Howard's deal signals new brand of hockey

Art Regner says that Jimmy Howard's contract extension signals a new era of Red Wings hockey.

Welcome to a new era of Detroit Red Wings hockey -- where solid goaltending (fingers crossed), team orientated defense, and an unspectacular but grinding forward corps will carry your hockey hopes into the immediate future and beyond.

After Thursday's home shootout loss to the San Jose Sharks, Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock was blunt:

“Some guys score and some guys don’t, and we got a lot that don’t.”

And guess what? There isn’t a Steve Yzerman, Sergei Fedorov, Brendan Shanahan or even an aging Luc Robitaille on the horizon.

During their glory days, the Red Wings sunk their money into their defensive corps, highly-skilled forwards and usually long-in-the-tooth unrestricted free agents.  Whatever cash the organization had left over was used to address the goaltending position.

It was a sound blueprint that kept the Wings at or near the top of the NHL standings for decades.

However, the NHL is a different league today, and you need to look no further than the six-year, $31.8 million contract extension goalie Jimmy Howard and the Wings have hammered out.

Howard’s salary-cap hit works out to roughly $5.3 million a year, which puts his cap hit in the top third among NHL goalies.

This season, Howard has been Detroit’s best player, keeping his offensively challenged team in most games. He’s played in 34 games and posted a 16-12-5 record with two shutouts, a 2.39 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage. 

For his career, the seven-year veteran -- four years as the Wings No. 1 goalie -- has played in 226 games and has a 126-66-24 record, 13 shutouts, a 2.41 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage.  

Signing Howard to such a long-term extension says a lot about where this team is headed. The Wings are about to go through a metamorphosis, a transmutation that they've fought for the last several years.

They lack proven, consistent goal scoring at the NHL level. And most of their forward prospects, with just a few exceptions, are rated as second- to third-line talent.

So Detroit’s fate rests with Jimmy Howard in net and a team that plays a scrappy brand of hockey.

If it works, the Wings will be competitive.

If it doesn’t, the glory days of seemingly automatic playoff bids will disappear.