The thing is, those guys aren't better than Franzen. They work harder than Franzen. And honestly that, more than whatever his production is trending, is what irks me about his play and why I think he's bad for the team.
Can you imagine if Tatar had Mule's size? Because I don't think Tatar necessarily has a better shot or more skill than Franzen. Just greater will to get the puck and go the net.
I never really buy into the "for his cap hit" excuse for his effort (not that you were making it). For one, the Wings are starting to be on the losing end of that contract now. And second, I just think it's bad for team morale and culture when you have a guy with so much talent who's half-assing it out there. And he absolutely is half-assing it out there some nights.
Franzen has always been streaky, but you'd still notice him during games. Taking shots, creating scoring chances, being a jerk to play against. This season there's been so many games where he was completely invisible out there.
Anyway, I didn't mean this into another bash Franzen fest. It just struck me after the game last night how it hadn't even occurred to me that he was out of the lineup. He is not missed, and he should be.
I'm not arguing any of that. Those young guys are better than Franzen because of a number of things. They are, perhaps, no more skilled than him. But that's not all that goes into a hockey player. They're skilled AND work hard, so they're better players. And he's unnecessary.
Again, I'm not defending the guy. Or even saying we should keep him. I'm saying his production hasn't noticeably dropped this year. There's a slight drop for sure, but I see no reason to attribute that to an overall decline rather than the yearly slumps he goes through like clockwork. Knowing what we know now, I'd even have been in favor of buying him out a year ago. But again, that's because of his terribly long contract and the new punishments that go with keeping those around. Not because he's changed much (or at all) as a player.
Finally, I agree with you about his work ethic being bad for the team. For a few years now I've believed this team lacked an identity. If seems like we're finally seeing a little bit of one emerging. Fast, tenacious, and often explosive offensively. He certainly doesn't fit in with that. But that's not a knock on his production, that's just a change on our organizational direction. Send him to a team like Boston or San Jose and he's flourish.