When hockey fans think of goaltender Thomas Greiss, most think of him as a fringe NHL starter. For the people on Long Island that rooted for him for five seasons, Greiss was so much more than just a goaltender. He was a leader, a mentor, and a key reason why the Islanders are dominant today.

Year in and year out, Greiss helped lay the building blocks for a winning culture. That allowed doors to open like Lou Lamoriello and Barry Trotz joining the club in 2019, which turned them into Stanley Cup contenders for the first time since the Dynasty days.

In 2015, his first year in blue and orange, Greiss was electric. He backstopped the Islanders to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 1997. Against a tough Florida Panthers group, Greiss gave it his all with jaw-dropping saves that allowed his team to crawl their way back from down three games to one. 

Although the Islanders failed to make the playoffs from 2016-2018, the Islanders made it back in 2019. The play of Greiss and his partner Robin Lehner was key as they took home the Jennings Trophy.  The Islanders’ run ended in the second round against the Carolina Hurricanes but positive steps in the right direction.

It was evident in the 2019-20 season that Greiss’s time with the Islanders was coming to an end. Backed by subpar play and the signing of elite goaltending prospect Ilya Sorokin, the unrestricted free agent would be looking for a new home in the offseason. However, that did not stop him from being the best teammate he could be. In the Canadian bubbles, Sorokin joined the Islanders, just to practice. Greiss took the time to work with him, talk with him, knowing that he was his replacement.

During last year’s long playoff run, Greiss was given a game seven start against the Philadelphia Flyers. He shut out the Flyers in a 4-0 victory, as the Islanders were onto the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 1997. Their run would end there, signifying the end of Greiss’s time as an Islander.

Greiss decided to sign a two-year deal with the struggling Detroit Red Wings in the offseason. Their historical struggles of 2019-20 did not phase Greiss. He saw an opportunity to help turn around another franchise.

This season Greiss has had to battle for an .888 save percentage (SV%) and a 3.42 goals-against average (GAA). Regardless of the stats, Greiss has brought a competitive drive to a franchise that desperately needed it. They have improved in not just goals-against per game, but have also seen a slight uptick in their offensive production. While their point percentage is not high at .324, that is light-years better than their .275 from last season.

Baby steps, but steps.

Greiss’s play now and over the next year will allow the Red Wings to create a new identity, a winning identity. He may not be in Detroit when that happens, but he indeed will have played a significant role. Greiss truly embodies what it means to be an Unsung Hero.

 

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