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Poll: Is Jimmy Howard an elite goalie?

Aug 1, 2013, 12:24 PM EDT

Jimmy Howard Getty Images

Red Wings day on PHT continues…

The question we’re asking here will partly depend upon how you define elite. Some reserve that label for the top four or five players in the league; others use it a bit more freely.

What’s not debatable is this: In 230 career starts, Jimmy Howard‘s save percentage is .918. Among active goalies with more than 100 games played, only four have a higher save percentage than that — Roberto Luongo (.919), Pekka Rinne (.920), Henrik Lundqvist (.920), and Tuukka Rask (.927).

By that measure, it’s hard to call Howard anything but elite. Except we all know a player’s reputation is based largely on what he does in the playoffs.

In 42 career postseason starts, Howard also has a .918 save percentage. However, the Red Wings’ inability to advance past the second round while he’s been their number one has kept the 29-year-old somewhat under the radar from a league perspective.

Howard was brilliant for most of the 2013 playoffs; in fact, he was arguably the biggest reason the Wings were able to take a 3-1 series lead on the eventual champion Blackhawks.

“He’s always had confidence, but there’s something different about it now,” said Wings general manager Ken Holland during the Chicago series, per the New York Times. “He’s calmer, more assured. The play comes to him, and he knows what he needs to do.”

Of course, the Wings were unable to oust the ‘Hawks, eventually falling 2-1 in overtime of Game 7 — a game in which Howard was named second star.

Overall, though, it was a successful year for Howard and his club, which many expected to struggle in its first season without legendary defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom.

As a result — and combined with the additions of forwards Stephen Weiss and Daniel Alfredsson — expectations have been raised for 2013-14.

“You have to have a good goalie to go anywhere in the playoffs,” said Henrik Zetterberg.

“And we have it.”

  1. zachammer69 - Aug 1, 2013 at 12:43 PM

    Howard has been solid if not spectacular for the last two seasons. He may not be an “elite” goalie but I believe he is close to it. No way the Wings make the playoffs last season without his play down the stretch. The main reason the Wings haven’t gone anywhere in the playoffs recently has been abysmal special teams and spotty defensive play. Howard is the least of the problem.

    • polegojim - Aug 1, 2013 at 1:18 PM

      He was the main reason they made it into and past first round playoffs – deserves major credit for it.

      That said, he still makes critical mistakes that drive us crazy… NO POKE CHECK on ps/so or breakaways is a big one.

      I think he’s on the verge of elite, but needs to fix a few things before I’d go there… and I’m a Jimmy Howard fan.

  2. pone27 - Aug 1, 2013 at 12:45 PM

    Howard IMO is just outside the Elite class. But again, as said by Mr. Brough, it all depends on how you define Elite:

    Lundy, Rinne, Bobby Lu, Quick, are the Elite

    Howard, Rask, Lehtonen, Ward, Miller, etc. IMO all will be a top 5 in retrospect, but in rotating fashion.

    Its the 4 that I mention are season in and season out considered the top of the league.

    • clefty1 - Aug 1, 2013 at 12:50 PM

      Luongo is overrated and the only goalie to backstop a Cup winner out of the so called elite group is Quick…

    • endusersolutions2013 - Aug 1, 2013 at 11:03 PM

      Don’t know how you can say that about Ward – today. I’d rather have Cory Crawford than Ward, Lehtonen or Luongo.

  3. billyhauntswizards - Aug 1, 2013 at 12:47 PM

    if he repeats his heroics from this season next season, then Jimmy is absolutely elite.

  4. clefty1 - Aug 1, 2013 at 12:48 PM

    Howard has continued to improve plus he is a workhorse and if it was not for him the Wings probably would of missed the playoffs this past season, Howard had to put up with a Wings defense that commited way to many mistakes out in front of him and lets face it though the Wings have a good team they are not quite as talented overall as the teams that were out in front of Vernon, Osgood and Hasek. Howard has been an all-star and has an invite to the Olympic camp and I would not be surprised to see him on the Olympic roster.

  5. micklethepickle - Aug 1, 2013 at 12:49 PM

    I think that the 2010/2013 Blackhawks provided a good model of how to win multiple times. While the ‘Hawks did sign Crawford to a pretty significant deal, they’ve let good goaltenders walk to maintain the core of the team in front of the goalie. Gotta have a balance in the salary cap era (cough PIT cough).

    Now, if I remember correctly, Howard is signed to a pretty reasonable deal for the next… 3-4 years? Good for Detroit. He’s good enough that he could take them far, and it isn’t a 7-8 million $$ albatross around their neck every year while trying to build a good team.

