Jimmy Howard: Now or Never
One of the biggest question marks for the Red Wings for this season will be in goaltending, primarily the backup goaltending position. After the Wings chose not to resign last season’s backup Ty Conklin the job by default was handed to 25 year old Jimmy Howard. Howard was the Wings’ highly anticipated 2nd round pick in 2003 at 64th overall. The Wings dubbed Howard their goalie of the future but that hasn’t really gone according to plan. Turning pro in 2005, Howard has spent the last four seasons with the Wings AHL affiliate in Grand Rapids and has seen limited NHL time over the past three seasons going 1 and 5 with a 2.76 GAA and a SV% just over .900. These stats may not look too alarming, but take into account he is playing for the most successful franchise of the past decade and it begins to raise some eyebrows. Obviously frustrated with Howard’s slow development the Wings drafted two netminders: Daniel Larsson (92nd overall in 2006) and Tomas McCollum (30th overall in 2008). Howard says the transition from playing just 40 games in college to 80 games was tough as a 21 year old and admits his conditioning was not where it needed to be. Howard now hopes to push Osgood over the course of the season to create a healthy competition much like Conklin did last season. But if Howard’s performance doesn’t improve this season he wont get many starts and Osgood may be the one doing the pushing; pushing GM Ken Holland for a new backup so that he can get some rest. If Howard’s play doesn’t live up to the Red Wings expectations, he will likely be traded as Howard can no longer be sent to the minors without being put on waivers and he would likely be claimed by another team. If Howard does perform well he could be valuable depth goalie on your team much like Brian Boucher on San Jose last season.