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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Stats, bio information courtesy of DetroitRedWings.com

Featured image courtesy of zimbio.com


The Bottom Six: The Other Rooks


The offseason evaluation of the Detroit Red Wings continues as we head to the lesser known names of the bottom six. This group again rotated in and out over the course of the injury-riddled season, which gave the young guys an opportunity to make an impact.

Boy, did they exceed expectations.

Tomas Tatar (Left Wing/Right Wing)

It was a long time coming for the 23 year old from Slovakia.

Down in Grand Rapids for the better part of five years, Tatar challenged the organization for an opportunity to show what he could do at the NHL level. In 2013-14, he got that opportunity after making the team out of training camp. After a slow start early on, Tatar started to play to his potential. On and off, he was paired with fellow Grand Rapids mates Gustav Nyquist and Riley Sheahan along with Tomas Jurco, the Slovak turned in a solid effort for his first full season in the big leagues. Tatar put up 19 goals and 20 assists in 73 games. Again, he is 23 and has his whole career ahead of him. The priority for Ken Holland and the Red Wing braintrust right now is to resign the restricted free agent. It will be exciting to see how he develops along with the rest of the youth that will carry the next wave of Red Wing stars.

Riley Sheahan (Center)

Another injury call-up, another huge contributer. With good size and hands, Riley Sheahan was another rook that burst onto the scene in Hockeytown. Getting an opportunity to play most every night as an injury call-up, Sheahan made sure he would be here to stay. In 44 games, the Notre Dame alum put up nine goals and 15 assists, good for 24 points. Not bad for a 22-year old in that limited time, and the kid appears to have a very bright future ahead of him, presuming the Red Wings sign the RFA. With a wicked shot and a strong body that can get to the front of the net, the Wings see and have something in this kid, and it will be exciting to see him grow.

Tomas Jurco (Left Wing/Right Wing)

Easily the best player on the Grand Rapids Griffins at this point, Tomas Jurco turned in a solid part-time NHL rookie campaign for Detroit. Sporting some soft hands and a knack to get in front of the net, Jurco in limited time put up eight goals and seven assists in 36 games played. Not too bad at all. Another relatively young one out of the group, the 21-year old Slovakian looked to get better as he gained more and more experience. That went for most of these guys, but being 21, Jurco opens my eyes a bit more than the up and coming Wings from the Grand Rapids crop. The way he moved the puck, as well as the others, made you think that he was a ten-year vet. Confidence just seemed to gradually build and build, and he’s not even close to ripe yet. It will be interesting to see what this kid can do in his first full season in Detroit in 2014-15.

Watch for these guys to be the next wave that could carry this team back to the Stanley Cup Final in the near and far future.

Up next on offseason evaluations, the fourth liners get their recognition. After, the defense, as lost as it looked this season, will be highlighted.  Later on, the short-term callups from GR and their outlooks for the future including Petr Mrazek, Teemu Pulkkinen, Xavier Ouellet, Adam Almqvist, Ryan Sproul, Mitch Callahan, Alexey Marchenko, and more will all be part of a prospect series during the summertime around the NHL draft.

Stay tuned, and let’s go Red Wings!




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Stats/bio information courtesy of detroitredwings.com