Saturday, September 19, 2009

2009-2010 Player Profiles: Jimmy Howard...

OK, it’s that time of year. Hockey’s so close that you can almost taste it. By my count, there are 13 days remaining before the Wings kick off their season in Sweden (which is still entirely too many, but at least we can see the light at the end of the tunnel). In order to pass the time, I’ll be posting a player profile every day until then (in alphabetical order, because I’m one of those people). I want to make it very clear that these are not predictions, because I do not, under any circumstance, make predictions. They’re simply my thoughts on each player’s performances last season, and my hopes and expectations for them this time around. Today’s subject:

Jimmy Howard

2008-2009 Regular Season: 1 GP, 0-1-0, 0 SO, 4.07 GAA, 0.857 SV%
2009 Playoffs: N/A

Season Highlight: None.
Season Lowlight: Looking terrible in his only NHL start.

I don't remember much about Jimmy Howard's game against Minnesota last season, but I clearly recall thinking, "Oh my god, this is the Wings' goalie of the future?" We didn’t see a whole lot of Howard last year, which might have been good because he looked terrible in his one start. I’m told that he played well in the AHL playoffs, but until I see that translate into solid play in the Winged Wheel, I’ll remain a skeptic.

This year is a make-or-break season for Howard. He needs to finally show that the countless hours and dollars that the organization has spent developing him have been worth it. I’d even go so far as to say that he’s facing more pressure than any other Wing this season. He’s not the only one fighting to prove something, but he would seem to have more at stake career-wise than a guy like Kris Draper who knows he’s not going to get traded or waived. That’s not the kind of thing that’s typically said about a backup goalie, but Howard (and everyone else) knows that the Wings have a couple of top prospects in the minors just waiting to take over the label of “Goalie of the Future.”

I’m not entirely sure what to expect from Howard this year. I’m not exactly thrilled about having him as the backup, but I have enough faith in Ozzie that I’m not truly terrified. I’m going to do my best to keep an open mind and wait until he’s started a few games to decide whether or not the Jimmy Howard Experiment is a success or not. It’s entirely possible that he’ll come out and play with confidence thanks to his finally-attained NHL responsibility. I wouldn’t hold my breath, but I’ve seen stranger things. If anything spurs him on to an adequate performance, I think it might be the strong crop of goalies behind him in the minors. Maybe, just maybe, he’ll raise his level of play if he feels them lurking waiting to take his job. I hope.

What he needs to do to make me happy: Play well enough that I’m able to breathe when he’s in net.

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