It’s been said that the younger players on the Red Wings will need to push the vets to make them and the team better this upcoming season. What hasn’t been explicitly stated is that the younger group will be battling each other for prime lineup spots.
Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar have established themselves as goal scorers and dangerous playmakers. Riley Sheahan could potentially slot in at second line center. Teemu Pulkkinen, Tomas Jurco, and Anthony Mantha will all battle for playing time (and in Mantha’s case, a roster spot).
All of these players figure to be battling for top-9 spots in the forward lineup. Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Darren Helm, and Justin Abdelkader have locked up spots in the top-nine as well. Stephen Weiss is under contract and management would likely prefer to not play a $5 million player on the fourth line. He will be battling for a top-nine spot as well.
Provided that all of these players are on the roster when the Red Wings break camp, there are five spots to battle for in the top nine. Nyquist and Tatar will easily claim two spots, but it’s just a matter of where since they played on all three top lines last season. Sheahan will likely center the third line to start the season. That leaves two spots for Jurco, Mantha, Pulkkinen, (and Weiss). Mantha can be assigned to Grand Rapids to start the season if need be.
A secondary roster spot battle will be flying under the radar as well. Joakim Andersson and Landon Ferraro will be competing for the fourth line right wing spot alongside Luke Glendening and Drew Miller. Out of options Mitch Callahan could be in the running as well. He, along with Andersson and Ferraro, are all restricted free agents this summer and can’t be assigned to the minors without passing through waivers. There’s a good chance one of these three won’t be with the Red Wings next season.
A healthy Johan Franzen or a potentially re-signed Dan Cleary can further complicate these roster battles as well. Tyler Bertuzzi, Dylan Larkin, and Andreas Athanasiou are putting up solid numbers for the Griffins on their playoff run. They could factor into roster decisions with their current coach, Jeff Blashill, expected to take over the Red Wings’ coaching position.
Ken Holland was clear earlier this summer: the young players need to challenge the vets. They will need to earn their spot in the lineup first though.
It’s nice to have a bunch of talented players, huh?
Sigh. We all feel robbed that the Red Wings did not advance further in the playoffs. But, it also signifies that there is still work to do in Detroit. Scoring and team defense were issues this playoff season, much like last year. Those areas of concern should be addressed this offseason, which looks to be a big one for the Detroit Red Wings.
We are going to count down the top five offseason storylines, briefly touching on each of the five in this post. All five storylines will also get an in-depth look in their own post. Enjoy the fireworks this summer, both for America and the Red Wings.
5. The Future of Johan Franzen
While Franzen barely played 30 games this season, he is a big part of the Red Wings and their success. When healthy, Johan Franzen possesses a lethal shot and size to bully his way around the offensive zone. Unfortunately, he has suffered quite a few concussions over his career, with the last one leaving doubts about returning to hockey. Can Franzen fully recover and return to form?
4. Young Guns Taking Charge
Mike Babcock said it in his season-ending press conference: the young guys need to step up and make the older players better. The Red Wings have Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheahan, Luke Glendening, and Tomas Jurco contributing, but not taking control. They need to in order to set the Wings apart form the competition. It wasn’t that long ago that Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg stepped up in place of aging Steve Yzerman and Brendan Shanahan. You can forget about Teemu Pulkkinen, Anthony Mantha, and Dylan Larkin coming soon as well.
3. The Tendys
It has already been said that Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek will compete for the starting goaltender position heading into training camp. Will one or both goalies come into camp hungry for playing time? Petr Mrazek is heading into a contract year that could pay huge dividends if he can seize the opportunity. Howard needs to prove that he can be the #1 goalie the Red Wings thought was worth over $30 million.
