We’re getting to the point in the 2017-18 season when wishful thinking goes from annoying but acceptable to potentially harmful for a team’s future.
The Detroit Red Wings are long beyond the point where they can credibly claim to be contenders, with even optimistic prognostications like that of Sports Club Stats giving them a five percent chance to make the playoffs. Even if they did, it’s tough to imagine them making an impact in the postseason; at some point a franchise with one playoff series win since 2012-13 needs to read the writing on the wall.
Even if GM Ken Holland & Co. are going to be stubborn about a need to rebuild until the last minute, there are certain decisions that should be no-brainers, and showcasing Petr Mrazek is so painfully the obvious thing to do with the goalie’s contract set to expire.
The Chicago Blackhawks provided the latest testimony to that argument, as they chased Jimmy Howard with three goals on just nine shots.
Howard came into tonight’s game on a three-game losing streak, allowing three goals once and four goals on the other two occasions. About the best argument you can make for trotting out Howard is that he might give the Red Wings a better chance to tank if his recent struggles continue.
This isn’t a knock on Howard overall, as he’s enjoyed a pleasant-enough rejuvenation overall.
But still, at this point the Red Wings should be putting Mrazek on display to give potential suitors more exposure to what the netminder is capable of in 2018. Let’s not forget that Mrazek has shown flashes of brilliance, especially in 2015-16, when he produced a strong .921 save percentage in 54 games.
Mrazek’s enjoyed some strong flourishes lately, including a two-game shutout streak (27 saves against the Blackhawks on Jan. 14; 37 stops vs. the Devils on Jan. 22). For all we know, maximizing his production in the next month or so could greatly improve a takeaway in a trade. Considering his $4 million cap hit, the Red Wings might need to be accomodating to make something happen here.
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.