Today all 30 NHL teams released their protected lists for the upcoming expansion draft. I thought many teams made smart decisions when it came to the players they left exposed and players they protected. I cannot wrap my head around the Detroit Red Wings decision to protect Jimmy Howard over Petr Mrazek. There have been many questionable things that Detroit has done over the past year or two that have left me with many questions.
Let’s begin with the Howard over Mrazek thing. Petr Mrazek was out performed by Howard this year in a season where Detroit was extremely bad. Prior to this season Mrazeks’ lowest save percentage was .918 in 29 starts in his first full season as a Red Wing. The following season of 2015/2016 he was one of the only reason the Wings made the playoffs starting in 54 games posting a .921 save percentage and 4 shutouts. He easily could have carried the Red Wings on deep playoff runs in 2014/2015 and 2015/2016 if his offense didn’t disappear against Tampa Bay. He has a career .931 save percentage in 10 playoff starts where he has a 4-6 record. This season his superpowers disappeared and he posted a .901 save percentage in 50 games behind a defense that is one of the worst in the league. He was one of the best young goalies in the game until this season as a 24 year old. Vegas has plenty of options when it comes to selecting a goalie, but Petr Mrazek has to be the best option at a $4 million cap hit for the next season as a pending RFA.
Mrazek goaltending stats
Meanwhile Jimmy Howard overachieved this year posting a .927 in 26 games, earning a save percentage above a .910 for the first time in 4 seasons. He was literally bailed out by Mrazek in the past two seasons where he completely fell off as he entered his thirties. He has two years left on his deal at a $5.3 million cap hit. If you wanted to keep him you more than likely wouldn’t have even had to protect him as no one wants to deal with that contract for an aging and declining goaltender.
Howards’ past five seasons
Too add to the questionable decisions made by Detroit, what the hell is that Justin Abdelkader contract? A guy who was a complete product of Datsyuk when he played on his wing where he managed 23 and 19 goal seasons with him. After Datsyuks’ departure he managed a whopping seven goals and 14 assists in 64 games this season fresh off of signing a 7 year $29.75 million deal. He will be 36 by the end of it and will be nearly irrelevant. Another very questionable deal was the Frans Nielsen deal. Frans Nielsen was arguably one of the Wings’ best players this year and is a very solid second line center. But in a desperate effort to replace Datsyuk after not being able to sign Steven Stamkos they settled for the consolation prize of Nielsen. They threw a 6 year $31.5 million dollar deal at a 32 year old and also gave him a no move clause. He is definitely not a bad player, but that contract length is a disaster for the direction in which Detroit is trending. The Danny Dekeyser contract is turning out to be not so great as he has been less than impressive after signing it. They also have Jonathan Ericsson at $4.25 million per season until the end of 2020.
All of these things lead me to my biggest question. What is Ken Holland trying to do with this team? Are they trying to win now? If so I do not think it is possible to go anywhere with that defense who has the hardest time breaking the puck out and getting it to their forwards in general. Also if you are going for one last run with Zetterberg and Kronwall are you willing to suck and deal with albatross contracts for the next ten years? Are you trying to retool with the draft picks you have stocked up for this year? Their AHL affiliate just won the Calder Cup this season and they have a solid group of prospects such as Evgeny Svechnikov and Tyler Bertuzzi. They also have great young pieces in Anthony Mantha and Andreas Athanasiou. I am very confused on the intentions of the franchise at this point and I do not think I am the only one.
The Red Wings have always been my second favorite team behind the Leafs. I actually hate that they are in the same division now because it makes it less acceptable to cheer for them. I do understand it may be time for Detroit to take their lumps and sit in the basement for a few years. It could be better off for the franchise as well if they make the correct decisions.