RALEIGH, NC - NOVEMBER 01: Ben Bishop #30 of the Tampa Bay Lightning makes a glove save during an NHL game against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena on November1, 2013 in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images)

Cooper: Bolts’ starting job ‘hasn’t been given’ to Bishop

As far as the eyeball test goes, Ben Bishop is the clear-cut No. 1 goalie in Tampa at the moment.

Just don’t go telling his head coach that.

Jon Cooper, perhaps out of fear of Bishop becoming complacent, says Bishop is still “earning” the starting gig in Tampa — even though the 6-foot-7 ‘tender has played in 11 of the last 14 games and is one of the NHL’s top goalies from the early part of the season.

“He has the job, but he’s earning the job,” Cooper told the Tampa Bay Tribune. “It hasn’t been given to him. Ben Bishop has holes, but I think he’s raised his competition level from last year to this year.

“He understands what we expect of him.”

Coming into this season, Cooper was adamant about not showing his cards on which goalie — Bishop or Anders Lindback — would be his No. 1.

He spoke of having two starting netminders and, on opening night, gave Lindback the start in a 3-1 loss to Boston. It was all in an effort to send Bishop the message that the No. 1 gig was to be earned, not handed to him.

“I think he may have thought that coming in this year,” Cooper said. “He didn’t start opening night. I think we’ve thrown challenges there … like when he was pulled (in a 5-0 blowout to Boston). Or not getting the start opening night.

“He seized it by having an exceptional game the next night.”

That “exceptional” game was a 37-save stunner in a 3-2 shootout victory over the defending Cup champs Chicago. Since then it’s pretty much been Bishop’s net full time, and he’s responded by going 9-2-0 with a 2.15 GAA and .925 save percentage.

That said, it’s the first part of that statistical resume that Cooper really cares about.

“Quite frankly, goals against and save percentage are looked at by everybody as the key,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “I only look at wins. It’s ‘Did he win the game?’

“That’s the only (stat) that matters to me.”

Oilers go captain-less, name four alternates instead

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Edmonton’s made a fairly significant shift in its leadership group.

The big news is the Oilers won’t have a captain this season, as Andrew Ference will relinquish the “C” he’s worn for the last two years.

Ference will, however, remain part of the group and wear an “A” as part of a four-man alternate captain collective, one that also includes Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall.

The news of Ference being removed as captain doesn’t come as a huge surprise. The veteran d-man is a well-respected leader, but isn’t expected to be in the lineup every night this season.

The decision to go without a captain, though, is something of a surprise, especially given what new head coach Todd McLellan endured during his final season in San Jose.

The Sharks’ captaincy issue — stripping Joe Thornton, then going with four rotating alternates — was an ongoing problem, something that players, coaches and GM Doug Wilson had to repeatedly address until it blew up in spectacular fashion.

That said, the circumstances in Edmonton are quite different.

It’s believed the club’s intentionally keeping the captaincy vacant, on the assumption that Connor McDavid will evolve into a superstar and, subsequently, the club’s unquestioned leader.

Finally, McLellan noted that with Eberle currently sidelined, a fifth Oiler would be added to the leadership group — veteran forward Matt Hendricks, who will serve as a temporary alternate.

Brandon Sutter didn’t have the greatest preseason

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When Brandon Sutter was acquired by the Vancouver Canucks, GM Jim Benning called the 26-year-old a “foundation piece for our group going forward.”

Sutter was quickly signed to a five-year extension worth almost $22 million, more evidence of how highly management thought of the player.

Fast forward to yesterday, when Benning was asked the following question:

“What does it say that you made the trade for Sutter, you called him a ‘foundation’ player, and it took him until the final night of the preseason to find a spot (with the Sedins) on the wing, which isn’t his natural position?”

Here was Benning’s response:

“Well, [head coach Willie Desjardins] wants to try that out, he thinks that’s going to be a good fit. At various times, the Sedins played with wingers with speed, with [Ryan Kesler], who could get in on the forecheck and had a good shot. Sutter brings some of those qualities, too.”

While all that may be true, Sutter was not signed to play the wing; he was brought in to play center, specifically on the second line. He finished the preseason with zero points in five games. And as mentioned, he’ll start the season on the wing, not his natural position.

Meanwhile, youngsters Bo Horvat, 20, and Jared McCann, 19, had outstanding camps and are expected to start the regular season (tonight in Calgary) centering the second and third lines, respectively.

Though Sutter did finish the preseason with 12 shots on goal, up there with the most on the Canucks, it’s fair to say he did not look like a “foundation” player.

“I haven’t seen him play his best,” Desjardins said last week. “I see a guy who’s big and a good skater and who understands the game real well, but just hasn’t got that involved.”

Now, we are only talking about the preseason here. New players often take time to get comfortable. Perhaps playing with the Sedins can provide Sutter with some confidence.

“I know he’ll be there and I totally believe that,” said Desjardins.

But it hasn’t been the best start, and if it wasn’t for the encouraging play of the youngsters, it would be a far bigger story in Vancouver.

Related: Canucks roll the dice on rookies, waive Vey and Corrado