It’s been a tough first few months for all three of Team USA’s World Cup goaltenders.
Jonathan Quick hurt his groin in the first period of the Kings’ season opener and isn’t expected to be back until February at the earliest. Cory Schneider has performed well below his career averages. Ben Bishop has also struggled, and is now hurt as well.
When the New Jersey Devils traded for superstar forward Taylor Hall in June, it gave them a second superstar on the roster. Many believed that the combination of Hall’s scoring and Schneider’s goaltending would bring the Devils back to the playoffs for the first time since their 2012 Stanley Cup Finals appearance. It’s not worked out so far, with Hall missing eight games and Schneider’s play falling off.
This is Schneider’s fourth season in New Jersey and third as starter. In the two previous seasons, he has a 0.925 SV% and a 2.21 GAA. Both numbers demonstrate Schneider is a top-flight starter in the NHL. Schneider and the Devils started off decently, with a 0.941 SV% and a team record of 4-2-2 in October. Schneider had a 0.893 SV% in November, and has fallen even further in December to 0.881.
It’s not clear what’s happened to Schneider. The Devils did move their second-best defenseman in Adam Larsson to acquire Hall, but based on his career numbers Schneider should be much better than 28th in league SV%.
The Devils are part of the Metropolitan Division, which is the best in the NHL this season. They’re already 10 points out of a playoff spot, and unless Schneider picks up his play and starts stealing games, the Devils will be out of the playoffs once again.
Over the past three seasons with the Lightning, Bishop has averaged a 0.922 SV% and a 2.20 GAA. He’s been a Vezina finalist twice in those three years. Bishop racked up 77 wins over 186 games in those three seasons. This year, however, his record has fallen to 9-10-2. Andrei Vasilevskiy has much superior numbers in nearly every category compared to Bishop this season. Bishop has a 0.906 SV% and a 2.82 GAA in the final year of his contract, while Vasilevskiy has a winning record to go with his 0.921 SV% and a 2.49 GAA.
Bishop left Tuesday night’s game versus the Red Wings, and his status is not known. Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times writes that Bishop could be out anywhere from two days to two months. His injury may only be fast-forwarding to the inevitable handing-off of the starters job to Vasilevskiy. With Bishop’s contract up after this season and Vasilevskiy signed for another three seasons after this one, the Lightning appear to have shown their plan. Not to mention, only one can be protected from the expansion draft. That will be Vasilevskiy.
With Bishop hurt again, Smith wondered if his trade value would be affected. Smith quoted TSN’s Craig Button, a former GM, who said that it wouldn’t be an issue “so long as teams are satisfied that it’s not long term.”
The Stars would definitely be interested in acquiring a new starter, but there are other options like Marc-Andre Fleury. The Lightning need Bishop to return as soon as he can and be the dependable starter of years past. That gets the Lightning more wins and better potential trade value, while improving Bishop’s chances at a big contract in free agency.