Talking Backups: Bishop or Elliott?

Talking Backups: Bishop or Elliott?

Ben Bishop and Brian Elliott

The temperature continues to hover around 100 degrees in St. Louis and hockey couldn’t feel any further away. Blues fans as a whole are cautiously waiting to hear a final outcome about the team’s future ownership and the future of David Perron as he continues to attempt a comeback from his concussion. With plenty of time and little news to work with we can predict and discuss some of the potential story lines heading into training camp – one being Brian Elliott vs. Ben Bishop.

Pro Hockey Talk wrote an article on this very topic just a couple days ago, inspiring today’s discussion.

They mention that while Jaroslav Halak is currently cemented as the number one, he isn’t a goaltender that can go out each and every night. Last season he started 57 games – a career-high. Realistically, the Blues should plan on Halak ending the year with a similar number of starts which means once again the team’s backup will see plenty of action.

We all know that Ty Conklin was given an opportunity in 2010-11 and completely whiffed. As a result, the Blues declined on bringing him back and instead decided on giving Brian Elliott a chance to compete with Ben Bishop for the role.

Pro Hockey Talk mentions a valuable point – Elliott has more NHL experience with 142 NHL appearances compared to Bishop’s 13. However, Bishop’s run last season with the team at the NHL level has to somewhat negate that edge.

The article ends by stating the battle between these two should be interesting, and really, I couldn’t agree more.

However, I think individuals that aren’t used to following the Blues might be giving Elliott a bit too much credit. The Post-Dispatch’s Jeremy Rutherford has made one very valuable assessment. These goaltenders have identical contracts. Whichever fails to win the backup job will spend time in Peoria with the Rivermen. This puts the competition on nearly level pegging, NHL experience aside.

For my money, it’s really tough to say either man has an edge. However, I can’t say I agree with various fans and sites that I’ve come across (especially on Twitter) that believe Elliott holds a distinct advantage over Bishop at this stage. Elliott’s NHL experience does help his case but that edge should be nearly neutralized due to the fact Bishop is more familiar with the organization and performed fairly well (3-4 2.77 GAA) during 2010-11.

When strictly judging the two between their work last year, some points have to be deducted from Elliott as he struggled with not just one, but two teams. With Ottawa, Elliott appeared in 43 games and went 13-19-8 with a 3.19 GAA. When he made his move to Colorado, the wheel completely fell off as he went 2-8-1 with a messy 3.83 GAA through 12 starts.

Due to Elliott’s massive struggles, Bishop’s brief success last year and Bishop’s familiarity with the organization, I’m tempted to give a slight edge to Big Ben.

Obviously, this discussion will be put to rest following the preseason, but it is fun to speculate and discuss during the warm summer months.

Which goaltender do you think has the edge? Who will win the backup role?