    • killerpgh - Aug 1, 2013 at 4:32 PM

      Next year the Penguins have 12 players signed for 58+ million and the Blackhawks have 12 players signed for 56+ million. And somehow you say one is the model franchise and the other needs to learn salary cap balance. Does that even make sense to you?

      • endusersolutions2013 - Aug 1, 2013 at 11:16 PM

        The big difference is goalie results vs. goalie expenditure. Pens did not do anything regarding their “Fleury exposure” except to have thim see a shrink. They got passed the Islanders because Bylasma had the sense to bench him, while NYI amazingly kept with Nabokov (who ended up with a save% of 840).

        In fact I don’t see the Pens getting to the cup next year either, as they have not done much to shore up their defense, which was middle of the pack.

  6. bensawesomeness - Aug 1, 2013 at 12:50 PM

    I would say he’s in the 1 or 2 goalies who are alllmost there, right below the surface of elite

    Jimmy has moments where he’s absolutely the best goalie in the league, and alot of those come in big games our in the playoffs. nearly single handedly helped us come back from down 3-0 on the playoffs against the sharks a few years back to tie it at 3-3, and he came up huge tks yeast against Chicago and Anaheim. Jimmy has the talent to lead this squad to the silver, but he needs to steal a series, not just few games, to be elite.

    that being said, he’s an awesome guy, smart respectful kid, and I wouldn’t trade him for anyone

  7. pastabelly - Aug 1, 2013 at 12:50 PM

    It depends how you define elite. Is he in a class with Lundqvist and Quck? Those are the two elite goalies and it’s hard to argue he belongs in that group. Is he in a grouping with Rask, Niemi, Bobrovsky, and Rinne? Maybe.

    • endusersolutions2013 - Aug 1, 2013 at 11:18 PM

      Don’t know how you can toss those names up and not include Cory Crawford. Look at regular season and playoff GAA and save # for them all.

  8. LampyB - Aug 1, 2013 at 12:52 PM

    Is he top 3 elite? No certainly not. His performance was simply amazing in this years playoffs, literally the only goals that made it past were when he was hung out to dry by defensive mistakes from Brunner, Lashoff, and Miller. He was stellar, and 100% elite in playoffs this year.

  9. sergeikremlin - Aug 1, 2013 at 12:55 PM

    No. Howard has entered the 2nd tier of NHL goalies, but he is not yet an elite netminder.

  10. stakex - Aug 1, 2013 at 1:06 PM

    This all depends on what you define as “elite”.

    Personally I think looking only at team success is a terrible judge. A goalie can carry a team quite far, but its a team game… and the best goaltender in the world can’t carry a team all the way if the team in front of him doesn’t help out. Hell, the Vezina winner this year couldn’t even carry his team into the playoffs…. and Lundqvist, Rask, Rinne, and Luongo have all failed to win a Cup as starter so far. Would anyone argue that those guys aren’t elite (other then Luongo perhaps)?

    So I think you have to put more weight into his personal stats, and going by those Howard is pretty close to a top 5ish goaltender. Then the question is how many truly elite goaltenders can there be? Too many and the world has no meaning. I would argue that the top five goaltenders in the league should be considered elite, and thus for me… I would say Howard is on the very edge of being elite.

  11. btlpper68 - Aug 1, 2013 at 1:14 PM

    An elite goalie gives Their team the best chance to win every night. Does jimmy Howard do that and maybe a little more yes

  12. hockeyflow33 - Aug 1, 2013 at 1:56 PM

    If you have to ask whether a player is elite he isn’t

    • titansrbeast - Aug 1, 2013 at 2:38 PM

      Um no, that would be called having nothing to write about in a currently boring hockey phase, being the off-season. Jimmy Howard is definitely elite, it’s not even a question. “Elite” in my mind, is someone consistent and capable of rising to challenges, which I do believe Jimmy Howard can and will win at least one stanley cup in his career.

      • thesportsjudge - Aug 2, 2013 at 1:24 PM

        M-A Fleury won a cup. Is he elite?

  13. sjsharks66 - Aug 1, 2013 at 2:06 PM

    He has his moments as an elite goaltender. I feel he is like Niemi. They have their moments of being unstoppable and then they have their every game spectacular skill.
    I would never see having Howard on a team i cheered for being a bad thing.

  14. pone27 - Aug 1, 2013 at 3:14 PM

    Anyone on here who does not put Luongo as one of the Elites, clearly has not followed Luongo until he went to Vancouver, or is a Canucks fan.

    Do your research. Luongo has been a top, stone wall goaltender since he left the Isles.

    Get off the biased contract BS, and look at him as a player. I would take him over Howard in a heart beat.

