The Detroit Red Wings had to decide between Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrázek to be the organization’s future netminder; they opted to roll with Howard, a fatal mistake. Howard is on the verge of retirement, whereas Mrázek is a trusted goaltending option for the Carolina Hurricanes.
To open up the 2020-21 season, the Red Wings have squared off with the Hurricanes for each of their first two match-ups. Watching these two games brings a reminder of a time when the organization was riding off a solid goaltending tandem.
Four seasons ago in 2017-18, the Red Wings were still getting by with Howard and Mrázek. This would change when the organization opted to trade Mrázek to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for a 2018 fourth-round draft pick and a 2019 third-round draft pick.
This decision would ultimately prove to be fatal. Not that the Red Wings would be cup-winners and contenders, the rest of the team was heading into the rebuild, but having some stability in the crease would have been the better option.
The Detroit Red Wings should have chosen to ride with Petr Mrázek rather than sticking with Jimmy Howard.
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Back in 2013, the Detroit Red Wings signed Jimmy Howard to a six-year, $31.75 million contract that took him through the 2018-19 season. He would get one more one-year deal, worth $5.1 million for the 2019-20 season.
That being said, take a look at Howard’s performance since the trade of Petr Mrázek during the 2017-18 season. In 2018-19, Howard would play in 55 games where he had a 23-22-5 record while posting a .909 save-percentage (SV%) and a 3.07 goals-against average (GAA).
He would follow that up in 2019-20 with his worst historical season he has ever recorded. Howard played in 27 games where he had a 2-23-2 record with a horrifying .882 SV% and a 4.20 GAA before he was demoted for Jonathan Bernier.
As the 2020-21 season continues, Howard sits out and is mulling retirement at 36 years old. Meanwhile, the 28-year-old Mrázek has settled in as a starter for the Hurricanes. After trading him to the Flyers, Mrázek would finish out the year before signing a one-year deal, worth $1.5 million in Carolina.
Since then, Mrázek has signed another contract that takes him through the 2020-21 season with the Hurricanes worth $6.25 million. Taking a look at Mrázek’s time away from Hockeytown, it has turned out for the better.
In 2018-19, Mrázek played in 40 games for the Hurricanes with a 23-14-3 record while posting a .914 SV% and a 2.39 GAA part of a great tandem. He followed that act up with a similar tandem act in 2019-20. He played in 40 games once again, this time posting a 21-16-2 record and managing a .905 SV% and a 2.69 GAA for the Hurricanes.
Now, in 2020-21 Mrázek is likely to be the majority starter over backup netminder James Reimer. However, Howard was a proven netminder when the Red Wings opted to trade Mrázek, who was just 25 years old and serving in a backup role.
The Red Wings had no way of knowing that Howard would fall apart and Mrázek would be a concrete netminder. But, if the Detroit Red Wings could go back and decide whether to keep Petr Mrázek and gamble on him or ride with proven Jimmy Howard.
Hindsight is always 20/20…