He doesn't wear an old school mask like Chris Osgood, instead opting for the flashy artistry that is commonplace on goaltenders' head wear. He's been bounced around the system for years. His ability has been questioned by Detroit's front office and fans alike. As far as pro experience goes, he's as green around the gills as they come. Despite all that, I believe in Jimmy Howard.
A goalie in Detroit without a goofy mask? The time is coming...eventually. Green around the gills in NHL experience, but as a pro, he's been the mainstay in Grand Rapids for several years, and played well.
You might remember last year when Jimmy Howard was "ready." At this time last year, Ty Conklin was brought in merely as a contingency plan in case Howard couldn't win the backup job, which he was expected to, by the way.
Expected, but far from a done deal. Just like Patrick Eaves, Conklin signed a one year deal with anything but spending time in Grand Rapids on his mind.
Conklin was simply a journeyman who had bounced around the league like a pinball, until that ball rolled into the jackpot slot in Detroit. He played outstanding in the preseason, and although Howard put up a decent performance, Detroit couldn't ignore the wide discrepancy and made Conklin the backup.
Despite Conklin signing to compete for the starting job, he was going to have to rip the position away from Howard, which he did. One can only imagine the frustration Howard must be experiencing in this organization. Being passed over left and right and now having Daniel Larsson breathing down his neck for the back-up job in the final year of his contract. Amazingly, it would seem that Howard has handled the situation flawlessly. Now if only his performance in net could mirror that high of a level.
Of course, Conklin went on to lead Detroit in goal to the playoffs, making up for a struggling Osgood in the regular season.
And to the dismay of many, was sat down for the play-offs. Ozzie was our starter, and he quickly proved exactly why that is.
What if it had been Howard instead of Conklin? Would Detroit have still won the division? It's a valid question.
It depends on if you buy into my theory that having Conklin come in and play so well during the regular season actually HURT Ozzie's confidence and was yet another factor in his shabby play. With the Central Division getting even stronger, and the tandem being what it could have been without Conklin, I'll reserve a final answer until the chips fall where they may this year. Maybe another year in G.R. was just what the doctor ordered for Jimmy.
Chris Osgood remains the only goaltender in recent history that was drafted and developed by the Detroit Red Wings.
And that fact remains, to this day, the one black eye on the face of this organ-i-zation.
One way or another, Detroit will have a homegrown goalie backing up a homegrown goalie this year. I'm rooting for Howard because this is likely his last chance to prove he can be the guy. Some doubt he can do it, I'm not one of them. Detroit has had the luxury to develop Howard slowly. The vast majority of goalies don't come into their full ability until around age 25 and Howard has spent most of that time developing in Grand Rapids.
This could really prove to be a genius move by Ken Holland if it pans out. One great thing about the long and drawn out "Jimmy Howard Experiment", is that now we have a gigantic safety net below him if he fails. If Howard proves to be a bust, no biggie. We have several other younger promising options chomping at the bit to get a chance.
Howard doesn't have to be spectacular, but he does have to be steady. If we're really lucky, he'll surpass expectations and push Osgood. We'd love to see that, because that means he's starting material.
Absolutely correct. Ozzie's contract is going to be up before you know, and all of this conjecture and speculation will come to very forefront of this organ-i-zation. It's quickly becoming very serious business. This is your last chance to prove yourself, Jimmy. And I (as well as the writer for Bleacher Report) are pulling for you. There are others too, Jimmy. And a bunch of people you are going to have to prove yourself to. Now go do it. I believe in Jimmy. Do you?