Monthly Archives: May 2014

Jimmy Howard ‘can be a lot better’

DETROIT >> Detroit Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard will be the first to admit he needs to be better.
And his coach agrees.

“We won one round in three years,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “He had a real good playoff run last year. I don’t think he had as good a run this year. The bottom line is we need good goaltending like any other team in the league so the challenge for him is to really compete offseason wise.”

Howard has sandwiched two postseason clunkers between a run two years ago that saw him lead the Wings to second round, falling in overtime of Game 7 to the eventual Stanley Cup champ Chicago Blackhawks.

“You want to win more than one game over the course of the playoffs,” said Howard, who was named as one of three goalies on the USA Olympic roster. “We have a lot of time here on our hands to think about it and come back more focused next year.”

Howard played in just three of the five games in the opening round series with Boston, giving up a pair of bad goals, one each in Game 2 and 3.

“Game 2 making that mistake when the puck was rolling and sending it to poor (Brendan Smith),” Howard said. “It’s a tough one. It was in their building and it got their building alive. That’s the last thing you want heading in there. For a goalie in the playoffs you want to be stealing wins.”

In Game 3, Dougie Hamilton beat Howard over his glove to open the scoring in a 3-0 loss.

“There are 29 other teams in this league that want to win it as well,” said Howard, who missed the final two games of the series with the flu. “There is a lot of parity out there. It’s no excuse. This organization is all about winning. There needs to be more of a push from myself and everyone else as well.”

Howard finished the regular season with his worst goals-against average (2.66) and save percentage (.910) since his second season as the Wings’ starter.

“I thought it was an OK season, by no means was it a good or great season,” Howard said. “I think I can be a lot better, a lot more consistent for the guys and that’s what I’m going to work on over the course of the summer so when the puck drops here in October I’m ready and hitting the ground running.”

Howard, 30, has been Detroit’s No. 1 goalie for the last five seasons.

The Wings rewarded him last season with a six-year contract extension that pays him on average nearly $5.3 million a year.

“You have to work harder the older you get in the offseason to be that much fitter to improve your game,” Babcock said. “We’ll talk to him on what we think he needs to improve on and then we need him back better than ever.

“Whether (Petr) Mrazek plays here or (Jonas) Gustavsson plays here, Gus got half our wins this year,” Babcock continued. “The bottom line is if you’re playing every day you have to earn the right to play every day. If you’re a tandem that’s what happens but the other guy has to earn the right to make that happen so we’ll see what happens.”

Gustavsson has been Howard’s backup the last two seasons, but numerous injuries have hampered his time here. He’s an unrestricted free agent.

Mrazek will likely spend one more season in Grand Rapids before coming to Detroit fulltime.

Howard had a horrible November, which didn’t help his numbers. After winning his first start that month, he went 0-3-4 the rest of the month. Over those seven games, Howard had a 3.03 goals-against average and a .899 save percentage. He entered the month with a 2.50 GAA and .915 save percentage.

“I think I can be a lot better, across the board, just with the consistency alone,” said Howard, who ended the regular season 7-3-1. “Helping the guys go out there and get wins. It was just one of those years, statistically wise it just wasn’t very good. I think I can be a lot better. I’ve proved in the past I can be better and that’s the direction I want to move in.”

Howard was drafted by the Wings in 2003 (second round, 64th overall) and the team spent time grooming him in the minors before bringing him up when he was out of options.

In each of Howard’s first two full seasons in Detroit he recorded 37 wins, becoming the only goalie in Wings history to win at least 35 games in each of his first two seasons.

His third year he registered 35 wins.

Howard finished second to Buffalo defenseman Tyler Myers in the Calder Trophy race as the NHL’s top rookie.


Weiss says he has to be “smarter” after not coming out and saying he was injured to start the year

DETROIT >> If Stephen Weiss had it all over to do again he would have come clean about how he felt to start the season.

