Mojo To Sochi?Posted on January 30, 2014 by Keith Leonard
Less than a week before the start of the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Team Sweden received some bad news about their prospects of winning gold in the Men's Hockey tournament. According to TSN, Johan Franzen of the Detroit Red Wings, affectionately called "The Mule", will not participate in the tournament due to ongoing post-concussion symptoms that have limited him to one game since mid-December. Franzen, who played for Sweden in the 2010 Winter Olympics, was one of six members of the Red Wings to get the call to play for the "Tre Kronor", and his two-way play and net presence on the power play will be sorely missed by a Sweden team that is considered a strong contender to win gold for the second time in the last three Olympic cycles.
While it will be difficult to replace void left by Franzen's departure, Sweden would be wise to take a long look at the Washington Capitals over the next few days for Franzen's replacement. Specifically, Marcus Johansson.
Drafted by the Capitals with the 24th pick in the 2009 NHL Draft, Johansson is not cut from the same cloth as Franzen. The 6-foot-1, 205 pound forward doesn't have the same frame as Franzen, nor is he known for the same style of physical play of the rugged Franzen. However, Johansson has the size to withstand physical punishment and the kind of speed that is highly advantageous in tournaments like the upcoming Sochi games that utilize the larger, international standard ice-surface. A comparison of Johansson and Franzen utilizing the tools at Extraskater.com reveals that Johansson's usage and performance do not differ drastically from that of Franzen's this season. Given the fact that Franzen produces more points with less power-play time (2:05 per game vs. Johansson's 3:07 per game this season), Franzen gets a slight edge as far as point production.
However, point production isn't everything. Johansson's skills are more than suitable for point production in the Olympics. Especially when one considers an important element often overlooked in their importance when it comes to analyzing Olympic rosters: chemistry. In short tournaments such as these, there is little time for players to establish chemistry. It is not a coincidence that Team Sweden decided to take six players from the Detroit Red Wings. In addition to all being very good players, their familiarity with one another, though difficult to quantify, accelerates or even eliminates the feeling out process that is inevitable when players perform in international tournaments. Johansson's comfort and chemistry with one of Team Sweden's most important players, Nicklas Backstrom, elevates him as a candidate. Given how well both Johansson and Backstrom play together at both ends of the ice, Sweden would be well served by having such a capable two-way duo now that Franzen will be absent. Johansson is also a veteran of several international tournaments, and is familiar with the demands of his country's coaches and the philosophy of Swedish hockey in these kinds of environments.
With Franzen out, and key players like Zetterberg and the Sedin Twins either injured or underperforming, Sweden would be wise to bring in a player who can play on any line and fill a variety of roles, from playmaking to penalty-killing if they still wish to be be considered strong contenders for the Gold Medal. The Washington Capitals have two Swedes who fit that billing. To their great credit, Sweden has already picked one; it is time for them to give the other a call.