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.

Red Wings Sign Northern Michigan Goalie Coreau

In their only move on the day of the National Hockey League’s trade deadline, the Detroit Red Wings announced on Wednesday the signing of goaltender Jared Coreau to an entry-level contract.

Coreau, 21, is coming off his junior year with Northern Michigan University, a season in which he went 15-19-4 with a 2.70 GAA and a .919 save percentage.

He spent three years with the Wildcats, compiling a 32-31-8 record.

Coreau had attended rookie camps with the San Jose Sharks, New York Rangers, Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers after his first two seasons with NMU. In addition to the Red Wings, the Winnipeg Jets and Chicago Blackhawks were said to have interest in the 6’5″ netminder following his team’s loss to Michigan in the opening round of the CCHA tournament.

With the addition of Coreau, the crease is crowded across the Red Wings organization. Jimmy Howard has the starter’s role with the Red Wings, backed up by Jonas Gustavsson. Rookie Petr Mrazek has taken over as starter for the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins with Tom McCollum as his backup. Jordan Pearce is with the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye. Changes could come quickly this summer, however, as Howard, McCollum and Pearce are all scheduled to become free agents. Pearce, in particular, is expected to leave hockey to pursue a career in medicine.

In signing with Detroit, Coreau forgoes his final year of NCAA eligibility.

The long-rumored signing is Detroit’s second of an NCAA player in the last week, as the team agreed to terms with Western Michigan University defenseman Danny DeKeyser on Friday.

On the Other NHL Goalie Looking for a Trade

While the hockey media buzzes over the possibility of Vancouver Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo being traded, one of the more forgotten stories of the NHL’s return is the to-be-determined fate of Detroit Red Wings netminder Joey MacDonald.

MacDonald supplanted Ty Conklin as the backup in Detroit late last season while starter Jimmy Howard was injured and was in net for the team’s record-setting 23rd consecutive home win. With Conklin a free agent last summer and MacDonald entering a season with a one-way deal, it looked like MacDonald would be the Wings’ backup for the 2012-13 season.

Then Jonas Gustavsson was signed.

Howard and Gustavsson are locked in as the tandem in Detroit for the coming campaign. MacDonald could be waived with the intent to send him to the Grand Rapids Griffins. The Wings have a logjam in the crease in their system, however, as Petr Mrazek and Tom McCollum have carried the Griffins to a tie for the top spot in the Western Conference and Jordan Pearce is already down with the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye.

The likely move is that MacDonald will be dealt in the week between the opening of training camp and the start of the season.

That said, a deal doesn’t have to happen so quickly. With the Red Wings carrying 14 forwards and six defensemen into the season due to injuries to Patrick Eaves and Carlo Colaiacovo, there is room for the team to keep three goalies on the roster.

Obviously MacDonald isn’t the goalie that Luongo is, so there’s not going to be as much buzz about what happens to him, but a move of some kind is coming. We’ll see what happens in the coming weeks.

Red Wings Assign 22 to Griffins

In advance of the NHL lockout expected to begin this weekend, the Detroit Red Wings assigned 22 players to the Grand Rapids Griffins, their afflilate in the American Hockey League.

The complete list of players assigned is as follows:

Adam Almqvist
Joakim Andersson
Louis-Marc Aubry
Damien Brunner
Mitch Callahan
Willie Coetzee
Landon Ferraro
Gleason Fournier
Tomas Jurco
Brian Lashoff
Thomas McCollum
Petr Mrazek
Andrej Nestrasil
Max Nicastro
Gustav Nyquist
Francis Pare
Trevor Parkes
Jordan Pearce
Brent Raedeke
Riley Sheahan
Brendan Smith
Tomas Tatar

Of those, only Pearce and Pare had needed to clear waivers, having done so earlier in the week.

Red Wings Remain Winless in Philly Since 1997, Drop 3-2 Decision to Flyers

The Detroit Red Wings lost in Philadelphia Tuesday night, running their winless streak there to seven games with a 3-2 loss to the Flyers.

The Wings haven’t beaten the Flyers on their home ice since a pair of wins there en route to a sweep of the 1997 Stanley Cup Finals. In 62 total regular season and playoff matches, Detroit is 15-36-11 on the road against Philadelphia, with one of the ties coming in a Flyers’ “home” game in Cleveland, Ohio.

Henrik Zetterberg opened the game’s scoring at the game’s four-minute mark. Jiri Hudler gained the Flyers’ zone on a three-on-two and passed it off to Valtteri Filppula in the right circle. Filppula looked as though he would shoot while cutting to the slot but dropped it to Zetterberg, who cut to the bottom of the circle and roofed a backhander over Philadelphia goalie Ilya Bryzgalov.

The Flyers responded on a Detroit miscue with 6:10 left in the period. Detroit netminder Joey MacDonald came behind his net to stop the puck for defenseman Doug Janik, who thought MacDonald was going to pass to him. The Flyers’ Jakub Voracek ended up being the first one to the puck and his wraparound attempt went off the skate of defenseman Brendan Smith, slipping past MacDonald.

