It’s been no secret that young goaltender Petr Mrazek has been having a down year. His season stats are inflated to a disappointing 3.13 GAA and .895 SV%, well above his previous career averages of 2.29 and .920, respectively. The pre-injury career year of Jimmy Howard and subsequent play of the called-up Jared Coreau have kept the Red Wings out of the basement while their number one goalie has had his struggles.
The danger in saying that, however, is that it becomes very easy to overstate the impact of the netminders in Detroit this season. While Howard posted the best numbers of his career in his 15 starts this season (1.96, .934), he only has five wins to show for it. Coreau also has five wins, including two shutouts, but has been pulled twice and has a stat line of 2.79 and .904. Even Mrazek, for all his troubles, has 10 victories in 22 starts.
To anyone watching the Red Wings this season, it should be fairly obvious that goaltending is neither the problem nor the solution in Detroit right now. Sure, there have been games where the man in net just can’t seem to make a stop to save his life, but there have been plenty where the offense is non-existent or the defensive structure is a joke.
Howard’s injury happened just over a month ago with an initial timeline of 4-to-6 weeks for return. With the trade deadline looming in early March and the added wrench of the expansion draft this summer, his nearing return signals the first of a series of decisions to make regarding goalies for the Red Wings. So what is a team to do with these three proverbial
balls pucks in the air?
Free Press writer Helene St. James has an idea. While she initially praised Mrazek for his improved play as of late, she also suggests that this may benefit the team more than with an improved position in the standings. Here’s my favorite tidbit:
If Mrazek, who turns 25 in February, has a hold on the starting job by then, good for him and good for the Wings. The thinking within the club is that Coreau is ready for the NHL full-time, and he may well end up being the goalie the Wings protect in the expansion draft this summer. If Mrazek gets on a roll – remember last year around this time
That sound you hear is two things:
- Cheers from the ever-present crowd in Detroit whose favorite athlete is “whoever is backup goalie for the Red Wings”
- A large crowd charging Joe Louis Arena demanding to “speak to Ken Holland”
Fear not, my friends, because if there is one thing I have learned in my years as a Red Wings fan, it is to take articles from this specific Detroit digger with a fistful of salt.
What I see in that little nugget of information are two separate ideas: one, that Coreau is ready for a full-time NHL position, and two, that he may be protected this summer. It’s made clear that the Wings’ management believes in the former. I’m not at all convinced for the latter. To me, that sounds like a lot of speculation we’ve seen from Ms. St. James in the past that, to put it bluntly, never made it to fruition.
Look at the Red Wings’ roster and think back over the last couple of seasons. I still see Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar, and nobody named Dion Phaneuf on that list. Yet multiple articles by the so-assumed mouthpieces for the organization were written of the seemingly inevitable trades of and for those mentioned players.
Valtteri Filppula wanted oodles of cash and a role as a first line center, right?
If it is the latter, don’t be surprised to see Mrazek in play. It's what makes sense, as Coreau has impressed better than his numbers (3.04 GAA, .901 save percentage) and Howard (1.96 GAA, .934 save percentage) has played the best hockey of his career.
“The latter” here being the Red Wings in a position to sell once the trade deadline comes around on March 1.
Pay attention to the language used here: “it’s what makes sense.” Sense to whom? Apparently sense to the writer, but not necessarily to the Wings’ brass. St. James goes on to throw cap hits and ages into the question, citing that Howard’s contract will be more difficult to move given those factors and despite his excellent play.
While that is true, I don’t see the team making a trade involving Mrazek at the deadline. They just committed $8M to him over two years, pegging him as their number one goalie. Hinging their future on one down season for their main man, the unforeseen resurgence of a 32-year-old before yet another injury, and ten games by a still-learning rookie isn’t the Detroit style for goalies.
As it stands, we’re long past the point we thought we would be at with both Howard and Mrazek still on the team. The Red Wings simply don’t make quick decisions on their goaltenders.
So considering all of that, what we’ve seen from HSJ in the past regarding asset/contract management and what actually happens, I think it’s as likely as Jonathan Ericsson winning the Norris trophy this season.