Lightning: Revisiting Ben Bishop’s Time in Tampa

Dallas Stars general manager Jim Nill announced that goalie Ben Bishop’s time in the NHL is over due to a degenerative knee injury he suffered. He remains on long-term injured reserve at this point in time. It is absolutely heartbreaking seeing a player who has sacrificed so much for this game be forced to hang up the skates. He finishes his time in the league having played in 413 games, where he posted a record of 222 wins, 128 losses, and 36 overtime losses. He suited up for five teams: The St. Louis Blues, Ottawa Senators, Tampa Bay Lightning, Los Angeles Kings, and Stars.

Ben Bishop Tampa Bay Lightning
Ben Bishop, shown here with the Tampa Bay Lightning, played in over 400 games in the NHL over the span of his career. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

When it comes to the Lightning, they have been fortunate in their franchise’s history to have some solid goaltending. While Andrei Vasilevskiy is the current netminder and one of the best the Lightning have ever had, there are a couple of others who were standouts while donning the Bolts sweater. Nikolai Khabibulin was the first goalie to help bring the Stanley Cup to the Bay Area back in 2004 when the Lightning defeated the Calgary Flames in seven games. Then, there is Bishop and what he was able to accomplish in his tenure with the club. While it is unfortunate he must skate away from the NHL crease due to injury, Bishop left a lasting impact on fans and the teams he was a part of.

Becoming Big Ben

Bishop was a third-round selection (85th overall) of the Blues in 2005. Afterward, he went to play in the Hockey East Association college league for the University of Maine. He played there for parts of three campaigns for the program before joining St. Louis’ system as a member of the Blues’ former American Hockey League affiliate, the Peoria Rivermen. He eventually was called up to the NHL during the 2008-09 campaign and, only a number of days later, made his debut after then-Blues goalie Manny Legace went down with an injury. Bishop played in six games that year in what was a carousel between the pipes. Not only did Bishop and Legace play in games that season for St. Louis, but so did Chris Mason, Marek Schwarz, and Chris Holt.

The only other season Bishop was called up from Peoria to play for the Blues was in 2010-11. That year, he played in seven contests, where he posted a record of three wins and four losses. Otherwise, with other goalies getting opportunities in Mason, Jaroslav Halak, and Ty Conklin, among others, Bishop’s tenure in the Gateway to the West was winding down. The Blues traded him to Ottawa during the 2011-12 season. He entered into another interesting goalie situation that saw Craig Anderson with the starting role, with other netminders who played for the organization at that time being Alex Auld and Robin Lehner.

Bishop started out his NHL career with the St. Louis Blues before being dealt to the Ottawa Senators. (Icon SMI)

Bishop played in parts of two seasons with the Senators. During that first season in Ottawa, he chalked up a 3-3-2 record in a span of 10 games played. The following campaign, which was the lockout-shortened season, had Bishop between the pipes for the Senators in 13 contests, where he went 8-5. His days in Ottawa were short-lived, though, too. He was dealt from Ottawa to Tampa, with the full package being Bishop going to the Lightning for forward Cory Conacher and a fourth-round draft choice in 2013. Bishop received his share of ice-time to close out that season with the Bolts. He accumulated three wins, four losses, and an overtime loss in nine matches for Tampa. His time to shine, though, was upcoming, and he was about to establish himself as a solid name in net.

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The Lightning were the first team that gave Bishop that chance to get that experience to potentially prosper as a number one goalie. He was the starter for the team, with Anders Lindback as the backup to kick off the 2013-14 season. He played in and started 63 games that year, where he went 37-14-7. To go along with that, he posted a 2.23 goals-against average (GAA) and .924 save percentage (Sv%). He also amassed five shutouts during that time. The team around him certainly helped make his job a lot simpler. Having teammates like Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman, and Ondrej Palat, among others, certainly factor in as assets to his benefit. However, Bishop broke out as a brick wall in the crease and established his game in his own right.

One benefit Bishop had going for him was his size. He is one of the tallest goalies of all time (along with current Edmonton Oiler Mikko Koskinen) at 6-foot-7. He took up that much more space in front of the net and made problems that much worse for opposing talent. In fact, his size even earned him the nickname Big Ben, in reference to the famous clocktower in London, England.

Ben Bishop
Ben Bishop is one of the tallest goalies in NHL history at six-foot-seven. (courtesy

The biggest season, both individually and team-wise, while he was there, occurred during 2014-15. The Lightning made the playoffs as the second seed in the Atlantic Division, only behind the Montreal Canadiens. In the regular season, Bishop racked up 40 wins, 13 losses, and five overtime losses in 60 matchups. His GAA was 2.32, while his SV% was .916. He also tallied four shutouts. In the postseason, Bishop was the backbone for the squad. Everyone else on the ice in front of him was able to focus on their tasks, and they knew they could rely on him to come up with that crucial save when they needed it.