2. Improving the Defense
Dion Phaneuf stated that he wanted to be traded to Detroit at the trade deadline. Mike Green has long been linked to the Wings. Jeff Petry grew up in Michigan with his dad pitching for the Tigers. The Red Wings need to improve their defense beyond Niklas Kronwall, Danny DeKeyser, and Kyle Quincey (I know right? Quincey?). Marek Zidlicky was a nice addition this season, but is almost 40, and not a long-term solution. Will youngsters like Xavier Ouellet, Alexey Marchenko, or Ryan Sproul step up and earn a starting spot? Will the Wings make a splash in free agency or offseason trades?
Please stay. Jeff Blashill isn’t a bad #2 option, but Mike Babcock is the best coach in the NHL. Please stay. Please.
With another excited trade deadline in the books, the Detroit Red Wings came away with two players that improve their roster and didn’t have to mortgage much of their future to acquire them. Let’s take a look at the players the Red Wings targeted and where they ended up.
9. Oliver Ekman-Larsson – The Red Wings would love to acquire the offensive defenseman, but the cost would be way too high, likely costing them at least one of Dylan Larkin, Tomas Tatar, or Gustav Nyquist. There is no rush to more Ekman-Larsson, but perhaps Ken Holland could create a package around Brendan Smith and Tomas Jurco to acquire him. Arizona did not end up moving Ekman-Larsson, opting to keep the young defenseman as part of their rebuild. Seeing what the Rangers paid to acquire Keith Yandle, it’s probably for the best that the Red Wings did not meet Arizona’s demands for a better Ekman-Larsson.
8. Roman Polak – Toronto’s defenseman could occupy a third-pairing spot and help on the penalty kill. His cost should not be terribly high, but there’s a chance that the market and demand for defensemen could drive up the price higher than the Red Wings are willing to pay. Surprising, Polak stayed put in Toronto. A number of teams were rumored to attempt to acquire the Maple Leafs’ blueliner, but no one offered the right package for Polak.
7. Matt Hendricks – Perhaps costing the Red Wings only a late round draft pick, gritty Matt Hendricks could help the Red Wings form a formidable fourth line alongside Luke Glendening and Drew Miller. This new iteration of the Grind Line could pester the best lines in the Eastern Conference. Hendricks also has experience killing penalties and winning shootouts. Hendricks will stay put on Edmonton’s fourth line for now. His name was not mentioned in rumors today on social media, so he either was not in demand or Edmonton was not looking to part with his services.
6. Erik Cole – Dallas’ power forward has plenty of playoff experience and will fill any role the Red Wings ask him to fill. I’m sure Dallas GM Jim Nill has a few prospects in Detroit’s system he could try to pry away. Cole could add some depth to an already deep forward lineup. Pairing him with Riley Sheahan and Teemu Pulkkinen could pay dividends. We got him! The Red Wings acquired Erik Cole and a conditional pick from Dallas for prospects Mattias Backman and Mattias Janmark, and a second round pick. The conditional choice depends on if the Red Wings make it to the Eastern Conference Finals. Cole could wind up playing alongside Sheahan or Henrik Zetterberg on Wednesday.
5. Alexander Semin – This trade would only benefit the Red Wings if Carolina retains a good portion of Semin’s salary. He is a high risk, high reward potential acquisition, but could enjoy a career renaissance in Detroit playing alongside Pavel Datsyuk. His right-handed shot would be welcomed in the Red Wings’ lineup. No one appeared to be interested in Semin’s trainwreck of a contract. Carolina still has Semin rostered for quite a few years. They could look to make a move in the offseason to unload his contract, while likely retaining some salary, to a team that can help turn Alex Semin around.
4. Adam Larsson – the former fifth overall draft pick of the New Jersey Devils has struggled to establish himself among the Devils’ blueliners. If the Red Wings could pick up Larsson or fellow Devil Marek Zidlicky, their defense would improve. Larsson would fit right in among Swedes Niklas Kronwall and Jonathon Ericsson and may not require a huge return for acquiring his services. While the Devils did not part with Larsson, they did with Zidlicky. The right-handed defenseman is coming to a hockey rink near you after the Red Wings acquired Marek Zidlicky from the New Jersey Devils for a conditional third round pick. The condition of this choice depends on if the Red Wings reach the finals.
