Thomas Greiss had a rough year in goal for the New York Islanders but reuniting with trainer Adam Francilia should result in a bounce-back year.
During his first season with the New York Islanders (2015-16), goaltender Thomas Greiss stole the show. As a career backup who had never played more than 25 games in a season, Greiss surprised many and wound up splitting starts with Jaroslav Halak. Greiss finished the regular season with a 23-11-4 record, a 2.36 goals against average (GAA), a .925 save percentage, and one shutout.
When Halak went down with a season-ending injury in March, Greiss led the team to their first playoff series win in 23 years. Greiss played all 11 playoff games from start to finish, finishing off with a 2.46 GAA and a .923 SV%.
That summer he changed his offseason routine as he parted ways with Adam Francilia’s goalie-specific training.
With his strong play in his inaugural season with the Isles, Greiss’ workload increased. With 11 more starts than the season prior, Greiss went 26-18-5 with a 2.69 GAA, a .913 SV%, and three shutouts. In fact, he was outplaying Halak to the point where they waived him and he played most of the season in Bridgeport with the team’s AHL affiliate.
In late January, the Islanders extended the pending unrestricted free agent (UFA) with a three-year deal worth $10 million.
However, Greiss wore down as the season went on and Halak was recalled as a result. Halak won all six starts, most of which were do-or-die situations. Despite Halak’s efforts, the Isles fell a point shy of a third consecutive playoff berth.
It looked like the plan for the 2017-18 season was for the goaltenders to split time. Greiss began his season with a 5-0 loss to Blue Jackets, pulled just 1:50 into the second period. Overall, he went 13-8-2, with a 3.82 GAA, and a .892 SV%, the worst numbers of his career.
The good news is that on February 16 against the Carolina Hurricanes he posted a 45-save shutout and played through an injury in the final minutes. The injury kept him out of the net until March 31 where he would make 31 saves in a loss to the Devils. In the season finale, he made 36 saves in an overtime win against the Detroit Red Wings.
The even better news is that, according to Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet, Greiss will reunite with Francilia this season.
Francilia is perhaps the one most responsible for the emergence of Minnesota Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk and Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck.
Last season, Hellebuyck was given the starting job and did okay (2.89 GAA, .907 SV%) but not good enough as the Jets signed Steve Mason this past summer as insurance and to presumably be their starter.
However, Hellebuyck had a breakout season and went 44-11-9, leading the Jets to the second-best record in the league. His 44 wins are the most by an American goaltender, breaking the record held by Tom Barrasso since the 1992-93 season. The Vezina finalist (awarded to the league’s best goaltender) put up a 2.36 GAA, a .924 SV%, and six shutouts. Most impressive of all, his season’s still alive as the Jets are tied with the Vegas Golden Knights at one game apiece in the Western Conference Final.
It took Dubnyk four teams and six seasons but he is among the best goaltenders in the NHL with the Wild. Dubnyk has been the guy in goal for the Wild since he arrived during the 2014-15 season in a trade with the Arizona Coyotes. From that point on, he and the Wild never looked back and Dubnyk is one of the key reasons they have been in the playoffs every year he has been on the team.
Former Islander and current Philadelphia Flyer, Michal Neuvirth will train with Francilia this summer as well.
Francilia has done it before with Greiss so hopefully he can do it again. With all his success with other goalies, there is no doubt that Greiss will come back next season better than ever.