Weiss began the season with a hernia and tried to play through it.

“Coming down for the first game of the year and thinking ‘How are you going to get through the game?’ is probably not the right way to start,” Weiss said Tuesday during the Wings’ locker room cleanout at Joe Louis Arena. “I have to be smarter. It’s not my first year, I’ve been around a bit and should be a little bit smarter and should have spoken up earlier and maybe some of this could have been avoided. But sometimes that’s not my style. I’ll tend to do that and it got me in some trouble this year. (This season was) a huge disappointment, but in saying that it kind of fuels the fire for this summer and next year.”

The hefty salary he signed in the offseason – a five-year deal worth $24.5 million – to be the Wings’ second-line center to replace Valtteri Filppula helped fuel the pressure of making an immediate impact.

Weiss, 31, managed to play just 26 games this season totaling two goals, two assists and a minus-4.

Filppula had a career-high 25 goals in his first season in Tampa Bay with 33 assists in 75 games.

“I’m not big on saying much about (injury) stuff and it got me into some trouble, there’s no doubt about it,” Weiss said. “I should have been smarter in taking care of it sooner and not played through it as much.

“I’ve done it in the past and been able to play through those types of things, but I’m not 23 and 24 years old anymore,” Weiss continued. “So that’s a bit of a wake-up call that you’re getting older and you’re going to have to be smarter with these types of things.”

Weiss had sports hernia surgery on Dec. 23 with the expectation that he would return to action following the Olympic break, but he wound up experiencing multiple setbacks.

He had a second procedure on April 21 to repair an issue with scar tissue.

“I think the first time was a complete repair,” Weiss said. “This time it wasn’t as much but still pretty sore. I feel pretty good right now. It’s just a matter of letting it heal properly and making sure that you do your rehab properly and get all of those muscles in there strong again and get ready to take the beating of training and getting back into camp.

“I’ve got that out of the way now and hopefully that’s the end of it,” Weiss said. “We’ll go through that in the next few weeks and obviously be in contact with the doctor and go through that protocol and then he wanted me to get back on the ice in about six weeks and see how it is.”

When training camp began, Weiss was slated to center another newcomer, Daniel Alfredsson, and Johan Franzen.

“We thought Stephen was going to be our second-line center, we needed more offense,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “Prior to last year he produced 48 points or more in five of seven years. It was a disappointing year.

“Mike Babcock demands our players play 200-foot hockey,” Holland continued. “It’s been a great formula for us. Mike had put responsibilities on him that he might have had those same responsibilities in Florida, but it was a new coach, new linemates, new environment. I think he struggled early and then had a bit of groin injury and then came back.”

Weiss, who had scored 20 or more goals four times in his last seven seasons in Florida, missed the final 26 games of the 2012-12 season with a wrist injury.

“It’s hard to know where he’s going to be in September,” Holland said. “A lot of where he’s going to be is going to be about … in the next month, is he going to be healthy? Was that small surgery that was performed last week or was that the answer to what ails him. Is he able to have a June, July and August where he’s able to hit the guy and come to camp healthy, fit and ready to go or are we going to wake up in early June and he’s where he was a month ago and we’re going to continue to be looking for answers as to why he isn’t getting healthy. I don’t have an answer for you. I thought he’d be healthy six weeks ago. So for me to stand here and say he’s going to be healthy in a month, he’s going to have a great summer, he’s going to have a great year, I don’t know that. We need him to get healthy before anything positive can happen. He’s not healthy.”

Weiss is confident he’ll be ready for the start of training camp.

“It’s been a big disappointment, but I don’t know how much I’d change other than being a little smarter in the summer and maybe a little smarter at the start of the season, not trying to play through these types of things as much as I did,” Weiss said. “Even though it was my first year and I wanted to do things the right way, maybe taking a little time off at the start of the season would have done me better than pushing through and trying to be a little bit of a hero that way. So I got myself into some trouble that could have been avoided by being a little bit smarter.”