3. Jeff Petry – Michigan-born and a right-handed shot? Jeff Petry has long been linked to the Red Wings in the rumor column. Until now, the Red Wings have not met Edmonton’s demands for the defenseman. A mid-level prospect and a draft choice could likely bring in Petry. Edmonton dealt Jeff Petry to the Montreal Canadiens for a couple of draft picks. While Andrej Sekera and Cody Franson netted a first round pick, Petry did not, and some wonder if Edmonton could have held out for more in return.
2. Mike Green – While his defense is not his strong point, Green’s offensive flair is exactly what the Red Wings are looking for. The Capitals acquisition of Tim Gleason solidifies their defense, so Green may no longer be on the market. A conditional draft choice plus a player could net Green if the Capitals are looking to deal him. It would be nice to see Green in Detroit after the Red Wings traded his draft pick to the Capitals for Robert Lang at the 2004 trade deadline. Green was not dealt and will stay in DC for the rest of the season. It’s good news for him, as the Capitals are looking awfully dangerous for a playoff run. Washington features one of their deepest teams in recent history, especially on the blue line.
1. Dion Phaneuf – I am convinced that a change in scenery will get Phaneuf back on the right track. His stock has never been lower and if the Leafs are willing to keep some of his salary, Phaneuf could be a great acquisition for Detroit’s top four defense. His cannon of a shot would certainly bolster an already strong power play for the Red Wings. Detroit was pushing hard to acquire Phaneuf from Toronto, but in the end, their demands were just too high. Before trading for Marek Zidlicky, Toronto was asking for either Brendan Smith or Anthony Mantha as part of the deal according to different sources. The Wings would not budge, but could look to acquire Phaneuf in the offseason for the right price.
Note: Bleacher Report produced a similar article to this and featured David Legwand as a potential trade option for the Red Wings. LOL. Legwand was not dealt and Bleacher Report still does not know a thing about the Red Wings.
With quite a few trades already completed this past week, the Detroit Red Wings have less than 24 hours to make upgrades to their roster. Curtis Glencross, Jaromir Jagr, and Kimmo Timonen have already switched teams in deals. It has long been rumored that the Red Wings are looking to acquire another defenseman and possibly some size upfront. Darren Helm’s injury should not impact the trade outlook. It is still to be determined if Helm will be out for an extended period of time.
Let’s take a look at the Top 9 potential trade deadline targets the Red Wings could acquire:
9. Oliver Ekman-Larsson – The Red Wings would love to acquire the offensive defenseman, but the cost would be way too high, likely costing them at least one of Dylan Larkin, Tomas Tatar, or Gustav Nyquist. There is no rush to more Ekman-Larsson, but perhaps Ken Holland could create a package around Brendan Smith and Tomas Jurco to acquire him.
8. Roman Polak – Toronto’s defenseman could occupy a third-pairing spot and help on the penalty kill. His cost should not be terribly high, but there’s a chance that the market and demand for defensemen could drive up the price higher than the Red Wings are willing to pay.
7. Matt Hendricks – Perhaps costing the Red Wings only a late round draft pick, gritty Matt Hendricks could help the Red Wings form a formidable fourth line alongside Luke Glendening and Drew Miller. This new iteration of the Grind Line could pester the best lines in the Eastern Conference. Hendricks also has experience killing penalties and winning shootouts.
6. Eric Cole – Dallas’ power forward has plenty of playoff experience and will fill any role the Red Wings ask him to fill. I’m sure Dallas GM Jim Nill has a few prospects in Detroit’s system he could try to pry away. Cole could add some depth to an already deep forward lineup. Pairing him with Riley Sheahan and Teemu Pulkkinen could pay dividends.
5. Alexander Semin – This trade would only benefit the Red Wings if Carolina retains a good portion of Semin’s salary. He is a high risk, high reward potential acquisition, but could enjoy a career renaissance in Detroit playing alongside Pavel Datsyuk. His right-handed shot would be welcomed in the Red Wings’ lineup.
