Howard has a top 5ish season out of goalies in the NHL this season. Tied for the lead in shutouts, was amongst the games played leaders (hes a workhorse), very high save percentage, great GAA (team stat but still) and had no help from back ups. Look at the stats of back up goalies of goalies that you think were better and look at Howards help he had. Its not close.
I wouldnt say elite, but well above average number 1. If he has another season like this one youre looking at a guy you can call one of the elite NHL goalies