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Red Wings’ McCollum Notches Bittersweet First Win

Tom McCollum

Photo by Mark Newman/Grand Rapids Griffins

Though Tom McCollum‘s entrance to the game against his hometown Buffalo Sabres came at a 3-0 disadvantage, the Red Wing’s fourth string goalie got his first NHL win on Sunday night.

Many anticipated last night’s game to be a “trap game” following a dominating performance against a high-powered Nashville Predators team on Saturday night. The lowly Buffalo Sabres did not seem to pose a threat to the Red Wings on paper. That’s why games are played though.

After allowing three goals on his first seven shots, Petr Mrazek was given the hook in favor of McCollum. No one was playing well at this point, so the move to yank Mrazek was more of a coaching strategy, rather than a nod to Mrazek’s poor play. The Red Wings responded with five unanswered goals en route to a 6-4 victory.

McCollum was not tested very much after entering the game. He only faced eight shots and allowed one goal on a Tyler Ennis turnaround shot. For the former 2008 first round draft pick, his first NHL win could not come soon enough and against a better team, though better would not be used to describe the talent of the team.

Tom McCollum grew up in the suburbs of Buffalo and rooted for the Sabres growing up. He watched Dominik Hasek redefine “dominance” while in Buffalo and then another great tender in Ryan Miller for a brief time until he was drafted in 2008. It was fitting that McCollum’s first NHL win came against the team he grew up cheering for. It was also fitting the way that the win was achieved.

Redemption at the Joe

Last night’s victory serves as a solid metaphor for McCollum’s career after he was drafted by Detroit. It started out a flaming pile of garbage, though unlike his career, McCollum was not in net for the down period. After a decent enough end to the first period, things started to pick up and order was restored. The Red Wings fought back and evened the game, like how Tom fought to preserve his standing with the Grand Rapids Griffins after Petr Mrazek jumped him in the depth chart and the Red Wings signed Jared Coreau out of Northern Michigan for organizational depth.

The next act was to assert dominance and come out on top. McCollum mirrored that in Grand Rapids following the team’s Calder Cup championship in 2013. Though he was not always the starting goalie, McCollum have posted solid numbers in a season and a half since. After Mrazek was promoted to the Red Wings following Jonas Gustavsson‘s shoulder injury, Tom McCollum took over as the starter in Grand Rapids and did not falter. He posted ten wins and a 2.33 goals against average in the AHL before joining the big league team.

Goaltenders have always been known to battle. Tom McCollum certainly did last night to keep pace with his career revitalization. It remains to be seen when and where McCollum will have a more permanent NHL job, but he can only keep battling until then to prove he belongs.

Goalies: The Spotlight’s On You

Today we are going to take a look at Detroit’s goalies, both on the active roster and in the system. The Red Wings have six (maybe five) tenders under contract: Jimmy Howard, Jonas Gustavsson, Petr Mrazek, Jared Coreau, Jake Paterson, and Tom McCollum. Compared with the rest of the NHL, Detroit’s goalies are above-average in terms of combined talent and potential. However, only excellence is demanded when you step into the crease with the Red Wings’ logo on your chest. Here is the Red Wings Intelligence take on the tendy situation in Detroit:

1. Jimmy Howard

Jimmy Howard

Photo courtesy of Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

After taking over the starting goalie role from Chris Osgood in 2009, Jimmy Howard has held that role ever since. He has 148 career wins in the Red Wings’ uniform and has led the team to the playoffs in each of his four full seasons as the starter. However, Jimmy has posted a 20-22 record in the playoffs. He is signed through 2018-19 season at $5.3 million per season.

I am often critical of Howard’s play, especially his positioning and some soft goals. First, let me give him credit. The defense in front of him has been unspectacular at times. Jimmy bails the team out and keeps them in games.

But I did say I am often critical of his goaltending. His angles can be off on shots from the boards. He bails the team out, but a lot of times he does not make the save that he has no business making. Dominik Hasek had a knack for coming out of nowhere to make an unbelievable save that inspired his team. I have yet to see Jimmy do that. Doc Emerick, Ken Daniels, and Ken Kal all erupt with, “SAVE BY HOWARD!!!” None of those saves are spectacular in the sense that proper positioning would make it look routine.

