brouwer

Red Wings’ Tender Groins

photo 1 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 FedorovSteve 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.

What’s Next

photo 2With 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.

Looking back at the Red Wings’ 2004 Draft

Good #tbt to everyone. Today, we are going to take a look back at Detroit’s draft from 2004. Ten years later, these picks should have developed into what Detroit thought they were going to be. No one is perfect though, and like most other draft picks, some did not pan out according to plan.

Johan Franzen

Photo courtesy of Julian H. Gonzalez

The Red Wings were just coming off of a disappointing second round loss to a tougher Calgary Flames team that went on to reach the Stanley Cup finals. Calgary also had a guy in net by the name of Miikka Kiprusoff that did not allow many goals at all that spring. As always, the Red Wings management team looked to upgrade at the draft and stockpile some picks to develop over time. These players were the last drafted before the 2004-05 lockout.

Detroit traded their first round pick to the Capitals in a deal to acquire the league’s leading scorer, Robert Lang. He contributed to the Red Wings until 2007, when he signed with Chicago. Many thought Lang could have done more, however. The Capitals used Detroit’s pick to select defenseman Mike Green in the first round. Green has had some solid years for the Capitals, but who knows how he would have developed in Detroit’s system. He would have been great in a Red Wings’ uniform, but I’ll take the 2008 Cup over him any day, even if Lang was not on the team then.

In the spring of 2003, Detroit traded their 2004 second round pick to Los Angeles in a package to acquire Mathieu Schneider. He played in Detroit until 2007 as well and gave the Red Wings more veteran presence on the blue line. It was great for the development of Niklas Kronwall, Kyle Quincey, and Brett Lebda to have Schnieder, Nicklas Lidstrom, and Chris Chelios in the locker room and on the bench with them. Los Angeles would trade that pick to Boston, who selected Martins Karsums. He would only play six games in Boston before being dealt to Tampa Bay. Karsums currently plays in the KHL for Dynamo Moscow

Finally, the Red Wings got to make a selection in the third round. They drafted a big, Swedish forward by the name of Johan Franzen. After having a breakout season with Linkopings HC in the Swedish Elite League, the Red Wings felt confident drafting Franzen even though he was 24 at the time. He was a late bloomer, but Detroit got a player almost NHL-ready. Franzen suited up for the first NHL game he could, though it was over a year after he was drafted (2004-05 Lockout).

Johan Franzen has had a solid career in Detroit, but many wonder if he could do better on the ice. He often looks unmotivated and lacking confidence on the ice. However, Franzen has put up some great numbers and led the team when called upon. He was a key figure for the Red Wings in the 2008 Cup run and has impressive career playoff stats, even if they have tailed off in the past few years.

In the fourth round, Detroit took center Evan McGrath out of Kitchener in the OHL. He would play two more seasons for Kitchener after being drafted before starting the 2006-07 season with the Grand Rapids Griffins. McGrath would play four seasons there before being let go by the Red Wings. He currently plays in Sweden for Frolunda in Sweden’s top league.

Detroit took defenseman Sergei Kolosov in the fifth round in 2004. The Belorussian defenseman would spend three seasons in Grand Rapids from 2008 to 2011, but never cracked Detroit’s lineup. The Red Wings did not retain him after his rookie contract. Later in the fifth round, Detroit took Tyler Haskins from the Toronto St. Michael’s Majors in the OHL. He never signed with Detroit and is currently playing in Germany for the Wolfsburg Grizzly Adams. That’s really the team’s name.

In the sixth round, Detroit gambled on another big, Swedish winger and it did not pan out. They selected right wing Anton Axelsson 192nd overall after a good campaign with Frolunda’s junior team in Sweden. Axelsson still plays in Sweden and has spent the last three seasons playing with Frolunda after some time with Timra IK, Henrik Zetterberg’s old team.

The Red Wings took Steve Convington, a right wing from the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL, in the seventh round of the draft. Like most late picks, he did not pan out and Detroit never signed him.

In the eighth round, Detroit drafted Gennady Stolyarov out of Russia. He never signed with Detroit and currently plays for Cherepovets Severstal in the KHL.

Finally, in the ninth round, the Red Wings picked defenseman Nils Backstrom from Stocksunds of the Swedish junior league. Nils went on to play at the University of Alaska at Anchorage and never signed with Detroit. He played in ten games last season with AIK in the top Swedish league, but has not appeared in any games this year.

After being out-muscled by Calgary, Detroit opted to draft size in the following NHL Draft. They got lucky with Johan Franzen, but none of the other picks worked out as they hoped. Kris Versteeg, Nikita Nikitin, Mikhail Grabovski, Roman Polak, Anton Khudobin, Troy Brouwer, Pekka Rinne(!!!), Mark Streit, Daniel Winnik, and Jannik Hansen were all available by Detroit’s fourth round pick (McGrath), but were passed over. The draft is a guessing game and we guessed wrong.

No one knows for sure how an 18 year old will develop over the next five years. Some are diamonds in the rough and some are busts. The Red Wings were lucky to have late round picks like Tomas Holmstrom, Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, and Jonathan Ericsson turn into great players. They even developed into world-class superstars in Datsyuk and Zetterberg’s case.