If you look up the dictionary definition of a mule, you get something along the lines of a muscular work animal, who may or may not have few bumps and bruises along the way. Johan Franzen of the Detroit Red Wings has developed that nickname over the years, and amazingly enough it becomes more and more true each season. The 6’3″ Swede isn’t exactly shy about throwing his weight around, and often plays with black eyes and facial lacerations.
Frazen joins Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall, among others, as Red Wings who call Sweden their native land. Franzen is the type of player who doesn’t exactly back away from a chance to get a little dirty. In fact, he was once suspended an entire season while playing in Sweden for knocking over a referee. Knocking over may be a bit strong, although that is entirely dependent on your point of view. Regardless of how you look at that situation, you cannot deny the passion (and the occasionally ill-fated consequences of) that Franzen shows each time he steps on the ice. Franzen played four full seasons in Sweden before making himself eligible for the NHL Entry Draft, and subsequently being selected by the Red Wings in the 4th round.
Frazen has been steady, if nothing else for Detroit since being drafted. Only once in his 7-year tenure has the Mule played less than 69 games. Outside of 2009-2010, where he missed 3/4 of the season due to injury, Franzen has put up at least 55 points in each of the last four seasons. Franzen was also a huge part of the 08 championship team, amassing 23 points in 23 games over the course of that magical run.
As steady as Johan Franzen has been, the Red Wings’ may need a little more of the spectacular this season. Detroit has struggled in the postseason since losing the Stanley Cup Finals to the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009, and they could really use more scoring from Franzen heading into this season. Mule scored only once in the five-game series against the Nashville Predators last season, something that he will need to improve on should the Wings have Cup aspirations this spring.