After one game as a actual member of the Wings, everybody and their mother has given up on Jimmy as the number two goaltender for the Wings. The standard claim is that Howard hasn't earned anything yet, he's been terrible when he's been with the Wings and that he's only here because he's just next in line, the Wings are out of options and hasn't been good in the AHL.
I don't think that's fair.
For the point of the AHL, Howard's actually been great for the most part. In his 4 years in the AHL, he had a save % above .91% 3 of the 4 years, the one year he didn't was the year that the Griffins were shit. But even in that year, he pulled off a .907 save percentage, not as good, but still solid overall. Now, agreeably, many of those years he was very streaky. But aren't all goalies inherently streaky? In fact, it is hard to say any goaltender in the league for at least a couple years that hasn't been on some a bit streaky.
As far as earning it a position on the Wings, my question is what exactly would he have to have done to do this? People point to the fact that Larsson was an AHL all-star last year, which is a testament to the depth of the Wings in the goaltending position, rather than a negative on Howard. Agreed, Howard had a poor start to last season. However, he battled back from having his starting spot taken away from him and regained his position as the number one guy in the net. He was a AHL rookie all-star in his first season and has been named to the All-Star team two other years. He hasn't been able to take the #2 position because simply, it was never there for him to take. Did anyone really think he was going to take it from Osgood or Conklin? That isn't how the Wings operate.
With the exception of last season, whenever he's been called up to the Wings, he's been solid, but has had no offensive support. In 4 games in 07-08, he had an impressive save & of .926, even if he did lose both games he started. His one game last season (I believe it was against the Kings? Don't quote me on this...) he was average at best. But even so, this is simply not a big enough sample size to really know if he's got what it takes in the show.
Finally, you can see the guy has talent. He's quick as can be, flexible, a big body, and has solid movement. Never before has the Wings had a goaltender with these traits. However, right now, these are overshadowed by the fact that he has a problem with rebounds and letting pucks through his body. But both of these problems are ones that are fixable with time and training. He reminds me a bit of Price and Marc Andre Fleury, both of whom early on in their career made big saves but struggled with consistency.
Now, if he can't get over the problems that have plagued him these past couple years, then maybe it is time that Jimmy goes the way of Blaine Lacher and spends the rest of his days out of the league, homeless and addicted to crack cocaine (just an assumption of what someone with the name Blaine would be doing if not playing in the NHL).
But I say we give it a few months, at least, before we make any decisions.