With the expansion draft due to take place within the next year, a fear surrounds Bolts fandom. The fear of saying goodbye to Ben Bishop. The Lightning have too much of a good thing in the goalie tandem of Bishop and Andrei Vasilevskiy. Likely this time next year, one will no longer don a blue and white sweater. The idea of trading Bish has been written about extensively within the sports world, including some of our guys here at Raw Charge (See “Two to Tango” and “Don’t Expect a Rush to Trade Bishop”).
But this article isn’t about speculating where Ben Bishop may end up, it’s about how he ended up here, in Tampa Bay.
Before the Bolts
Although Ben Bishop was born in Denver, Colorado he spent most of his childhood in the greater St. Louis area and even played for the St. Louis Junior Blues at one point. Bishop was eventually drafted in 2005 in the 3rd round, 85th overall, by the St. Louis Blues. With a solid stint in the AHL, Bish was called up to play for the Blues on October 19th, 2008. Later he made his NHL debut in relief of then Blues starting Goaltender Manny Legace, letting in two goals in a 4-0 loss to the L.A. Kings. From then on, he would only see a few games with the club, most as a backup. Bouncing back from AHL to NHL in the Blues system, Big Ben eventually was trading to the Ottawa Senators.
Now continually having success with Ottawa’s AHL team, Bish was finally called up to play for the Senators. Coincidentally, his first game with Ottawa was a 7-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning. Through evermore consistent play he eventually cemented his spot as backup to Craig Anderson.
Ottawa wanted to bolster their offense before the 2013 post-lockout trade deadline. Ben Bishop got trading to the Lightning on April 3rd, 2013 in exchange for forward Cory Conacher and a fourth-round draft pick. The rest is history....
Records, Stevie Y, and the Organization Shift
Ben Bishop has gone on to set multiple records within the Lightning organization.
- Most single season wins by a goaltender. (40)
- Most career wins by a goaltender. (130)
- First Lightning goalie to record two assists in one game. (Namestnikov and Drouin goals)
- Best GAA in regular season with 2.06
- Best save percentage in regular season with .926
- 2016 NHL All Star
And that doesn’t even scratch the surface of all of his numbers. Bishop has also been nominated twice for the Vezina Trophy in his career. Last season he was topped by Braden Holtby of the Washington Capitals who tied goalie legend Martin Brodeur for most wins in a season (48). Yes, that is a big feat. But go look at Bish’s numbers compared to Holtby’s for the regular season. I’ll wait…. What did you see?..... Bish had more shutouts, better goals-against average, better save-percentage. Ugh, but I digress.
Ben Bishop has been arguably one of the best NHL goaltenders to come out of the College/AHL system and is one of the best American goalies in his generation. He has been instrumental in the rise of the Lightning and has proven himself again and again.
His stats obviously provide evidence for his strong performance, but I believe there is more to his play than just his stat sheet. Ben Bishop has been a rock in the net and, more importantly, one of the most consistent things in the whole organization during his time with Tampa Bay. No, you cannot contribute all of the Bolts success to a single goalkeeper.
Uncertainties In Net
Here’s my main argument and most significant point. After the success of the 2010-2011 season and an Eastern Conference Final exit, the Bolts were destined for a revamp of the roster. The following season resulted in an 84-point total with no invite to the playoffs. And then there was the lockout shortened 2013 season. A 40-point total and head coaching change. These seasons saw a plethora of goalie shifts as we searched to find someone who could suit up every night. Through 2011-2012 and 2013 the Bolts had a total of 8 goaltenders suit up to play. The number isn’t unheard of by any means, but it sheds the light on uncertainty. Through Dwayne Roloson, Mathieu Garon, Ander Lindback, Dustin Tokarski, Cedrick Desjardins, and more, the 2011-2012 and 2013 seasons had Lightning goalies complete a combined .893 and .903. save percentages respectively. Enter Ben Bishop as full time starter (and a rebuilt Lightning defense in front of him) in the 2013-2014 season and team save-percentage improved to .916. 2015-2016 season saw the combined goalie save percentage for Bishop and Andrei Vasilevskiy rise to a .923. . Together the tandem put up a .933 in the 2016 playoffs with Big Ben receiving his own whopping number of .939. (See ‘Hockey Reference’ for more stats)
And yes, Bishop has had his own blunders. Many remember the miscommunication with Victor Hedman in the Stanley Cup Finals. Or a certain glove miss. Or this glove miss. Or the occasional generally bad game. But often times Ben would respond with perfection, putting up shutouts in game 7s on two separate occasions. It often seemed that when the Bolts weren’t putting much on the scoreboard, Bish was there to help ‘em out. And when Bish was under scrutiny, the rest of the team would back him out. Watching Ben Bishop’s relationship with the players has been truly special.
Does he stay in Tampa Bay? Does he get traded away? I am uncertain. But his time here has been surely appreciated by the fans.