I don’t think it’s exactly a five alarm take to say that the Tampa Bay Lightning are the most talented team in the Eastern Conference. From Steven Stamkos to Jonathan Drouin to Tyler Johnson to Nikita Kucherov to Victor Hedman to everyone else. I could probably list about 95% of the roster here before I got to an interchangeable guy like J.T. Brown. Sure Ryan Callahan is washed up and Steve Yzerman probably wants to send Braydon Coburn to Venus, but you can’t be perfect.
And there’s no more embarrassment of riches for the Lightning than between the pipes. Ben Bishop has had a save percentage over .920 in two out of his three full seasons with Tampa. He’s had at least 35 wins in all three. His highest goals against average has been 2.32 in Tampa. And he hasn’t had less than four shutouts in a year for them. Normally, they’d be holding onto him for dear life and paying him a truckload of money. But they’re not.
Andrei Vasilevskiy lurks behind him. He has a 2.05 GAA this year and a .929 save percentage in three games. He’s a former first round pick and is still only 22 despite being in his third year in the NHL. And he’s greatly outplayed Bishop so far this year despite the common thinking being that he’d take over next year once Bishop departs as a free agent after Ben wasn’t traded in the offseason to clear up room for Kucherov or Stamkos.
I already told you Vasilevskiy’s stats, but let’s look at Bishop’s: he’s 4-3 with a 3.30 GAA and .891 save percentage. He’s playing at about ECHL quality right now and, strangely, that may make things more complicated for Tampa than if he’d been playing fantastically (.963 performance against the Islanders on Tuesday aside). And it’s really messing things up for fantasy owners.
Andrei’s clearly been superior this season, so you’d think he’d look to be ready to take over, especially as he acquitted himself fairly well in the playoffs last year for such a young guy. We can’t all be Matt Murray. It’d seem like a great time to trade Bishop and get ready for the future. Except Bishop’s value is probably the lowest it’s been since he came over from Ottawa in 2012-13. He’s never been worse since coming to Tampa, Stevie Y isn’t dumb (Martin St. Louis incident aside), so you wouldn’t think he’d want to sell low.
You want Bishop to get his value up a little and play like Ben Bishop before you convince a struggling team like Calgary or Los Angeles if Jonathan Quick’s out longer than expected to dump assets on you to swim in like Scrooge McDuck. So you can’t trade him right now and you might not be able to for awhile. Nobody thinks Bishop’s washed up, but would you want to trade for him this instant? No, you’d want him to at least consistently not be worse than Keith Kinkaid.
So you’re stuck with Bishop for now and Vasilevskiy, despite being the clearly superior option early, is stuck riding the bench. Few would have them on the same fantasy team, because combined, they won’t get as many starts as two good starters would, so each team with one is just in a goalie holding pattern.
Bishop’s owners won’t trade him for the same reason Yzerman won’t. Vasilevskiy’s owners won’t change anything because if he gets to start, he’ll rack up wins at least for Tampa. So everyone’s stuck until Bishop starts playing like Bishop. And who knows when that’ll be.
And in the interests of full disclosure, I’m a very frustrated Ben Bishop fantasy owner.
AATJ Fantasy League Standings through Week Two:
Scorey Perry came back on my team at the end of the week to steal it thanks to goalie stats. Thanks, Ben. Devilsrule and GalenH’s team look similarly strong so far. The rest of us are all in a glut.
Add of the week: Hampus Lindholm. The Ducks stink and his +/- may not be too great because of it, but he’s one of the best defensemen in the league and was a tenth round pick in our league before the holdout became too much, man. He’s a solid third or fourth defenseman and he’s readily available.
Stay away of the week: Anybody on the Vancouver Canucks. They can’t score and presumably won’t score the fewest goals in NHL history. But the Sedins are older than dirt and nobody else on the team has any fantasy ownership potential, really, besides Bo Horvat and even he’s not too swift. Even Loui Eriksson looks much worse for wear.
Devils fantasy player of the week: Damon Severson. Nobody thought he’d put up this kind of offensive output, even with his increased role on the top pairing and powerplay. He’s looking like a solid third or fourth defenseman option and is almost definitely available in your league. Go get Damon.