In my opinion, Howard is not the money goalie that will lead the Wings to another Cup. He was clutch down the stretch and in the playoffs last season, but goals still went in. You can argue that it wasn’t his fault they lost to Chicago in the second round, but the bottom line is that the puck went in our net more times than theirs, and it’s Howard job not to let that happen.

2. Jonas Gustavsson

Jonas Gustavsson

Photo courtesy of Mike Ridewood/Getty Images

“The Monster” has been a surprise this season, putting up nice numbers while Howard was injured or relegated to the bench. This is his second season with the team and is signed through the end of the season for $1.5 million.

Gustavsson stepped up when we needed him, but is not going to take over the starting job anytime soon. He may get a chance to be a co-starter next season, however it won’t be in Detroit. I anticipate Gustavsson to test the free agent market this summer and sign somewhere willing to give him more playing time. After his performance this season, I feel he could ask for a raise and will get it. Detroit has the cap room to keep him around, but do they have enough playing time to keep him happy?

3. Petr Mrazek

Petr Mrazek

Photo courtesy of Brad Rempel/Icon SMI

Though he has played sparingly in the NHL in his young career, I think Mrazek could have a future with the Red Wings. His 2-5 career record may be unspectacular, but there is a lot of upside to “Petr Griffin” (he has Family Guy’s Peter Griffin painted on his helmet and Detroit’s farm team is called the Grand Rapids Griffins. Get it???). Mrazek is signed through next season on his entry-level contract that earns him just under $600,000 at the NHL level.

If Jonas Gustavsson is no re-signed for next season, Detroit could give Mrazek a shot at the backup role. However, another year starting in the minors can’t hurt his game – maybe his confidence though. He led the Griffins to the AHL championship last year and is having another great season this year. Mrazek has won everywhere he has played and could develop into a starting goalie for the Red Wings down the road.

4. Thomas McCollum

Tom McCollum

Photo courtesy of Mark Newman/Grand Rapids Griffins

A former first round pick from 2008, McCollum has not lived up to what Detroit had envisioned. His path to the show was a bumpy one, splitting time between Grand Rapids and Toledo for the first three years of his professional career. He appeared in one game for Detroit in 2011 and got lit up by St. Louis. McCollum allowed three goals on eight shots in 15 minutes of relief. McCollum has had a pretty solid year in Grand Rapids this year, splitting time with Petr Mrazek. His contract is not listed on Detroit’s CapGeek page, so I believe he is property of Grand Rapids, rather than Detroit now.

5. Jared Coreau

Jared Coreau

Photo courtesy of Dan Mannes/Detroit Red Wings

Detroit signed this Northern Michigan product after his junior season and has spent time in Grand Rapids and Toledo since. Coreau was called up to the bigs a few times, but never got in on any action. Nonetheless, the time spent in the dressing rooms and practicing with world-class players can only help his development. He has not had a good season in the minors this year though. He has a combined AHL and ECHL record of 1-15-5 this season. Yes, the Toledo Walleye may not be a very good ECHL team, but Coreau posted an 0-4 record with a strong Grand Rapids team this year. Jared is in the first year of his entry-level contract this year and has another two years to follow. Hopefully he will develop more and produce better numbers by the time his contract is up.

 

6. Jake Paterson

Jake Paterson

Photo courtesy of Frank Gunn/Canadian Press

Detroit drafted Paterson in the third round in 2012 out of Saginaw of the OHL. He is just wrapping up his fourth season (third full season) in the OHL, leading the Spirit into the playoffs. Paterson made the Canadian National Junior team this past winter for the World Junior Championships in Sweden, but only appeared in two games. His numbers are not eye-popping, but then again, he may not have the best team in front of him. A goals against average of over three and a save percentage above 90% indicates that he is not getting a lot of help and faces quite a few shots on a regular basis. I have never seen Paterson play, so I cannot comment on his ability, but hope that he makes an impression at Detroit’s training camp next year. Him and Coreau could potentially be the two goalies in Grand Rapids next year if Gustavsson and McCollum are let go.