We've completed The Incompletes
We've ground out The Grinders
We've defended The Young Defensemen
We've Initiated The Rookie Forwards
We've valued The Veteran Defensemen
We didn't quite save the best for last, but it's finally time to look at the most important position in Hockey, and possibly all of sports; the keepers of the crease, the last line of defense, the position that, especially in Detroit, receives the most criticism... The Goaltenders.
#35 / Goalie / Detroit Red Wings
Mar 26, 1984
|Regular Season ||GP||MIN||W||L||OTL ||GA||GAA||SA||SV||SV%||SO|
|2012 - Jimmy Howard||42||2446||21||13||7||87||2.13||1129||1042||.923||5|
Playoffs GP MIN W L OTL
GA GAA SA SV SV% SO
2012 - Jimmy Howard
|2012 - Jimmy Howard||14||859||7||7||2||35||2.44||461||426||.924||1|
Going into the season there was no question that Jimmy Howard would continue to be THE goalie for the Wings. We expected him to play a majority of the games while hopefully getting a little relief from his back up. With the loss of Lidstrom and Stuart on defense, it was expected that Jimmy's numbers would suffer somewhat, while he would be called upon to face his most challenging season yet. We were going to need Jimmy to be better than he had ever been.
James Tiberious Howard happened. Jimmy played 42 out of 48 games in the regular season, and all 14 playoff games. He struggled to play consistently when the season finally started and looked a little rusty after going 9 1/2 months without playing hockey. It didn't help him find his groove when the whole team, for the most part, looked like a steaming pile of poo for the first twenty or so games. Despite the fact that the team in front of him had considerably less talent and experience than previous seasons, Jimmy put his big boy pants on to rise above the challenges. Jimmy still managed to put up a .923 save percentage (slightly better than last year's .920) and 2.13 goals against average (2.12 last year) in the regular season. He kept us in games we sometimes had no business still playing, and was the regular season MVP of the team... and it wasn't even a contest. Yeah, but what did that bum do in the post season you ask? Oh, nothing much, just posting a career best save percentage (.924), goals against average (2.44), record high saves (426) and facing a record high shots against (461). It's a little difficult to compare the stats directly, because of the shortened, compacted season, however Jimmy was our savior for most of the season and we wouldn't have had a sniff of the playoffs were it not for him; and without him we wouldn't have made it out of the first round of the playoffs. He was so outstanding that he even received some national media recognition and love.
Howard signed his shiny new 6 year 31.8 Million dollar contract that will keep him with the Wings long term. He'll continue to be our uncontested number one goalie until Petr Mrazek is ready to challenge him for the starting position in a few years. He's become a leader in the dressing room and a core part of the team. I don't expect any of that to change any time soon.
Season Grade: A-
#50 / Goalie / Detroit Red Wings
Oct 24, 1984
|2012 - Jonas Gustavsson||7||349||2||2||1||17||2.92||140||123||.879||0|
Play 10-15 games to take some of the work load off Jimmy. He didn't need to be great or blow our socks off, just be a serviceable back up, play a few games, and give the team a chance to win them.
Shit happened. Gus injured his groin coming out of training camp, re-injured it during the season, only started in 4 games and played in a grand total of 7 games all season. It wasn't a good year for the Monster. Confidence was so low in Gustavsson by mid season (despite his limited action) that after riding Jimmy harder than a Zdeno Chara slapshot, we finally had no choice but to give him a game off to rest a little bit. However it wasn't Gustavsson that filled in for Jimmy; instead it was rookie goalie Petr Mrazek, who only had a handful of pro games (ECHL and AHL) under his belt. That's a pretty big indication that the team doesn't trust the backup goaltender. Keep in mind however, that Gustavsson had a lot to overcome this season and the injuries that kept him on the bench for a big portion of the beginning of the season, only made things more difficult. When we signed Gustavsson, we signed a goalie who has a lot of skill and talent, but needed some rehabilitation after his career in Toronto. The most difficult challenge for a goalie is not playing. Between the lockout and his injuries, Gustavsson got the short end of the stick, struggled to play well enough, and simply wasn't able to overcome the challenges.
Gustavsson has one more year left on his contract and I expect the Wings to keep him, work with him properly over the summer, and see him backing up Howard next season. It doesn't make sense to buy him out, since he only has one year left, makes 1.5M per year, and is only a stopgap until Mrazek is ready for full NHL duty in a couple years. Gustavsson is a better goalie than we saw in his limited time this season. I hope and expect much better from him next year.
Season Grade: D
Goalie / Detroit Red Wings
Feb 14, 1992
|2012 - Petr Mrazek||2||119||1
|Griffins-Reg Season ||GP||MIN||W||L||SOL ||GA||GAA ||SA||SV||SV%||SO|
|2012 - Petr Mrazek||42
|Griffins-Playoffs ||GP||MIN||W||L||SOL||GA||GAA ||SA||SV||SV%||SO|
|2012 - Petr Mrazek||24
Expectations for the Wings? Zip, zilch, zero. Absolutely none at all. Expectations in general? He was starting his first pro year on the Walleye roster in Toledo (ECHL), but with how good he already was, it wasn't a stretch to expect him to possibly see some action in Grand Rapids. Maybe he'd sniff the NHL in a few years.
Everything happened. Mrazek started out in Toledo, where he played 3 games before being called up to Grand rapids and quickly stealing the starting position away from McCollum. Mrazek played only 25 games in Grand Rapids before he made his NHL debut with the Wings in a 5-1 win over the St. Louis Blues. He played 2 games with the Wings, and while he looked like an NHL rookie, he looked damn impressive given his lack of experience up to that point. Back in Grand Rapids, he stole the show and was one of the biggest reasons the Griffins made it to the playoffs for the first time since the '08-'09 season, and just won their first Calder Cup in franchise history. Tatar won the Jack A. Butterfield trophy for playoff MVP, but it could have easily been awarded to Mrazek, he was that important to the team's success. Petr had an incredible season and progressed faster than even I had anticipated (and that's saying a lot).
Mrazek is still very young and has a bit to improve on before he's ready to be an NHL goalie. He'll continue his progress in Grand Rapids next year where he'll be the starting goaltender and will play a bulk of the games. He won't be trade bait and he won't be a part of any deal the Wings may make over the summer. Mrazek is the goalie of the future for the Wings. I wouldn't be surprised to see him maybe get a few starts with the Wings next season, to give him another taste of what to expect, and to help him better prepare for the NHL. Depending on how quickly he progresses, he may be ready to be with the Wings full time in 2-3 years. We'll just have to wait and see.
Season Grade: A+
Up next, Graham will wrap up our player grades with the skill forwards