Red Wings

In case you haven’t noticed, Jimmy Howard has become an elite goaltender for the Wings

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You know what? Jimmy Howard has become an elite goaltender and the majority of Detroit fans probably haven’t noticed.

The goaltending position in Detroit has always been a touchy subject as its right there with being a Tigers closer or Lions starting quarterback. And whether it was Chris Osgood, Dominic Hasek, Curtis Joesph or everyone’s favorite during the early 90’s Tim Cheveldale blaming any struggles the Wings are having on the goaltender is very much common practice.

And much like his those before him in Detroit, Jimmy Howard too has fallen under mostly undeserved criticism from Red Wings fans.

Currently NHL teams are drooling at the prospect of this 29 year old hitting the market. With Detroit’s roster aging and talent declining over the years, the Red Wings have been able to stay in the playoff picture this season which has in large part been due to the tremendous play of Howard.

If Howard is allowed to hit the market he will more than likely be the best free agent goaltender available and would probably find a deal greater than the 6 years and $5 million per the Wings are rumored to be offering him.

RED WINGS AND JIMMY HOWARD PROGRESSING ON A NEW LONG-TERM DEAL

As it stands right now, Howard has a solid GAA of 2.42 which is even more impressive when you consider that the only goaltender ahead of him that has played more games is Antti Niemi in San Jose with 26 total appearances. And with 24 games played most of Howard’s opposition have played 5 to 6 games less than he has. This of course too is coming a year where the Wings lost the likes of Nicklas Lidstrom and Brad Stuart who were extremely vital pieces on defense and a reason why Howard’s production has been that much more impressive.

Howard’s Career Stats in the NHL

Stats
 Year Team GP GS MIN W L T OTL EGA GA GAA SA SV SV% SO
 2005-06 DET 4 4 201 1 2 0 0 0 10 2.99 104 94 .904 0
 2007-08 DET 4 2 197 0 2 0 0 0 7 2.13 95 88 .926 0
 2008-09 DET 1 1 59 0 1 0 0 1 4 4.10 28 24 .857 0
 2009-10 DET 63 61 3740 37 15 0 10 3 141 2.26 1849 1708 .924 3
 2010-11 DET 63 63 3615 37 17 0 5 4 168 2.79 1830 1662 .908 2
 2011-12 DET 57 57 3360 35 17 0 4 5 119 2.12 1496 1377 .920 6
 2012-13 DET 25 25 1450 12 8 0 4 1 60 2.48 694 634 .914 2
 Career 217 213 12623 122 62 0 23 14 509 2.42 6096 5587 .917 13

Now as I look beyond this season and at Howard’s career marks (especially the last three seasons) I’m personally blown away. That 3 ½ year set is more than solid and it’s more than impressive, it’s elite. I can go back 20 years through Detroit’s dominance and  can’t find a goalie matching Howard’s three year block… in fact I can’t find a year to match Howard’s 2011-2012 season. And when I tried going back even further, say 25 years there still wasn’t a Red Wings goaltender of the past that could compare to the number’s Howard has posted.

So where do the knock on Jimmy Howard come from? Well let’s take a look at some of the arguments against him…

  • He gets hurt all the time… really? Howard averages 60 games a year.
  • He allows soft goals. This is my personal favorite because at some point every goaltender allows soft goals.
  • He can’t steal a playoff series. This argument might hold some validity but the truth is his playoff numbers are real close to his career numbers. He has a .915 SV%, a 2.63 GAA, which aren’t great but good enough to win and if Detroit played better overall.

So I hope Red Wings fans recognize Jimmy Howard for how good he has been. Again as Detroit’s roster has aged the talent level turning over the goaltending hasn’t slipped. To add If Detroit wasn’t averaging a 20 year low of 2.6 goals a game, Howard would be leading the league in wins. Furthermore If he is allowed to leave Red Wings fans will learn real quick, how good they had it with Howard between the pipes.

About Jason Bray

Detroit Sports Columist. Joined The Majors staff in 2012 covering the Detroit Lions.

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