What’s going to happen to Jimmy Howard?

Goalie Jimmy Howard has a 13-15 record in playoff games for the Detroit Red Wings.

It’s a reoccurring theme. The Detroit net is empty, Jimmy Howard sits on the bench, mask off, glaring toward the other end of the ice as six desperate Red Wings try to tie a game and extend a playoff series. That’s happened the past three postseasons. And it begs the question: is Howard the Wings’ goalie of the future?

The 2012-2013 season was scheduled to be the final year of his contract. Through 28 playoff games, he’s 13-15 with one shutout. He was not the main reason the Wings lost in five games to Nashville last April, but he was not a series-changer either, as evidenced by his .888 save percentage.

And now he’s in a contract year, so what’s the next move for GM Ken Holland?

Hey, let’s stop for a minute and face the brutal truth: The Wings are not a Cup contender. They’re in a transition. Henrik Zetterberg, 32, and Pavel Datsyuk, 34, have already played their best hockey, Johan Franzen is on a milk carton in Detroit area grocery stores, and Nicklas Lidstrom is gone.

The future relies upon prospects in the system (Tomas Jurco, Teemu Pulkkinen, Calle Jarnkrok).Until they are in Detroit – and producing – it will be a challenge to win a division title. If you think otherwise, take off the Red Wings blindfold and watch the horrid Nashville series again. That’s the worst Wings playoff team we’ve seen since the early ’80s.

That circles back to Howard, who cannot tilt a contest or steal a series. He hasn’t done it yet, at least.

Look at his career postseason goals against average of 2.63. It’s worse than a majority of playoff netminders in the Western Conference: Mike Smith (Phoenix, 1.88), Pekka Rinne (Nashville, 2.35), Jaroslav Halak (St. Louis, 2.42), the list goes on. Heck, Roberto Luongo is about to be chased out of Vancouver, and his career postseason GAA is 2.53.

And think about this: if Holland was certain of Howard’s long-term standing as the Wings’ No. 1 goalie, he would’ve inked him to a lucrative, long-term deal in 2011, right?

He didn’t. He gave Howard a two-year deal worth $2.5 million annually. It’s scheduled to be the 24th lowest salary among 30 starting goalies in the 2012-2013 season. And remember: Holland nearly acquired Evgeni Nabokov in 2011, which places another damper on the Howard confidence gauge.

Here’s a theory: maybe, just maybe, the Wings will allow Howard to leave and transition into a new era with goalie Petr Mrazek, who’s a rookie with the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins and features these stats: 6-1 record, 2.53 GAA, .910 save percentage.

Mrazek,20, was a fifth-round selection in the 2010 NHL draft who starred with the Ottawa 67’s (OHL). The native of the Czech Republic was voted the “best goaltender” of the 2012 World Junior Hockey Championships for a country that didn’t win the title. It lost in the quarterfinals.

“He amazes me sometimes with his quickness,” Ottawa 67s General Manager Brian Kilrea said to the Ottawa Citizen, via Redwingscentral.com, in April of 2011. “He makes the impossible seem so easy. He never gives up on a play.

“He will forever make that big save. I can remember maybe a bad goal or two. But I can’t remember a bad game.”

As we enter the post-Lidstrom era (unfortunately), the Wings will need to build the future around a rock-solid goalie. This isn’t the late 1990s, when the smothering left-wing lock could win with anyone in net. Chris Osgood, Mike Vernon, it didn’t matter.

Mrazek might be a special talent who starts the next era. If the NHL season is canceled (very likely), he will have two years of AHL experience on his résumé by the time Howard’s contract expires.

It’ll be interesting to watch Holland’s next move. Howard certainly hasn’t proven he’s the long-term solution yet. Maybe he will next postseason, but if he doesn’t, a long-term deal will be a bad idea.

2 replies on “What’s going to happen to Jimmy Howard?

  • DaveJr

    Maybe hasn’t stolen a eries because he is tired out from doing for 90% of the regular season. We lost to Nashville becase Rinne played abnormally well, and our offense and coach did the same weak routine for five games.Also, Nashville won game one on lucky bounces and freak redirections. They get no puck luck and that series goes to the Joe with Detroit up 2-0. Jimmy Howard is not whats wrong with the Wings. Zetterberg, Franzen, Ericsson, and Babcock’s coaching methods all need to addressed.As well as our defense. I’d take Jimmy Howard over 99% of the goalies in the league.

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