Bishop Snubbed By Team USA

by Anthony Pucik
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Flickr :: Mike Oliveri

Ben Bishop among those not given a spot on Team USA in Sochi

It has been four years since the United States lost to Canada in overtime of the gold medal game of the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Now, the time has come for all the hockey countries of the world to reconvene in Sochi, Russia to attempt to achieve Olympic gold in 2014.

On New Year’s Day after the Winter Classic, the 2014 United States’ Olympic hockey roster was announced that will attempt to not only get back to the Olympic gold medal game, but win it. When the roster was announced, many people questioned some of the selections that were made for the team. Names like Ottawa Senators’ winger Bobby Ryan and Phoenix Coyotes’ defenseman Keith Yandle came up very quickly, but also Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop, who I believe was the biggest snub on the entire roster.  

The Lightning have had a great season thus far, and Bishop has been a big reason for it. Bishop is in the top ten in nearly every statistical category for goaltenders this season. His 20 wins are third best in the league, and his sparkling 20-5-3 record also puts him atop the NHL. His .935 save percentage is the second best in the league, only .001 percent behind the leaders, and his 1.89 goals against average puts him at sixth best in the league. With all of these incredible stats, however, Bishop finds himself off of the USA Olympic roster. Now, it would be understandable if Bishop was not on the roster due to the fact that there were three American-born goaltenders who have played better than him this year, but in my opinion there haven’t been.

One of the men who will be representing the United States in Sochi is Buffalo Sabres’ goaltender Ryan Miller, who was the starter in 2010 for the team when they won the silver medal. Now, on merit alone it makes sense that Miller is on the team this year because without him Team USA probably would not have come as close as they did to the gold medal. He was announced MVP of the tournament after all. Miller, however, has not had a very impressive year. He has a 10-17-1 record on a lowly Buffalo team, and up until recently he had not played very well. His 2.69 GAA and .927 save percentage have gotten much better in recent weeks, but that still does not make him a better goalie than Bishop this year. I do believe that Miller should have made the team because of his past success on the Olympic stage and his stats in comparison with other NHL American goalies, but to say he has done better than Bishop this year is simply ridiculous.

Another man who made the team was the Los Angeles Kings’ Jonathan Quick, who was backup to Miller in 2010 in the Olympics. Quick, like Miller, has shown in recent years that he is one of the best goaltenders in the NHL and in the world. In fact, Quick was the odds-on favorite when the year started to start for team USA in Sochi. This year, however, Quick has run into some injury trouble. Quick has not played since November 11th due to a groin injury, and many questioned if he was going to be in any shape to perform at the top of his game in February. Before his injury, Quick posted a 10-5-0 record with a  2.35 GAA and a .905 save percentage. Couple the fact that Bishop’s numbers are far superior and he is healthy, it appears that the selection committee is banking on past success and the hope that Quick will be ready in time for the Olympics over Bishop’s spectacular play that has only spanned this season.

I can understand the argument for Miller and Quick making the Olympic roster over Bishop when past Olympic performance is factored in, even though I don’t agree with it, but how Red Wings’ goalie Jimmy Howard made the team over Bishop is beyond me. If there was anyone who Bishop should have made Team USA over it was Howard. Howard himself has just returned from injury, and his numbers weren’t all that impressive beforehand. He holds a 6-9-7 record with a 2.76 GAA and a .906 save percentage, not to mention he does not have the track record that Miller or Quick do in Olympic hockey. Howard is a good goaltender, but with the year Bishop is having he is clearly the overall better choice, both health and stat-wise. 

Obviously the Olympic committee had their reasons in choosing all three of these men over Bishop, but I don’t understand where the reasoning was. In my mind Bishop could have started for the team given the uncertainty of Quick’s health and Miller’s shaky performance early on in the year. I didn’t even think Howard was an option given his recent injury and his play in comparison to Bishop this year. Quick, Miller and Howard will certainly do Team USA proud, but I believe Bishop should’ve had his chance to do so given his great performance. After all, the Olympics come around every four years, Bishop may never get this chance again.