Jordan Binnington has waited long enough.
As the snow apocalypse prepares to strike down in the Midwest, I felt the need to address the goaltending situation of the St. Louis Blues. It’s quite simple actually: it’s time to ride with Binnington for a while.
The Jake Allen experiment has been tried, tested, and worn out. The fierce loyalists of this dude don’t even have a stable argument these days. In order to recommend their guy, they need to include Binnington, who has produced two high-quality starts in a row for the Blues after Allen allowed seven goals on 24 shots in his last two starts.
St. Louis can’t afford to try things much longer this season if they want to maintain a resemblance of hope for the playoffs this season. Allen hasn’t been good since the playoff run back in 2016-17 when Mike Yeo stepped in for Ken Hitchcock. Inadvertent stretches of solid play aren’t enough. Consistency is key, and after being rode into the ground in 14 straight starts, Allen looks more like burnt rubber than four-wheel drive at the moment.
In 33 starts this season, Allen has a 3.07 goals against average with a save percentage of 89.6%. As I documented in this week’s St. Louis Game Time paper, there’s more to the story of Allen’s struggles this season. Other than ranking near 40th in the league in GAA and save percentage, the advanced stats at Hockey Reference paint a more vivid picture.
GSAA tracks the goals that a goaltender prevents based on shots faced and save percentage when stacked against the league average. Allen’s -11.00 GSAA is bad. Stinky bad. GA%- tracks the goals allowed according to league average, with 100 being average. Allen’s 113 is below average. The well-paid GSAA and GA&- weren’t good last year, and the same can be said for his GAA and save percentage. He has two shutouts since the beginning of the 2017-18 season.
Either way you look at it, regular or advanced stats, Allen isn’t a good option anymore. It’s Binnington’s time. Let me be clear: The kid isn’t a scrub. This isn’t the Chad Johnson hour. All Binnington has done is wait around as Pheonix Copley and Ville Husso have been crowned the goaltender of the future, all the while putting up stats that warranted a look.
Drafted in the third round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, Binnington has logged 164 games played at the AHL level since the start of the 2011-12 season. After getting a total of two games in his first three seasons, Binnington saw 45 games in the 2014-15 season, posting a 2.35 GAA and save percentage of 91.6%, including a 93.8% mark in the playoffs.
Over the next two seasons, Binnington struggled to ascend, compiling GAA of 2.85/2.71 and save percentages of 90.7/91.1%.
2017-18 saw a return to form as he flashed 92.6% and 2.05 in 28 games with the Providence AHL team. This season, before coming up to St. Louis, Binnington had a 2.08 GAA and save percentage of 92.8%.
This isn’t the Blues handing the reins off to a kid with little experience and no promise. While he’s never been deemed “the one,” Binnington has shown in multiple seasons that he can be counted on for solid play in net. Why not see where that goes in a potentially lost season? What if the 25-year-old recovers some stability for a team lacking it in net? It doesn’t hurt to try.
After Brian Elliott was traded to Calgary (barf!) and Carter Hutton was let go to sign with Buffalo (double barf!), Allen hasn’t been able to shoulder the load of a #1 goalie in the NHL. Where he once thrived as a guy who could perform well in 40-45 games, Allen can’t be consistently good for 60 games. It’s not happening, and salary be damned, it’s time to ride with Binnington.
No one is crowning the kid as the savior of all things good. Binnington won’t be expected to post a 95% save rate in net, restrict snow from sticking to the ground, or turn St. Louis roads into tire-friendly surfaces. He won’t be called on to make the Loop Trolley perform well for three whole days or make drivers suddenly be able to properly merge into traffic. All the Blues need him to do is give the team a chance in net.
It’s no lie or myth to recognize that the forwards and defensemen on this team thrive off a solid performance from their netminder. It’s called energy, confidence, and reliability in knowing that if coverage is blown or god forbid a breakaway occurs, the puck will not find the back of the net. There are no guarantees with Binnington getting the bulk of the starts (which hasn’t even been confirmed by head coach, Craig Berube) that the Blues will be able to win three games in a row this season; the chances are simply greater with him in net than Allen right now.
Don’t fight it, Allen loyalists. It’s just business. You would think a few of these people were related to the guy with the outrage shown by Blues fans supporting a Binnington-led schedule this month. All this snake has done the past two seasons is bite his team in the leg.
It’s Jordan Binnington’s time. He’s earned it.
Thanks for reading and please buy more bourbon.
*A hat tip to Elite Prospects for the assist in data with Binnington’s minor league statistics.