Calgary Flames v St. Louis Blues

Blues backup battle will come down to Ben Bishop vs. Brian Elliott

For better or worse, former Montreal Canadiens one-time playoff hero Jaroslav Halak represents at least the short-term future of goaltending for the St. Louis Blues. The Blues’ hopes for a return to credibility rest largely on the Slovakian netminder’s shoulders.

Even with Halak firmly planted in the No. 1 role, it’s likely that the Blues will lean on its backup quite a bit too. Halak only played in 57 games in 2010-11, which represented a career-high. He struggled with injuries and inconsistency at times so maybe he can flirt with the 65 GP mark next season, but chances are that the No. 2 job will get some play in St. Louis.

With that in mind, the question is: who will it be? The Blues allowed former backup Ty Conklin to leave via free agency after his play flat-lined during an abysmal 2010-11 season. St. Louis is then left with a choice: over-sized prospect Ben Bishop or flawed but more experienced free agent addition Brian Elliott.

One of the most interesting things about this situation is that their goalie competition is on an even playing field, as Jeremy Rutherford discussed in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The Blues signed Elliott to a two-way contract that will pay him $600,000 in the NHL and $105,000 in the AHL. Four days later, the team re-signed Bishop, then a restricted free-agent, to an identical contract. That sets up a situation that couldn’t be any more even heading into training camp in September.

“Two guys, both making the same amount of money, looking for the same job,” Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said recently.

Rutherford points out an interesting fact: this won’t be the first time the two goalies have battled eahc other. Elliott (then a junior at the University of Wisconsin) faced off against Bishop (then a freshman at Maine) in the 2006 Frozen Four, with Elliott’s Badgers earning a 5-2 win and then eventually a national championship.

Elliott had the experience edge then and he’ll have it now. He’s played in 142 NHL regular season games, going 61-53-16 with a .901 save percentage and 2.90 GAA. Elliott made one playoff appearance in which the Pittsburgh Penguins dismantled him in four games, forcing the Senators to turn to Pascal Leclaire.

Bishop’s NHL resume is scarce, with 13 games played during the last two seasons. He went 4-5-1 with an even more mediocre .896 and 2.83 GAA, although Rutherford makes a case for why he might have shown glimpses of promise.

In seven games with the Blues last season, when Halak had an injured hand, Bishop was 3-4 with a 2.76 goals-against average and an .899 save-percentage. But not told in those numbers is that after playing in Peoria until mid-February, Bishop joined the Blues and didn’t allow a goal in nine of his first 10 periods, including a 39-save shutout Feb. 5 against Edmonton. Of the 17 goals he permitted, nine were scored in two periods.

Considering Halak’s lack of a track record in carrying a big starting goalie workload, it’s likely that the Blues will need some solid play from their backup next season. The Elliott vs. Bishop training camp battle should be interesting to watch, although with both goalies under two-way contracts, that battle might extend far beyond September.

The Blues wouldn’t mind if it was still a question being asked beyond mid-April, either.

Sens demote former first-rounder Puempel

Matt Puempel
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Looks like Matt Puempel won’t be making the leap after all.

Puempel, the subject of Ottawa’s “looking to make the leap” profile during our Team of the Day series, has been sent down to AHL Binghamton one day prior to the Sens’ opener against Buffalo.

Puempel, taken by Ottawa in the first round (24th overall) at the ’11 draft, made his big-league debut last season and looked as though he’d stick around — only to suffer a high ankle sprain after 13 games, and miss the rest of the season.

The 22-year-old came into this year’s camp looking to secure a full-time position at the big league level, but was beaten out by Shane Prince for the final forward spot on the roster.

To be fair, contract status probably played a role. Prince would’ve had to clear waivers to get down to Bingo, whereas Puempel didn’t.

A former 30-goal scorer in the American League, Puempel is expected to get another look with Ottawa this season.

Report: Torres won’t appeal 41-game suspension


Sounds like Raffi Torres is accepting his punishment.

Per Sportsnet, Torres won’t appeal his 41-game suspension for an illegal hit to the head of Anaheim’s Jakob Silfverberg.

The report comes just days after the NHL’s Department of Player Safety levied one of the longest disciplinary rulings in league history, citing both the severity of the Silfverberg hit and Torres’ lengthy history of suspensions, fines and warnings.

There was some thought, however, that Torres would try to challenge the ruling.


He does have a history of success in that department. In 2012,Torres successfully appealed his suspension for a headshot on Chicago’s Marian Hossa, and had his punishment reduced from 25 games to 21.

Torres also isn’t considered a “repeat offender” under the current collective bargaining agreement, as his last suspension came in 2013.

Of course, part of that clean record is due to the fact he hasn’t played much. Torres has largely been sidelined by injury for the last two seasons, missing all of last year with knee problems.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman delved further into the repeat offender thing in his latest 30 Thoughts column:

If you read the relevant sections of the CBA, the league takes the position that the repeat offender status is only applicable to fines. Repeaters are fined on a per-game basis, non-repeaters on a per-day basis. (The former is more expensive, because there are fewer games than days in an NHL season.) However, if you go to Section 18.2, among the factors taken into account are, “the status of the offender and, specifically, whether the Player has a history of being subject to Supplementary Discipline for On-Ice Conduct.”

So, in the NHL’s view, a player’s history is relevant, even if longer than 18 months ago.

Should the report prove accurate and Torres doesn’t appeal, he will be eligible to return to action on Jan. 14, when the Sharks take on the Oilers.