Coach tells a tale of two goalies
Luongo's still with the squad, but Schneider gets the nod Wednesday
To hear head coach Alain Vigneault tell it, the Canucks don't have one No. 1 goalie.
They have two. So, the coach said, he will go with the one who gives the Canucks the best chance to win.
On Wednesday, that means going with Cory Schneider, the goalie who just played the worst game of his career.
Make sense? Didn't think so.
Unless, of course, the Canucks simply believe Schneider is the better goalie. And really, that's what this all-consuming drama is about, isn't it?
That's why the Canucks made the switch in the playoffs. That's why much of the past nine months have been spent trying to trade Roberto Luongo. That's why the Canucks have risked distraction and a goalie controversy.
And that's why Schneider will start against the Flames.
Schneider said getting the nod against Calgary is "a great sign that they believe in me and that they feel last game was an aberration."
Sure, but isn't GM Mike Gillis admitting he has one of Luongo's feet already out the door a far better one?
Gillis acknowledged he has a potential trade in place for Luongo, dependent on the other team moving a player first.
Interesting revelation, and one that worked on this story like fighting a forest fire with an aircraft filled with gasoline. Just in case everyone wasn't talking about Luongo, they are now.
It started a cross-continent spit-balling session with analysts around the NHL guessing which team Gillis was talking about, even tossing in teams which haven't been linked to Luongo like Dallas, San Jose and the New York Islanders.
But a safer, more obvious guess would be the Florida Panthers, who would need to move Jose Theodore before dealing for Luongo.
Florida GM Dale Tallon has openly been kicking the Luongo tires since June, and it would explain why Gillis keeps talking about how an injury could drastically change the trade situation. If a team suffers an injury to a goalie, it's hardly sensible to trade for Luongo and his deal. But it would make a whole lot of sense to trade for a goalie like Theodore, who has an expiring contract, paying him a pro-rated $1.5 million.
It would also explain why recently Gillis has been stressing Luon-go's no-trade clause as a factor. Early in the summer, Luongo's camp was unwilling to waive it, angling for a deal to Florida. It stalled negotiations with teams like the Toronto Maple Leafs. Maybe Luongo could actually get his way.
Of course, that player Gillis was talking about may never move, and this deal could crumble like the Toronto one.
What then? Well, Vigneault will have to keep both goalies happy until the next Luongo deal comes along, which, at least partially, explains Vigneault's refusal to admit what the team has made obvious for nine months.
Schneider is the Canucks' guy. This is true for now, even if he remains unproven as a full-time starter. For that to change, he'll have to excel with Luongo hovering over him.
If Schneider were to struggle for long enough, it's not a stretch to envision Vigneault giving Luon-go three out of four starts. At some point, the coach won't care if the team is ultimately trading Luongo. He'll need wins.
"We've got a game coming up and I'm picking the goalie I feel gives us the best chance to win," Vigneault said. "Would you not say that I have two No. 1s right now?
Schneider is eager for his chance at a bounce-back game.
"It was a bad game, a very bad game to start the year," Schneider said of the opener, in which he was beat five times on 14 shots.
"I'd like to think the 60 games prior to that is more of a body of evidence than 25 minutes of bad hockey."
Schneider was told just after Tuesday's practice he was going to start. If Vigneault does have tacks on a map detailing his plan on who starts, he's not telling his goalies.
"Sometimes it's better to keep you ready and keep you sharp to not know you're going to play this, this and this game moving forward," Schneider said. "It keeps you honest a little bit."
Luongo continues to be the consummate professional and supportive friend. But, whenever he plays again, he will also be the goalie who knows he's at least been potentially traded.
"I don't know what to make of it, to be honest with you," Luongo said of Gillis's revelation.
"I don't want to read into that stuff that's in the papers, because that's just detrimental to myself and the team. Until I hear from Mike himself, I'm not going to make anything of it."
Until then, he's here, as he said "doing time."
"I enjoy my time here," Luongo said. "These are all of my friends. I love playing for this team, don't get me wrong. It's not anything negative. There is nothing bitter or sour or anything like that."
CANUCKS GAME DAY
7 p.m. Rogers Arena SNP
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