For as long as I can remember Hockeytown has always been skeptical about their goaltenders. We praise them when they excel (Chris Osgood, Dominac Hasek, and Manny Legace) or crucify them when they faulter or don’t meet our expectations (Joey MacDonald, Curtis Joseph, and Ty Conklin).
I haven’t talked to one Red Wings’ fan that rides the fence when it comes to goaltenders. They either love or hate a certain goaltender. There is no middle ground. In fact, there are probably fans that will disagree with the names I listed above. It’s all a matter of opinion.
That said, we are in the midst of another battle between the pipes.
Jimmy Howard vs. Jonas Gustavsson
Throw all your bias out the window and let’s examine the stats for the 2013-14 season.
Jimmy Howard: 37 games (13-14-10), 2.64 goals against, and .912 save percentage.
Jonas Gustavsson: 24 games (15-4-3), 2.54 goals against, and .912 save percentage.
By stats alone Gustavsson wins, hands down. He was more wins in 24 games then Howard does in 37 games played, he is better in goals against, and has the same save percentage.
However, the elephant in the room is that Jimmy Howard signed a contract extension nearly a year ago that pays over five million a year all the way through the 2019-20 season. The classic “he is our guy no matter what and he isn’t going anywhere” kind of deal.
Jonas Gustavsson, on the other hand, is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. There is no doubt in my mind that the Monster will be looking for a big pay day after the success he has had this year. The Wings probably won’t have deep enough pockets to bring back the back-up goaltender.
So like it or not, the Red Wings are stuck with Jimmy Howard for the long run (unless they are able to trade him away). But does that give Howard the right to be the bona fide starter?
In my opinion, the answer is no.
Right now Gustavsson is giving the Red Wings the best chance to win. The Wings look more confident and play better when he is guarding the net. The stats above prove that.
Howard is inconsistent and streaky. We are used to seeing him pick up his game as the season comes to close but I haven’t seen that from him yet and time is running out. Sure he was getting to that level before the Olympic break came, but since the NHL has resumed he has gone back to his old ways.
Like any other Detroit Red Wings’ fan I don’t sit on the fence when it comes to goaltenders.
As surprising as it might sound, I’m actually a Howard supporter. I do think he is the man for the future, but for right now I have to pull the plug. I don’t know what it is but for whatever reason Gustavsson is giving the team the best chance to win right now. Howard isn’t.
Does this article make me a Howard hater now? Perhaps, but that’s a matter of opinion. All I want is for the Wings to put a team out on the ice every single night that gives them the best chance win.
While stats can be misleading, there is no question (to me at least) that Gustavsson makes the Red Wings a better team right now when he is between the pipes. Don’t get me wrong, I like Howard for the long term future (until Petr Mrazek is ready to take the reins). But, the Red Wings should play the players that give them the best chance to win with the historic playoff streak on the line.
If you would like to receive an email notification each time a Detroit Red Wings story is posted you can fill out the Email Notification Form.
Read more Red Wings rumors, news and opinion on our Detroit Red Wings page.