Red Wings Leave Mrazek Exposed for Expansion Draft

There were few surprises when the Red Wings’ expansion draft protection list was (eventually) released this morning, but the one that did come down was a big one, as the team opted to protect goalie Jimmy Howard rather than Petr Mrazek.

Available
Louis-Marc Aubry (F)
Mitch Callahan (F)
Colin Campbell (F)
Martin Frk (F)
Luke Glendening (F)
Darren Helm (F)
Drew Miller (F)
Tomas Nosek (F)
Riley Sheahan (F)
Ben Street (F)
Eric Tangradi (F)
Adam Almquist (D)
Jonathan Ericsson (D)
Niklas Kronwall (D)
Brian Lashoff (D)
Dylan McIlrath (D)
Xavier Ouellet (D)
Ryan Sproul (D)
Jared Coreau (G)
Petr Mrazek (G)
Edward Pasquale (G)
Jake Paterson (G)

Protected
Justin Abdelkader (F)
Andreas Athanasiou (F)
Anthony Mantha (F)
Frans Nielsen (F)
Gustav Nyquist (F)
Tomas Tatar (F)
Henrik Zetterberg (F)
Danny DeKeyser (D)
Mike Green (D)
Nick Jensen (D)
Jimmy Howard (G)

I’ve been ranting about this on Twitter all morning, so obviously I think this is the wrong move.  Let me touch on a couple other things first, though.

I half-expected Niklas Kronwall to be protected, even though his contract and injury history make him pretty much unclaimable, so seeing him available is good.  Similarly, the Red Wings could have left Andreas Athanasiou unprotected to protect Darren Helm but didn’t.  So there were some good choices here.

Let’s come back to the goalies, though.

Yesterday the Arizona Coyotes and Calgary Flames made waves with the Coyotes sending veteran goalie Mike Smith to the Flames for a pick and a prospect.  At the time, I wondered how Ken Holland couldn’t have gotten a deal done to send Jimmy Howard to Calgary instead, as the Wings certainly could have asked for less, with the cleared cap space being the real acquisition for Detroit.  After all, Smith is two years older than Howard, signed for more money, and had worse stats than Howard last season.

One response was that Smith is seen as more durable than Howard.  While that’s possible, it’d be somewhat ridiculous, as Howard missed significant time last season but Smith missed half the year in 2015-16.

Another idea was that Calgary GM Brad Treliving specifically wanted Smith, as he was with the Coyotes when they signed him.  That’s always possible, but I find it hard to believe that familiarity was worth the higher price paid for Smith than the Wings would have to have asked for Howard.  Either Treliving did a disservice to the Flames by overpaying for a goalie or Ken Holland did a disservice to the Red Wings by not negotiating hard enough to trade Howard.

I’m also focusing on Howard here because we know the Flames traded for Smith and Howard is more like Smith than Mrazek is.  We have no idea what kind of deal it would have taken to move Mrazek to Calgary but we can guess what kind of deal would have gotten Howard there.

If Howard gets dealt yesterday, Mrazek gets protected today, and concerns about losing a goalie for nothing are gone.

I think it could have been avoided, but regardless the reason, the Red Wings hit yesterday’s deadline with two NHL goalies on their roster and could only protect one.

With that out of the way, some thoughts on protecting Howard over Mrazek…

There’s a lot of chatter that neither will be selected because there are better goalies available.  If that’s the case, I would think you try to slide Howard through because at 33 and with a $5.29 million cap hit and coming off an injury-filled season, it’s less likely that he gets claimed, just in case.

If there’s a deal in place to “guide” the Golden Knights towards picking a certain player, it doesn’t matter who you have unprotected.  That said, Ken Holland said he wasn’t going to do that.  Kenny has lied to us before, though.

Ignoring both of those, the reason to leave Mrazek unprotected is because you don’t care if you lose him.  For a team in the Red Wings’ position, that’s a mistake.  This team needs to get younger and cheaper, even if that means worse (which I think it arguable).  Shed bad contracts and look to the future.  You do that by protecting Mrazek, not Howard.

Protecting Howard over Mrazek feels like sacrificing youth for another playoff push.  It feels like the tie goes to the veteran.  It feels like the “Red Wings Way” that led to the end of the playoff streak and no long playoff runs in nearly a decade.

Red Wings Sign Defenseman Libor Sulak

The Detroit Red Wings announced on Wednesday the signing of Czech defenseman Libor Sulak.

Sulak was slated to play for the Pelicans of the Finnish Elite League next season.

For the past two seasons, Sulak has played for Orli Znojmo of the Austrian Erste Bank Eishockey Liga.  In 2016 he was the league’s rookie of the year.  He played for Czechia – alongside Detroit netminder Petr Mrazek – at the just-completed 2017 IIHF World Championships.

The move gives the Red Wings 14 defensemen who are either already signed or are restricted free agents headed into this summer.  Some, such as prospect Dennis Cholowski, will almost certainly spend next season with their junior clubs.  However, it’s safe to assume that the Grand Rapids Griffins will add some veteran defensemen on AHL-only deals, meaning that blueline roster spots throughout the organization will be at a premium.

