Thomas Greiss: What a Strong Olympics Could Mean for San Jose

Andy Bensch@@AndyBenschSenior Writer IFebruary 17, 2010

ONTARIO, CA - SEPTEMBER 17:  Goaltender Thomas Greiss #1 of the San Jose Sharks stops a shot against the Los Angeles Kings on September 17, 2009 at Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, California. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

The San Jose Sharks lead the NHL with eight Olympians participating in the Vancouver games. 

Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Dany Heatley, and Dan Boyle are on Team Canada and Evgeni Nabokov will backstop Team Russia. Those five are obvious.

However, if you follow one of the other 29 NHL clubs, a little research was probably necessary to find out the other three.

After some googling, you swiftly figured out that Joe Pavelski is representing Team USA and Douglas Murray made the defending Gold Medal Swedish squad.

So that's seven. But who is the eighth?

For most of you, it probably took you awhile.

After all, not many teams can say their backup netminder is an Olympian, but that is the case with Thomas Greiss and the San Jose Sharks.

The 24-year-old native of Koln, West Germany is quietly having an impressive season between the pipes.

But with Sharks head coach Todd McLellan's resistance to give Nabokov a game off, it is the Olympic games where fans around the league will get the best look at San Jose's backup goaltender.

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Playing for Team Germany, Greiss is bound to see a lot of rubber come his way considering the defenseman in front of him are Christian Ehrhoff, Dennis Seidenberg, Alexander Sulzer, Michael Bakos, Jakub Ficenec, Korbinian Holzer, Jason Holland, and Chris Schmidt.

Simply said, after Ehrhoff and Seidenberg, one looks at that list and thinks to themselves "Who the heck are these guys?"

Greiss is certain to be one busy man, no doubt about it. Therefore, if he can come up with a solid performance at the games, it will be the best thing that could happen to him.

Considering that he has only played in 15 career NHL games (11 starts) over parts of two seasons, it is hard to make a read on his future potential.

But this year's Olympic games can provide that stage for Greiss to prove his ability to play full time at hockey's highest level.

Imagine the possibility of a save percentage over .910 while playing against bona fide all -star teams in this tournament. If Greiss can manage this, he will greatly improve his chances at being the main man in nets for the Sharks next season.

Wait, what did I just say? Greiss the No. 1 goalie for the Sharks?

Yes, I said it.

And Greiss is backing up that talk with a .918 save percentage this season, quite the impressive mark for a goalie who has only appeared in 12 games on the year.

But that's not all, in each of his nine starts (knowing for certain he would be between the pipes going into the game) he has absolutely dominated.

In nine starts, Greiss is 6-3 with a 2.33 GAA and a .928 save percentage. Talk about a mind boggling line for a goalie who almost never sees the ice.

Why the Sharks haven't given Greiss more starts this season is quite puzzling. Every time he goes out there, he has given a strong, if not spectacular performance.

Considering Evgeni Nabokov has historically performed poorly in the playoffs when logging over 60 regular season games, it is a major surprise that Greiss doesn't see more action.

Plus, when you add to it that the 34-year-old Nabokov will be an unrestricted free agent next year, common sense would dictate that a team will give their younger backup more starts to gauge his abilities.

Unfortunately this hasn't been the case. And while Nabokov is being paid six million this season, (and having a career year I might add) it is probably going take a continued six million annually over the next two to three years to keep him around.

Almost certainly a team starved for goaltending will be ready to offer Nabokov a contract he can't refuse and one the Sharks shouldn't attempt to match.

When it comes down to it, the Sharks will have to choose between Nabokov and Patrick Marleau.

This decision is a no brainer; it has got to be Marleau.

Losing Marleau would be much more catastrophic because he is playing the best hockey of his life the last two years when healthy.

Nobody can replace the attributes Marleau brings to the table. The goal scoring, the speed, the penalty killing, the leadership, the playmaking, and the improved defense is a total package that is nearly unparalleled.

Nabokov on the other hand can be replaced and Greiss is doing a fantastic job showing why.

Now is Greiss a sure bet to be able to sustain his impressive play from this season over an entire year as a starter? No, of course not.

However, should he perform in the Olympics the way he has this season for the Sharks, then San Jose management and their fans should start taking the German a little more seriously.

The guy has proved he's got game; let's see if he can keep it up during a stretch of multiple starts in a row for Team Germany.


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