After starting the 2016-17 campaign as the #2 goalie for the Red Wings, Jimmy Howard quickly took back the starting role. Not only did Petr Mrazek struggle the entire season, but Howard was statistically one of the best goalies in the NHL before going down with a sprained knee in late December. He missed nearly three months before returning on March 10th.
One has to wonder if Howard didn’t miss so much time, could the Red Wings have actually found themselves in the playoff hunt toward the end of the year? In 26 GP last year, Howard finished 10-11-1 with a 2.10 GAA and .927 SV%. Howard’s SV% would have been good for 2nd best in the NHL, of goalies who played a minimum of 25 games, and his GAA would have been 3rd best. After years of being criticized for being an average, overpaid netminder, Howard finally played like the $5.29M goalie the Red Wings expected him to be when they signed him to his extension in 2013.
For years now, everyone expected the Red Wings to trade Jimmy Howard, as Petr Mrazek was the up-and-coming goalie of the future. Everyone expected that the Red Wings also would have had to eat a good portion of Howard’s contract in order to get any kind of return. Nowadays we see the roles reversed. With the logjam that fills out the Red Wings net, one has to wonder which goalie, if any, will be on the move this year.
Jimmy Howard is obviously the seasoned veteran of the three goalies. At 33, one could argue that his best years are now behind him. While he has two years left on his current deal, it seems like the window to trade Howard is now closed and he will end up finishing out his contract in Detroit. The Red Wings are already in cap hell as it is, so not trading Howard won’t help that situation by any means. However, Howard showed us a year ago that he has earned all of the playing time he gets, so look for possibly Mrazek or Jared Coreau to be the goalie traded this year. That is, if Ken Holland can figure out how to trade in the first place.
Regardless of who you want starting in goal to open the season on October 5, the organization has made it pretty clear that Jimmy Howard will be the #1 guy. For many years, everyone pegged Howard to be on the decline. Last year he proved that to be false and then some. One has to wonder what kind of numbers Howard would put up if he was on a team like Nashville, Pittsburgh or any other team with a functioning defensive core.
Howard’s expectations are high, and since Ken Holland put a team together that he hopes to compete with, Howard will have to play like he did a year ago. As mentioned, he is 33, so obviously he won’t be playing at a high level for very much longer. However, assuming he stays healthy, one has to believe that Howard will play between 50-60 games this season for the Red Wings. Especially if the issues the Red Wings have with Mrazek continue in the future. If Howard can play like he did a year ago, the Red Wings could actually find themselves in a hunt for a wild card spot this year. Sigh.
Prediction: 54 GP, 29-17-8, 2.52 GAA, .921 SV%, 3 SO
What’s more realistic for Jimmy Howard this season?
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Similar Performance to Last Year
Backing Up Mrazek by Years End