When the NHL released the expansion draft protection lists on the weekend, Red Wings fans were shocked to learn that Jimmy Howard had been protected over Petr Mrazek.
Red Wings protect Abdelkader, Athanasiou, Mantha, Nielsen, Nyquist, Tatar, Zetterberg, DeKeyser, Green, Jensen, Howard.
— Helene St. James (@HeleneStJames) June 18, 2017
A quick recap on why this is so shocking:
- Petr Mrazek is 25-years-old, Jimmy Howard is 33.
- Petr Mrazek has one year left on his contract at $4-million, Jimmy Howard has two at $5.29-million.
- Mrazek has missed very few games due to injury, Howard misses several every season.
- Mrazek, at such a young age, has elite potential and a high ceiling. Howard is on the tail end of his career, though, admittedly, is playing the best hockey of this career.
The widespread opinion on this decision is that it’s the wrong one. Even if the reported issues of Mrazek’s poor attitude are true (sounds more and more like they are), leaving him exposed means you run the possibility of losing a young goalie with elite potential for nothing as opposed to trading him and receiving valuable assets in return. Even if a deal couldn’t be reached by Sunday, Mrazek is the safer option to protect and make a deal at a later date, either before the start of the season or at the trade deadline. Howard’s trade value is practically non-existent and the chances of Vegas taking him if exposed are very low.
With Mrazek, on the other hand, there’s a good chance that the Golden Knights take him on Wednesday evening. While the popular belief is that George McPhee wants Marc-Andre Fleury as his starting goalie next season, Mrazek could be other half of the goaltending equation in Nevada. The A/B goaltending tandem is a popular one in today’s NHL and it wouldn’t be surprising for Vegas to take a good young goalie to complement Fleury and split the time with him. If, however, the Golden Knights are putting their full trust in Fleury, then Mrazek is a valuable asset for them to trade off. The Philadelphia Flyers, Buffalo Sabres, and Vancouver Canucks come to mind as teams who might be interested in giving Mrazek a chance.
Looking at Detroit’s protection list and the players available off that roster, taking Mrazek seems like an obvious choice. But even if Mrazek isn’t taken in Wednesday’s expansion draft, his days with the Red Wings are likely numbered.
As mentioned above, in the hours following the release of the protection lists, an article surfaced on MLive in which Ansar Khan revealed that the Red Wings did not appreciate how the young goalie handled last offseason’s contract negotiations and that his attitude got progressively worse throughout the season:
“Mrazek has always had a swagger and air of confidence, which appealed to the Red Wings. But sometimes he’s too cocky for his own good, some in the organization believe. He became increasingly difficult to coach last season, they said.”
This is not the first time that a team’s management has criticized a player’s attitude or locker room presence. For the most part, a team’s claims of “attitude issues” go completely unproved to the public (in their defense, how could you prove that?) and it almost always results in the player and team eventually parting ways.
Here are a few recent examples of teams trading away top-notch talent due to behavioural complaints from management. Almost every time, the team who calls “attitude problem!” loses out:
Trade from: Boston Bruins
Traded to: Dallas Stars
The Details: After rumours of Seguin’s rampant partying and a lack of maturity, news had leaked that the Bruins were looking to trade the locker room distraction. They finally did in a 7-player blockbuster, sending Seguin, Rich Peverley, and Ryan Button to the Dallas Stars for Loui Eriksson and 3 prospects (Joseph Morrow, Reilly Smith, and Matt Fraser). Loui Eriksson, the big piece coming back from the Bruins, suited up for 224 games and scored a total of 62 goals and 147 points. Seguin has played in 305 games for the Stars, scoring 133 goals and 306 points. That’s three 30-goal seasons for Seguin. He’s never had a season with less than 72 points in a Stars uniform. That’s quite the talent to give up for attitude and maturity issues that never surfaced in the Stars dressing room.
Traded from: Montreal Canadiens
Traded to: Nashville Predators
The Details: A straight up hockey trade that followed months of speculation that Subban was locker room poison. Oddly, nobody could get a quote from anyone within the Canadiens locker room about how much Subban was hurting the team. The Canadiens had also just signed the speedy defenseman to an 8-year, $72 million contract with a no-move clause that kicked in July 1, 2016. They traded him on June 29, 2016. Most recently, Subban played a big role in Nashville’s very deep Stanley Cup run, falling two games short of winning the trophy. Montreal suffered a first round exit at the hands of the New York Rangers. This trade is going to haunt Marc Bergevin and the Montreal Canadiens for years to come. Oh and by the way, not a peep out of Nashville about any locker room issues with Subban.
Traded from: Edmonton Oilers
Traded to: New Jersey Devils
The Details: Another straight up hockey trade that saw the Oilers landing a right-handed defenseman in exchange for a potential franchise player in Taylor Hall. A year later, this trade still feels lopsided, but the team felt strongly that Hall was uncoachable and not what they were looking for from a culture standpoint in their locker room. In his first full season for the Devils, Hall put up 53 points in 72 games. Now, with Nolan Patrick likely joining him, look for the Devils to get good fast and Hall will be a big part of that. So far, there haven’t been any reports of his bad attitude coming out of the Garden State.
The latest break-up as a result of attitude problems is the split of Jonathan Drouin from the Tampa Bay Lightning. Last season, Drouin was not happy with his ice time so he refused to play. Eventually, he made his way back into the lineup (he was too good of a hockey player not to be in the NHL), but the trade rumours were always circulating, hovering over the lightning like a storm cloud and taunting the rest of the league. The Lightning waited a whole year for the right deal to come along before finally dealing him to the Montreal Canadiens for Mikhail Sergachev last week.
This was a great trade for both teams and it’s because Steve Yzerman knew the kind of potential Drouin had and wouldn’t accept anything less than what he was worth. Drouin obviously had some character issues and caused trouble for the team, but Yzerman didn’t bat an eye. He stuck to his guns. I know what you’re thinking: “Surprise, surprise. The Wings blogger is praising Steve Yzerman!”. But this is one of the only situations where I’ve seen a guy with attitude issues be traded in a team-friendly deal. As explained above, these trades normally always hurt the team as they are selling elite talent for less than what it’s worth – all because they don’t like the guy.
This is what is going to happen with Petr Mrazek. Whether it’s losing him for nothing to Vegas or in a lopsided trade mid-season. Once a team calls foul on a player’s character or attitude in the media, there is no coming back from it. Mrazek’s days as a Red Wing are numbered. All that’s left to do now is hope that the return is worth it because it’s sure as hell going to sting watching him backstop another team to a Stanley Cup Final.