Sulak’s contract is a two-year entry level deal.


Update, 3:25 PM: Apparently Sulak’s deal with the Pelicans means he will either play there or with Detroit next year, not with the Grand Rapids Griffins of the American Hockey League.  I have to think him making the Detroit roster comes at the expense of one of Nick Jensen, Xavier Ouellet, or Ryan Sproul, who likely wouldn’t make it through waivers to the Griffins, so this signing wouldn’t impact the roster spot crunch as much as it originally seemed.

Wings Sign Czech Goalie Machovsky

The Detroit Red Wings signed Czech goalie Matej Machovsky to a one-year deal on Tuesday.

Machovsky skated with the Red Wings at their 2016 Development Camp in Traverse City, so he’s a bit of a known quantity to the organization.

On one hand, the move seemingly comes out of nowhere, as Machovsky left the Ontario Hockey League four years ago and has been playing in Czechia ever since.  At 23 years old (24 by the time the season starts) he’s not exactly a traditional prospect.

That said, the Red Wings’ goaltending pipeline is a mess.  They have to hope they’re able to unload Jimmy Howard (and his contract) this summer  without taking on another NHL-level goalie so they can go with a tandem of Petr Mrazek and Jared Coreau next season.  Eddie Pasquale is a free agent.  Cal Heeter is as well, and was never signed to an NHL deal anyway.  Jake Paterson hasn’t been able to break into the AHL, let alone look NHL-ready, and is a restricted free agent this summer.  Chase Perry and Filip Larsson simply aren’t ready.  Maybe Joren van Pottlebergh could make the jump.

This at least gives them a body going into the summer, a bit of depth to work with.  Is it a sign that a deal for Howard is coming?  Does Machovsky leapfrog Coreau on the depth chart?  I have no idea.

It is worth noting that Machovsky will be exempt from the waiver draft.  Maybe the Wings think Coreau will get claimed and this is a move to replace him.  Again, I don’t know.

Postgame: Red Wings – Capitals

The good news – and I use “good” very loosely – is that the Red Wings gave up enough goals to Washington in the third period on Thursday that the game didn’t look close.  Early in the period they were tied at three but badly outshot and badly outplayed.

One of my concerns as the Wings go down the stretch is that they’ll play just well enough – or even worse, have results that look just good enough – for the front office to think big changes aren’t necessary.  Outcomes like tonight help highlight how outclassed the Wings are against the NHL’s elite.

Holding Alexander Ovechkin to no shots doesn’t mean a lot when you lose 6-3.

Of course, it doesn’t help that they lost Jonathan Ericsson to injury early and that Petr Mrazek didn’t play well.  But that’s going to happen every now and then.

Unrelated unpopular opinion…  The Capitals’ throwback jerseys look horrible.  I loved them in the ’80s.  They’re dated as hell now.  Their standard set is pretty horrible, too, though.

Morning After: Red Wings – Bruins

That was fun.

I’m not saying that Detroit’s 6-5 shootout win over Boston was good, it was just a lot of fun to watch.

I keep mentally comparing the Boston game with the Montreal game.  Both were wins, much-needed points against division rivals.

Against Montreal, the Red Wings locked things down.  Detroit was strong defensively and Jared Coreau was stellar when challenges got through.  But it wasn’t necessarily fun to watch.  It was good to see the Wings play a game like that, but it wasn’t exciting.

Against Boston, the Wings started horribly.  They looked awful in that first period.  Mike Green‘s giveaway leading to the shorthanded goal really represented the whole 20 minutes.  Then they took control.  Petr Mrazek looked great.  They moved the puck well.  They got some great scoring chances.  They were still sloppy defensively, though, which bit them in the ass on the fifth goal.  They looked like they had a chance, though.

I mean, this should come as no surprise.  Scoring chances are exciting.  Bad defense (by both teams) can lead to scoring chances.  So the well-played Montreal game is less exciting than the sloppy Boston game.

I focus on these two games because, even with the three-game winning streak, I don’t see the Red Wings making the playoffs this year.  That doesn’t mean good won’t come of the season.  There will be games where the team plays well and there will be games that are exciting.

I think that there’s a lot of talk out there that equates a rebuild (which the Wings can’t even really do anyway, given their contract situations) with years of bad, boring hockey.  I think it’s worth noting that it doesn’t have to be that way.  Even teams that miss the playoffs have good nights and it’s okay enjoy those in the midst of a losing season.

On Judging the Kids

It’s no secret that I’ve written off this season for the Red Wings and want to see them “play the kids.”  I wrote early this month that I liked that Ryan Sproul had been in position to make the mistake that led to a Florida Panthers overtime win.

The game after that mistake, Sproul was a minus-3 in a loss to Pittsburgh.  He’s played in just four of the Red Wings’ 11 games since then.  He’s spent time behind both Brian Lashoff and Nick Jensen on the Wings’ depth chart.

