Is it Time for Detroit’s Johan Franzen to Retire?

USATSI_8322431_154158418_lowresThe story of one Johan Franzen continues to play out in the Detroit area media and beyond and it seems like only a matter of time before it reaches its proverbial conclusion.

Franzen, once charted for greatness in the National Hockey League, has suffered anywhere from four to 10 concussions throughout his hockey-playing career.

Back in January of 2015, he suffered what may now be considered the concussion that ended it all. Months later, the 35-year-old is still trying to get back into playing shape after what looked like a harmless hit by Edmonton Oilers forward Rob Klinkhammer.

The Detroit Red Wings seem optimistic about the return of the Mule, with general manager Ken Holland saying that he expects him to return to the lineup in 2015-2016. The trouble is that Franzen has been going through a series of setbacks, including bouts of nausea and ongoing headaches. Those are bad signs, to say the least.

Franzen missed 22 games in 2014 due to concussion, plus he suffered concussions in 2008 and 2006. Those are just the NHL numbers we’re aware of.

The trouble for the Wings is that Franzen signed an 11 year deal in 2009-2010 to the tune of $43.5 million. He’s signed through the 2019-2020 season with an annual cap hit of $3.95 million.

For Franzen, it’s been tough. He felt so poorly at one point that he couldn’t play with his young sons, which speaks to how concussions seriously impact the quality of life. We may be tempted to see players as high-priced pieces of our hockey pools or objects of idiotic ridicule (see the comments on virtually any article I’ve written about Sidney Crosby’s injuries), but there are human beings behind the numbers.

No amount of “payment” can replace one’s quality of life.

It’s one thing to complain about a player being streaky or not producing points where he should. It’s another thing altogether to criticize a player for injuries, as though he should play through the pain. In the case of Franzen, there are some serious decisions to make.

As badly as he might want to play again, he has to determine if that’s truly wise. Right now, Franzen is locked in symptoms typical of post-concussion syndrome. The Red Wings can answer this issue by putting him on the long-term injured reserve list, which comes with some salary cap relief. After that, it may be time to think about retirement.

Should that occur, the Red Wings can put Franzen on the LTIR for the rest of his contract.

The situation would be not unlike Chris Pronger’s and that could be a good thing for Detroit. His contract would still count against the 50-contract team limit, of course, and his cap hit would go back online in the off-season. But if they can weather that matter and do without adding any bigger contracts for a while, that may be a workable solution for both the team and the player.


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