BlackoutDallas recently took a look at former Texas Tornado netminder Ben Bishop and the balance of the goaltending candidates for Team USA at the 2014 Sochi Games. Our contention at the time was that Bishop had forced himself into consideration for a roster spot based on his outstanding play this season and that opinion has just grown stronger.
Now the Detroit Free Press’ Helene St. James is reporting that Ryan Miller of the Buffalo Sabres, Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings and Jimmy Howard of the Detroit Red Wings will be named as the goaltenders for Team US. St. James quotes a source with knowledge of the selection process who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the team before the announcement. The source told St. James;
“it looked good for Howard’s inclusion among the three goaltenders who would be tasked with leading Team USA to a gold medal at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia.”
While the selection of Miller and possibly Quick are really no surprise, if the source is correct, bypassing the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Bishop in favor of Howard is a travesty.
Bishop has put together a season that will undoubtedly have him in consideration for the Hart Memorial Award and the Venzina Trophy as he currently ranks among the league leaders in every major statistical category. Bishop’s 20 wins is tied for third in the league despite having played in 29 games which is the ninth most in the league. For goalies who have played 15 or more games he has the fourth fewest losses with 5, his 1.89 GAA and .935 SV% are both third in the league and his 3 shutouts have him tied for second. If you compare him to only US born netminders, Bishop is leading the pack in every category.
Bishop has backstopped the Lighting to second place in the Atlantic Division and third in the Easter Conference, when most hockey pundits had written Tampa Bay off after leading scorer Steven Stamkos went down with a broken leg on November 11. Despite having missed 22 games Stamkos is still third on the team in scoring and tied for second in goals scored. Bishop recognized the hole that would be left by Stamkos’ absence, but was determined to prove the pundits wrong. He threw the team on his back and has been carrying them since.
How Team USA General Manager David Poile and Head Coach Dan Bylsma could conceivably look past what Bishop has done with the Lightning especially since Stamkos went down is baffling at the least.
Since November 11, the Lightning’s average offensive output has slid 0.83 goals per game in games Bishop has played. Tampa Bay has been shut out 4 times in those 16 games. By contrast, Bishop has elevated his game significantly.
Miller was considered a lock from the beginning based on his outstanding Silver Medal performance in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. His numbers this season are fairly impressive considering the team playing in front of him.
Quick has a strong resume to fall back on despite his less than stellar play this season and his recent injury. Quick has not played since November 12th due to a strained groin. He won the Stanley Cup in 2012 and was the playoff MVP. Quick has Olympic experience to boot, he was the number three goalie on Team USA for the 2010 Vancouver Games.
Howard has been good in three of his four NHL seasons and had a good run in the playoffs last season, but he has been less than spectacular so far this season. He has not played since December 10th due to a strained MCL and is expected to be out up to four weeks. Howard has international experience having won a Gold Medal with the US Under-18 team in 2003 and was with Team USA that finished 7th at the 2012 World Championships. Howard was 5 – 2 in seven games played.
Bishop is in his first full season as a number one goalie in the NHL and the numbers he has put up are head and shoulders above any other US born netminder. He has stepped up when his team needed him the most this season and is more than any other player in Tampa Bay responsible for their standing. Bishop also has international experience to draw from. He was on Team USA for both the 2010 and 2013 World Championships. In 2010 he played only one period for a team that finished 13th. In 2013 he was 3 – 2 in five games played and brought home a Bronze Medal.
All one has to do is compare the current statistics to see that of all the US born goalie candidates Bishop and Miller are the two whose play has earned a spot on the Team USA roster. In addition to their lackluster play Quick and Howard are nursing injuries that could put a Team USA medal run in jeopardy.
Ben Bishop flat out deserves a spot on the 2014 Team USA roster. If his name is not called Wednesday evening following the Winter Classic when the roster is announced, I have to wonder if Poile and Bylsma used a “Magic 8 Ball” to make the selections.
Weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section below.