Name: Tomas Jurco
DOB: December 28, 1992 in Kosice, Czechoslovakia (23 years old)
Drafted: Detroit, 2nd Round (35th Overall), 2011 Entry Draft
"Tomas Jurco, man…"
Someone across the table says it, but this beer hall is too dark to tell who. Instead, we all shake our heads and take a long pull from our beer. A moment of silence works as a chaser.
This was supposed to be an important year for Tomas Jurco, and I guess in a way it was, just not in the way we hoped. Under Jeff Blashill, who coached Jurco for a season and a half in Grand Rapids, Jurco was supposed to make some strides with the Red Wings this year and solidify himself as a legitimate secondary scoring option on the third or even second line. The reasoning was that if Jurco was allowed to combine his puck possession skills with some more talented linemates then sparks would fly and a 30 point season wouldn’t be at all a stretch. The expectation for him was not that he would "have arrived," (it’s an industry term,) but he would make a significant leap toward arriving at… scoring…. land.
Then, the season actually happened. Jurco (4G, 2A) played just 44 games for the Wings this season after playing 63 in 2014-15, and he spent the vast majority of those games on the fourth line, usually to the right of Luke Glendening. The Slovakian had a couple significant stints watching from the Leino Lounge or Cleary Cabana or whatever we’re calling it now, mainly in October-November and again in March. When he finally got back into the lineup in April it was to replace Anthony Mantha, and then he was promptly scratched once the playoffs began in favor of Joakim Andersson.
The caveat here is that Tomas Jurco most likely suffered from lingering health issues. He found himself on a conditioning stint in Grand Rapids in mid-November. He put up a fiery 9 points in 5 games, but when he came back up to Detroit he went cold again. It was as mysterious as the injury. Perhaps the injury was nothing and Jurco just had a bad season, but given his similar usage this year as last season under Babcock it is hard to accept a 3% drop in his Corsi Relative as anything other than a health issue. While he was still above 50%, he wasn’t exactly the possession juggernaut we’ve seen the last few seasons.
There are lots of complaints concerning Coach Blashill’s line deployment this past season, and questions regarding his degree of control over the lineup were frequent. I believe Tomas Jurco suffered the most of any Red Wing from this situation. He turns 24 on December 28th of this year and is entering his prime. It is absolutely critical that he gets in as much playing time as realistically possible. His 9:11 ATOI doesn’t really cut it for where he ought to be at this point in his career, which is in the middle six.
Despite Jurco’s misusage and potential health issues, the excuses can only go so far, even if they are legitimate excuses. Tomas Jurco was still given opportunities, even if they were on the fourth line, and he did not exactly run away with them. Certainly management and coaching deserve some of the blame, and bad injury luck may have played its hand as well, but Jurco has some degree of autonomy in the way his career projects and so he also bears some responsibility for his lackluster season. I love Jurco as a player and was excited the moment we drafted him, but I can’t justify a 2015-16 season grade for him higher than C. Hopefully in a season from now when we’re all enjoying the metaphorical fine wine that is WiiM we’ll all raise our glasses and cheer, "Man, I love that Tomas Jurco!"