After a disappointing end to the 2013-14 season at the hands of the Boston Bruins, the next step for the Detroit Red Wings is deciding which players to keep, which players to re-sign and which players in free agency offer them the best opportunity to improve the team.
One of the bigger storylines coming out of Detroit will be between the pipes. Jimmy Howard is the starter, there’s no argument there. The problem arises in Howard’s backup.
Jonas Gustavsson is an unrestricted free agent and performed admirably this season for the Red Wings.
Gustavsson sported a 16-5-4 record during the regular season with 2.63 GAA and a .907 save percentage. He helped the team pick up a lot of key victories, especially in the beginning of the season, en route to clinching a 23rd consecutive playoff berth.
He even made his first two career starts in the playoffs, as Howard was battling the flu and couldn’t play in Game 4 or Game 5.
With that being said, Petr Mrazek deserves to be the backup goalie behind Howard for the 2014-15 season.
Richard Panik agrees.
While Gustavsson was a big part in getting the Red Wings to the playoffs, he also spent significant time injured. He missed 24 games this season due to injury, most of those coming from a groin injury.
Gustavsson is too unreliable when it comes to staying healthy. The backup goalie doesn’t play as much as it is, and the Red Wings need someone who can be more reliable.
This is where Mrazek comes in. Mrazek is ready for the NHL. He has played in just 11 games with a 3-5 record over two seasons, but his stats speak for themselves. He has a 1.80 GAA, a .926 save percentage and two shutouts.
A goalie with those kinds of stats and a losing record means he isn’t getting any goal support in front of him, which has generally been the case when Mrazek starts.
He has nothing left to prove at the AHL level. He won a Calder Cup last year with the Grand Rapids Griffins starting every game while bringing Grand Rapids its first professional hockey championship.
He’s working on defending that championship this season, as he already has helped the Griffins pick up two wins against the Abbotsford Heat in their first-round matchup.
He’s been solid at the NHL level and keeping him in the AHL is not going to help him grow as a goalie.
With Mrazek in Detroit, the Red Wings can rest Howard if necessary and have confidence knowing Mrazek is perfectly capable of getting a win.
Gustavsson, on the other hand, is a wild card. He can be stellar, but he can be very sporadic and overplay the puck causing him to flop around like Dominik Hasek.
That’s nearly $1 million the team can save and spend on a right-handed defenseman or another scoring option.
Mrazek is the future of the Red Wings in net. He’s plenty ripe — it’s time to give him full-time status with the Red Wings.