of improvement he has shown. It's hard to overlook what Holmstrom has done but it would be even harder to overlook Franzen's efforts. If that .2 points per game to .83 regular season point swing over 4 years is impressive, how about a .5 to 1.0 point per game swing in the playoffs no less? Franzen has certainly proved his worth in the playoffs (41 points in the last 39 playoff games) and regular season, a big reason for garnering such a large and lengthy contract. With a clutch performer the caliber of Franzen, there's not much to do but lock him up long term.
He's learning the art of the screen/deflection and learning to use his strength and size along the boards to loosen up pucks but the thing you least want to see as a goalie? The 6'3" forward barreling down on you. Franzen has made it no secret that he has learned to crah the net and crash hard--ask Jonas Hiller. He's also shown that he has a deadly shot and is edging his way towards a hybrid of sniper and power-forward. It's strange to watch Franzen's development because in essence it's like watching a younger, faster Holmstrom with better hands. One things for sure, they both know how to get under the opposition's skin.
Far be it from me asserting that Holmstrom has hit the end of the road, rather an assertion that he has been out performed by his country mate and will likely see a reduced role in the future because of Franzen's performance. Holmstrom has fallen off slightly in recent seasons from injury and lack of production but could be ushering the way for the new big threat in Hockeytown. In the end, if you're a Wings fan, you're happy that both of them are wearing red and white.