    Quick question for all you guys who are referring to elite goaltenders only have cups: all contracts aside, would you rather have Crawford, or Lundy, Rask, Luongo and/or Rinne? If any of you answer Crawford, you are a bandwagon hockey fan.

    • hockeyflow33 - Aug 1, 2013 at 4:27 PM

      Why? Only one of those guys came through in the clutch and it’s apparently the guy who you think isn’t worthy

    • endusersolutions2013 - Aug 1, 2013 at 11:21 PM

      Look at his save% and GAA for the regular season and playoffs. He’s there with Lundqvist, Rask and Neimi.

      • hockeyflow33 - Aug 2, 2013 at 12:40 AM

        Yea, I don’t think any of those guys are elite, they’re really great but not elite

  15. rodeoclowndc - Aug 1, 2013 at 3:17 PM

    If you’re in the business of comparing someone to a group of others, you have ot more objective and put a metric out there to get a little deeper. Save percentage is good, and that’s one claim Jimmy has to be mentioned with the other 4 in the story. But as far as whether DET’s inability to advance is on his shoulders, I think, needs a little more light shed on it. Is it because Jimmy’s not stopping goals (his .918 would say otherwise), or is it more because DET’s offense isn’t doing its job? If you can get some numbers on the other guys for him to compare against, the “elite” judgement is easier to make.

    FWIW, I think he is in Elite company. And I’m a Jackets fan.

    • hockeyflow33 - Aug 1, 2013 at 4:28 PM

      This isn’t baseball, there is much more to the game than numbers

      • endusersolutions2013 - Aug 1, 2013 at 11:26 PM

        Nuts. I keep on hearing that lame “conventional thinking” line. Time after timne during the regular season and playoffs I posted the objective basis for my opinions and refutations of others meritless claims, and almost invariably I was proven correct. I did a detailed statistical assessment of the 16 playoff teams and ranked them. Posted my findings. Got mostly condescending cheap shots and garbage like you quoted, along with the predictible “the regular season does not mean anything during the playoffs.

        Well, My numbers predicted 13 of the 15 playoff series. How did your “statless” projections go?

      • hockeyflow33 - Aug 2, 2013 at 12:42 AM

        They went well, I successfully picked not only every regular and post-season season game correctly but the preseason as well.


        If you’re going to use big words I recommend spelling them correctly.

      • endusersolutions2013 - Aug 2, 2013 at 7:52 PM

        So, in addition to resorting to conventional thinking, you also go to lame comments about something irrelevant – typos. If you could understand the words I used, it was good enough.

        And I posted my detailed assessments on Yahoo game threads. I kinda sense you don’t do any significant, novel research and analysis. Here’s one of my posts comparing the Blackhawks to the Pens and Kings, since their fans were doing a lot of cheap shot trolling on Hawks game threads.

        Before the playoffs started, I looked at the 16 playoff in regards to multiple objective measures – offense, defense and depth, ranking the teams according to each, then totaling the results. I did not include some items as I saw the teams who did well one these, such as hits and takeaways were under-represented in the playoff teams. I posted for all the teams, but this series is between the Hawks and Wings, I’m focusing on those teams plus the teams who’s fans have been the most persistent trollers on Hawks game threads.

        1Trend – record over the last 12 games (I ignored the Hawks final as playing 15 AHL
        players showed they could care less if they won): Hawks 2 Pens 6 Kings 6 Wings 8

        2. Goals For Average: Hawks 2 Pens 1 Kings 8 Wings 12

        3. Goals Against Average: Hawks 1 Pens 11 Kings 6 Wings 5

        4. Team +/- : Hawks 1 Pens 2 Kings 7 Wings 10

        5. Power Play: Hawks 12 Pens 2 Kings 6 Wings 10 The only category where the Kings and Wings were better. But that matches up against the Hawks excellent PK

        6. Penalty Kill: Hawks 3 Pens 15 Kings 8 Wings 9

        7. Shots on goal/Effectiveness (Total shots on goal x effectiveness): A team that takes
        1450 shots and hits 10.5 % has a big advantage over a team that takes 1275 and scores
        8.8% I don’t see anyone else discussing this, but it makes sense to me.
        Hawks 2 Pens 1 Kings 8 Wings 12

        8. Shots Against/Effectiveness: How many you had to face and the % that went in.
        Hawks 1 Pens 10 Kings 8 Wings 5
        9. Save % (how good are your goalies): Hawks 2 Pens 10 Kings 12 Wings 8 (admittedly J. Quick has been much better in the playoffs)
        10. Penalties in minutes (less is more): Hawks 1 Pens 11 Kings 5 Wings 4

        11. Points Depth – Number of players with 10 or more points Hawks 1 Pens 4 Kings 7 Wings 16

        12. Plus/- Depth how many guys playing 5 or more games had a negative +/-
        Hawks 1 Pens 2 Kings 5 Wings 7

        Total is Hawks 29 Pens 75 Kings 88 Wings 106 Night and day difference. The Hawks are clearly the best team in the league.

