The Monster? Not so much in 2013, as Jonas Gustavsson battled injuries and ended up making just four starts and seven appearances all season long. It was a trendy thing to suggest that he just needed a change of scenery when he left Toronto for Detroit, but the truth is that he played so infrequently that it’s hard for the Red Wings to know if he was a good signing or not.
Looking Back at Jonas Gustavsson’s 2013:
Though it wasn’t under the most pleasant of circumstances (a 6-0 drubbing by the S. Louis Blues, in case you don’t remember) , Gustavsson actually saw some action on opening night, making seven saves on eight shots in relief of Jimmy Howard. He then promptly proceeded to suffer the one injury you never like to hear happen to a goalie: a groin injury.
It would be a whole month until he saw action again, and it wasn’t until February 28 that he got his first decision, a win against the San Jose Sharks. Gustavsson looked unconvincing in consecutive losses to Columbus and Calgary in March, and it was clear that Mike Babcock wasn’t going to play him down the stretch unless Jimmy Howard was in at least three pieces.
When he did play, Gustavsson turned in numbers strikingly similar to the ones that saw him fall out of favor with the Maple Leafs, including a .500 record and a 2.92 GAA. That’s hardly what the Red Wings envisioned when inking him to a two-year deal last summer.
In a strange way, though, he still helped the Wings learn a few things. Most importantly, they found out Howard could play at a very high level even without someone to help him share the workload. The Monster’s injuries also forced a call up for Petr Mrazek, who didn’t look out of place in an NHL crease.
Looking Ahead to 2013-14:
Even with Mrazek in the pipelines, Gustavsson should be back next season. His $1.5 million salary is actually too low for Detroit to consider buying him out. He could be traded if Ken Holland thought it made sense, but the team would definitely be selling low after a year like the one he just had.
The Swede is still on the right side of 30, and while no one is suggesting he’ll ever be in a Vezina discussion, goalies like Tim Thomas who figured it out after a few years in the NHL have to give him some hope. His best case scenario would be if he stays healthy all season and looks good in spelling Howard, drumming up some free agent interest for next summer.
But right now, that’s a big “if.” The Red Wings could probably live with or without Gustavsson right now, and like Bruce Hornsby said back in the 80s, that’s just the way it is.