First and foremost, let’s preface this by saying that the Red Wings are in the midst of an absolutely atrocious season. They are statistically the worst team in the NHL, and it’s not close. So, to expect many of the players on this team to be having good statistical seasons wouldn’t be fair. But on the other hand, I’m certain nobody would have expected such a drop-off in production from one of the longest tenured players on the roster: one Jimmy Howard.
Over his 543 game career, Howard has won 246 games, the third most in team history. In the eight seasons in which he has played in more than 40 games, only once has he finished with a goals against average higher than 3.00. Therefore, saying that he hasn’t been good at any point of his career would not be accurate.
The unfortunate reality of this season, however, is that he has plain and simply not been good. Whether it’s due to the injury he suffered earlier in the season, or the fact that the defense in front of him has been porous (to say the least), his play has been downright hard to watch at times. In 27 games played, he has accumulated a record of 2-23-2, with a 4.20 GAA, and a .882 save percentage. Conversely, Jonathan Bernier has racked up a record of 14-21-3, with a 2.88 GAA and .909 save percentage, which is a very telling sign that all of Howard’s struggles cannot be blamed on the defense in front of him.
It’s been an unfortunate fall from grace for Howard, who is a three-time 35 game winner. But, where does he stack up against some of the worst seasons that goaltenders have ever had? He’s won 7.4% of the games he has played in this season, an extremely lowly mark. Peter Sidorkiewicz, who played one season with the Ottawa Senators in 1992-93, turned in a record of 8-46-3 (the final number indicates ties) while playing in 64 games, with a 4.43 GAA and .856 save percentage. He won 12.5% of the games he played in.
Ken McAuley, who had a two year stint with the New York Rangers, turned in a 6-39-5 mark in the 1943-44 season, with a 6.24 GAA (no save percentage recorded), winning 12% of the games he played in. Lastly, former New York Islanders backstop Gerry Desjardins posted a 5-35-3 record in 44 games during the 1972-73 season, with a 4.68 GAA. He won 11.3% of the games he played in.
While Howard’s win percentage very well might be one of the lowest of all time, he hasn’t played in enough games to take that particular number too seriously. Yes, it’s bad. Really, really bad, in fact. Plus the entire body of work that he has turned in this season is extremely underwhelming, as well. Bad enough to consider this to be one of the worst seasons an NHL goaltender has ever had. But thankfully, it can’t quite be considered the absolute worst.