Final Thoughts on Petr Mrazek

Much like my thoughts on Andreas Athanasiou‘s mindset during his holdout last fall, I have a theory on Petr Mrazek‘s tumultuous tenure with the Red Wings.  A lot of it is conjecture, so take it with a grain of salt, but I don’t think I’m far off.

Mrazek was known as a cocky goalie from the start.  His celebrations while playing for the Czech Republic in the 2012 World Junior Championship introduced him to the world.  His “attitude problems” through the 2016-17 season can be attributed to it.  His comments upon being traded reflect it.

“The pressure for both of us was pretty high,” he said. “You have to show up every night if you want to play the next game. I don’t think it’s a bad thing. It’s a really good thing when we can battle between goalies and do the best that we can. Sometimes when they say, ‘you’re the guy who’s gonna play for a while,’ I think it’s better.”

Specifically that last line.  I read that as Mrazek being frustrated that he was never made “the guy” in Detroit.  Some might say he never earned it, given his regression last season, but I think the slump was caused by feeling threatened by the presence of Jimmy Howard.

We don’t know what went down in meetings between Mrazek and Ken Holland.  We don’t know the reasons behind decisions made by Mike Babcock and Jeff Blashill.  But what if it went something like this…

In 2012, Mrazek is coming off being named the best goaltender at the World Juniors.  He wraps up his OHL career and goes pro in the fall.  The Red Wings assign him to the ECHL to start the season but he quickly replaces future doctor Jordan Pearce in the AHL as the backup for the Grand Rapids Griffins, then supplants Tom McCollum as the starter.  He even gets in a couple games in Detroit, going 1-1 with a respectable .922 save percentage and 2.02 GAA.  By spring, he’s leading the Griffins to their first-ever Calder Cup Championship.

For 2013-14 Mrazek is back with the Griffins, with Jimmy Howard and Jonas Gustavsson manning the crease in Detroit.  In 32 games he drops his GAA to 2.10 and his save percentage gets up to .924.  He gets into nine games in Detroit, putting together a 1.74 GAA and a .927 save percentage.

Come summer of 2014, Mrazek has put together stellar numbers through the first two years of his pro career and Gustavsson’s contract is up.  There is no reason for him to not think that he’s earned the backup role in Detroit.  Yet the Red Wings re-sign Gustavsson after a season where he had a 2.63 GAA and a .907 save percentage.  With one year left on his existing deal, Mrazek signs a one-year contract extension – a one-way  contract to ensure he’s in Detroit for 2015-16 – but starts 2014-15 in Grand Rapids.

Injuries open the door for Mrazek, who steps in and plays 29 games.  His 2.38 GAA and 9.18 save percentage are better than both Howard and Gustavsson.  He starts all seven games of Detroit’s playoff series with the Tampa Bay Lightning and, though the Red Wings drop the series, Mrazek  improves on his regular season stats, going 2.11 and .925.

Despite his playoff starts, Mrazek is the backup when the Red Wings start the 2015-16 season.  He ends up starting 49 games, though, with a 2.33 GAA and a .921 save percentage, better than Howard’s 2.80 and .906.

Come Game One of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs – with the Red Wings facing the Lightning again – Howard gets the start.  In the first two games of the series, Howard puts up a .891 save percentage and a 3.59 GAA as the Red Wings go down, 2-0.  Mrazek takes over for Game Three but Detroit falls in five games.  Mrazek’s GAA is 1.36 and his save percentage is .945.

Mrazek’s contract extension from 2014 is up and on July 27, 2016, he agrees to something of a bridge deal, two years at $4 million each.  It’s less than Howard’s salary and a shorter deal but he’s being paid like a starter.  The rumor is that Howard will be dealt.  By all appearances, the Red Wings are now Mrazek’s team.

But Howard isn’t dealt.  Mrazek gets the start to open the season in Tampa and at the final home opener at Joe Louis Arena.  He gets 14 starts in the first two months, being pulled once.  Howard started 11 games, also being pulled once.  It’s clear it’s a 1A-1B situation.

It’s at this point that the wheels come off for Mrazek.  Even with Howard hurt for much of the season, Mrazek puts up the worst numbers of his career, with a 3.04 GAA and a .901 save percentage.  Both are better than the 3.46 and .887 of Jared Coreau, who “steals” some of Mrazek’s starts, including the outdoor Centennial Classic in Toronto.  Rumors abound about Mrazek’s attitude and it’s even suggested that Coreau is the true heir-apparent to the Detroit crease.

Six months later, Mrazek is left unprotected in the expansion draft, going unclaimed.

He comes into the 2017-18 season the clear backup.  It’s expected the Red Wings won’t even give him a qualifying offer when his contract is up (which has since been confirmed).  His .910 save percentage and 2.89 GAA nearly match Howard’s numbers but Mrazek ends up dealt to the Philadelphia Flyers.

If I were in Mrazek’s skates, I would have a bad attitude, too, and it would certainly impact my play.  I’m not saying it’s okay for that, just that I can understand it.

You rise up from the ECHL to the AHL to the NHL in your first season and carry your team to a Calder Cup Championship.  The next year your stats are even better, but a worse goalie is re-signed to play in front of you.  You take over the starting role anyway and make the most of it, putting up great numbers in a seven-game playoff series.

