Red Wings: How does Thomas Greiss Really Stack Up?

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There’s no doubt that Detroit Red Wings goaltender Thomas Greiss has been the victim of some pretty brutal games this season. A lack of scoring as well as a team decimated early by Covid Protocol and injuries didn’t help matters. It can also be agreed on that he’s had his fair share of struggles, too. Perhaps seen prominantly when he shattered his goal stick on the net following a tough 7-2 loss to Chicago back in February, the losing may be getting to him, too.

Greiss has been a lightning rod for criticism in terms of performance while many (fairly) pointing to New York Islanders’ coach Barry Trotz’s system as the reason Greiss’ numbers have come back to earth this season.

Is it warranted? Here’s a closer look.

Red Wings Needed a Reliable Tandem

Last season was an utter disaster when Jimmy Howard was in the net. His turn in net was usually an exercise in frustration for him, the team, and the fanbase. With an .882 save percentage, a 4.20 GAA, and a 2-23 record between the pipes which included 20 consecutive winless starts (0-18-2), it was clearly time to move on. In Howard’s defense, he had absolutely no help defensively or offensively.

General Manager Steve Yzerman inked Greiss to a two-year deal worth $7.2M ($3.6M AAV), after posting a .913 save percentage and 2.74 GAA. Conventionally, things looked okay. This season, Greiss is 2-14 with an .885 save percentage and a 3.51 GAA.

Before we dive into analytics, it’s more than clear that the Red Wings and Islanders are pretty far apart in terms of performance and personnel. The save percentages of Howard and Greiss are very close, but the difference in GAA gives Greiss some grace. Another note: Howard’s salary was counting at $5.2M against the cap, an absolute albatross with numbers such as his. So while the conventional stats don’t help Greiss’ case, at least he’s not taking up more cap room.

Analytics Tell a Similar Story

Breaking things down even further tells us a similar story. All of these stats are taken from Evolving-Hockey.

Goals Above Replacement (GAR) is where we start. Again, in context, Greiss is playing on an entirely different team than he was in New York. But Goals Above Replacement shows that against a league average goalie, he’s letting in quite a few.

  • 2018-19: 26.2 (43 games played)
  • 2019-20: 5.0   (31 games played)
  • 2020-21: -12.3  (21 games played)

Goals Saved Above Average (GSAA) also reveals a drop off since his gaudy numbers in 2018-19.

  • 2018-19: 17.83
  • 2019-20: 2.32
  • 2020-21: -10.73

Standings Points Above Replacement (SPAR) just hammers the point home a bit more. If quantifying his points value to the team standings, here’s how it shakes out.

  • 2018-19:  9.2
  • 2019-20:  1.7
  • 2020-21:  -4

It’s been a tough season for Greiss

Compared to Bernier, it’s not even close. Bernier’s numbers even in a down year for the team this year and last are all in positive categories. (This season: 7.4 GAR; 5.39 GSAA; 2.4 SPAR).

The team is better with Bernier in net, and while it’s easy to pick on Greiss, it’s absolutely true that the team has not played as well in front of him at times, be it with goal support or defensively. But these numbers are tough to swallow–and posits that if a different netminder was between the pipes, could Detroit have seen different results?

Regardless, Greiss hasn’t had the best of seasons by the eye test or by the numbers. Here’s hoping the tide turns as he finishes the year and then continues on with the Wings next season.

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