Everything Else

Game #68 – Hawks vs. Stars Spotlight: The Bishop, Timing, Importance, And Thyme

Timing is everything, and Ben Bishop has learned that lesson more than most.

You may not know this, but the past five years, Ben Bishop has been a top-five starter in the league. It’s true. In the past five seasons, the only goalies to better Bishop’s .920 SV% in all situations are Carey Price, John Gibson, Andrei Vasilevskiy, and Devan Dubnyk. Gibson and Vasilevskiy haven’t even been starters that whole time like Bishop has (save on injury-riddled season), so you could vault him ahead of them if you were so inclined. He’s just a tick ahead of Corey Crawford.

And it’s not like Bishop has been helped by wondrous defensive teams. He was in Tampa before they became this juggernaut, and even the Hitch-led Stars weren’t an Iron Curtain for a season. These days we only have expected Fenwick-save percentage to deal with against actual Fenwick save-percentage. In difference between those over the past five years, Bishop ranks 12th among starting goalies, ahead of names like Rask, Jones, and Hellebuyck. So he hasn’t had to perform as many miracles as Crawford or Gibson, but he’s done more with what he’s asked than can be expected.

And yet you’ll find Bishop to be one of the bigger bargains around. Bishop is the 18th-highest paid goalie in the league, making a lower cap hit than such luminaries as Jimmy Howard, Jonathan Quick, Martin Jones, and Mike Smith. And you may point to playoff pedigree, but Bishop does have a Final appearance to his name, as well as aiding an additional conference final appearance, which means he has more playoff pedigree than Howard, or Jones, or Smith. It’s been a few years though, so maybe that fades with time.

But Bishop hit free agency, or was due to, on the back of his rotten-luck, no good, groin-exploded, very middling 2016-2017. That’s the year he ceded the Tampa job to Vasilevskiy, got traded to the Kings, and then was moved before the draft afterwards to the Stars. It’s the only season in the last five he didn’t manage a .916 save-percentage, and really could not have come at a worse time. In one of Jim Nill’s more shrewd moves, as it turns out, he jumped at the chance to get Bishop at a cut-rate.

And now there’s an argument to be made that Bishop is a Vezina candidate. His .930 SV% only trails Vasilevskiy (how many players are they allowed to produce at this point?). Gibson’s injury and dip in form might shroud his wizard-like season in doubt. The difference in Bishop’s actual Fenwick SV% and expected only trails the dual-headed Lehner and Greiss, who will probably split votes, Gibson, and McElhinney. If Gibson was the front-runner a month ago, Bishop has to be in the conversation.

A win would make Bishop the only Vezina-holder making less than $6M per season. And he’s locked in until 2023 at that rate, which is a real coup.

Then again, the discussion of what goalies should be paid has always been weird. Only Carey Price’s hit or salary is over eight figures, and that doesn’t square. In terms of importance, even with the higher-scoring atmosphere, goalies might only be behind quarterbacks. No one seems to mind when QBs make a fifth or quarter of a team’s cap, because that’s just the way things are. And yet you can only find one goalie paid on par with McDavid or Matthews or Crosby? Strange, no? Look at the top goalies this year and the standings. Vasilevsky – best team in the league. Lehner and Greiss – 1st place. Halak and Rask – top five team. Andersen – top five team. This isn’t all that hard.

One day, a team is just going to hand a goalie $12M and everyone will laugh. Or a goalie will ask for that and be mocked as selfish. If Bobrovsky hadn’t totally whiffed on his free agent year, maybe he would have. Teams seem to know this, which is why goalies are getting locked up as soon as possible. Look at that Crawford deal now, at least before the concussions, and how people lost their mud when it was signed.

Price shouldn’t be alone at that plateau. If Bishop had timed it better, he’d be a lot closer.


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