Jake Allen has already been sent to Peoria. Brian Elliott has played two preseason games; Ben Bishop will play his second on Tuesday. Jaroslav Halak is the starter and will use the last two preseason games as his tune-up matches. Clearly, the battle for the backup position has gotten down to the nitty and /or the gritty. Both guys are players in their mid-20's (Bishop, 24; Elliott, 26), both are on one-year, two-way contracts. Elliott has played 142 NHL games and is looking to re-establish his reputation in this league. Bishop has played only 13 NHL games and is looking to stake his claim to the beginning of a legitimate NHL career.
In their first preseason games, Elliott and Bishop had comparable numbers as they earned wins. In his second game, Elliott gave up three goals and took the loss. But even if he clearly outplays Elliott in his last preseason game, will Bishop get his shot at the NHL this year, or is he going to Peoria?
In my opinion, Bishop should go to Peoria, even if he is the better goalie of the two.
While the two guys each are on one-year deals, they are so for very different reasons. Elliott has one year to play his ass off in the 20-25 games he gets to start and raise his value going into next summer. Hopefully for him, he takes advantage of it, proves to the NHL that he can start games and win, come into games cold and provide a stop to the on-ice bleeding and that he's a good teammate. If he does that, he'll get a nice long-term, one-way contract from some team (likely not the Blues) to be their backup or, if he performs well, a shot to be part of a 1A/1B tandem.
Bishop's one year contract looks to me to be the same as the one-year contract given to forward T.J. Oshie: put up or shut up. Bishop needs to go to Peoria and be put in a situation where he and Jake Allen are pitted against each other in a season-long battle to see who is the best goalie. Which one of them can dominate the AHL and stake a claim to the next challenge, which is who can make a run at Jaroslav Halak's position as starter.
If Allen and Bishop battle it out for playing time and both succeed, it will be good for both of them. They have the opportunity to prove to the Blues that they both deserve a spot in the NHL. Imagine if they both react to the challenge positively and the Blues find themselves in a position where they have three NHL-quality goalies in the system.
Very few goaltenders spring into the NHL at age 24 fully formed and ready to start. Let Bishop and Allen get better in the AHL again this year and they and the Blues will benefit in the long run. Add to that a backup in Elliott who is motivated to impress this year in the backup role to ensure a longer and more lucrative NHL career and the answer for this year seems like a no brainer.
It's time to send Bishop to Peoria, even if he is the better goalie.