Why the Red Wings Didn’t Need to Bring Back Gustavsson

The announcement of Jonas Gustavsson’s 1-year deal to return to Detroit for the 2014-15 season has met some mixed reactions.

Gustavsson, who was 16-5-4 with a 2.63 GAA and .907 save % in 2013-14, played reasonably well in the back-up role. However, he was often injured, limited to 27 games. At one point, him and Jimmy Howard were both injured, opening the door for 22-year old stud Petr Mrazek to play a few games. We’ll get to him later.

Gustavsson’s groin problems haven’t been limited to just this past season, as in 2013 he played in only 7 games due to that nagging injury. His durability is certainly an issue and is a main question mark in the decision to bring him back for one more season.

As mentioned above, Petr Mrazek enters the equation. Mrazek burst onto the scene in 2012-13 with Red Wings’ AHL affiliate Grand Rapids Griffins and made a bold impact. He went 23-16-2 boasting a 2.33 GAA and .916 save % in the regular season, but saved his best for last. Mrazek led the team to its first Calder Cup Championship, posting a dazzling 2.31 GAA in the playoffs and constantly saving his team’s hide in shutting down the opposition, covering up his team’s mistakes.

Mrazek has now been down in the AHL for a combined season and a half, sporadically coming up with the Wings in case of injury. In 11 games combined in 2012-13 and 2013-14, Mrazek has gone 3-5-0, with 2.02 and 1.74 GAAs respectively. He has given up 17 goals at the NHL level. The goal support? Well, it’s a process, given his great numbers and subpar record. If that’s not NHL ready, who knows what is.

One can make a case for Gustavsson over Mrazek for a few reasons. For starters, Mrazek has only been down in the AHL for a season and a half, and may not be fully seasoned yet. Another case could be that for the potential Mrazek has, Ken Holland doesn’t want him sitting the bench for almost half the season with Jimmy Howard taking most of the reps. With how the Red Wings season their prospects for the NHL, that wouldn’t be a bad argument for a projected full time starter.

However, all arguments aside, it’s a mistake to bring back Gustavsson. Bringing him back for another year only delays the impact Petr Mrazek could have on the goaltending situation. Having Mrazek in the back-up slot could give Jimmy Howard some recognition that he needs to fight for his starter job with Mrazek being the age he is and bringing the past pedigree he has. This would give him drive to keep the job while Mrazek gets some solid experience at the NHL level. When Howard’s time comes to an end in Hockeytown, that experience could pay dividends in the long run. Hopefully “The Monster” does well in his 3rd year with Detroit, but for long-term, it’s time to break the chains and free Mrazek.




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