Canucks fans, be assured: Schneider will stay, and Luongo will go
Still, team not helping matters by not clearly defining their roles, establishing the former as their No. 1 goalie
VANCOUVER — If Roberto Luongo were general manager, Mike Gillis would have been traded by now.
I’m kidding. But Luongo wasn’t when he said Tuesday that he would have played Cory Schneider on Sunday, the night after the Vancouver Canucks’ new No. 1 goalie was ventilated in the first start of the rest of his career.
"I thought he probably should have started Sunday, if you ask me as the GM," Luongo said. "As a goalie, you want to get back in the net as soon as possible after a bad game and I’m happy Cory will get that opportunity (Wednesday). There’s no doubt in my mind he’ll have a great game."
Schneider, re-signed by Gillis for starting-goalie money after the 26-year-old netminder deposed King Louie during last year’s playoffs, was named to start the Canucks’ game Wednesday against the Calgary Flames (7 p.m., Sportsnet Pacific, Team 1040).
Schneider didn’t survive the first half on his last start, allowing five goals on 14 shots and getting hooked from the Canucks’ 7-3 loss to the Anaheim Ducks. Schneider said it was probably his worst game in the National Hockey League since he lost 5-0 in San Jose four years ago during a call-up from the American League.
Luongo played Sunday’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Edmonton Oilers and was much better than Schneider had been the previous night. But coach Alain Vigneault made the sensible decision Tuesday by going back to his starter, even if it would take a good water-boarding for the Canucks boss to admit Schneider is ahead of Luongo on the depth chart.
Vigneault needn’t have to say anything. Luongo will be traded. Whether it’s today, next week or next summer, Gillis plans to trade the goalie to create room for Schneider and salary cap space to redeploy elsewhere in the lineup.
Sure, the Canucks are lucky Luongo is still around if Schneider starts badly this season. The former No. 1 may even pick up a couple of extra starts, as Schneider did last season. But you can not plan your team around a goalie who could be gone the next time someone phones the GM.
And just as Gillis insisted Tuesday that he will not discount the asking price for Luongo or rush a trade because the Canucks are having a bad week, neither is the organization blithely going to tear up its carefully-considered long-range plans because Schneider was embarrassed on the weekend.
"It was a bad game, a very bad game to start the year," Schneider said after Tuesday’s practice. "But I would like to think the 60 games prior to that is more a body of evidence than 25 minutes of bad hockey. So I’m going to use that to be confident in my game and secure about my abilities.
"(Saturday) stresses the importance to be sharp and on top of your game because if you’re not, you’re going to get embarrassed pretty quickly. You can’t hide, can’t go disappear for a shift or two. You have to be there every single shot. Was I disappointed in myself? Sure, I was. But I wasn’t stunned and shocked; I’m a sixth-year pro. I’ve seen a lot of things. This has happened to me before and I’m sure it won’t be the last time in my career this happens."
Wait a minute, you mean Schneider might play poorly again sometime?
This is outrageous.
The Canucks are a little more measured and grounded than the rest of us, but doing the right thing doesn’t mean they’re helping Schneider make an uncluttered transition from backup to starter in the NHL.
When the Montreal Canadiens dealt Jaroslav Halak to the St. Louis Blues in 2010, the objective was not a trade jackpot but clarity about their goaltending position and breathing room for designated starter Carey Price.
As long as Luongo is around, Schneider’s status will be under suspicion. Even with both outstanding goalies, Vigneault could kill — or at least blunt — the story by making it clear Schneider, ultimately, is the netminder being counted on to carry the team.
But Vigneault wouldn’t even name him Wednesday’s starter until today.
"I see why, and I understand why, you are making this a subject," Vigneault told reporters. "I get it. But, again, for our group, whether it be our forwards or our defence or goaltenders, they’re trying to get ready to play a game. And I’m convinced that none of our players are going home today saying: ‘Louie should be playing’ or ‘Schneids should be playing.’ They’re concentrating on their game. And all this stuff? It’s just stuff.
"It’s good for TV and it’s good for radio, but I don’t think our guys are by the radio listening to what people are saying."
No, they’re too busy reading the newspaper.
As a coach, Vigneault knows it is dangerous when roles on a team are not clearly defined.
"We’ve been doing this song and dance for two years now," Schneider said about the media’s focus on goaltending. "It’s something we’re accustomed to and I think the guys in this room believe in both of us. They go play hockey and, generally, whoever is behind them is going to do the job.
"You have to be accountable and responsible and not stick your head in the sand and believe nobody cares (about the goaltending) and that it doesn’t matter, because it does. It’s just part of the market, part of the job. The easy way to stop all the questions is to play good hockey, and that’s what I’m going to try to do."
But Vigneault and Gillis keep insisting the Canucks have two No. 1 goalies. When one is gone, the questions will stop. Or, rather, the questions will change.
© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun