We continue our preview of the Detroit Red Wings by taking a look at two of the Wings more interesting wingers, Johan Franzen and Justin Abdelkader.
#93 / Left Wing / Detroit Red Wings
Dec 23, 1979
Johan Franzen. The Mule. What should I say? This guy can at times be one of the best players in the entire NHL and at other times look like he'd struggle to stick with an ECHL team.
But through thick-and-thin he still manages to be one of the best players on this team. Here's why:
Franzen's biggest strength is ...his strength. Franzen is a big guy that can score goals. He is our only "pure" 30-goal scorer (although he's only hit that mark once) and is known for being incredible in the playoffs. For every time that he is inconsistent and lazy, he makes up for that with his great offensive ability.
They say that Franzen always plays better when he's angry. So here's the plan. Send as much hate mail to him as you can, tie his skates together, poke holes in his tires, spill ketchup on his brand new suit, and do whatever you can to make the Mule as furious as he can possibly be. Then maybe that 50-goal season isn't such a long-shot after all.
Notice how many times I mentioned his nickname "the Mule" in the strengths section. That nickname didn't just pop up out of nowhere. Some people interpret "mule" as being a strong, powerful creature that can run over people. Others interpret another way, as someone who is lazy. Which one of these is Franzen? If you guessed all of the above, you won.
Franzen is the type of guy that can score 5 goals in a single game and then go 27 games without a single point. He's as streaky of a player as there is.
But let me make one thing clear: he's our Mule, and we love him for that.
Based off of what we have seen from him at times I could easily be predicting 40+ goals and and 80 point season. But... based off of what we have seen from him at other times we could be looking at a 5-10 goal, 30 point season from Franzen. His inconsistency makes it hard to judge exactly how good he is.
However, as he always manages to do, Franzen will end up in the 25-35 goal range while scoring around 55 points. If he can do this then we should all be happy.
#8 / Forward / Detroit Red Wings
Feb 25, 1987
What a difference a season makes. Just a year ago, Justin Abdelkader was viewed as waste, a player that had no spot on this team and never would. Fast forward a couple of months and you will notice that Abby is playing alongside of Pavel Datsyuk.
What will Abby be capable of during a full 82-game season? No one knows. But what we do know is that he will get the opportunity to excel. Especially if he keeps up his current pace.
Much like Tomas Holmström, Justin Abdelkader is willing to throw around his body to ensure that his team has the best chance to win. Whether that involves blocking shots, redirecting shots, fighting, checking, you name it, Abby is willing to do it.
This is exactly the type of player that Babcock wants playing on the 1st line alongside of the Euro-twins. I mean, look at Homer, he made a living off of doing just that! Abby also has decent speed and can be used as a bottom-6 center at a time of need. But let's hope that we don't have to experience that scenario.
Abby is by no means a naturally skilled player. Up until the past season he was viewed as nothing more than a 3rd line winger or 4th line center, and people had their doubts if he could even hold up those roles.
He has never scored more than 27 goals in his life, and those 27 came while playing with the Ceder Rapids Rough Riders in the USHL. As a Wing, Abby has never scored more than 10 goals and never had more than 22 points. Obviously, those totals reflect his time as a bottom-6 player and should naturally rise as he continues to excel on the 1st line. However, it is important to note that Abby does have many deficiencies. Keep that in mind when you try to predict what he will be capable of this year.
What should we expect from Abby? That's tough to say. Since he's only recently been thrown into his current role it is hard to judge what we should be looking for.
Besides being a prominent net-front presence, there is no doubt that Abby will need to produce some points. Anything outside of the 15-20 goal range will be a disappointment. Assuming that he plays 70+ games, that number is very attainable for him. He will also need to chop in some assists and I wouldn't be totally surprised to see Abby total over 40 points during this season.
Too optimistic? Probably.
Let me know if you agree or not!
Next we will delve into some of the Wings bottom-6 forwards.
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