      • hockeyflow33 - Aug 2, 2013 at 8:01 PM

        Here’s a stat for you, 0% of people will read this drivel

      • endusersolutions2013 - Aug 2, 2013 at 11:21 PM

        Apparantly you have a deep committment to remain clueless. I know I’ll get blown off my some. And I’ve found that I’ve had others comment on Yahoo who do see my posts over time
        ythat do appreciate my poss. I’m one of the few who believe forums like this and Yahoo game threads allow those who want to learn to actually learn from others.

        So I guess you enjoy life on the shallow end.

      • hockeyflow33 - Aug 3, 2013 at 2:01 PM

        I find it hard to believe you know how to do any sort of legitimate analysis with the amount of spelling errors that your posts contain.

  16. johnwwt1976 - Aug 1, 2013 at 4:17 PM

    He’s never got out of the 2nd round, how is this a poll question dumb dumb

    • sunderlanding - Aug 1, 2013 at 6:50 PM

      Lundqvist only got of the second round once, and he’s had a long career, so I guess he isn’t elite either. Rinne never got out of the second round, so I guess he isn’t elite either.

    • endusersolutions2013 - Aug 1, 2013 at 11:31 PM

      Detroit was in a rebuilding year, and started the season with a makeshift defense. That they made it to the playoffs and pushed the Hawks to game 7 in the conference semi’s is a testiment to Howard. At one point against the Hawks, he stopped 82 of 84, despite the Hawks being in the top 20% of the league in SOG effectiveness.

  17. pastabelly - Aug 1, 2013 at 4:47 PM

    I hate when all of these goalie threads turn into referendums on Luongo. If he were an elite goalie, he wouldn’t have lost his job. He also got yanked out of two Stanley Cup Finals games. These things don’t happen to elite goalies, supposedly in the primes of their careers. Please do not compare him to Lundqvist, who rarely gives up three goals in any game.

    • pone27 - Aug 1, 2013 at 5:21 PM

      I would yank Luongo too if I had a bonavide starting goaltender on my team as my back up, and had one of the largest hockey cities in the league wanting this neck.

      Pretty simple, take Luongo out of Vancouver, and we have ourselves a goaltender who would be regarded as an elite goaltender. He has top 5 numbers among all goaltenders in the league. He is Vancouvers savior if they win, and the fault for everything if they lose.

      I hate the Canucks, as do what i feel all Hawks fans do, but if you don’t think this guy is among the elites in the NHL, its complete bias and ignorance.

      Elite goaltenders should not be judged STRICTLY on the playoffs. Its a team game. Everyone has ups and downs, its a team game that wins the cup.

  18. johnwwt1976 - Aug 1, 2013 at 4:55 PM

    Please don’t compare Lou to Lundqvist, Lundqvist hasn’t even got out of 2nd round.

  19. sunderlanding - Aug 1, 2013 at 6:45 PM

    If playoff success is the measure for a great goalie why do people go on about Lundqvist? He only got past the second round once, and don’t give me this the team in front of him is worse crap. Lundqvist is supposed to have one of the best teams (on paper) in front of him, and Detroit is not the team they used to be.

  20. tdrusher225 - Aug 1, 2013 at 11:19 PM

    It’s a team game guys. Howard is a good enough goalie to win a Championship with, and that’s all that matters. This question of whose elite is ever-changing and frivolous in a sport that doesn’t rely on individual talent to win, even if some try to portray it that way.

    • hockeyflow33 - Aug 2, 2013 at 12:44 AM

      Cups are won by hot goalies. That’s been true forever.

      • tdrusher225 - Aug 2, 2013 at 6:44 PM

        No they’re not. Cups are won by teams playing at the highest level. Occasionally goalies will play a large role in teams getting far and winning, but the majority of teams who win Cups are solid from top to bottom and rely on the contributions of everyone. Jimmy Howard is more than good enough to win a Championship with, and he doesn’t have to be one of the “elite” goalies to qualify.

    • shoobiedoobin - Aug 2, 2013 at 12:38 PM

      ^Bingo. Don’t listen to hockeyflow. He’s easily brainwashed. Hot TEAMS win. That’s boring but more accurate.