With 1:49 left in the first, the Flyers took the lead when Niklas Kronwall failed to hold the puck in at the Philadelphia blue line, leaving Claude Giroux clear for a breakaway, on which he beat MacDonald stick-side to make it 2-1.

Kronwall would be involved in another big play in the first half of the second period, when he stepped up on Voracek, who was attempting to carry the puck out of the Philadelphia zone down the right wing. Voracek didn’t see Kronwall coming and put his head down as Kronwall slammed into him.

Voracek also hit his head on the ice on the way down after the hit. He did not return to play.

The Flyers took a 3-1 lead with 5:50 left in the middle period on a shorthanded goal by Maxime Talbot. Giroux had another break in towards MacDonald when Ian White flubbed the puck at the Philly blue line, but White and Kronwall got back to cover him and MacDonald was able to make the initial stop. Talbot jumped up to bang the rebound past MacDonald for the ninth shorthanded goal against Detroit this season.

Johan Franzen made it close at 8:47 of the third, snapping a shot from the inside edge of the left faceoff circle past Bryzgalov just after the expiration of a Detroit power play. The Wings would be unable to pull even, however.

Detroit went scoreless on four power play tries. The Flyers couldn’t score on their two attempts with the extra attacker but did add the shorthanded goal.

MacDonald stopped 20 of 23 shots he faced. Bryzgalov made 37 saves on 39 shots.

The Red Wings’ next game will be Friday when they host the Los Angeles Kings.


The Red Wings were without Pavel Datsyuk, Nicklas Lidstrom, Todd Bertuzzi, Jimmy Howard, Jonathan Ericsson, Jakub Kindl and Patrick Eaves for the game. With Howard out, Jordan Pearce backed up MacDonald. Chris Conner replaced Bertuzzi up front while Doug Janik replaced Kindl on the blue line… Before the game, Philadelphia retired the jersey of former Flyer and Red Wing Mark Howe, a current Detroit scout.

Red Wings Call Up Pearce, Janik, Conner

The Detroit Red Wings announced on Monday that they’ve called up a trio of players from the American Hockey League’s Grand Rapids Griffins.

Goaltender Jordan Pearce, defenseman Doug Janik and forward Chris Conner are all expected to dress when the Red Wings visit the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday.

Pearce will back up Joey MacDonald, as Jimmy Howard will miss the game with an unspecified lower-body injury suffered during Sunday’s 2-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks. Howard left that game after the first period, with the score tied 1-1.

Janik will swap in for Jakub Kindl, who also left Sunday’s game early.

Conner will replace Todd Bertuzzi, who’s been playing through a groin injury.

Opening Night Roster Predictions

The Red Wings came into this preseason with a pretty firm roster, but solid play by a prospect and a tryout, on top of a handful of injuries, have shaken things up a bit. Here are my thoughts on what Detroit’s roster will look like on opening night.

Goaltending
Yeah, I’m starting with the easy one. With Joey MacDonald and Jordan Pearce having been sent down to Grand Rapids today, we already know (not that there was much doubt) that Jimmy Howard and Ty Conklin will be the goaltending tandem. The only interesting thing to come out of this preseason is an extension of last season, that it appears that Pearce has passed Thomas McCollum on the Wings’ depth chart.

Defense
With Detroit having eight blueliners signed to one-way deals this year, the preseason wasn’t as much about who would make the team as who wouldn’t. There was talk about Brendan Smith making the team out of camp but a lot would have needed to happen for that to come to pass. Doug Janik is the odd man out, as he’s been sent to Grand Rapids. Like MacDonald, he’ll have to clear waivers to play for the Griffins.

The injury to Mike Commodore makes things a little bit interesting for Detroit’s defense. The Red Wings organization has said he won’t be placed on IR because the team doesn’t play enough games for him to come off when he’s expected to be healthy. This means he takes up a roster spot, so no one will be kept up to replace him. Jakub Kindl wins the sixth defenseman spot by default.

Forward
Here’s where the fun is. Detroit came into the preseason with fourteen roster spots available at forward and fourteen forwards signed who would have to clear waivers to go to Grand Rapids. It seemed certain that Jan Mursak and Cory Emmerton had the 13th and 14th forward spots locked up with twelve forwards returning from last season’s roster.

Then Mursak got hurt, Fabian Brunnstrom had a productive try-out, and Gustav Nyquist turned heads in his first Detroit training camp.

Emmerton played well enough to keep the spot that was assumed to be his. Solid on faceoffs but not much scoring, just what a spare part is expected to be.

Brunnstrom played well with the puck and scored a handful of goals. It’s almost certain he’ll sign a two-way deal in the next day or so, the question is whether he starts the season with the Red Wings or Griffins.

Nyquist made the case that he could play in the NHL right now. Two goals in Detroit’s exhibition closer today showed that if nothing else did. Unfortunately for him, he isn’t subject to waivers so he can be sent to GR at no cost.

The way I see it, Brunnstrom is a Red Wing on opening night with Nyquist going to the Griffins. Brunnstrom has until January to prove he belongs with Detroit more than Emmerton, with a decision to be made when Mursak comes back.

