The Tall Order: Farewell, Ben Bishop
It was going to happen, and now that it has, all we should be left with is appreciation for how fantastic Ben Bishop was in the crease for the Bolts
It’s funny to try to think back to how Ben Bishop started in Tampa Bay. Everyone was locked in and focusing on who was traded away for some tall goaltender from the Ottawa Senators. Cory Conacher’s relevance was what dominated the moment, and Ben Bishop was more of the "who knows?" goaltending acquisitions, the kind that comes and goes quickly in the NHL.
Oh, man… Bishop certainly wasn't one of those guys. Every Tampa Bay Lightning fan should be thankful for that and his contributions to the club since his acquisition in April 2013.
It’s Bishop’s stance in net and what he was producing season-by-season that put the Lightning in contention (well, when added to the efforts by the guys in front of him). He’s ranked at Tampa Bay’s top goalie in vital goalie stats of Goals-Against Average, Save Percentage, Wins, and Shutouts (go take a look at the stats and rankings yourself at Hockey-Reference).
Those compiled and averaged-out stats don’t show the individual seasons of whoa-ho-ho that Bishop pulled off in net… Or how much of a pain his injuries proved to be, with Tampa Bay pushed out of the 2014 playoffs in the first round, and topped by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference Finals in 2016 in part by Bishop’s departure from play thanks to an owie.
Does that show you how pivotal Big Ben was to the Lightning? The statistics should certainly tell you why he’s up for a little bit of a raise with his contract expiring. Bish will be an unrestricted free agent this July and it was of note last summer around the time of the NHL Draft that he was almost dealt to the Calgary Flames. The numbers discussed at the time were grand: rumor had it that 7 years and $7 million per year was the amount Bishop sought in a contract extension.
Earlier this season, starting in late December, Tampa Bay got a taste of the life that the club had to become accustomed to; Bishop was lost to an injury until mid-January, and Andrei Vasilevskiy got the entirety of playing time in goal with Bishop’s absence. It’s how things will likely roll in the immediate future — Vasy is the #1 starter — without a definite #2 netminder. While Peter Budaj was acquired in the deal for Bish, he’s a UFA after the season. It’s more likely that long-time Bolts prospects Kristers Gudlevskis or Adam Wilcox will be the one sharing crease time with Vasy going forward.
As for Bishop in Los Angeles, his major challenge is to help the Kings make the 2017 NHL playoffs. Sharing netminding time with the already formidable Jonathan Quick should help the Kings out mightily. After that though? You can only imagine where Bishop will land for 2017-18 and beyond.
Wherever he goes, he’s earned it. Whatever he does, his days with the Lightning cannot be forgotten (and likely won’t). Bishop was a standard, a savior, a key to the excellence that we’ve seen from the club the last four seasons. It’s a tall order of business (pardon the pun) but here’s wishing Ben nothing but the best.