Fantasy Q&A: The Jimmy Howard dilemma

The second installment of Monday’s fantasy Q&A focuses on another goalie.

The second installment of Monday’s fantasy Q&A focuses on another goalie. It won’t be the same thing every week, but the cookie just happened to crumble that way again.

I’m not one of those writers who gives fantasy advice without actually playing in a league. I play in a long-running league, so I offer insight as someone who encounters similar situations playing the game.

Take the subject of this week’s featured question, Mr. Jimmy Howard. I’m extra-qualified to answer it because I own Howard, too, and the guy is slowly sucking my soul dry.

1. Hang onto Jimmy Howard? He’s killing me.
Alex Gorman (@AlexGorman15)

I truly feel your pain, Alex. In today’s day and age, goalies are harder to trust than ever. Tuukka Rask led the league in goals-against average save percentage as a rookie, then lost his job to Tim Thomas. James Reimer set a Maple Leafs single-season record for SP, then the Leafs traded for Jonathan Bernier. The Canucks chose Roberto Luongo over Cory Schneider.

And the reasons to distrust Howard are mounting. Factor out the loser point in his 5-7-6 record and he’s dropped 13 of 18 starts. He’s on track for career-worst numbers across the board, currently sporting a 2.72 GAA and .908 SP. Worse yet, backup Jonas ‘The Monster’ Gustavsson has soundly outplayed him (5-0-1, 2.35, .926).

Despite those concerns, the reasons not to panic outweigh the negatives. For one, Howard’s new contract works for him, not against him, as some people would have you believe. Does a six-year, $31.8-million deal bring extra pressure? Sure, but it also lengthens your leash significantly. No way GM Ken Holland gives up on his franchise goalie that quickly. Over the past five seasons, Howard has more wins than all but three goaltenders and his SP is higher than Jonathan Quick’s.

Also, we’ve seen this from Gustavsson before. He plays well in a low-pressure situation when he’s coming in to “save the day” as a backup, but doesn’t perform when given the reins for long stretches as a starter. For you football poolies out there – he’s the Kevin Kolb of goaltending.

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Most importantly, this isn’t the first time Howard (or the Wings as a team, for that matter) has scared us. Check out his monthly splits from last season:

January: 3-2-1, 2.77 GAA, .907 SP, 0 SO

February: 5-5-1, 2.87 GAA, .901 SP, 1 SO

March: 6-3-1, 1.89 GAA, .934 SP, 1 SO

April: 7-3-3, 1.44 GAA, .942 SP, 3 SO

So guess what? Instead of cutting bait on Howard, my advice is to hold him or, if you don’t have him, actually consider buying low on him. He’s too good to stay bad. He’s one of the league’s true workhorse goalies and they don’t grow on trees anymore.

2. Should I drop Chris Stewart for Tomas Hertl? My league counts goals, assists, power pay points and shorthanded points.

Yes. I’m actually a Stewart fan – hopefully you bought low on him when you still could in deeper fantasy leagues – but it’s all about opportunity and Hertl’s is better. There are too many mouths to feed on a very deep St. Louis team. Guys bounce from the second to third line and on and off the power play too easily. Hertl, while young, is a pure offensive weapon and the Sharks will continue using him in a scoring role. Adding him over Stewart isn’t a knee-jerk reaction to a flash-in-the pan rookie, either, as Hertl comes with good pedigree as a first-round draft pick. In other words he’s doing what he was always supposed to do.

3. I was offered John Tavares and a fifth-round pick for Bobby Ryan and a first. My league allows six keepers. Good?
Sean Bowden (bowden_sean)

Yes. Just in like in real life, opportunities to trade for a top-five talent in the league are rare. Take it and let the other guy rue the day he “traded John Tavares.”

Every Monday, I’ll answer three fantasy questions as best I can. Tweet them to me @THNMattLarkin or write them in the comments below.