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Past Fantasy Outlooks
A consummate professional, Howard kept his cool upon losing his starting job to Petr Mrazek during the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs, and the American netminder graciously remained in a backup role to open the 2016-17 campaign while focusing on being more patient and composed in the cage. The playing-style tweak would end up invigorating the veteran in dramatic fashion. Howard went from posting the weakest ratios of his full-time career to a banner season that included a 2.10 GAA and .927 save percentage -- despite having to battle through groin and knee injuries, the latter of which was a sprained MCL that came with a few setbacks. Howard finished with a 10-11-1 record and a single shutout over 24 starts and 26 total appearances for a team that encountered an eye-popping 307 man games lost. Not only did he reclaim the starting job in short order, Howard wound up on Detroit's list of players untouchable by Vegas for the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft -- unlike Mrazek, who finished with an underwhelming 3.04 GAA and .901 save mark. Second-year puck plugger Jared Coreau is champing at the bit for more time in the NHL, but this is once again Howard's job to lose. Consider drafting him as a low-end No. 1 fantasy goalie.
Howard was placed on the trading block in the offseason, but there wasn’t a high demand for goaltenders on the open market. As a result, Detroit is likely to retain the veteran while doling out $9.35 million between Howard and rising star Petr Mrazek in 2016-17. If Howard had been more consistent last season and taken the team deep in the playoffs, he would have an easier time preventing Mrazek from breathing down his neck for a starting role in the upcoming campaign. At 32 years old, the best-case situation for Howard is that he wins an even timeshare with Mrazek. He burned his share of fantasy owners in season-long leagues last year with a 2.80 GAA – ranked 40th – and the promise of limited action between the pipes further lowers his value. Proceed with caution.
Once the clear-cut starter in Detroit, Howard’s fantasy value is in jeopardy with the rising 23-year-old Petr Mrazek knocking on the door. Howard opened the past season on a hot note with a 16-7-7 record, 2.11 GAA, and .920 save percentage in the first half, but struggled after the All-Star break, posting marks of 7-6-4, 2.99, and .896 in those respective categories. That downturn resulted in the Red Wings turning the net over to Mrazek in the playoffs, and seemingly puts the younger goalie in line to send the 31-year-old Howard to a backup role this coming season. Howard established himself as one of the league's most reliable netminding options over a four-year stretch from 2009 to 2013, but his two-year regression makes banking on him to recapture the starting role a risky proposition. If Mrazek ends up seeing the bulk of the starts as expected, Howard should still see a decent amount of ice time and would be one of the league's more accomplished backups. And with a strong Wings roster in place to support him, Howard would likely remain a factor to come away with the win most every time he takes the net.
Howard struggled mightily in 2013-14, watching his 2.10 GAA from the past two seasons balloon up to 2.66. His backup had only five fewer wins in many less starts, and Howard is certainly itching to prove doubters wrong in the upcoming campaign. Odds are high last season was an anomaly, but if Howard comes out of the gate slow, the murmurs in Detroit are only going to get louder. Jonas Gustavsson may begin to poach starts if Howard’s struggles rage on.
Howard took the step into the upper echelon of goalies in 2012-13, posting a 2.13 goals against average to go with 21 wins and five shutouts. He also kept the Red Wings in games throughout the playoffs and helped Detroit nearly knock off the future champion Blackhawks. His defensive corps will be more experienced in 2013-14, and Howard is primed for a stellar year as the Red Wings improved in the offseason. Expect him to be in the top 10 in every goaltending category, especially as he is still relatively young and can handle a huge workload.
Howard rebounded from a disappointing 2010-11 to deliver his best goals-against average (2.12) over his three seasons as the Wings' starting netminder while parlaying the league's 10th-best save percentage (.920 ) into a career-high six shutouts. The workload last season would have been larger, but Howard missed time in February with a broken index finger. Questions about his ability as a true number one goaltender have subsided, but the loss of Nicklas Lidstrom and perhaps to a greater extent, Brad Stuart, could have an understandably large impact on Howard's numbers this season. Even with an improved backup behind him (Jonas Gustavsson), Howard should see 65 starts this time around, but he may be pressed to reach the 35-win plateau for the fourth consecutive season.
The Wings extended Howard's contract in February, locking in the young netminder for two more seasons at a very reasonable rate ($2.25 million/year). Although Howard regressed in terms of GAA (2.79) and save percentage (.908), the front office saw enough in his development to commit to him for two more seasons. The Wings' inability to sign a top-tier backup during free agency should lead to another 60-65 starts for the 27-year-old this time around. Thanks to the offensive support he'll receive and the stable of blueliners in front of him. Howard is a good bet to break the 35-win mark for the third consecutive season.
Howard entered last season as the backup to Chris Osgood almost by default, because he'd slowly made his way through the organization and had to clear waivers in order to be sent back to the AHL. Osgood struggled in October, giving Howard an opportunity to earn more playing time in the first half of the season and he quickly earned the confidence of head coach Mike Babcock. The rookie netminder narrowly missed out on Calder Trophy honors, posting a 37-15-10 record with a 2.26 goals-against average and .924 save percentage and three shutouts in 61 regular season starts. At 26, Howard is young enough to handle a very heavy workload and he showed no signs of wearing down when Babcock leaned on him for more than 20 starts in a row during the team's playoff push in March and April (16-2-1). The combination of 60-plus starts and having a good squad in front of him should make him a fringe top-five netminder on most draft boards.
When Osgood faltered last season, it was then-backup Conklin who ultimately provided stability between the pipes before Ozzie was able to rediscover his game in time for the postseason. The Wings have been patient with Howard since drafting him back in 2003, but he has to clear waivers now in order to be sent down to Grand Rapids, which makes him the No. 2 netminder in Detroit after Conklin departed for St. Louis in free agency. Howard had a 2.54 GAA and .916 save percentage in 45 starts with the Griffins last season and he'll need to be just as good - if not better - now that he could see 25-30 starts in the Motor City. We like him more because of the team around him than anything else, but the slow ascent through the system could prove to be beneficial.
Howard still maintains the "goaltender of the future" label in Detroit after signing a three-year extension with the club in July, but he's going to have to wait another year after the Wings brought in Ty Conklin to back up Chris Osgood this season. Since he can still be called up and sent down to the AHL without being exposed to waivers, Howard will be the primary netminder in Grand Rapids for 2008-09 while keeping his phone ringer turned up in case injuries prompt the call to Detroit.
He'll spend the year in the AHL, prepping as the team's goaltender of the future. Short of an injury to Hasek and Osgood, Howard isn't someone you probably want to own until at least 2008-09.
He’s still considered the team’s goaltender of the future, but with Dominik Hasek and Chris Osgood ahead of Howard on the depth chart, the future will have to wait a year or two. Howard could be a Top 10 fantasy goalie as soon as 2007-08, depending on how Osgood ages, and perhaps the payoff could come sooner if the veteran goalies have injury problems this winter.
Howard is considered the team's goalie of the future, though he'll probably spend 2005-06 in the minors. Keep an eye on the youngster, though; he showed dominant flashes in his three-year career at the University of Maine. In the 2003-04 season, he had a 1.19 goals against average and a .956 save percentage, both NCAA records. Howard's been impressive early in camp, by the way, and Chris Osgood is battling a sore groin. Very interesting.