Trade Jimmy Howard?
Enough of these delusions
By KEITH GAVE
A few words of advice to everyone out there hounding Red Wings General Manager Ken Holland to trade Jimmy Howard: Get real.
I understand your enchantment with Petr Mrazek, who has emerged as a Vezina Trophy candidate in his first full NHL season. I appreciate your frustration with Howard, who hasn’t been the same since a bad groin injury he suffered about an hour after he was named to the All-Star game last season.
No doubt we’ll hear Howard’s named tossed around – mostly by idiots – in the next 11 days until the Feb. 29 trade deadline. But Holland manages a National Hockey League team, not a fantasy-league team. His colleagues around the league aren’t blind. They see the games. Or at least they have scouts who see the games. And they read the stats.
Just put yourself on the other end of the line as the GM of another NHL team when Detroit is calling.
“Hi, this is Ken Holland, and I’ve got a goaltender I’d like to unload, er, trade.”
You: “Go on.”
“Well, he was or No. 1 guy, named to the All-Star game just a year ago. Represented Team USA in the World Championships a few years ago. He’s got a pretty impressive resume.”
You: “OK, tell me more. What’s he done lately? What’s his salary situation?”
“Um, well, in 21 games this year, he’s 7-9-4. His cap hit is nearly $5.3 million. For the next three seasons.”
You’ve heard enough, right? No? How about that Jimmy Howard is 0-5-3 in his last nine starts? How about his goals-against average is pushing 3.0 per game? How about he can’t stop a beach ball?
As an opposing GM, what are you going to give up for him now? A bucket of pucks maybe? But only if Detroit agrees to pick up, oh, about $4 million of Howard’s annual salary.
The only way Holland could possible trade Howard is if he agreed to take a bad contract back. But how wise would that be? Seriously.
Think about it, Mr. Trade Howard. What would the Wings do if Petr Mrazek went down with an injury that would keep him out any length of time? With no back up with any kind of experience. Nobody in Grand Rapids is beating down the door to the NHL, like Mrazek was for the past two years.
In the absence of an injured Mrazek and a traded Jimmy Howard, you can kiss off a 25th straight trip to the Stanley Cup playoffs. Just ask Montreal fans how fast things can go south when your team MVP – as Petr Mrazek is every bit as much as Carey Price is with the Canadiens.
Howard, as poorly as he has played, remains the better option should anything happen to Mrazek. And in Howard’s defense, he’s been a No. 1 goaltender his entire career pretty much until the playoffs last spring when Mike Babcock turned the job over to Mrazek, who hasn’t relinquished it.
Playing once every couple of weeks is tough duty for any goaltender, but especially for a guy used to playing an average of nearly 54 games a season for the past six years, like Howard has. Clearly it’s an adjustment he has been unable to make so far.
But Jimmy Howard is still the best option as Mrazek’s backup.
So enough already with the “trade Howard” chorus. Ken Holland has more important priorities. His scouts are busy, and he’s joined them on some recent trips to put his own eyes on prospective trade targets.
Holland will be a busy man leading up to the deadline. He always is. And he’ll make a deal or two – maybe even a big deal or two. The Wings are a good team that can be made better with some serious assets Holland is willing to spend to upgrade his roster.
We’ll explore those in more depth in Monday’s column. Stay tuned.