The 2015 playoffs saw the Lightning eliminate the Detroit Red Wings in seven games, the Canadiens in six games, and the New York Rangers in seven in order to advance to the Stanley Cup Final for the second time in the franchise’s history. They took on the Chicago Blackhawks, who had previously won the Cup twice (first in 2010, followed by 2013). Despite Bishop and the rest of the Bolts’ best efforts, Chicago was able to get that third Cup championship to solidify themselves as a dynasty — the Blackhawks won the series 4-2. During that entire 2015 run, which was his first NHL postseason, Bishop finished with a 13-11 record in 25 games. His SV% was .921, and his GAA was 2.18. Even with falling short, it was easy to see how valuable Bishop was to the Lightning’s lineup. He made such a difference for everyone else once he stepped foot on that ice.

Bishop and Lightning Part Ways

Following the 2015 Cup disappointment, Bishop played parts of two more campaigns with the Lightning. The 2015-16 season saw the club make the playoffs, and he finished that postseason journey with an 8-2 record in 11 games. Vasilevskiy, who was the backup at the time, had to play a few games on this run as well, with Bishop suffering an injury — he went 3-4 filling in. Tampa was eliminated in the Eastern Conference Final by the Pittsburgh Penguins. And this would be Bishop’s last full season with the Bolts.

Andrei Vasilevskiy Tampa Bay Lightning 2020 Stanley Cup
Before becoming the two-time Stanley Cup champion with the Lightning, Andrei Vasilevskiy was the backup goalie in Tampa behind Bishop.
(Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

Bishop started out the 2016-17 season in Tampa, but they’d trade him in the middle of the season to the Kings. The issue with this move was because of the salary cap ceiling, which put restraints on what the team was able to do. Other players needed to stay, including Stamkos, Hedman, and Nikita Kucherov, among others, and it took massive contracts to get them locked up. Management was put in a tough spot as to who should stay and who should go. The full deal with the Kings was Bishop and a 2017 fifth-round pick going to Los Angeles for goalie Peter Budaj, defenseman Erik Cernak, a seventh-round selection in 2017, and a conditional 2017 draft pick.

The timing of the trade was intriguing for the Kings. Their longtime goalie Jonathan Quick, who was a key part of their first two Cup championships, had just returned after being injured during the season. In one of the deepest goalie duos I have ever seen, Los Angeles rolled with Quick and Bishop as their tandem. This only lasted for the rest of 2016-17, though, and the Kings did not end up winning a third Cup. Bishop’s contract was going to expire, so the Kings dealt him prior to the 2017 NHL free agency to Dallas in exchange for a 2017 fourth-round selection. The Stars then inked him to a six-year contract worth $29.5 million.

Bishop played the next three seasons from 2017-18 to 2019-20. He put up the following regular-season numbers during those years:

  • 2017-18: 26 wins, 17 losses, 5 overtime losses, 2.49 GAA, .916 SV%, and 5 shutouts in 53 games played
  • 2018-19: 27 wins, 15 losses, 2 overtime losses, 1.98 GAA, .934 SV%, and 7 shutouts in 46 games played
  • 2019-20: 21 wins, 16 losses, 4 overtime losses, 2.50 GAA, .920 SV%, and 2 shutouts in 44 games played

The Stars made the postseason twice with Bishop. In the 2019 playoffs, in 13 games played, he finished with a record of 7-6. On the 2020 run, Bishop only played in three games. He went 1-2 between those.

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It was around this time period that injuries became a big issue for Bishop. He was a part of the Stars team that went to the 2020 Cup Final to take on his former team, the Lightning. However, on most of that playoff run, Bishop was not available to suit up because of injury. He ended up missing the entire 2020-21 season after having surgery to repair a torn meniscus. Despite his best efforts for a return to the ice, after a conditioning assignment in the AHL with Dallas’ affiliate, the Texas Stars, this season, it was determined that Bishop’s time in the NHL was over. He spent a total of 11 seasons in the league.

With Bishop now officially done in his NHL playing career, he finishes making quite the mark. While he was in Tampa, he was a great mentor for someone like Vasilevskiy. He had worked his way through a couple of organizations who were deep in net in St. Louis and Ottawa before finding a place with the Lightning, where he was able to break out and become a top netminder in the league. He is a three-time Vezina Trophy finalist as proof of that and was a part of Team USA for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. He leaves a big impact on the Lightning from his time there, as well as the other talents he played alongside over the years, whether in Tampa or elsewhere. He became a stellar talent who made a huge difference and could be relied upon countless times to help get his teams to victory.

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