There’s no denying that Dallas Stars starter Ben Bishop had an incredible season in the crease. But, now that he’s a finalist for the 2019 Vezina Trophy, how does his 2018-19 campaign compare to his other two campaigns that ended in Vezina finalist nominations?
The 2016 offseason was an altogether baffling one for the Dallas Stars.
Fresh off of a 50-win campaign in the 2015-16 season, the top seed in the Western Conference, and a trip to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Stars seemed to be in as good of a spot as they had been at any point in the past decade. They owned the highest-scoring offense in the NHL, had an impressive balance of rising talent (like Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, and John Klingberg) and veteran talent (like Jason Spezza, Patrick Sharp, and Alex Goligoski) on the roster, and seemed to be in the driver’s seat in the Central division.
But then, it all fell apart during the summer of 2016. The Stars let three of their starting defensemen go via trading of free agency, let go of a handful of depth scorers, didn’t bring in any major additions to help the team take the next step, and hoped that sticking to their guns would work.
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And, as we now know, it didn’t. Dallas was hampered by injuries in the season that followed, could not get a consistent streak going, and finished the year with 79 points to plot them 15 points away from the final wild card spot. A large part of their struggles had to do with their defense and goaltending (which finished with the second-worst goals against average in the NHL).
With that being said, it’s hard not to wonder if the 2016-17 season would have ended differently had the Dallas Stars found a way to trade for Ben Bishop in the offseason prior.
As the 2016 NHL Draft approached, trade rumors began to swirl around Bishop, who was a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning at the time. With the Expansion Draft just one year out and the Lightning needing to make a decision between their two goalies, the assumed situation was that they would keep Andrei Vasilevskiy (the younger option that had proven to be a reliable playoff goalie in 2016) and try to trade Bishop in order to get something in return.
When those rumors arose, one of the teams deep in the mix was the Stars. As the draft rolled on, the rumors began arising that Dallas was making a strong push for Bishop and was trying to get together a package to send to Tampa Bay.
And while the trade didn’t end up happening, it was clear that GM Jim Nill wanted to change up his crease for the future and had interest in the 6-7 goalie. We would get an up-close view of why as the 2016-17 season panned out.
11 months later, the Dallas Stars ended up making the deal for Bishop with the Los Angeles Kings and quickly signed him to a six-year extension. After an ugly season between the pipes, Dallas brought in Bishop, bought out the contract of Antti Niemi, and hoped that they had their goaltending woes fixed for the future.
And after just two seasons in Victory Green, Ben Bishop is a finalist for the Vezina Trophy (an award given annually to the league’s top goaltender as voted on by NHL general managers). After a decent start in his debut season with Dallas, Bishop surged through the 2018-19 campaign and not only led the Stars back to the postseason, but got them to double overtime in Game 7 of the second round.
The 32-year-old is one of three finalists, with Andrei Vasilevskiy (Tampa Bay) and Robin Lehner (New York Islanders) rounding out the ballot.
But this isn’t Bishop’s first Vezina rodeo. In five full seasons as an NHL starter, Bishop has been a Vezina finalist three times. That’s an impressive feat.
And yet, he’s never actually won the trophy. He finished third in the race in 2014 and jumped one spot to second place in 2016. So, if you’re one for patterns, this might be the year that he finally takes the prize.
But, while we wait, the question must be asked: how does Bishop’s 2018-19 campaign compare to the other two seasons when he was nominated for the trophy? Can that tell us anything about how he will finish this time around?
Let’s take a look.