In his third year with the Red Wings, Jurco, a 23-year- old native of Kosice, Slovakia, posted an uninspiring 4 goals and 2 assists in 44 games and was a frequent scratch. Rather than flourishing under his former coach in the AHL, Jeff Blashill, Jurco struggled mightily. Looking ahead to next season, the Red Wings will have an excess of forwards, Tomas Jurco will enter a contract year and the 6’1" right wing will have to prove himself in camp and the preseason to make the 2016-17 roster.
No Sauce For Tomas in 2015-16
After posting 15 points in 36 games in his debut season with the Red Wings and 18 points in 63 games in 2014-15, Jurco took a big step back in 2015-16, playing only 44 games and tallying only 4 goals and 2 assists in 44 games. Jurco's assist total dropped by 13 year over year, so there's a lot of weight to the theory that Tomas struggled in Jeff Blashill's system, which Mike Bremer suggested in his 2015-16 Player Grade for Tomas Jurco.
At times, Jurco has shown strong hands and the ability to possess the puck and generate scoring chances, though he was not able to routinely capitalize on scoring opportunities this past year, and neither were his line mates. However, in the limited goals Tomas did have this past year, his upside was easy to spot.
Tomas Jurco just destroyed John Gibson with this nasty goal. pic.twitter.com/D5Hc7VbDGL— Kyle M. (@KyleWIIM) January 24, 2016
Jurco played in only 4 games to start last season before being sent down to the AHL in November for a five-game conditioning stint in a somewhat unconventional move. It was never made public if injuries were plaguing Tomas Jurco last season, but it's safe to assume that he wasn't 100% for at least a portion of the season.
After posting 9 points over the 5 games with Grand Rapids (5 G, 4 A), Jurco returned to Detroit, but his hot streak didn’t. Jurco scored a beauty on Braden Holtby for his first goal of the season shortly after in December, but failed to significantly produce over the remainder of the season.
Jurco had limited ice time and averaged only 9 minutes and 10 seconds per game in the 2015-16 season, playing primarily on the 3rd and 4th lines. While this may have contributed to Jurco's declining point total, he was still one of the Red Wings’ least productive forwards offensively with only .94 points for every 60 minutes of ice time.
In Jeff Blashill’s first year coaching the Red Wings, Jurco did not find a place on the powerplay or short-handed units, and was a regular scratch late in the season, playing only 6 games in March and April. Jurco didn't even make an appearance in the Wings' short-lived playoff run, with Joakim Andersson scooping up his spot.
Contract Year: Try or Trade?
It feels like a day can’t go by without fans mentioning Jurco’s name in a trade proposition, but Tomas isn't exactly the belle of the ball right now. If Jurco was to be traded, it seems likely that he would be a secondary piece in a multi-player trade rather than going alone.
If no trade is made, Jurco is entering the final year of a two-year, $1.8 million contract before becoming a restricted free agent in 2017, so you can expect Tomas to compete with the likes of Anthony Mantha, Teemu Pulkkinen and others for the final forward spot on the roster. However, Ken Holland and the Red Wings’ front office need to be careful with handling Tomas Jurco, or they’ll be in danger of losing a young, one-way forward to waivers for the second year in a row.
Teemu Pulkkinen is currently sidelined with a shoulder injury until late 2016, which helps Jurco's odds of making the team. But if the rest of the team stays healthy until Pulkkinen's return, the Red Wings could experience some serious roster turbulence and might have to test waivers with a player or two (and the Anti-Kenny camp could lose their minds).
Time Will Tell For Tomas
After being drafted in the 2nd round at #35 overall with the Wings’ first pick in the 2011 draft, Jurco’s evolution in Detroit hasn’t panned out exactly as fans had hoped. Jurco is coming off of a rough season, and it’s tough to see him finding a long-term role with the Wings with the current surplus of forwards.
However, Tomas Jurco is still only 23 years old, has a lot of hockey ahead of him and, in a contract year, has a golden opportunity to prove what type of player he’s going to be in the NHL, with the Red Wings or without.