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Red Wings Player Grades: Tomas Jurco

A grade and epilogue of sorts, for another Red Wings prospect failed to blossom.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Player Profile

Name: Tomas Jurco

Born: Kosice, Slovakia 12/28/92

Height/Weight: 6’2/188

Position: RW

Stats (DET/CHI):

GP : 29

G: 1

A: 0

PM: 4

ATOI: 11:02

Season Narrative

Tomas Jurco’s Red Wings career ended in Detroit Feb. 24 when he was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks for a 2017 third round pick. It began December 2013 with boundless expectations.

Jurco’s speed, hands and size (6’2, 188lb) gave Red Wings fans belief the reload process would be swift. Some pointed to Nyquist, DeKeyser, or Tatar. Many pointed to Jurco, who was a whirling YouTube rabbithole for reel after reel in juniors through the AHL.

His NHL debut swelled then popped under giddiness; the next great Red Wings skill player had arrived. He did so in grand fashion, scoring on a beauty against the Anaheim Ducks in only his second game.

Now we’re here. Jurco only has 39 points in 159 games.

He’s arguably the emblem of this foggy era for Red Wings management and fans. A franchise that’s become so devoid of regularly developing youth from the ground up, it’s quite possible our gauge for prospects needs to be re-calibrated.

Whether it be Villie Leino, Damien Brunner or Teemu Pulkinnen, our biases don’t translate. We’re sold these players as the answer and sometimes they just don’t have that extra gear, required IQ, or balanced abilities to thrive on an NHL level.

Jurco appeared to have the size, the vision and skill to rise above the aforementioned players. Instead, he was spun into an identity crisis.

He admitted boredom to the Chicago Tribune post-trade and questioned the Red Wings system. While I can see a player of his style grow restless in Blashill’s system like a teen in detention, still, extra work and good behavior—signs of maturity, typically grant you freedom. Maybe his willingness and desperation to grow—displayed by losing 10lbs for speed—came too late. Blashill’s made it clear he has little tolerance for young players slow to meet his precise demands. Jurco could never find his way out of the bottom six box.

Despite his handles, despite showing ability to power to the net—and being a plus-possession player for most of his tenure—he was often the plugger, in a role swapped with Joakim Andersson or Drew Miller. No more time and patience for Grand Rapids, which was often a convenient excuse for his intermittent absences.

What He Did vs. Expectation

It was a surprise he made it out of camp. If it wasn’t for back surgery that allowed him to be exempt, he may not have. Jurco was finally slotted in Nov.29 vs. the Dallas Stars, where he looked electric, hitting the post on his first shift. Out with Sheahan and Ott, he carried the play, even being matched up against the Stars top line at times. But maybe it was just adrenaline that focused him to display his best self. He has ability that is so apparent, the Red Wings got a third round pick for him, and Babcock once insisted he remain up with the Wings while still waiver exempt.

Of course I wonder what could’ve been for Jurco had he ever been given regular minutes with Tatar, Larkin, Athanasiou, Mantha, Nyquist, Zetterberg etc. I mention those players by name because they comprise a disjointed group of forwards often pushed out of place by “grit”. Detroit took a player with top six ability and a scorer’s mentality then buried him on the fourth line to “toughen” him up.

In the bottom six, Jurco was forgettable if not for how lost he looked. He gave it hell that first game back from surgery, but maybe seeing Blashill look the other way zapped his confidence and self into obscurity.

This is Hockey Culture 101: You can have the skill, you can have the size. All the tools are there and you can utilize them on the right job, but some players never make the impression they (deserve) to be utilized. For reasons we’ll never exactly know, Jurco was deemed undeserving. Losing puck battles, not fighting to find soft spots on the ice; Jurco often failed the eye test, even though many shifts were spent out of his element.

When the Red Wings drafted Jurco they wanted him to be a scorer. He believed he was going to be a scorer. Then the Red Wings decided they wanted him to be something else. I suspect Jurco still believes he’s meant to be a scorer. Only age 24 with a fresh start, that remains possible.

Jurco failed to dress for a Chicago Blackhawks team that only scored 3 goals while being swept by the Nashville Predators in the playoffs. But at least he participated in the Blackhawks playoff slogan, scoring only “One Goal” in 13 games.

Final Grade: D

I could say Jurco is another victim to the stubbornness of The Red Wing Way. I could blame Babcock, Blashill and Holland for slowing his development. But simply put, Jurco could never adapt. I feel he was capable of growth in an elevated role but he never wanted to work within his surroundings to get there. He got the fresh start he wanted in Chicago, already it’s growing stale.

Now one of the more-anticipated Red Wings prospect’s legacy will be tied to what becomes of third round pick we traded him for.


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