Jimmy Howard, Living Legend

By Chris

Let me start by clarifying that I have nothing against Jimmy Howard. He’s having a great year and he’s easy to root for (Syracuse guy playing for the Red Wings). I even picked him as my “Breakout Player of the Year” when we made pointless predictions that will never come true in October.

My problem is with Scott Burnside and his latest column on ESPN.com, “Howard is ‘not an overnight sensation'”. You don’t need to click the link, I’m going to go through most of it here.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — With each passing day, it becomes crystal clear Detroit netminder Jimmy Howard isn’t just the obvious candidate for rookie of the year,

In honor of Mike Robitaille, I’m going to “stop it right there.” What Tyler Myers is doing for the Buffalo Sabres is simply incredible. It’s not a “Buffalo bias” or anything like that, I’ve just watched him play every game this year and there’s no way you can tell me that any rookie has “obviously” had a better year than Myers has had.

Maybe Burnside will go into that debate in the latter half of his first sentence.

but he has also played himself into consideration for the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s top goaltender.

Heck the what the freak? Ummm OK. Let’s see where he goes with this.

And while we’re at it, if we’re going to discuss Buffalo’s Ryan Miller as a potential Hart Trophy nominee, then you have to throw Howard in the mix, as well. Quite simply, that’s how good the 26-year-old Syracuse, N.Y., native has played and how crucial he has been in helping turn the Red Wings from meandering to menacing.

No, you don’t “have” to throw his name into any mix, Betty Crocker.

Let me clearly say that I’ve watched Miller all season, too (comes with the territory of being a Sabres fan). There’s a reason why Miller is getting Hart talk and it’s because his play has warranted it. Remember the Olympics and how much he meant to Team USA? He’s been even more vital to the Sabres’ success this season. The word “valuable” might actually be an understatement in that case.

Again, I don’t want to take anything away from Howard. He kept Detroit alive when they faced all of those injuries early on. He was very valuable then. But now that key players like Johan Franzen and Valtteri Filppula are healthy, how important is goaltending in Detroit? From here on out, he’s not exactly going to be the centerpiece.

The Red Wings have gotten by in the last few years with an above-average Chris Osgood. And by “gotten by” I mean won a Stanley Cup and reached the Finals in consecutive years.

Detroit’s system and personnel make it so the goalie doesn’t have to be a superstar. Make a few timely saves and the talent around you will carry you to at least the third round. That’s the type of team Detroit has. More than anything, getting past the injuries has helped turn the Red Wings from “meandering to menacing.”

Howard’s been very good and has put Detroit in a position to make the playoffs. Like general manager Ken Holland eventually says in the article, Howard has worked for seven years in the minors to get to this point. But, sorry, he hasn’t been as valuable as Miller — and that’s why Miller will be up for the Hart with players like Alexander Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby and Henrik Sedin (side note, Phil from Black, Blue and Gold had some nice thoughts on Ovechkin as a potential Hart nominee this year).

Forget the Howard for Hart talk for a moment and let’s go back to the Vezina discussion.

Miller will probably win it, but will Howard even finish as a finalist? Has he been better than Ilya Bryzgalov, Evgeni Nabokov or Craig Anderson, who have all had very good seasons? You could probably say, of those three, that only Bryzgalov has been better than Howard — but not without much debate.

Burnside automatically dismisses those other goaltenders when he places Howard next to Miller. Saying Howard is having a Hart-worthy season seems to be an attention-craving statement –and I’m guilty of giving Burnside the time of day here.

Oh by the way, we’re only three sentences in.

The piece does go on to be a nice little feature on Howard (it’s probably worth clicking the link if you haven’t already), but, in my eyes, it’s tainted by Burnside placing him on an elite pedestal in the first two paragraphs. Was he this gaga over Steve Mason last year, who may have actually had a better season than Howard is having this year?

Howard should be a Calder finalist (he might even beat out Myers and Matt Duchene). He should also be in the discussion for the Vezina, but there should be a discussion first and foremost.

7 Comments

  1. Ogre39666

    Couldn’t have said it any better myself. What really gets me when people bring him up in the Calder discussion is that he’s had 4 seasons in the minors (totaling 186 games played) and parts of 3 NHL season prior to this to hone his game. Myers on the other hand, is coming straight out of Juniors. I think you have to take that into consideration, or at least I hope the voters do.

  2. wch

    Either Miller’s playing well, or Myers is a great defenseman. It’s not both. I believe the latter; a goalie is only as good as the rebounds he lets fly off of him, and whether the other team can get to them or not. Ask Lundqvist- yesteryear’s flavor of the month. Watch closer – Miller gives up rebounds. Most of the time, there’s no second shot.

  3. Um, it can’t be both? Does that mean all bad defenseman play in front of great goaltenders, and all great goaltenders play behind terrible defenseman?

    I think we’ve all been watching pretty closely. There are times when Miller doesn’t give up rebounds, especially with traffic in front. When he does, defenseman get the job done. Or they don’t, and Miller makes the second save. Or he doesn’t and it’s a goal. Or he lets the first shot in. And so on and so on.

    It’s not one or the other, it’s all of the above. Miller can win the Vezina, and Myers can win the Calder. Both can happen at the same time. Saying otherwise is silly.

  4. Definitely can’t be both Ryan. Also, Myers plays 60 minutes a game and is always there to save Miller’s ass. Also BIRON RULES!

  5. @wch:

    Following that logic, if Jimmy Howard is playing well then Nick Lidstrom isn’t a great defenseman.

    Yeah, that makes a ton of sense.

  6. Ogre39666

    @ wch:
    “a goalie is only as good as the rebounds he lets fly off of him” & “Watch closer – Miller gives up rebounds”
    – Umm, I don’t know who you’re watching because Miller has among the best, if not the best, rebound control in the league. For any given game, you could probably count the number of bad rebounds he gives up on one hand (and probably not even use all 5 fingers).

    “Lundqvist- yesteryear’s flavor of the month.”
    – Have you watched more than 1 NYR game? If Lundqvist gives up 2 goals, chances are at least 1 of them was deflected by one of his defensemen. There was a stretch earlier this season where Lundqvist went 20+ games (I believe it was 22, not sure though) only allowing >2 goals twice (and due to their woeful offense, NYR probably went 10-10-2 during that stretch). This is a goalie who has to play behind the human-deflection-machine that is Micheal Rozival, Wade Redden who’s turned into a turnover-waiting-to-happen, and 2 offensive-minded rookies in Micheal Del Zotto and Matt Gilroy. Furthermore, Lundqvist is the only goalie in history to begin his career with 5 straight 30 win seasons. Flavor of the month indeed.

    @ everyone else:
    Please excuse the mini-rant. In case you couldn’t tell, I am a huge Henrik fan.