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Player Grades: Jimmy Howard

What was expected to be the strong point of the Wings last line of defense turned out to be another area they have to be better in.

NHL: Detroit Red Wings at Buffalo Sabres Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Player Profile

Jimmy Howard

Born: March 26, 1984 (34 years old)

Birthplace: Syracuse, NY

Acquired: 2003 NHL Entry Draft: 2nd round (64th overall)

Contract Status: $4.25M (UFA after next season)

Player Stats

Preseason Expectations

No one expected Jimmy Howard to come into the season and compete for a Vezina Trophy, and fans knew how bad the Red Wings defense would be coming into the year. At the same time, much like in previous years, everyone also expected Howard to be a solid net-minder who could steal a game here and there. I don’t think anyone truly expected the 34-year-old to have the worst season of his career.

Season Narrative

The biggest goal for Jimmy Howard coming into this year was to stay healthy. He hadn’t played more than 40 games in either of his previous two seasons due to injury. In those combined two seasons, he went 24-25-6 with a .915% and a 2.51 GAA. Those numbers obviously aren’t great, but that’s right around where most of us expected Howard to be this year.

Howie’s year started with 3-straight wins allowing just 5 goals in total. It was a good start to a career worse year. Howard just didn’t play up to where the Red Wings thought he would be when they gave him the #1 job. In fact, they even traded away Petr Mrazek assuring Howard the job, yet didn’t see the results they had hoped for. Howie set or tied career worsts in GAA, losses and shutouts yet played 60 or more games for the first time since 2010-11. Howard never got settled in this year, and that’s not what the team wanted out of a almost $6M/year goaltender.

The good news is, Howard was well aware of his inconsistencies this year. While he was better in the first half of the year, he recently acknowledged that his season was not up to par and that he wanted to be around the .920% mark, which he definitely failed to do. As he continues to get older, his best years (and Nick Lidstrom) are definitely in the rearview mirror. However, Howard will be the Red Wings goalie for years to come I feel, and we all certainly expect better going forward, same as #35 does.

What He Did vs. Expectations

Like mentioned, his numbers from the previous two years combined were a good way to size up expectations for the 2017-18 season. For a goalie who never suffered more than 19 losses in a season, 27 is certainly a bad jump. However, of those 27 losses, 16 were by 1-goal. The team was close in a lot of games this year, but I think it’s fair to say a good part of those 1-goal losses were because of Howard.

We obviously knew coming into the year, the Red Wings defense would be, let’s face it, terrible. You can’t put all of this on Howard obviously, but a career worst year in a year he was needed the most is not acceptable, especially when you make almost $6M a year. Expectations coming in certainly were lower than in years past, but Howard even exceeded those expectations which he will have to improve on next year if the Red Wings want to be in contention for a playoff spot.

Final Player Grade: C

Like I said, expectations coming in to the year were lower for Howard than in years past, and that’s okay. However, once it was made relatively clear that Howard was the #1 guy, he didn’t do enough to up his game and take over. Even once Mrazek was traded, Howard still went 6-9-3 with a 2.88 GAA and .908%. It’s beginning to sound like a broken record in this piece, but he just had to be better regardless of the 6, or 7, D that dressed in front of him.

I certainly don’t expect Howard to play this way again next year. He’s a competitor and we have seen him up his game when he has to time and time again. It certainly was a career worst year for Howard, but in the end, it was a very good thing to see him stay healthy and play 60 games. Hopefully with a full year under his belt again, he’s able to up his game next year and play like the Jimmy Howard we all expect to see.


What grade would you give Jimmy Howard?

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  • 3%
    (13 votes)
  • 37%
    (154 votes)
  • 33%
    (139 votes)
  • 18%
    (77 votes)
  • 6%
    (28 votes)
411 votes total Vote Now