The St. Louis Blues find themselves in an unenviable position regarding their goaltending. For the first time in several seasons, they simply cannot have Jordan Binnington get injured.
That’s not a position Doug Armstrong wanted to be in, nor one he chose for himself. There simply was not enough money to keep Ville Husso around and the quality of the goaltenders available on the market was not exactly sparkling.
Not to put the guy down, but Thomas Greiss was essentially the best combination of what the Blues could reasonably afford and still be able to stop pucks. The problem the Blues have is not that Greiss is bad, because he’s not. However, he simply cannot carry the load in a worst-case scenario.
Montreal went through this a few years ago. They got off to an unbelievable, record-breaking start in their first 12 games in 2015-16 and then Carey Price got hurt. Mike Condon’s stats were not horrible, but he just wasn’t going to win you games.
Montreal went under .500 the rest of the season and missed the playoffs. The same happened in 2021-22 when Price missed all but five games and Montreal tanked just one season after making the Stanley Cup Final.
This year’s version of that is likely to be the Vegas Golden Knights. Robin Lehner is expected to miss the entire 2022-23 season due to having hip surgery.
Like Husso, Logan Thompson is considered the goalie of the future for Vegas. He had a strong showing in 2021-22, but he’s unproven overall. It would not be surprising for the Golden Knights to miss the playoffs again due to their goaltending situation, especially if Thompson falters and you have to rely on Michael Hutchinson.
Unfortunately, that’s where the Blues are and it’s scary. They don’t have much of a safety net.
Greiss is an OK goaltender. He was a starter, or a 1B goalie, in New York for the Islanders.
His numbers were not eye catching, but they were decent except for 2017-18. That year was not great with a goals against over 3.00 and a save percentage under .900.
Many fans point at his stats from last season as a worry. Detroit was awful last year and you can’t say whether it was Greiss or the defense.
I look more to his final seasons on Long Island. He went 23-14 and 16-9 in 43 and 31 games. Those are closer numbers to what the Blues will ask of him and his stats were fine. In fact, he had five shutouts in 2018-19.
But, he’s not played more than a total of 34 games since then. He has not played on a playoff contender and he is also not getting any younger.
Goalie’s have their peak much later than on-ice players, but 36 is still considered the down side. Greiss will be 37 by the time the season ends.
Hopefully, we don’t have to worry about any of this. Hopefully, Binnington can be that workhorse and stay healthy through the entire season.
Of course, beyond just health, the worry is that Binnington will be a head case the way so many Blues goalies have been recently. When he’s on, he’s dialed in and focuses, but the body language we have seen when he’s off is depressingly repetitive.
The Blues need the Binnington from 2018-19 where he played in 32 of the final 42 games. They need the Binnington that will be in the crease for 50-plus games like in 2019-20.
Greiss is a decent backup and will be above .500 just because of the team in front of him. However, even if Binnington plays 50 games, that’s still 32 to cover.
Greiss can handle that and getting 18-20 wins from that would be great. That’s a backup’s role.
Anything more and the Blues may slip from the playoff picture the way Vegas did last season. Given his age and overall inconsistency, Greiss is just not going to be able to carry you the entire season.
Before you put that on Armstrong for the signing, the same would have been true of Charlie Lindgren. He would not have been able to sustain it through an entire year either.
No, the Blues have all their eggs in the Binnington basket. Let’s hope those eggs don’t crack or we might be in the same boat as Montreal and Vegas.