Detroit Red Wings: Does Jimmy Howard's 2012 All-Star Snub Point to Vezina Nod?
There were names you knew would be on the ballot: Tim Thomas, Roberto Luongo and Ryan Miller.
There were names you thought had a chance to show up and did: Kari Lehtonen, Pekka Rinne and Carey Price.
Then, there are those who, given their performance to date, don't seem deserving of All-Star status: Jaroslav Halak, Cam Ward and Jonas Hiller.
If you're a Red Wings fan, you likely sifted through all 18 names in the 2012 All-Star Fan Balloting expecting to run across Jimmy Howard before too long.
After all, with 60 percent of NHL goalies appearing on the ballot, how could it be that a top-five starter wouldn't make the list?
But, as we all know, Howard did not prove worthy of an All-Star ballot appearance despite his All-Star level play to date.
Honestly, I don't find this all that distressing.
The NHL All-Star game is perhaps one of the most meaningless and unremarkable events associated with the four major sports.
The league claims it is an important part of their marketing strategy that brings new fans to the game by highlighting the sport's top players.
However, a game of shinny hockey played by superstars is still a game of shinny hockey.
The speed, intensity and physicality of the game—you know, all the things that make it great—are all but absent from an NHL All-Star game, and the baseball score at the end only serves to underscore how un-NHL-like the All-Star game really is.
Nevertheless, despite the relative absurdity of the game, for a player, an NHL All-Star nod is still something to highlight on your resume.
Though it doesn't seem fair that a goalie with a league-leading 13 wins, three shutouts, a 1.87 goals-against average and .930 save percentage is not even considered for All-Star status, it is quite possible that an even bigger honor is in the cards for Howard.
Given his current pace, Howard could end the season with a whopping 48 wins and as many as 11 shutouts.
Now, while these projections are heavily skewed by the fact he's played just 19 games so far this season, it stands to reason that Howard will end his year posting numbers not too far off from these.
Howard has officially arrived as a top-flight NHL goalie and is legitimately one of the stronger assets on the Detroit Red Wings roster.
This is unfamiliar territory for a team that many have thought succeeded despite their goaltending.
While I personally don't subscribe to the notion that Chris Osgood was a bad goalie, he certainly was never considered a reason for teams to fear Detroit.
This isn't the case with Howard.
His aggressive style of play combined with his sound positioning have left more than a few shooters gazing at the rafters in stunned disbelief, wondering how on earth their shot didn't go in.
Additionally, we are starting to see opposing players approach Howard with a fair amount of caution.
Be it a breakaway, penalty shot or shootout attempt, skaters aren't simply walking in and shooting high on Howard (the universal sign for goalie disrespect), but taking caution in their stride and moving thoughtfully as they try to beat him one on one.
Howard is starting to earn a reputation for being difficult to beat, which only lends further credence to his growing stature as one of the game's more elite goalies.
So, considering all of this, and taking into account Howard's name appears nowhere on the NHL All-Star ballot, we're left wondering: Where's the love for No. 35 in Detroit?
Should he continue playing at or near the level he has thus far, we might see that love surface sometime in June when Howard's name shows up under the title of 2012 Vezina Trophy Finalists.
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