Welcome back to Monday. We're just about done with our preseason player previews (which is good, because preseason games are starting soon). We've run through the defense, we've gotten past the goaltenders, and today we continue to look at the forwards. Picking up on the tail end of Graham's friday post about Filppula and Hudler, we look at two more forwards who have the talent to play big minutes, Johan Franzen and Todd Bertuzzi.
Last Season's Benchmark: Combined, Bertuzzi and Franzen scored 44 of Detroit's 257 goals. They played an average of 16:41 per game, about 2 of those on the power play and somewhere short of three seconds on the PK each contest. During that power play time, the two of them scored just shy of 23% of all Red Wings' power play goals. Individually, Franzen led the team in goals and Bertuzzi led all Wings forwards in penalty minutes. It's hard to say disappointing about either season, but they were part of what was an entire Red Wings season that didn't quite live up to expectations.
#93 / Center / Detroit Red Wings
Dec 23, 1979
|2010 - Johan Franzen||76||28||27||55||5||58||10||0||5||248||11.3|
Franzen entered last season coming off another fine playoff performance and the first season of his 11-year contract which averages his cap hit to $3.95M with the expectation that, now healthy, he could break out and become a 40-goal scorer for the Wings. While it's always hard to say that the guy who led the team in goals was a let-down, expecting 12 more goals than you get fits the category. When there's talk that it's because he simply isn't well-motivated to perform in the regular season, it becomes a problem. Injuries limited his effectiveness in the playoffs, but 3 points in 8 games being as beat-up as he was was pretty good.
Strengths: The Mule is an absolute game-changer when he turns it on. He has the size to bull to the net and the hands to keep the puck while doing it. He creates space and finds it just as easily (as evidenced by the 8.5 self-assists he managed last season in his 28 goals). When he's on his game, he's just about unstoppable as a two-way power forward.
Weaknesses: Aside from the motivation discussion, Franzen is injury-prone. I'm worried that the ACL tear he suffered two seasons ago and what looks like concussion issues makes him shy away from contact. I think he could take a cue from Datsyuk and initiate contact more often in order to protect himself better. For a guy his size, it's weird to look at the season-end CSSI stats and see that he had zero goalie screens. He also takes too many penalties.
Expectations: Franzen is still a 40-goal guy waiting to happen and, despite consistently asking for more defense while backing off offensive expectations this year, I want him taking on that load. His defensive play could also use some improvement. He didn't have a lot of coverage or turnover minuses for his position, but he had a low number of overall pluses and a high number of overall minuses for not looking properly engaged. If that level of engagement goes up, his numbers offensively and defensively will improve.
#44 / Right Wing / Detroit Red Wings
Feb 02, 1975
|2010 - Todd Bertuzzi||81||16||29||45||-7||71||2||0||2||138||11.6|
Big Bert enters his 2nd season on a two-year deal which bumped his cap hit up from $1.5M to just a toothless grin under $2M. He rewarded the team by scoring two fewer goals, but one more point while lowering his PIM and committing 20 fewer giveaways than the year prior. While his offensive numbers didn't improve, he was definitely more comfortable as a Wing this season and he played a better all around game. He could have scored more, but it was nice to see some of those blind backhand spin-o-rama passes actually connect with his teammates for a change.
Strengths: Bertuzzi still has soft hands and a quick release to go along with a body that makes him hard to move off the puck. He's good away from the puck too at making room for his teammates. While he'll never be Holmstrom, he was third on the team for goalie screens leading to goals. Also, if you need a post hit, there's nobody better than him.
Weaknesses: Bert fancies himself a Filppula-like passer when he really isn't. Sometimes he passes the puck around like he's Pistol Pete with vertigo. I've never spent more time watching any other player and saying aloud "where the hell was that one to?" As is common with those who pass too often, Bertuzzi doesn't shoot often enough. He took one more shot on goal than Datsyuk did... in 25 more games. Also, while some of them are an unfair offshoot of his reputation, Bertuzzi earns too many of the penalties he takes. Only Holmstrom earned more penalty minuses on the year than Bertuzzi.
Expectations: Looking back at his last four seasons, Bertuzzi has consistently been between 40 and 45 points and between 14-18 goals. I still think he has more than that in him though and if he wants to keep playing after his contract expires this season, he's going to need to show that his age (and the pending Steve Moore lawsuit) isn't going to make him too big a risk to a team. I want him to hit 20 goals and flirt with 50 points.
On the overall, we're looking at two power forwards who need to play more like power forwards than they did last season. They both have good levels of finesse, but it's time they both start using the finesse part of their game to complement their power game rather than leading with fancy and having to adjust to rough when the puck is no longer on their sticks.
Stay tuned for Wednesday as we wrap up the player previews. Jeff gets the honor of previewing the Wings' two best forwards, Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk.