About those goalies: What does Ben Bishop bring to the Lightning?
Can he succeed where so many others have failed?
By now, you've all heard that the Lightning have acquired goaltender Ben Bishop from the Ottawa Senators. If you haven't, well...the Lightning have acquired Ben Bishop from the Ottawa Senators. It's an interesting choice, to say the least.
We all know that the goaltending has been less than adequate over most of the past two and a half years. Dan Ellis, Mike Smith, Dwayne Roloson, Mathieu Garon, Anders Lindback. Even Dustin Tokarski and Cedrick Desjardins. It's been rough.
So General Manager Steve Yzerman made a move to pick up another one of those "future Hall of Famers" he was talking about last May. And while the cost may have been high (and is certainly higher than it was last summer), Lightning goaltending absolutely needed an upgrade, and there just won't be much available come free agency. Bishop is almost certainly an upgrade over Mathieu Garon and Cedrick Desjardins.
So, for the next three weeks, Lightning fans, you should--fingers crossed--see better than you have recently.
Bishop is a tall, athletic, tall, efficient, tall, butterfly-dominant, tall, postionally-sound, tall goalie. He's also very tall. This fact will become the dominant theme used when discussing Lightning goaltending for 2013-14. Because Anders Lindback is also tall, and for some reason, that fascinates media and opposing team and national broadcasters, not all of whom are height-endowed. (But seriously, he's really tall.)
He's not a true, back in the net, butterfly-first blocker goalie [think Carey Price], but he's much closer to it than Lindback is.
Short and long -- Bishop's more economical style (compared to Lindback) might be more conducive to what Jean+TB want in a goalie.— The Goalie Guild (@TheGoalieGuild) April 3, 2013
It seems like a better fit for goaltending coach Frantz Jean than Lindback, who has been asked to change his style as well as adjust to a new conference, new system, and new role.
This is a good move, at least on the acquisition end. There's nothing wrong with having a lot of depth for the future. You never know how players are going to develop. Having more good goalies is never a bad thing. In the long-term, it's a very good get for the franchise. Either one of these guys can develop into something special. Or both. Either one can become a real asset for the team, both in terms of performance and in terms of future trades.
Bishop is 26, a bit older than Lindback, played five years in the AHL, starting with the St. Louis Blues' affiliate Peoria Rivermen for four years before being moved to the Ottawa system at last season's trade deadline. And he was impressive his last two years in the American league, if not his first three. He was named to the AHL All-Star game in 2011-12 and was AHL All-Star Game MVP. He finished that year second in AHL save percentage (.930). He had a .928 with the Binghamton Senators (13 games) and a .922 with the Ottawa Senators (also 13 games) in 2012-13. He comes to Tampa Bay with--wait for it--36 NHL games under his belt. (.911/2.58 with an ESSV% of .913)
Sound familiar? It should. Anders Lindback had a very similar resume a year ago, replacing the AHL with the Swedish Elite League. No matter what fans and some mainstream media like to think, young goalies are very inconsistent. What you get in 13 games (or 20 or 59) is very often not what you get long term. Save percentages don't ever really escape randomness, but before about 4000 shots (about 130-150 games) there's a huge amount of variance. Before 2000 shots it's astounding. Bishop has faced 922.
Statistically, the odds that a goalie with a higher than NHL average save percentage at 1000 shots will pan out to be at least an NHL average goalie are about 30 percent. And Bishop is just at NHL averages right now. That indicates that up to 70% of his (or Anders Lindback's) save percentages right now might just be randomness. There really is no way of telling.
This move does not, by any means, indicate that the Lightning have given up on Lindback. While Lindy appears to be out for some time still, possibly the rest of the season or close to it, Yzerman appears to plan on keeping both young goalies going forward into next season. He believes that the two goaltenders will "feed off one another" competitively and that the addition of Bishop will give Lindback the space he needs to develop into the goaltender the franchise believes he can be.
I am not even going to guess what happens in the AHL next year. There are currently four players who could potentially be slotted in there: Cedrick Desjardins, Riku Helenius, Jaroslav Janus, and Andrey Vasilevskiy. Essentially, the Lightning have a glut of goaltender depth at the moment. And that's good, because you never know what to expect. But--and this is a real problem--it's all depth.
Bishop is good, but just as inexperienced now as Lindback was when he became a Bolt. Lindback is being asked to do something no goaltender ought to be asked to do: change who he is as a player. None of the other goaltenders are close to being NHL ready, despite what we were told when the team traded for Desjardins.
The recent coaching change makes things murkier. Do Jon Cooper's Lightning make things easier on goalies than Boucher's Lightning did? We don't know yet. In two games they haven't. Also, there has been no change to the defense since Brian Lee was sent to Syracuse, outside of Marc-Andre Bergeron going to Carolina. The defense must still be solidified. At this point, it appears that improvements will have to come through coaching adjustments and the likely addition of Mark Barberio sometime next season.
I am hopeful that this move is an indication that the franchise is more aware of the need for compatibility between goalie & coach. I am hopeful that with Ben Bishop to coach, Frantz Jean takes a step back on Anders Lindback. I am hopeful that Lindback will finally turn that corner and blossom into the player he's always had the potential to be. I am not certain of these things, but I am hopeful.
And in the end, with the addition of a more compatible goaltender, I would like to see the Lightning give Lindback a fair shake, elsewhere if they have no room for him here. He will never become the model Allaire-school goaltender the Lightning appear to want him to be. He doesn't need to be. He should be allowed to play to his instincts without worrying about being perfect. If the Lightning can't do that, they ought to let him go to a team that can.
Prediction for the rest of the season: Lindback out: .905 to .909 for the rest of the team, in whatever configuration that comes. Lindback in for at least two weeks: who the hell knows?