Consistency was an issue for Thomas Greiss in 2021, but he found a way to end the season strong. In fact, he singlehandedly kept the Detroit Red Wings in a good chunk of games in the final months of ’20-’21. What’s in store for the veteran goaltender in 2021-22?
Second Year With the Red Wings
Games Played: 34
Save Percentage: .912
Goals Against Average: 2.7
Quality Starts: 17
Goals Saved Above Average: 3.4
(Stats Courtesy of Hockey-Reference.com)
Last Season with the Red Wings
I think I summed up Greiss’ 2020-21 season best in our 2021 player grade series:
Thomas Greiss had a rollercoaster of a year. For two months early in the season (January 13th to March 13th), Greiss was one of the worst goaltenders in the NHL. His save percentage was the second worst, sitting at .883 in that stretch. Greiss also notched only one victory in that time, with only one win to 11 losses (Although one could argue that goal support was the main reason for such lowly stats).
However, Greiss did a complete 180. In the month of April, his save percentage was .947 – 2nd best in the league among goaltenders with more than 5 starts. He had only one regulation loss in that time.
Greiss went from one of the worst goaltenders in the league to one of the best. His late season push was so impressive that it pushed his stats to Jonathan Bernier‘s level. The end-of-season rush up the standings was due almost entirely to the improved play of Greiss. If he managed to play the first half of the season this strong, it would be an easy A++.
Best Case Scenario This Season
Greiss finds consistency. Instead of being considered Alex Nedeljkovic’s backup, the goalie tandem is seen as a 1A 1B situation. While he doesn’t quite carry the team to victory like he did at the end of last season, he keeps them in games even when the goal support isn’t there and makes a strong case for a short term extension.
Worst Case Scenario This Season
The inconsistent Greiss returns. He starts the season like he did last year, but never really makes it out of the slump. Greiss becomes a pure backup option and fans dread the nights when Nedeljkovic is injured/resting. His short time in Detroit ends on a sour note.
The Prediction Part
While the Nedeljkovic-Greiss tandem isn’t considered 1A-1B, Greiss is considered one of the better backup options in the league. While there might be a few rough starts, overall he finds consistency in the crease and becomes an extremely reliable option for Detroit. In fact, he has a few hot stretches that keep Nedeljkovic sidelined for longer than expected.
Possibility of Being a Trade Deadline Target: Very Possible
I won’t go as far as to say a Greiss trade is likely at the deadline, but it is a very real possibility. Last year, Jonathan Bernier rumors were swirling around the league near the deadline – if Greiss rides his hot streak into the start of the 2021-22 season, Steve Yzerman could be getting a few calls about the veteran. However, trading Greiss would put quite a lot on Nedeljkovic’s shoulders, as Calvin Pickard would move up to backup. Pickard did just fine in a short stretch with Detroit when Jonathan Bernier was injured, but a permanent place in that role would not be ideal. For Yzerman to ship off Greiss, a team would probably have to overpay.
The Bottom Line
The title says it: consistency is key. Last year, Greiss had stretches as the best player on the ice and some as the worst. For the 2021-22 season to be considered a success, Greiss doesn’t need to play lights out and lift the team to victory consistently like he did at the end of last year. He just can’t have those ice cold stretches that would hamper an already below-average team.
At 35 years old, Greiss does not have a long term future with the team, his role is purely transitional. However, there is a chance that he could play himself into another year or two in Detroit. If the Nedeljkovic-Greiss duo works well this season and helps the overall improvement of the team, Yzerman could offer a short extension.
As the backup goaltender, Greiss might not receive the attention that Nedeljkovic or other players get, but great goaltending is going to be an important piece of improvement this season – just look at last year’s results for proof. If Greiss can provide peace of mind for the rest of the team when Nedeljkovic is out, he’ll have done his job.