Franzén, A.K.A “The Mule” started playing ice hockey in Boro/Vetlanda HC, Landsbro near Vetlanda in Sweden. He was suspended for a full year after knocking down a referee, but was then moved to play with the Tranås AIF in the Swedish Allsvenskan in 1999. After one season with the club, he moved to Linköping where he stayed for five seasons, helping the club win the promotion for play in the Swedish elite league Elitserien in 2001. Recommended by European scout Håkan Andersson, Franzén was drafted by the Red Wings in 2004. For the 2005–06 NHL season, Franzén played in the NHL with the Detroit Red Wings, totaling 80 games for 16 points (12 goals, four assists) in his rookie season. His workmanlike service was lauded by former teammate and captain Steve Yzerman, who gave Johan the nickname “The Mule,” because “he carries the load”.
In August 2006, Franzén re-signed with the Detroit Red Wings to a three-year contract worth $2.825 million. On 21 April 2007, during a playoff game versus the Calgary Flames, backup goaltender Jamie McLennan slashed Franzén in the stomach, resulting in a game misconduct for McLennan. In the following game (Game 6), Franzén scored the double-overtime winning goal to advance the Red Wings past the Flames.
On 30 March 2008, Franzén scored his sixth game winning goal for the month of March, against the Nashville Predators. This goal broke the Red Wings team record for most game winning goals in one month (5) set by Gordie Howe in February 1952, and duplicated in January 1956. (Howe’s feat was matched by Franzén’s teammate Henrik Zetterberg in January 2007.) Coincidentally, Franzén broke Howe’s record while Howe was attending the game and celebrating his 80th birthday.
Franzén scored his first career hat trick against the Colorado Avalanche in Game 2 of the Western Conference Semifinals of the 2008 Stanley Cup Playoffs. That was the Wings’ first playoff hat trick since Darren McCarty did it six years prior (18 May 2002) — also against the Avalanche — in 2002. During Game 4, on 1 May 2008, Franzén had another hat trick, scoring his ninth goal of the series, breaking the Detroit Red Wings franchise record for most goals in a playoff series: Gordie Howe had scored eight goals in a seven-game series in 1949.
Franzén currently holds the franchise record (tied with Henrik Zetterberg) for most goals in a playoff year with 13, a record previously held at 10 by Petr Klima, Sergei Fedorov and Brett Hull. Zetterberg tied his mark of 13 goals after scoring the Cup winning goal in Game 6 of the 2008 Stanley Cup Finals.
On May 24, 2009, in a game 4 of the Western Conference Finals against the Chicago Blackhawks, Franzén was involved in a minor scrum behind the net after the whistle. Franzén was exchanging words with Patrick Kane when Kane began chewing on his mouth guard. Franzén reached down and ripped the mouth guard out of Kane’s mouth and threw it down to the ice.
On 11 April, 2009, Franzén signed a contract extension with the Detroit Red Wings for 11 years. The contract runs through the 2019-2020 season, and is worth $43.5 million. The contract has an annual cap hit of $3,954,545, although it is front loaded. The contract by year pays as follows: 2009-10, $5.5 million, 2010-11, $5 million, 2011-13, $5.25 million, 2013-16, $5 million, 2016-17, $3.5 million, 2017-18, $2 million, and finally in 2018-20, $1 million. The length shows the commitment and confidence the Red Wings have in Franzen.
On 8 October, 2009, Franzén suffered a torn ACL, causing him to miss 55 games before he was able to return to Detroit’s lineup against the St. Louis Blues and record an assist. Following Detroit’s next game he recorded his first goal since coming back.
On May 6, 2010, Franzen scored three goals in a span of 3:26 (two seconds shy of the NHL record for fastest playoff hat trick) in the first period of a round two playoff game against the San Jose Sharks. He had been initially credited with another goal, scored moments before the first of his three that he did score, which would have given him the record for fastest hat trick when he scored what was actually his second of the game. He did, later on in the game, score a fourth goal, however.
On February 2, 2011, Franzén became only the second player in fourteen years, joining Marián Gáborík, to score five goals in one game. He tallied two even strength goals, two power play goals, and added an empty net goal in a 7-5 victory over the Ottawa Senators. He joins Sergei Fedorov and Syd Howe as the only Red Wings to do so.
- Gold medal at the 2006 World Championships.
- In 2006, Franzén was named “Detroit Red Wings Rookie of the Year” by the Detroit Sports Broadcasters’ Association for his play during the 2005–06 season.
- Stanley Cup with Detroit Red Wings in 2008.
- Elitserien record for plus/minus, 2004 (+24).
- NHL record for most goals in a 4-game playoff series (9).
- Detroit Red Wings record for most game winning goals in one month, March 2008 (6).
- Detroit Red Wings record for most goals in a single playoff series (9).
- Detroit Red Wings record for consecutive playoff games with a point (12, tied with Gordie Howe)
- Detroit Red Wings record for consecutive playoff games with a goal (5, tied with Gordie Howe and Ted Lindsay).
- Detroit Red Wings record for most goals in a single playoff year (13, tied with Henrik Zetterberg).
- Detroit Red Wings record for most game winning goals in one playoff year (5, 2008)
- Detroit Red Wings record for most points in a playoff game (6), May 6, 2010, vs. San Jose Sharks