St. Louis Blues: Unfair To Hold Jordan Binnington To 2019 Standard

St. Louis Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington (50)Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
St. Louis Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington (50)Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports /

When the St. Louis Blues officially signed Jordan Binnington to a new, six-year contract extension, the focus immediately shifted. Knowing he would be the starter for the foreseeable future, the question arose as to whether we’d see the 2019 Binnington of the 2020 playoffs version.

No offense, but almost anything is better than the 2020 playoff Binnington. While there is no denying that the entire team was bad against the Vancouver Canucks, Binnington was the polar opposite of the playoff hero he had been the season prior.

In just five games played in that playoff series, Binnington allowed 21 goals. That put his goals against average north of four goals per game.

If you extrapolate that out, he would have surrendered over 100 goals if he played the same amount of games as he played on the way to the 2019 Stanley Cup. Consider then that he only allowed 64 goals in 26 games when the Blues won their championship.

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With that in mind, all of us probably need to let go of 2019 when judging Binnington. It was a magical run that probably won’t be duplicated, even if he manages to win another Cup with the Blues.

Although we are only three seasons into his NHL career, 2019 is more likely to be a season that needs to be discarded as far as stats go. When figuring out the statistical average, you take into account all numbers.

To find a more median number, sometimes it is best to discard the best and worst numbers. For Binnington, 2019 might be one of those seasons you don’t take into account to figure out what is “real”. Basically, it’s just too good and he’s not likely to repeat it.

Whenever you suggest such a thing, fans can get very defensive. How dare you say that’s not how good he is.

That’s not the point. The question is not how good he is, but what is sustainable.

Brett Hull was one of the best pure goal scorers of all time. If you only judge him based on his 86-goal season, the rest of his career looks like a disappointment.

He never hit 80 goals again. He only scored 70 or more two other times. Yet, he still managed to score more than a goal every other game on average. There was simply no sustaining the standard set in that one magnificent season.

We have to accept that 2019 might have just been a magic season for Binnington. His numbers suggest it.

As good as Binnington was in the 2019 playoffs, he was better in the regular season. In 32 games played, he only allowed 59 goals total, compared to the 64 in 26 playoff games.

Binnington has been solid in 2021, but he’s allowed 49 goals in 19 games played thus far this season. He’s going to allow those 10 goals in before he plays 13 more games. It just shows how good he was in 2019.

Binnington’s numbers were abnormally good. His goals against average was 1.89.

The last time a goalie had a goals against average below 2.00 for a season was 2015-16. The last player to have an average below Binnington’s was 2014-15.

More importantly, his save percentage in the 2018-19 regular season was .927. That gets into a shooter’s head after awhile.

Think about it. As much as sports have become numbers oriented, it takes a lot of personal confidence to think you’ll score when the stats show that a goalie is stopping you 93 times out of 100.

Binnington had 20 quality starts out of 30 in 2019. In 20 extra starts the following season, he only mustered an extra eight quality starts. In the 2020 playoffs, he only managed one quality start out of five, compared to 18 quality starts in 26 games in the 2019 postseason.

None of this should reflect on his contract. $6 million per season for six years is a good raise and a solid salary for a starting goaltender. It also provides the Blues enough flexibility to keep the rest of their roster extremely competitive.

It does show that we cannot solely rely on numbers to judge the Blues goaltender. He is now, and might be for awhile, a player that demands the eye test.

Binnington’s numbers were pretty good in 2020 prior to the pause and he looked comfortable. His body language changed in the playoffs and his performance reflected it.

The numbers in 2021 have been decent, but he vacillates between stealing games for the Blues and actually costing them here or there. Hopefully the new contract will give him peace of mind and we can see the return of the swagger.

It’s the 2019 confidence and body language we should hope returns. Binnington has proven he can carry this team when necessary and that has nothing to do with simple numbers.

It is fair to critique confidence and demeanor. We can’t hold him to the numerical standards he set that season though.

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We may never see a performance quite like that again. That doesn’t mean Binnington can’t improve and it doesn’t mean he can’t win another championship.