4. Adam Larsson – the former fifth overall draft pick of the New Jersey Devils has struggled to establish himself among the Devils’ blueliners. If the Red Wings could pick up Larsson or fellow Devil Marek Zidlicky, their defense would improve. Larsson would fit right in among Swedes Niklas Kronwall and Jonathon Ericsson and may not require a huge return for acquiring his services.
3. Jeff Petry – Michigan-born and a right-handed shot? Jeff Petry has long been linked to the Red Wings in the rumor column. Until now, the Red Wings have not met Edmonton’s demands for the defenseman. A mid-level prospect and a draft choice could likely bring in Petry.
2. Mike Green – While his defense is not his strong point, Green’s offensive flair is exactly what the Red Wings are looking for. The Capitals acquisition of Tim Gleason solidifies their defense, so Green may no longer be on the market. A conditional draft choice plus a player could net Green if the Capitals are looking to deal him. It would be nice to see Green in Detroit after the Red Wings traded his draft pick to the Capitals for Robert Lang at the 2004 trade deadline.
1. Dion Phaneuf – I am convinced that a change in scenery will get Phaneuf back on the right track. His stock has never been lower and if the Leafs are willing to keep some of his salary, Phaneuf could be a great acquisition for Detroit’s top four defense. His cannon of a shot would certainly bolster an already strong power play for the Red Wings.
Note: Bleacher Report produced a similar article to this and featured David Legwand as a potential trade option for the Red Wings. LOL.
One of the most anticipated dates of the NHL calendar year is quickly approaching. On March 2nd, NHL teams will be scurrying to acquire what they believe are the final pieces to their puzzle in an attempt to challenge for the Stanley Cup. The Detroit Red Wings are no different.
It is widely-known that the Red Wings are looking to upgrade their back end and they have quite a stockpile of prospects on their depth chart. Though they have an abundance of riches, it may not be prospects that are traded for a defenseman or two if the Red Wings decide to make a trade. Let’s take a look at who’s available and who’s not:
There is not a trade out there that will pry these players away from the Red Wings. These are franchise players that will be in the organization for the foreseeable future.
Young Nearly Untouchables
It is very unlikely that these players will be traded unless there is an offer Ken Holland and company cannot refuse. Some of these players could become franchise players with continued development.
Older Nearly Untouchables
These are vital players to the Red Wings that likely won’t be traded unless there is a great offer. While other available trade chips from other teams are better, these players have their role and are not worth trading unless part of a blockbuster.
In an attempt to challenge for the Stanley Cup, these players might become available to land a key player in return. These players can garner a solid enough return that it might be worth trading them to improve the team.
Odds and Ends
There is no interest for these players. They are unlikely to be traded because their contributions to the team are greater than the minimal return that they will bring back in a deal.
Their valuable is still to be determined, but it would take a great deal for Ken Holland to relinquish one of his draft picks from team control. They could be a valued member of the Red Wings—or of another tam—one day.
Next up, a Top 9 look at who the Red Wings might be targeting as the trade deadline gets closer. It will be the RWI analysis of team needs since no one outside the organization truly knows who the Detroit Red Wings are having trade discussions with.
Often times, NBCSports’ Wednesday Night Rivalry Night delivers a matchup of two marketable teams from big market cities. Tonight’s Red Wings-Blackhawks matchup offers that, plus a respectable rivalry in today’s NHL.
Jonathon Ericsson once said in a Bob Duff article that the players from both teams always get up for the Detroit-Chicago games and have mutual respect for each other. The matchup is truly quality hockey at its finest.
Already this season, the Detroit Red Wings have been featured on Rivalry Night a number of times, including matchups with the Capitals, Penguins, and Avalanche. There is plenty of bad blood with the Avalanche in the history of the two franchises, but none as of late. The Penguins and Capitals are obviously former Stanley Cup opponents, but do not offer much else in history or distaste for each other.
