The Detroit Red Wings face the first game of a four-game road trip when they visit the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday night, and one player who won’t be in the lineup is forward Johan Franzen. Off to one of the worst starts of his career, Franzen is reportedly out with an “undisclosed injury” but there has been plenty of speculation in Hockeytown that he is being benched due to poor play. Whatever the reason for him missing Wednesday’s game, a case can be made for the Wings to give the forward some time off until his play improves. Sure, Franzen is fourth on the team in scoring with two goals and five points but those totals are deceiving. Both of his goals came in one game, and he has only recorded a point in three of 12 games. Most players in the league would love the chance to play with Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk or Daniel Alfredsson, but even that hasn’t been enough to jump-start Franzen’s game this season.
The problems for Franzen aren’t limited to scoring either. While seeing time on the top two lines, he has somehow failed to register a single shot on goal in four games this season. In a 3-2 overtime loss to the New York Rangers last Saturday, he led the team with seven shots but was unable to put one past Cam Talbot, a goaltender making only the second start of his career. He’s even had a chance to fill in as a center while the team waits for Darren Helm to return to the lineup. Slow starts aren’t exactly a new trend for Franzen, as he performed in a similar fashion last season by scoring only three goals in Detroit’s first 14 games. The problem with Franzen is that when he’s good, he’s very good. For all of the times where he puts up paltry numbers for 10-15 games, there are stretches where he gets hot at a point-per-game pace or better. How long the Red Wings will be patient with the aging Swede is anyone’s guess, but with seven years left on a contract that is looking more and more like a mistake Franzen isn’t making a very good case to stay in the lineup.