On Oct. 9, the Minnesota Wild announced prized prospect Matthew Boldy would be out of the lineup for the first 4-6 weeks of the season with a fractured ankle. Boldy’s unfortunate injury opened the door for a few younger players to crack the roster, particularly rookie power forward Brandon Duhaime. However, with Boldy’s return closing in, it’s a different big-bodied left-winger who should be worried about potentially losing his spot in the lineup.
The writing is on the wall for Jordan Greenway coming into his fourth full NHL season. This summer would be the final year of his contract before another round of restricted free agency, leaving him still bound under team control at the season’s end. But with the slew of young, talented prospects knocking on the NHL doorstep in Iowa, Greenway would need to finally prove he can live up to the expectations set forth by Wild management. With Boldy nearing his return, potentially as early as this weekend, there is no question Greenway should be the odd man out if Boldy is elevated anytime soon.
In his first three years, the criticism on Greenway has been across the board: lacking in offensive production, an inability to possess the puck at a rate similar to his teammates, and rarely using his size and speed to bully opposing defenders in the offensive zone. His exit interview last year must have possessed some strong Office Space vibes with a “What would you say ya do around here?” type of feel to it.
With the Wild completing nearly 20% of their schedule so far, the sample size is large enough to claim the former Boston University product is still searching for his role in the NHL. While he has missed four games due to injury, his first 10 games of the season are still not yielding promising results. The issues that plagued his game before have only amplified this season.
Lack in Offensive Production
While Greenway was never seen as an elite point producer, his point totals had improved in each of the last three seasons, culminating in a career-high 26 assists and 32 points in just 56 games last season. However, through 10 games played, Greenway finds himself with only two assists and no goals. It’s not as though luck hasn’t been on his side either. When on the ice this season, his PDO is at 110.2, meaning he has been very fortunate in both his team’s shooting percentage and save percentage at 5-on-5. Posting only two assists with such luck seems impossible but speaks significantly to the minimal impact he has provided so far.
As for the rest of the bottom-six, each player in consideration to draw out of the lineup once Boldy returns has produced at a much higher rate than Greenway. Nico Sturm and Brandon Duhaime each possess an identical two-goal and three-assist stat line, while Nick Bjugstad has scored twice, even in his limited ice time. Even newcomer Rem Pitlick flashed offensively, recently scoring his first three NHL goals all in the same game during their win in Seattle. Simply put, Greenway pales in comparison to his teammates providing offense in a bottom-6 role.
Inability to Possess the Puck and Drive Offense
While point totals don’t always speak directly to how well a player is performing, the underlying metrics are just as damning for Greenway to date. Over the past two seasons, Greenway was part of Minnesota’s much-appreciated shutdown line with Joel Eriksson Ek and Marcus Foligno. Many in the analytics community believed Greenway was just a passenger on that line, with his linemates carrying most of the load. This year Eriksson Ek has been elevated to top-line duties, with Greenway moved around to play with other teammates. The results thus far suggest the nerds were right. Very right.
Greenway’s 42.8 Corsi-For Percentage is far and away the worst of all Wild skaters who have played at least 10 games. For context, the next closest is Bjugstad at a very respectable 51.8%. This metric is perhaps truly the most damaging for Greenway’s status on the Wild. In a season in which every regular is controlling the play at above a 50% rate, Greenway is closing in on 40%. Some take issue with how much you can rely on Corsi as an accurate tool when assessing a player, but it speaks volumes when you are that far behind every one of your teammates.
Even when drilling down to what Greenway is bringing from purely an individual impact, he still pales in comparison to every teammate. As of Nov. 16, he ranks last in individual expected goals at a paltry 0.31 for the season, which is almost half as much as Victor Rask has brought this year. The same Rask who has watched half the games from the press box. Bjugstad, Sturm, and Duhaime, all have individual expected goals above 2.0. Simply put, they are all generating offense at a significantly higher rate than Greenway so far.
Lacking the “Power” in Power Forward
Listed at 6’6”, 227 lbs., Greenway is viewed as a typical power forward. You could understand why then-general manager Chuck Fletcher nabbed him in the second round. His immense skill and massive frame were tantalizing for anyone who watched him play.
However, that size and skill have yet to mesh together for Greenway at the NHL level. He teases Wild fans with both by physically dominating shifts here and there, but never at a level consistent enough to satisfy his coaches and management.
Sure, the analytics provided in this article don’t paint a pretty picture, but even the hockey purists clutching to their eye tests can hardly disagree. Watching Greenway consistently fail to carry the puck through physical contact this season has been puzzling, especially when smaller teammates like Duhaime and Sturm have excelled at such tasks. Greenway has the size and speed to be a productive power forward in today’s NHL, a style of play every GM and coach is clamoring for come playoff time. Yet Greenway still can’t find a way to fit his game into that style.
Remember Greenway somewhat surprisingly found himself as one of the few young forwards the Wild chose not to jettison the past few years, as general managers Paul Fenton and Bill Guerin made every effort to re-shape a stagnant roster. Sure, Greenway’s contract was more palatable at the time compared to those who were traded, but his immense talent and size had tantalized Minnesota’s front office for years. Just two summers ago, Guerin met with Greenway in their exit interviews and implored him to improve his game and come back ready to prove he belonged. He’s been given just about every chance possible.
If only we could see the version of Greenway Wild fans got to see Tuesday night consistently. He was engaged physically, had four shots on goal, and was one of few Wild players that dominated possession all night. But will fans see it on Thursday? Or the next ten games after that? That consistency has to arrive, or Greenway may find his time is up in Minnesota sooner than he thought.