The Red Wings-Blackhawks rivalry can be traced back to the days when the Norris family owned both teams. Their proximity to each other and distance from other original six teams offered a Midwest rivalry during Original Six play. Red Wing greats Glenn Hall, Ted Lindsay, and Sid Abel all spent a portion of their careers in Chicago (usually through unbalanced, intra-family trades to improve the Blackhawks).
Of the players on today’s teams, only Marian Hossa and Danny Cleary have played for both the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks. Greats Chris Chelios and Bob Probert also spent time as fan favorites for both franchises during their careers.
The showcase of these two teams for Rivalry Night features Detroit’s one true, contemporary rivalry. It can be traced back to the franchises’ entrance to the NHL, but most recently to the 2009 Western Conference Finals, where the Red Wings defeated the Blackhawks in five games on Darren Helm’s overtime goal.
Since then, the Red Wings and Blackhawks have been among the NHL’s most talented teams year-after-year. They feature superstars, budding players, and the most pure skills between any two teams in the NHL. Look back to the quality of hockey played during the 2013 playoff matchup of these two teams. Though the Red Wings lost, you can’t help but appreciate the talent these two teams put on the ice for that series.
The teams’ talent and compete levels are similar because their systems are bred from the same template: the Red Wings franchise. It’s no wonder the Blackhawks resemble the Red Wings—Scotty Bowman is a team consultant and his son is the GM. The Blackhawks are modeled after the success the Red Wings experienced over the past two decades. Pretty cool to be model franchise for rival teams and other NHL clubs, huh?
Enjoy the game tonight. It’s the best matchup in the NHL and the best rivalry the Red Wings are a part of today.
Recently, Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press wrote about the Red Wings’ opinion and involvement in the analytics trend within the NHL. Gustav Nyquist, Stephen Weiss, and Jimmy Howard all brushed them off as not a big deal. Not concerned at all. Ken Holland and Mike Babcock insist that they have their own analytics.
When it comes to analytics in the NHL, I do not believe today’s metrics offer an effective value-add to teams looking to improve their roster. There has been a lot of discussion in the media and other hockey blogs about Fenwick and Corsi percentages and how players’ performance in these scores are accurate representations of how they play.
For those who have not been exposed to the Fenwick and Corsi percentage metrics, they track puck possession by adding up shots, missed shots, and in Corsi’s case, blocked shots. My issue here is that missed shots and blocked shots are valued the same as shots on net. As any individual who played hockey can tell you, you can’t score on missed shots. Wayne Gretzky did say, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take” but you also miss 100% of the shots that miss the net.
Additionally, there has been word that, in the near future, pucks and jerseys will be equipped with tracking chips to uncover deeper analytics within the game. The FoxTrax puck was a fun novelty for kids and visually-impaired individuals, but not very helpful otherwise. Chips in jerseys? I’m not an octogenarian scared of technology, but this is unnecessary. However, I can’t wait for Pierre McGuire to tell me that Pavel Datsyuk skated 1.34 miles through the first two periods and what that means going into the third period with the Red Wings up 3-1, but down 7-5 in scoring chances.
For goalies, I’ve read other blogs that discuss 5-on-5 save percentage, penalty kill save percentage, and other metrics. As a goalie who has played high-level hockey, these numbers mean nothing. You stop the puck or you don’t. You win or you don’t. Petr Mrazek has a higher-than-average GAA, but wins games. Viktor Fasth of Edmonton has a high GAA, but loses. The team in front of the goalie also has an impact, so stats for one team do not translate to success or failure with another team.
There is not yet a way to determine a player’s value based on more than what the eye can see. Don’t read into analytics. See player development for yourself. Game tape and vigilant observation is currently more effective in determining if the players on your roster are the best fit. Finally, who are you going to trust when it comes to player evaluation, Mike Babcock or a journalist discussing Fenwick scores? I think the two have their respective jobs for a reason.
I like to think of myself as someone who is knowledgeable about the Detroit Red Wings while discussing their past, present, and future. That changed after I started reading Keith Allen and Bob Duff’s book, 100 Things Red Wings Fans Should Know Before They Die.