  21. mrpinkca - Aug 1, 2013 at 11:28 PM

    Lidstrom retired, and Howard was still elite. Case Closed.

  22. sablo - Aug 2, 2013 at 9:12 AM

    Here’s MY Top 10 Goalies of 2013:

    1. Tuukka Rask
    2. Henrik Lundqvist
    3. Sergei Bobrovski
    4. Craig Anderson
    5. Antti Niemi
    6. Carey Price
    7. Kari Lehtonen
    8. Cory Schneider
    9. Pekka Rinne
    10. Niklas Backström

    • thesportsjudge - Aug 2, 2013 at 1:14 PM

      Wait until Chara is no longer playing in front of Rask. Tuukka backstops a very good defensive minded team. No way I would put Price top ten.

    • endusersolutions2013 - Aug 2, 2013 at 2:16 PM

      Price, Lehtonen and Backstrom > the improving Cory Crawford? Cory was considered for the Viezina this year, and Patrick Kane publically said that CC should have won the Conn Smyth, not him.

      Wonder if PK may have a better grasp of Crow’s contribution.

      • shoobiedoobin - Aug 2, 2013 at 3:02 PM

        I smell a Hawks fan who buys too much into BS he reads and WANTS to believe. Kane’s being modest, but he’s half right. He shouldn’t have been MVP.

        Crawford’s average and Vezina? LMAO hardly.

      • hockeyflow33 - Aug 2, 2013 at 8:02 PM

        If you can’t spell Vezina, you probably shouldn’t be picking a winner

      • endusersolutions2013 - Aug 2, 2013 at 11:28 PM

        Hockey cheapshotter. I unfortunately was taught English in el ed when they were esing a now discredited teaching method called “see and say”. By my Fresh year at ISU, I could spell much better in Spanish than I can in English. Have a vocabulary at about the 95th percentile, and a spelling ability at the 5th – meaning I have one of the biggest working vocabularies I routinely mispell.

        I also can’t touchtype as I have almost no kinestethic memory – so don’t see the typos as I key. If this was business communication, I’d use wWord or Outlook, and pay attention to those little squiggly lines.

        But as this is INFORMAL communication – it’s not worth the effort. I focus on CONCEPT, not MECHANICS.

  23. shoobiedoobin - Aug 2, 2013 at 12:22 PM

    A goalie never carries a team, ever, unless you’re Hasek on the Sabres. That’s it. A goalie works with the team and vice versa. Howard’s better than Corey Crawford, only difference is Crawford was bailed out by his team.

    • endusersolutions2013 - Aug 2, 2013 at 2:12 PM

      I keep on seeing these symplistic statements and shake my head. The team in front has an effect on SOB (blocks/takeaways), and also on the GAA stat. But a goalies save % is primarialy the GOALIES’s save%, and thus a valid tool for comparison.

      Cory C had his best save % in the regular season and playoffs this year.

      • endusersolutions2013 - Aug 2, 2013 at 2:13 PM

        (typo – meant SOG)

      • shoobiedoobin - Aug 2, 2013 at 2:27 PM

        Seriously? You’re going to make me shoot down that weak sauce? A team can play better defense while allowing more shots. Today’s NHL is the greatest example of that in the history of the game. Look at Boston-they allow a ton of shots but almost no quality ones. Chicago too. Keep the shots to the outside, easy angles, no rebounds and with today’s tempo you’re going to have 26 or so shots against but as long as you limit the chances the goalie will look like a superstar. Crawford was nowhere near great, just like Niemi when he won. His team made him look better than he was. It’s taboo to speak sideways of a recent winner in sports, the sheeple attack with a force only a large, sleepy-yet-angry mob could. But give it a few years, we’ll remember him as a beneficiary of a great team.

        We just love perpetuating myths we’re like and we’re absolutely in love with underdogs and the concept of a lone hero in this case carrying a whole team. It’s just a myth. Teams win. And if you’re trying to say Crawford carried Chicago you’re either high off your ass or don’t know hockey whatsoever. And not in the way that phrase is usually passed off as insult, I genuinely mean you don’t know what’s going on during a game of hockey.

  24. thesportsjudge - Aug 2, 2013 at 1:09 PM

    The thing that is not specified is what % of STARTING 30 NHL goalies do people consider “elite”?

    ?/30 is important. If people say “so and so is in the top 10 best goalies in the league” that amounts to in the top 1/3rd. In school, if I got a 66, that was failing(not sure what failing is in todays’ standards though).

Top 10 NHL Player Searches
  1. P. Kane (2169)
  2. P. Kessel (1345)
  3. M. Richards (1311)
  4. N. Backstrom (1225)
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