Injuries hampered Gustavsson’s time with Wings

Jonas Gustavsson has missed a total of 23 games on five separate occasions with three different types of injuries last season.

Groin (4 games from Oct. 2-10)

Neck (3 games from Nov. 1-4)

Groin (9 games from Dec. 30 to Jan. 20)

Groin (5 games from March 9-18)

Shoulder (2 games from April 11-13)

DETROIT >> Jonas Gustavsson’s two seasons in Detroit seemed to be spent mainly on the trainer’s table.

Battling injures from groins to shoulders, Gustavsson appeared in just 34 regular-season games with the Wings over two seasons.

“I mean it’s been a lot of injuries, you don’t want to have those for yourself and for your team,” Gustavsson said Tuesday during the Wings’ locker cleanout at Joe Louis Arena. “You want to be out there to be able to be part of the team every day, every day of the season so of course that sets me back. I’m going to keep working on it to prevent injuries like that.”

Gustavsson has missed a total of 23 games on five separate occasions with three different types of injuries last season.

Groin injuries have been his Achilles heel since signing a free agent deal with the Wings.

Along with missing 18 games due to a groin injury this season, he appeared in just seven of the 48 games during the lockout-shortened year last season, making just four starts. He didn’t play over the final 27 games of the season, which included the playoffs.

“I felt like I found a way that was working for me at the end of the season so hopefully I can build on that,” Gustavsson said. “The groin felt really good for the second part of the season for the most part so that’s something I’m going to keep working on and that’s something I need for myself too because I want to be playing at a high level for a long time and I want to try to take the next step and that’s part of taking the next step.”

When Gustavsson played, he played well this season, going 16-5-4 with a 2.63 goals-against average and a .907 save percentage. He appeared in the final two games of the playoffs, filling in for starter Jimmy Howard who was sidelined with the flu, and gave Detroit a chance.

Gustavsson has aspirations of perhaps being a No. 1 goalie somewhere, but could return to Detroit.

“I think every athlete wants to be as good as they can be and reach as high as they can, but that being said it’s not like I can go out on the open market and demand a starting role somewhere because there are a lot of good goalies,” said Gustavsson, who missed the final two regular- season games after suffering a left shoulder injury in a 4-3 shootout loss to Pittsburgh. “You have to compete to get to that job. I would like to play a few more games that so I’m just going to try to go where I can feel like I can take that next step. It could be here and if so that’s great and if nothing happens here then you look at other stuff.”

The Wings’ top goalie prospect is Petr Mrazek, who’ll likely spend one more season in Grand Rapids in order to play in games instead of sitting on the bench as the backup in Detroit.

“We might,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said when asked if the team will need to search for a backup goalie next season. “We believe we have a 60-game No. 1 goalie. Is Petr Mrazek, as a 22-year-old, better off playing 15-18 games in the NHL or is he better off playing 65 games in the AHL for one more year? That’s the internal conversation we’ve got to have.”

Mrazek has played in 11 regular season games in parts of of two years in Detroit going 3-5-0 with a 1.74 GAA and a save percentage of .927. Two of his wins were shutouts.

“Everybody is enamored with (Anthony) Mantha and Mrazek and the people that aren’t here,” Holland said. “Well, the people that are here now, we were enamored with those people three years ago. Now they’re here and (people) want to know who’s next. It’s human nature. That’s why I try to keep (prospects) out of here as long as possible because there’s big expectations when you play in the NHL, there’s passion, there’s emotion and when a player doesn’t live up to those expectations and that hope, people get down on them real fast.”

Mrazek led the Griffins to the Calder Cup title last season.

“Whether (Petr) Mrazek plays here or Gustavsson plays here, Gus got half our wins this year,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “The bottom line is if you’re playing every day you have to earn the right to play every day. If you’re a tandem that’s what happens but the other guy has to earn the right to make that happen so we’ll see what happens.”