The book covers the entirety of the Red Wings’ history, starting with the sale of the PCHL’s Victoria Cougars. The Cougars would move to Detroit and the NHL to become the Detroit Cougars, Falcons, and finally, Red Wings franchise we still adore today.
Stories of Jack Adams, Steve Yzerman, Gordie Howe, and Ted Lindsay fill the book, but some of the most interesting Red Wings historical factoids are about players most people have not heard of. Joe Turner and Ned Harkness each have their story told, along with many others who deserve to have their story told.
I’m not one to recommend a book, but all Red Wings fans need to get ahold of this collection of Red Wings stories. It covers all eras, not just the periods when Gordie Howe or Steve Yzerman led the team to greatness.
Bob Duff knows his Red Wings. Learn the Red Wings’ rich history that he details in 100 individual stories.
Though no Detroit Red Wings player will be a part of it, the NHL All-Stars will be participating in the All-Star Skills Competition this weekend in Columbus. Among the events are competitions for fastest skater, fastest slap shot, most accurate shot, and best at breakaways. Looking at this from a different and probably more entertaining perspective, I wonder which Red Wings would participate in each event if the team had its own skills competition.
Teams used to hold these kind of events for fans in the past, but have since allowed players not invited to the NHL events to take the time off and rest up for the stretch run. Red Wings like Tomas Tatar and Petr Mrazek have already found sun and warm weather for the week break. If those two and the rest of the team were still in town, who would participate in what event? Who would win? Well, we thought about it and need your opinion regarding the participants and winners.
Who has the fastest clapper on the team? There is no clear answer like Alex Ovechkin in DC or Zdeno Chara in Boston. The Red Wings boast a few players with hard shots, but none that could break a goalie’s hand. Who gets your vote? The winner receives the Reed Larson Award for hardest shot.
Niklas Kronwall – Known for blasting shots from the point on the power play, Kronwall probably takes a clapper more than anyone on the team. He tries to be more accurate that powerful with his shot like the great Nick Lidstrom.
Jonathan Ericsson – “Big Rig” can really bring it from the blue line, but does not wind up for the cannon shot very often. He has rifled some big shots in the past though.
Teemu Pulkkinen – You can’t be compared to Brett Hull unless you have a heavy shot. Teemu’s go-to is his cannon that we are all hoping he’ll get to shoot a lot of in the show soon.
Danny DeKeyser – Another blueliner who favors the smart play over the big wind up, DeKeyser would be another participant in the hardest shot competition. Does he trump the field?
Most Accurate Shot
Guys like Brendan Shanahan and Sergei Fedorov come to mind when thinking of Red Wings who can pick a corner. Who from today’s team would win the competition though? There is an abundance of talent here, but we picked the top four for consideration. The winner receives the Sergei Fedorov Award for Shooting Excellence.
Pavel Datsyuk – Obvious participant. Magical in general for snipage.
Johan Franzen – Though he goes through dry spells, Franzen can snipe. He can go bar down on most goalies in the league when his confidence is riding high.
Tomas Tatar – Could he be the next best pure goal-scorer for the Red Wings? His team-leading 21 goals don’t lie. He could reach 40 goals this season if he keeps making goalies look bad.
Henrik Zetterberg – Most of Z’s goals are not fancy snipes, but accurately and strategically placed shots to where the goalie is not covering. Could that translate to hitting all four targets at each corner of the net?
Which Red Wings player has the best wheels? We cannot go into bars to determine that, but we can quantify who can skate around the rink the fastest. Speed is another talent the Wings have collectively, but here are the top four. Winner receives the Kris Draper Hustle Award.
Darren Helm – Like Datsyuk when it comes to sniping, Helm is an obvious candidate for fastest skater.
Luke Glendening – He would probably have Mike Babcock‘s vote. Hustle is key here.
