Goaltending is arguably the biggest thing the St. Louis Blues need to work on in the 2023-24 NHL season. Additionally, the Blues’ goaltending has been somewhat of an issue for as long as the franchise has been around.
Even with legends past like Glenn Hall, Grant Fuhr, and Curtis Joseph to name a few, the Blues have still only managed 1 Stanley Cup championship during that magical 2018-19 run to their first and only title in franchise history. Now with 5 seasons since then, St. Louis must bolster its goaltending, and other things, to have a chance at another run.
Jordan Binnington is the obvious favorite for the starting slot, but who will be able to back him up properly on his off nights? The answer lies in a young rookie netminder named Joel Hofer.
Hofer does have a handful of NHL games under his belt, with 6 during last season, registering a 3.22 GAA and a .905 SV%. However, he spent more time with the Blues’ AHL affiliate, the Springfield Thunderbirds, playing in 36 games with 47 games with a 2.50 GAA and a .921 SV%.
That’s pretty good for minor pro levels, but the NHL is a much bigger challenge. The biggest ask for Hofer will be how, or if, he can maintain that level of play through different levels of professionalism.
When Jordan Binnington signed a six-year, $36 million contract in 2021, it looked like those goaltending longevity problems were a thing of the past. But Binner hasn’t exactly played as well as he’s earning, and as we’ve also seen in seasons past.
He hasn’t gotten a 100% solid grip on his temper. Last March, after allowing the go-ahead goal vs the Wild, he blocker punched Ryan Hartman, prompting opposing goalie Marc-Andre Fleury to nearly start a full-fledged goalie fight. Arguably, that would’ve been awesome to see, because those just don’t happen anymore.
That same season, Binnington nearly ended the career of the Penguins’ Jason Zucker with a dangerous clothesline maneuver and then chirped the Pens bench after his 4th allowed goal, which ironically enough, came from Zucker himself. The point is, the Blues would benefit more from having Hofer in the No. 1 spot than this guy.
Sure, Hofer may not have as much NHL experience as Binner since he’s about to compete in his first full season with a professional franchise. But, the Blues could get the puck going on a fresh goaltending start during their rebuild to maybe one day be finally back on top of the rest of the league after another big playoff run in the near future if one opens up.