Edit: Of course, within minutes of me posting this, the Wings announced that Nyquist was sent to GR. That makes it pretty clear that Brunnstrom has the 14th forward spot.

Thoughts on the Red & White Game

The thing to remember about Tuesday’s Red & White game in Grand Rapids is that, while it was an event in the sense that the Red Wings were making an appearance somewhere they usually don’t, it was still just a scrimmage.

Not a lot of hitting, not a lot of defense, and almost all of the players who were kept out will be on Detroit’s roster in a week, not Grand Rapids’. I harped on that before the game and will touch on it again in a few paragraphs.

The first period was relatively boring. Jimmy Howard and Ty Conklin were solid in net but there weren’t a ton of chances.

Things picked up in the second and third, with a ton of penalties being called and Thomas McCollum and Jordan Pearce having taken over in the creases. The Red Team had two five-on-three goals in the middle period alone and added another on the remaining power play after a five-on-three. The White Team had a goal with a two-man advantage as well.

In short, you can’t use the game as much of an example for how certain players play. Yeah, Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist have some speed and hands, but it’s a lot easier for them to dance around Niklas Kronwall when Kronwall isn’t invested in stopping them. It was a little bit like an All-Star Game – put on a show for the fans, have some fun, don’t get hurt.

A bunch of players sat out the game, which I ranted about a little bit when the rosters were released. It turns out, those players are all expected to be in action tonight in Chicago so they were kept out to be a little more rested.

Worth noting, Justin Abdelkader was supposed to be kept out (he, Darren Helm, and Patrick Eaves will be the Wings’ top line tonight) but apparently when you request 140 tickets to a game, you get to play. Several rows of Section 109 were his friends and family.

I took a ton of photos (much easier to do when you’re not trying to watch the game as closely) but I don’t know yet how many turned out. They won’t get posted right away because I’m doing some work on the DH.N multimedia system and I want to get that done before adding the photos. I’ll post something when they’re online.

Rosters Released for Red & White Game in Grand Rapids

The Red Wings announced the rosters for their Red & White game in Grand Rapids on Tuesday.

The White Team, featuring Nicklas Lidstrom, Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk clearly has the star power but the Red Team seems to have more depth, not that it matters much in an intra-squad scrimmage.

White Team
Henrik Zetterberg
Pavel Datsyuk
Tomas Holmstrom
Tomas Tatar
Justin Abdelkader
Gustav Nyquist
Andrej Nestrasil
Jamie Johnson
Willie Coetzee
Mitch Callahan
Brent Raedeke
Nick Oslund

Nicklas Lidstrom
Ian White
Garnet Exelby
Logan Pyett
Sebastien Piche
Gleason Fournier

Jimmy Howard
Thomas McCollum

Red Team
Johan Franzen
Valtteri Filppula
Danny Cleary
Jiri Hudler
Joakim Andersson
Todd Bertuzzi
Chris Conner
Louis-Marc Aubry
Francis Pare
Adam Estoclet
Landon Ferraro
Trevor Parkes

Niklas Kronwall
Brad Stuart
Travis Ehrhardt
Bryan Rufenach
Greg Amadio
Brian Lashoff

Ty Conklin
Jordan Pearce

Ansar Khan points out that a number of players are sitting out the match, which has me disappointed. Khan’s list is as follows: Darren Helm, Patrick Eaves, Drew Miller, Fabian Brunnstrom, Ryan Johnson, Jonathan Ericsson, Mike Commodore, Brendan Smith, Jakub Kindl, Doug Janik, Joey MacDonald.

For a game that has been billed as a chance for West Michigan fans to see the Red Wings close to home, it’s odd to me that so many of those Wings are sitting in place of players the fans in GR will see all season.

Red Wings Announce Lineups for Opening Preseason Games

Per Ansar Khan, the Red Wings have revealed their rosters for the first two games of the 2011 exhibition season.

The Red Wings will visit the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday night with the following lines:

Jiri HudlerPavel DatsyukDanny Cleary
Fabian BrunnstromCory EmmertonPatrick Eaves
Drew MillerRyan JohnsonJan Mursak
Tomas TatarChris ConnerTomas Holmstrom

Niklas KronwallBrad Stuart
Brendan SmithMike Commodore
Garnet ExelbyLogan Pyett

Jimmy Howard
Joey MacDonald

On Thursday Detroit will be in London, Ontario, to play the Philadelphia Flyers. Their lineup for that game will be as follows:

Valtteri FilppulaHenrik ZetterbergJohan Franzen
Justin AbdelkaderDarren HelmTodd Bertuzzi
Gustav NyquistJoakim AnderssonWillie Coetzee
Tomas JurcoBrent RaedekeFrancis Pare

Nicklas LidstromIan White
Jonathan EricssonJakub Kindl
Brian LashoffDoug Janik

Ty Conklin
Jordan Pearce

No lineup has been announced for the Wings’ preseason home opener on Friday, where Detroit will host the Flyers.