Brendan Smith – When given a lane and an opportunity, Brendan Smith can really fly. As a defenseman, you wouldn’t normally consider him for a fastest skater competition, but he deserves the chance.
Justin Abdelkader – Just another Red Wings player who can move in a fast manner. Abdelkader could definitely keep pace with the other competitors.
Breakaway Survival Challenge
For the sake of changing things up from the norm, this competition would be to see which Red Wings player would be the last man standing in a breakaway contest. To ensure that all four are not stopped on the first try, imagine Jimmy Howard is in net for the event. This winner receives the Steve Yzerman Award.
Pavel Datsyuk – We haven’t seen as many Datsyukian Dekes lately, but Pav can still dangle with the best. He is currently the active leader for shootout goals.
Gustav Nyquist – He’s the next man up after Datsyuk in the shootout and has converted on a few attempts this season. Could he outlast the Premier of Danglestan?
Tomas Tatar – Typically number three in the shootout lineup, Tatar can also snipe goalies when it comes to shootouts.
Tomas Jurco – He was highly-touted in juniors for his dangles and we have seen flashes of that over the past season and a half. Jurco is a wild card here with the skills and not much shootout experience.
Just for funsies. Which player on the Red Wings would take the longest doing a lap around the Joe? Could one of the goalies beat them? These players can have cinder blocks in their skates at times. Johan Franzen is not an option here because he can skate fast…when he wants. I won’t elaborate on why they are slow to prevent hurt feelings. Just vote for who you think needs turbo boosters to reach normal speed. I’m not sure this warrants an award, but winner get the Andreas Lilja Cement Shoes Award.
Vote! See, voting can be fun when it doesn’t involve politics or prom king or queen! Vote!
It’s pretty unfortunate that Jimmy Howard will be out for the foreseeable. It’s also pretty unfortunate that it could have been avoided too.
I was at the Verizon Center the night of the Red Wings’ stinker of a game against the Capitals. I also enjoy walking into the Caps’ arena and seeing their 1997-98 Eastern Conference Championship banner hanging from the rafters. I may have been a kid then, but I distinctly remember Sergei Fedorov, Steve Yzerman, and Doug Brown scoring clutch goals for the Red Wings. Kris Draper had an important goal too.
But back to Howard.
We all saw Jimmy go behind the net to play the puck after the Caps dumped it in. Kyle Quincey and Danny DeKeyser came back, but neither were in a position to beat Caps’ forward Troy Brouwer to the puck. DeKeyser yelled, “Play it! Play it!” for Howard to rim the puck around the boards. I could hear him all the way from my seat, so surely Howard heard him from 25 feet away. He panicked and left the puck blindly, thinking Quincey was coming through to take it. A few seconds later, the puck was in the net and Howard was agonizing in pain. Now, he’s out through the All-Star break, at the very least.
He was named to the All-Star team earlier that day.
With Howard on the shelf, it’s Petr Mrazek‘s time to shine. Mrazek, 22, is the Red Wings’ top goaltending prospect and will get an early look at being the team’s starting goalie for the next few weeks. The Monster, Jonas Gustavsson, is not ready to play after sustaining a separated shoulder against the Rangers a few months ago.
Mrazek has the mental makeup to be an NHL starter and the talent to make it happen. I’ve been an advocate of that since I saw him play in the 2010 World Junior Tournament. He reminds me of a young Dominik Hasek with his aggressive style of play. He’s got a long way before getting to Dom’s level though.
The Red Wings have Buffalo up next, followed by St. Louis and Nashville. Buffalo, again, and Minnesota round out the schedule before the All-Star break. While the schedule is skewed toward the lighter side with Minnesota and Buffalo, the other two opponents are top teams in the NHL and will truly test Mrazek’s NHL-readiness. Niklas Kronwall and company will need to be on their game for the next five games in front of “Petr Griffin”. Tom McCollum will serve as Mrazek’s backup, but probably won’t see the ice unless something horrible happens.
Let’s see what future starter Petr Mrazek has in store for the Wings as the current starting goalie.