Since coming to the New York Islanders as a free agent in July 2015, Thomas Greiss has performed at a very high level. This season has been a bit of an anomaly for Greiss. It’s come to the point that head coach Doug Weight has to begin to re-think his two-goalie system.
After four seasons as a back-up in San Jose (three of which he spent playing behind our old friend Evgeni Nabokov) and a season a piece in Phoenix and Pittsburgh, Thomas Greiss signed with the New York Islanders. Carrying with him a .905 save percentage over his career up to that point, the Islanders hoped they had found a capable partner for Jaroslav Halak in Greiss.
Thomas Greiss’ first season in the Blue & Orange was spectacular. Splitting time with Halak, Greiss started 38 games in the 2015-16 season, winning 23 of them. His .925 save percentage remains a career-high for Greiss. His 2.36 goals against average was his best since he posted a 2.30 GAA in just 14 starts (19 total appearances) for San Jose in 2011-12.
Last season Greiss continued to improve and impress. In 49 starts he went 26-18-5 with a .913 save percentage and 2.69 GAA. Doug Weight would play whoever had the hot hand throughout the year, but would not let the netminder relegated to the bench get too cold. This resulted in an evenly-distributed amount of playing time for both Greiss and Halak.
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Greiss’ Struggles in 2017-18
Coming into the year, Coach Doug Weight made it clear that neither Thomas Greiss nor Jaroslav Halak would be one another’s back-up. The New York Islanders would be employing a two-goalie system for the 2017-18 season. Considering how well Greiss had fared sharing duties with Halak over the past two seasons, this seemed to be a great call.
After a nice start to the season, it became painfully obvious something was wrong with Thomas Greiss. To be clear, Jaroslav Halak wasn’t necessarily outplaying the struggling Greiss either. Most of the trade chatter we’ve heard thus far has been in response to the poor play of both goaltenders, not just Greiss.
With a career save percentage of .913, Greiss’ current .883 shows us that something is most certainly afoot. It’s totally possible Greiss’ psyche was tampered with when he was designated co-starter by Weight instead of being given, at the very least, the chance to compete for the starting job.
He’s proven himself to be an elite netminder when he’s been given the opportunity to play consistently. Maybe by not winning the starting job outright, Greiss feels passed over in a way. Or it could be that he feels that he’s running out of time to showcase his skills while in his prime.
Moving forward with the New York Islanders
All the talk surrounding the New York Islanders goaltending situation can’t be helpful to Thomas Greiss state of mind. Not only is Greiss underachieving, he’s not getting the chance to play himself out of his funk.
Jaroslav Halak’s expiring contract is the more likely one to be traded this year. Thomas Greiss’ play while fighting to be named the New York Islanders starting goalie over the past few seasons can’t be overlooked, though.
What his overall performance signifies to me is that this is a player who, when given the chance to play without fearing his next mistake will be his last, produces on levels comparable to the cream of the NHL’s goaltending crop.
A team looking for a shot of life in the netminding department wouldn’t be deemed cuckoo to want Thomas Greiss in a trade over an aging, soon-to-be free agent Jaroslav Halak. A hungry Greiss may be the more coveted and more valuable trade chip if the Islanders want to explore that avenue.