Andreas Athanasiou had seven shifts last night.  At the end of the first period, on his fourth shift, the Senators scored with seconds left to tie things up.  On his sixth shift, he jumped the gun to try to force an odd-man rush and was out of position when the pass he was waiting for got picked off, turning into an Ottawa goal.  His seventh shift closed out the second period.  He didn’t play in the third.

I want to see what the kids can do when given opportunity.  Benching takes that opportunity away.  We may find out over a season that Sproul doesn’t have it.  We may find out that Athanasiou can’t handle more than 12 minutes per night.  But we don’t know unless they get that opportunity.

I will say that, with Sproul benched, I’m glad that Nick Jensen is getting his own opportunity.  That makes a lot more sense to me than Lashoff playing.


There are two things about the small sample size that these guys have to prove themselves that have been rattling around in my head.

#1 – Lets say that Sproul plays a full season, fills in well, but is otherwise unspectacular.  Hey, a kid stepped into the NHL and proved he belonged and that’s good, right?  Yeah, but don’t throw a four-year deal at him all of the sudden.  Looking at you, Brian Lashoff.

#2 – Jared Coreau is a great story.  Two wins in his first three NHL starts after he started his pro career going a full year without a win.  He’s probably going to start the Centennial Classic and, given Petr Mrazek‘s struggles, he probably should.  But you know who else won two out of his first three starts for the Red Wings?  Norm Maracle.  Just saying, lets not get ahead of ourselves proclaiming him the starter or anything.

Pregame: Marchenko, Athanasiou, Howard Return as Wings Host Jackets

The Red Wings are getting some bodies back, as three players will return from injury tonight.

Goalie Jimmy Howard, defenseman Alexey Marchenko, and forward Andreas Athanasiou will all be in the lineup as Detroit starts a five-game homestand against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

With Howard – who will back-up Petr Mrazek tonight – and Athanasiou back, Jared Coreau and Tomas Nosek returned to the Grand Rapids Griffins.  Brian Lashoff remains with the Red Wings but will likely be a healthy scratch in place of Marchenko.

Game time is 7:30 PM on FSD+.


Stupid Stat of the Day: The Red Wings have never lost in regulation to the Blue Jackets in December at Joe Louis Arena.  The last meeting between the teams in December in Detroit was a 1-0 shootout win for Columbus.

Pregame: Lightning @ Red Wings – 11/15

The Red Wings look to bounce back from their 5-0 loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday as they host the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight.

Tyler Bertuzzi exits the Detroit lineup, having been sent back to the Grand Rapids Griffins.  Drew Miller re-takes his spot on the fourth line with Bertuzzi gone.

On defense, Ryan Sproul swaps in for Niklas Kronwall, who is taking a few days off to rest his knees.

Petr Mrazek gets the start in goal for the Red Wings.

Game time is 7:30 PM on FSD.


Stupid Stat of the Day
The Red Wings haven’t won a game on November 15th in regulation since 2000.

Pregame: Howard Starts as Wings Host Canucks

Jimmy Howard will get another start in net for Detroit tonight as the Red Wings host the Vancouver Canucks.

It will be the sixth start of the season for the NHL’s save-percentage and GAA leader, and it’s looking like Petr Mrazek‘s hold on the starting role is tenuous at best.

No line changes are expected, meaning Xavier Ouellet and Ryan Sproul are out on the blue line and Drew Miller is a healthy scratch up front.

Stupid Stat of the Day
The Red Wings won in Philadelphia for the first time since 1997 on Tuesday.  The last time that they won in Philadelphia and then came home for their next game and won that was 1970.  That post-Flyers home game?  The Red Wings hosted the Canucks.

Game time is 7:30 PM on FSD.

Pregame: Red Wings @ Flyers – 11/2

Hey, have you heard?  The Red Wings are in Philadelphia tonight.  You know what else?  They haven’t won there since 1997!  I’m sure no one else has mentioned this.

It’s not just the ongoing 11-game losing streak, the Red Wings have always been bad in Philadelphia.  Their .285 road winning percentage against the Flyers is their worst against any team.  The only other sub-.300 road winning percentage they’ve got is a .294 at the old Omni against the Atlanta Flames.

The Red Wings have a losing record on the road against all of the teams of the 1967 Great Expansion.  They’re at .311 in Pittsburgh, they went .397 against the Oakland/California/Cleveland franchise, they’re .429 visiting Los Angeles, they’re .457 in St. Louis, and they’re at .460 between Minnesota and Dallas.

For the record, the Detroit went 2-1 while visiting Philly during the only season of the Philadelphia Quakers’ existence, back when Detroit was still the Falcons.


Petr Mrazek gets the start in goal for the Red Wings and Xavier Ouellet swaps back in on the blue line, with Ryan Sproul coming out.

With Martin Frk re-claimed from the Carolina Hurricanes and immediately sent back down to the Grand Rapids Griffins, the Wings don’t have any extra forwards to make changes up front if they wanted to.

Game time is 8:00 PM with NBCSN giving it the Rivalry Night treatment.