Ah, the angry playoff Mule
Seems like everyone's on Johan Franzen's case these days. Even Mike Babcock demoted him to the third line a few nights ago in an attempt to light a fire under the power forward's derriere. The Mule always shows up in the playoffs, but it's his regular season consistency and effort that were a talking point headed into this year. While he leads the team in goals and had a great beginning of the season, it looks like Frazen has regressed lately. What can his stats tell us about his performance so far this year?
There are some things that just can't be covered in this post. Does Franzen go to the net as much as he should? Has he been giving his all on every single shift? Both are good questions, but both require an in-depth film analysis. The purpose of this post is to look at The Mule's quantitative performance and judge it against the other Detroit forwards in hopes of answering the question posed in the post title.
The first batch of statistics discussed are 5-on-5 stats, expressed per 60 minutes of even strength time played.
Relative Corsi Quality of Competition is a good place to start when comparing the talent level Franzen regularly plays against. His Relative Corsi QoC is 1.197, fifth among the Wings' regular forwards. The top two are Filppula and Zetterberg at 1.45, then there's Bertuzzi and Datsyuk at 1.28. Basically, this confirms that Franzen is a top six forward in Babcock's eyes because that's the quality of player that he is regularly deployed against.
As a confirmation, we can look ice time. Franzen is one of four players averaging over 14 minutes of even strength time. Zetterberg is the highest at 14.80, and Franzen is the lowest at 14.02 The middle consists of Datsyuk and Filppula at 14.49 and 14.14 minutes, respectively.
So Franzen is getting lots of ice time, and it's against quality competition. What's he doing with all those minutes? Looks like he's directing shots towards the net. On-ice Corsi counts goals, saves, blocked shots, and missed shots to give a number that tells us if a player is generating activity in the offensive zone. Franzen is third on the team in On-ice Corsi at 13.58. This is behind only Pavel Datsyuk (which like...duh) and Dan Cleary (which like...whoa).
This segues nicely into the next point of analysis, Relative Corsi. This takes the Corsi number of the player and subtracts the Corsi number of the team when the player isn't on the ice. If the player has a good Corsi number and the team can't generate shots when he isn't on the ice, then the player's Relative Corsi rating is going to look good. It's even better when a player generates shot attempts when he's on the ice and his team gives up more shot attempts than they take when he's on the bench as this leads to subtraction of a negative number, but that doesn't happen with Detroit. Puck possession style of play and whatnot. Franzen's stats look good here, as he's second the team with a Relative Corsi of 6.1. This is second to only the incomparable wizardry of Pavel, who clocks in at 13.4. For every 60 even strength minutes Detroit plays they'll be gaining 6.1 shot attempts compared with every 60 minutes Franzen is off the ice.
Franzen's penalty stats are worth mentioning only in passing as it's almost a wash. He's taking 0.9 penalties while drawing 0.7 for every 60 minutes of even strength time he plays.
As far as zone starts go, Franzen start his shifts in the offensive zone 55.9% of the time and ends there 54.5% of the time. He's in the middle of the pack in offensive zone starts, but he leads the team in offensive zone finish percentage. When Franzen gets on the ice he follows the rule your mom always told you before you went to a friend's house; he leaves things the way he found them. In a more hockey-oriented sense, he isn't as apt as teammates to start in his own zone and end having left the other team a chance to generate shots.
Another stat that Franzen is in the middle of the pack for is goals. He's averaging 0.81, and the team leader is Hudler at 1.21. First assists show a little more productivity from The Mule, as he's third (0.95) behind Zetterberg (1.22) and Datsyuk (1.00). The guy knows how to set people up at even strength. Franzen averages 0.54 second assists, fifth on the team. The Mule finds himself fourth in points, averaging 2.31. Datsyuk leads the way with 2.57, followed by Filppula at 2.53 and Zetterberg at 2.45.
Much like the above scoring statistics, goal differential again supports Franzen's case a key offensive piece in the Wings' lineup. Franzen's on-ice goal differential is +1.63, while his off-ice (or team) goal differential is +0.79. Detroit generates 0.84 more goals per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 play with The Mule on the ice than they do when he's sitting.
Next, we'll look at special teams numbers. First, we'll break down Franzen's penalty kill stats. Franzen doesn't play on the penalty kill. That was simple enough
The Mule does, however, get ample power play time. He's fourth on the team at 2.89 minutes per 60 minutes played. Hank and Homer lead the team with 3.07 and 3.05 respecitvely, followed by Datsyuk at 2.99.
On-ice Corsi doesn't say much about the power play because you better be generating more shot attempts than the opponent when they're down a man, but it's still fun to look at. Franzen is third among the regulars at 92.54. Dang.
Useful information doesn't really come from the humangous big (I do know how to spell, that was a Bryzgalov reference) number above. It can be gleaned from Relative Corsi, where Franzen is third on the team at 5.3. This is behind Datsyuk's 20.0 and Holmstrom's 17.9. Franzen is good for more than five additional shot attempts when deployed relative to the rest of the Wings.
A potential doghouse-inducer is penalties taken while on the powerplay. Having any numerical value here is bad, but Franzen is fourth among guys who average over 2 minutes on the PP. Homer is a painful 1.8, Bertuzzi is at 1.2, Zetterberg is surprisingly at 0.9, and Franzen is at 0.7. Timing of the penalties would be interesting to look at, but I haven't found any data for that.
Perhaps Franzen's most impressive stat is powerplay goals per 60 minutes. He's the team leader at 3.29, far above Holmstrom's 2.50. In this case the old adage appears true; feed the mule. If he's well-fed, the guy puts the puck in the net at an alarmingly high rate. Feeding other isn't really his things, as he's averaging 0.33 first assists and 0.33 second assists for a point total of 3.95 per 60. That's third on the team, behind Pavel's 6.58 and Filppula's 4.12. Powerplay goal differential sees Franzen at +6.59 when he's on the ice versus +3.64 when he's not.
From the numbers, it looks like Franzen has a scoring touch at both even strength and on the powerplay. He truly shines with the man advantage, while his lack of penalty kill time means he may not be the most responsible of defenders. That's not to say he's terrible, as his goal differential at even strength is impressive. Franzen has scored against good competition, and really looks like a true top six forward. In most of the measurables, he was in the top four.
All of the numbers make it look like Steve Yzerman was right back in 2005; the guy's working as hard as mule and he's reaping the benefits, at least in terms of offensive production. What else could be going on? Why would Babcock demote him? For starters, streakiness has been an issue. The Mule went from February 19th-28th without recording a point, and while I don't like the stat it's worth noting that he was a -6 during that time. Things have since turned around, as he's recorded a goal and two assists in his past two games, despite not having Datsyuk to center his line.
At the end of the day, all that matters is that the playoff Mule shows up. You know, this one...
All statistics from nhl.com and behindthenet.ca