Coming into this season, the St. Louis Blues were expected to rely heavily on Jordan Binnington. They signed a 36-year-old Thomas Greiss to be their backup. He was coming off of a brutal season with the Detroit Red Wings. At the time of the move, it was an uninspiring addition to replace less than half of what Ville Husso did last season.
The idea going into the season was for Binnington to be the unquestioned number-one starter. Things have not transpired that way, leading to an interesting situation for this team to be in with a record of 12-14-0. The Blues committed to Binnington as their goalie of the future by extending him in March of 2021 and trading Husso. But there is zero doubt that things have changed through 26 games this season. I think it’s time to see more of Greiss in the net for this team, but I’m not confident that it will happen.
Quality Performances in the Last 4 Games
While it is a small sample size, Greiss has been solid in his last four games. He started three times in that four-game stretch as Binnington was pulled against the Pittsburgh Penguins. In the two games where Binnington was pulled, Greiss has saved 30 of 31 shots and kept them in each game. Those are impressive numbers with how bad the Blues’ defensive unit has been. In eight appearances this season, he’s faced 40 or more shots in four of them. Despite the poor defense in front of him, he has been able to weather a storm that Binnington hasn’t.
In his last four appearances, Greiss has a 3-0-0 record in his starts with a save percentage (SV%) of .912. Three of those games were against the Penguins, Florida Panthers, and New York Islanders, teams that are all top 15 in goals scored. He allowed 13 goals in those games, but he faced an abnormal number of shots, 148 total (37 per game). If Greiss can keep the Blues in games while being ambushed by the opposing team, there’s no reason he shouldn’t continue to get opportunities as Binnington struggles. I’ll be the first to admit that I criticized the signing of Greiss in the offseason and I’ve been wrong to this point.
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These last four games have shown that he lays it all out on the line to make saves. On top of this, there’s obviously less baggage right now between him and Binnington. I’m not saying that Greiss should be named the starter, but switching some things up wouldn’t hurt the already beaten 2022-23 Blues.
Binnington’s Brutal Stretch Continues
As much as this has to do with Greiss playing well, it also has to do with Binnington’s brutal stretch. He has been horrific for the past two weeks, but it’s not all on him. It’s been mentioned hundreds of times this season, but the Blues’ defense is as below-average as it gets. There is no awareness or toughness in that unit right now. On top of that, they clearly lack confidence with veterans like Torey Krug, Nick Leddy, and Colton Parayko getting blasted every night. They deserve every ounce of criticism with how they’ve performed this season. The Blues’ defensive unit makes up $27.1 million of salary cap space this season. That’s way too much cap space being used for a unit that has horrific numbers this season.
On top of his six-game losing streak, Binnington’s “tough guy” antics are hurting the team as well. As he continues to run his mouth toward the opposing benches, the Blues continue to give up way too many goals. I’m not blaming him entirely for his lack of success this season, but he has not made big saves for the past two weeks. During the Blues’ win streak in November, he was making those saves, but that ship has apparently sailed since.
Let’s get to those numbers over the past six games. He has a record of 0-6-0 with a SV% of .827. While Greiss is facing an astronomical amount of shots, Binnington is only facing 26 shots per game in that stretch. I get that a lot of those shots on goal are high-danger chances, but Greiss has made big saves when needed, while Binnington has not. At some point, the Blues coaches and front office have to step up and make a big change. I believe that change should be letting Greiss get more starts and trying to give Binnington a cool-down period. He’s embarrassed himself on multiple occasions this season, and if he hadn’t won the Stanley Cup in 2019 for this franchise, I’m not sure he would still be here.
I’m not saying that the Blues should be done with Binnington, but rolling him out as the clear-cut starter right now is not the move. While I don’t think there’s any chance that Greiss can be 2021-22 Husso, he’s at least been more competent in the last few weeks over Binnington. I’m not sure how this gets resolved, but I don’t expect the Blues to make the right decision in this case.
Ethan Carter has been writing at The Hockey Writers for over three years now. He also co-hosts The Blue Note Podcast for the Bleav Network, which covers the Blues and the NHL multiple times per week.