By next fall, you lose the starting role anyway.  You fight your way back to become the playoff starter again, you get a starter’s contract, and then again you’re the backup on opening night and the guy who they said they’d trade is still there taking up space in your crease.

It’s in your head, you falter, and suddenly the third-string goalie who hasn’t done anything is stealing your starts.  The spiral continues.  You pull yourself together over the summer.  After a rough start, you’re putting up similar numbers to your partner in the crease.  But it’s too late, you’re out.

Again, I’m not saying that Mrazek didn’t slump and didn’t have an attitude.  I’m saying that I can see why he would have one and why it would impact his play.  And, with that perspective in mind, it’s also why I think the Red Wings should have tried harder to deal Jimmy Howard, rather than giving up on Mrazek.

Author: Clark Rasmussen

Clark founded the site that would become DetroitHockey.Net in September of 1996 with no idea what it would lead to. He continues to write for the site and executes the site's design and development.

10 thoughts on “Final Thoughts on Petr Mrazek”

  1. Your article is 100% true .the Redwings arent going anywhere for a couple of yrs.the mind games that management and coaching staff play with the younger players when they make a mistake and get benched, it’s funny though when kronwall makes mistakes he doesn’t get benched who can’t keep up with the play anymore,the person responsible for the product you see on the ice , ken Holland and his puppet Jeff blashill. I don’t believe either one should get another contract .the rebuild is on ,give kris Draper the G.m. let him put together a team and please bring a new coach that doesn’t play mind games.

  2. I saw some comments elsewhere about how Mrazek doesn’t get to demand to be the starter and then go on a year-and-a-half long slump, so I figured I’d address that.

    Mrazek’s infamous slump started during the spring of 2016. It was why Howard was the starter going into the playoffs that year. Even with the slump, Mrazek had outplayed Howard that season (2.33 GAA, .921 SV% to Howard’s 2.80/.906). Mrazek also outplayed Howard in the playoffs after regaining the starting role.

    Mrazek had better numbers than Howard in 2014-15 and in limited appearances in 2013-14.

    So if it was an issue for Mrazek to be outplayed by Howard in 2016-17 after demanding to be paid and played like a starter, why wasn’t it an issue for Howard to be outplayed by Mrazek each of the three seasons before that?

    1. Those are mostly assumptions. The Wings saw two competent goalies, which they both are, and found a better offer. Howard was still on the trading block with the Islanders. Regardless, I think they made the right move. He’s a great positional goalie and when he’s playing well, he’s locked in. Mrazek’s a good puck controller and a little more athletic but come on, this had to do with the terrible play of our defense and scorers. They had to give up a position of relative strength to have a chance at replacing our real weakness, which is this awful defense core and constant scoring slumps.

  3. I am happy for Petr, was not a good fit with Red Wing ownership.For some reason I always they used him as their whipping boy, while Howard could do no harm no matter how horrible he was, should have dumped Howard a long time ago…..Babcock wanted Howard gone and Mrazek to be the starter,along with most players but Holland or ownership said no. Seriously the press were so unfair with him and so blatantly bias towards Howard. Water under the bridge, we all see Babcock went to another place and has done well, hopefully the same with Mrazek…… But that whole situation made me loose respect for the red wings i loved.

  4. This stuff is hilarious! Mrazek will prove to be a top tier goaltender in the NHL and we traded him for NOTHING! A “conditional” forth round pick???
    To dump his salary? Okay…
    I have news for you. Martin Brodeur, or Dominic Hasek wouldn’t have done much better behind this defense! DeKeyser is garbage yet we paid him 5.5 million a year. Nick Jensen (2 Million) garbage! Big E… Come on!
    What about the money the Wings are locked into with just these 3 alone?
    Better yet, let’s look at the future of out goaltending shall we?
    Jimmy has 2-3 good years left in him. Jimmy is an above average goalie. What is left? I have season tickets the the Toledo Walleye. I watched Jared Correau and he was less than impressive in the ECHL. He is NOT someone that can come close to replacing Mrazek.
    I watched Machovsky in Toledo for well over half of a season. He has a lot of potential. However, Mrazek was well passed the moniker of “potential”. He has shown absolute brilliance!
    Again, I ask, For What? To dump 4 million in salary??? This was a typical Ken (Look at the shiny red ball, so you don’t notice that I have no idea what I am doing) Holland move.
    The Wings have done NOTHING since Scotty left. They haven’t won ANYTHING with the exception of when they still had Scotty’s players.
    Ken Holland is the most over-rated GM in sports.
    For the love of all that is sacred about hockey, Chris Illitch, PLEASE part ways with this man! We are sinking deeper and deeper every year and with moves like moving Mrazek for a 4th rd pick is proof in the pudding

    1. Hasek might of had a worse defense in Buffalo so your point there is wrong but I have to agree with everything else you said.

  5. Wings made a big mistake on giving Mrazek away. You know what you have with Howard–an older goalie who doesn’t “steal a game” like top tier goalies and whose durability is a big question mark. Too many head games by Holland and his coach when it came to Petr.

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