When Johan Franzen missed Game 4 in the Red Wings first round series with Phoenix, many assumed it was due to his horrific looking facial injuries suffered when he went face-first into the boards in Game 2. After all, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to think he may have suffered a concussion or was still dealing with other issues taking such a spill into the boards.
Turns out Franzen’s ankle is what’s been bothering him after hurting it in Game 3 against Phoenix. It was bothering him so much that it took him out of action for Game 4 of that series and after getting by on it poorly so far in this series and taking another hit to it from Joe Thornton in last night’s Game 5, Red Wings coach Mike Babcock is looking at other options.
The leading choice he can make right now is in the form of 40 year-old American hockey legend Mike Modano. Modano took Franzen’s spot in Game 4 against Phoenix and while Modano has been a bit sullen throughout the playoffs about not getting to play more often, or at all, coach Mike Babcock says the job is his if Franzen cannot go.
When asked after the Wings arrived back in Detroit Monday afternoon about Franzen’s status for Game 6 Babcock said, “I don’t know. I’m not going to worry about that much. We’ll see what happens. If he’s not ready to go, we’ll put Modano in.”
Babcock says he’s not worried about Franzen but he should be. Franzen has been a huge performer in the past in the playoffs scoring goals by the bucketload. Now, Franzen with his gimpy ankle have been laboring around the ice and ineffective. Making a potential switch now would make sense to have a fully healthy array of starters. That said, if Babcock offers to go with Franzen who may be at 70% of what he can do, that speaks volumes about what he makes of Modano’s (or anyone else who could fill into the lineup) ability.
In the playoffs you need your best players to be at their best, but if they’re hurting so badly that their presence is detrimental to the team, that pride in wanting to play might need to be put aside for a while to get healthier to a point. I doubt Franzen would ever take himself out of the lineup and that’s where Babcock has to be absolutely sure he’s making the right move for both the player and team.