Petr Mrazek was the clear No. 1 goalie for the Detroit Red Wings when the season began. Now, he might be a trading chip, according to the Detroit Free Press’ Helene St. James.
St. James writes:
If Mrazek, who turns 25 in February, has a hold on the starting job by then, good for him and good for the Wings. The thinking within the club is that (Jared) Coreau is ready for the NHL full-time, and he may well end up being the goalie the Wings protect in the expansion draft this summer.
There are a couple of issues I have with this line of thinking.
Coreau’s Small Sample Size
If the Red Wings seriously are counting on Coreau to become a full-time NHL goalie next season, it makes no sense to protect him in the expansion draft and trade Mrazek.
At first glance, Coreau’s record of 5-1-2 looks good. He’s winning more games than he is losing in his first 10 games of NHL action. However, Coreau’s record is a big reason why win-loss records for goalies can be misleading.
Coreau has a .905 save percentage this season, including a five-on-five save percentage of .913, according to Corsica. These aren’t numbers that scream full-time NHL goalie. Coreau has shown some flashes of brilliance, with two shutouts this season, but to consider protecting a goalie after 10 NHL games is not in the Red Wings’ best interest.
Especially with goalies Ben Bishop and Marc Andre-Fleury possibly being left unprotected by their respective teams, Las Vegas has better, more established options at goaltender, so the odds of Coreau being selected are slim to none.
Coreau’s Misleading Record
Coreau’s record mostly is due to him getting goal support in the games he plays. The Red Wings are averaging 2.3 goals per game when Coreau is in net. On the other side of the spectrum, the Red Wings are scoring just 1.12 goals per game when Jimmy Howard is playing, which is last in the NHL of all goalies who have played 400 minutes and why Howard’s record is 5-7-1.
Coreau has allowed three or more goals in six of the 10 games he has played. He’s a rookie, so it’s not as if we should just give up on him, but it’s not ideal to replace him with Mrazek, who has a career .914 save percentage.
Since signing a two-year, $8 million extension this summer, Mrazek has had a forgettable season. The 24-year-old has a .895 save percentage, including a .914 five-on-five save percentage, according to Corsica. It’s a far cry from the past two seasons when he had a .918 save percentage in 2014-15, a .921 save percentage last season and a .931 five-on-five save percentage.
He may be on an upswing, however, as he has posted a .919 save percentage and a .961 five-on-five save percentage in his past two games. His win came when he replaced Coreau during a 6-5 shootout win against Boston. Howard, despite a bad contract and currently injured, has more trade value, as he has a .934 save percentage and a .936 five-on-five save percentage.
The other thing to remember is Mrazek is only 24 years old. It’s not as if he’s been in the league for six years and is starting to struggle; he’s only in his second full season with Detroit. The Red Wings no doubt like Coreau’s size — 6-foot-6, 220 pounds — but Coreau, at 25 years old, is older than Mrazek and is at a disadvantage from a developing standpoint.
Mrazek has time to turn his play around. The Red Wings don’t know what they have in Coreau yet and would be wise to protect Mrazek and attempt to trade Howard instead.
Tom Mitsos is a writer from Michigan who covers the Red Wings and the Red Wings’ AHL affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins, for The Hockey Writers.