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Red Wings Season Preview: Holmstrom/Franzen

Today, in our season previews, we try to do what NHL defenseman consistently fail at in covering big Swedish forwards Tomas Holmstrom and Johan Franzen.  Consummate playoff performers with sometimes-scary injury histories, these two are a big part of the Red Wings' offensive machine. Tomas Holmstrom is 6 feet tall and 200 pounds of angry Swenglish-speaking nutjob.  The 37-year old enters his 14th season in the NHL, all of which have been in a Detroit uniform since he was drafted after 256 other great players in 1994.  His work ethic and pain tolerance are the stuff legends are made of.  Never before has anybody ever made such a fantastic career out of the simple premise of being really hard to see through.  Meanwhile, the 6'3" 222 pound 30-year old out of Vetlanda Sweden, Johan Franzen has really found his role on the Red Wings' squad these past few years.  Drafted 97th overall in 2004, Franzen earned the nickname "The Mule" from Steve Yzerman for his hard-working attitude.  The playoffs is where this man excels, now holding the Red Wings all-time record for most goals in a series (9 against Colorado in a four-game sweep in 2008).  He's also the rightful owner of Patrick Kane's mouthguard.

Last Year's Benchmark:  Both players are first-line caliber players in their own right.  Franzen is a power forward with a wicked shot and a nose for the net, while Holmstrom is a plugger who chooses to aim a different body part at goaltenders.  Each excels in his respective role for Detroit.  They scored 35 goals and 66 points between them in their 95 total man-games played, meaning on a 164-game pace, the pair would have notched 114 points between them with 60 of those being goals.  It's clear that they're both considered finishers on their lines.  Looking through the disappointment of last year caused by injury problems, those benchmark numbers aren't too bad.


Tomas Holmstrom

#96 / Left Wing / Detroit Red Wings



Jan 23, 1973

 2009-2010 Stats










Holmstrom had a nice bounce-back year for the 2009-10 season.  Many people (myself included) thought he wasn't going to give us more than 50 games, as his oft-crosschecked back wouldn't be able to hold up to a full season.  Holmstrom did spend some time on the sidelines, and missed the Olympics due to an injury, but his 25 goals were an excellent surprise for the league's best net-front presence. 

Strengths: Like I said, Holmstrom is the league's best net-front guy and could be the best of all-time.  His work ethic and dedication are insane.  He spends hours practicing his skill at deflecting pucks in front of the net and it shows when the time comes and he knows where he stands in relation to the crease and the net better than most goaltenders.  Aside from the skillset in that very small portion of the ice, he's a great mucker on the boards.

Weaknesses: Holmstrom's back has borne more lumber than Paul Bunyan, except he hasn't been the one doing the chopping.  He's going to be an injury risk for the rest of his career.  The biggest complaint about Holmstrom is that he still takes a lot of penalties out of frustration.  He's got a reputation as a diver around the league (partially earned), so when he does really get chopped down and it doesn't get called, he'll too often respond with a slash or cross-check in-kind and get the whistle for it.

Expectations:  I think Homer can stay in the 70-game range, hopefully this season getting rest as a choice of Mike Babcock who knows that the best way to get Holmstrom ready for the playoffs is to sit him and piss him off.  Playing with Datsyuk and Zetterberg this year should give him plenty of opportunities to do what he does best and I think he can improve on last year's numbers to the tune of 27 goals and 25 assists.

Johan Franzen

#93 / Center / Detroit Red Wings



Dec 23, 1979

 2009-2010 Stats










Franzen fell in the Red Wings' third game of the season last year to a torn ACL and spent a majority of the season healing.  He returned right before the Olympics, played for Team Sweden as what worked out to be a good conditioning stint, and then finished the season with the Wings, racking up 21 points in 27 games.  Wings fans are still waiting to see what a full season of Franzen can bring, hoping to ward off injuries.  Of course, all of our collective guts jumped out of our collective butts when we heard that we took the worst of a knee-on-knee collision with Brooks Orpik in the Red Wings first preseason game on Wednesday.  Fortunately, to this point, it's being classified as a bruise and we're told he'll only miss three preseason games.

Strengths: Franzen's nickname "The Mule" comes because he's a workhorse.  A big man who knows how to use his size, who's excellent at tracking the puck and gets a ton on his shot.  Franzen is very hard to knock off the puck and very hard to clear out in front.  When he's moving in straight lines, not many people like the thought of being in his way.

Weaknesses: Part of his tracking the puck abilities means dropping his head at some inopportune times.  I've seen him cross the middle with his head down a few times and he's been hurt for it.  Knees continue to be the bane of big men everywhere and Franzen is no exception.  Seems like we're turning into a broken record here, but he has to stay healthy. 

Expectations:  Franzen has all the ability to be a 40-goal scorer and he'll get a good opportunity this year playing with Valtteri Filppula and Todd Bertuzzi.  He should be that line's version of Henrik Zetterberg, who receives the passes and takes the shots.  He'll get a ton of those by netminders this year.  I'm looking for 70 points out of him.

Monday, we wrap up our season player previews with a look at Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg; hopefully after a good weekend for the dynamic pair.