5 Reasons Vancouver Canucks Should Do All They Can to Hang on to Roberto Luongo
"It's time to move on."
The main theme of that interview was that Luongo believed his time in Vancouver had come to an end. He did acknowledge that he might remain a Canuck a little longer. "I would never say never, you never know."
It's now late August. Luongo still hasn't been traded, and player movement has dwindled to almost nothing as the prospect of an NHL work stoppage looms large.
Luongo may be a Canuck for a while and could wear the whale once again, whenever play resumes.
Here are five reasons why that's not a bad thing. The Canucks would be well-served to keep the Schneider/Luongo pairing intact.
1. He's the Best Goalie the Canucks Have Ever Had
It's easy to forget how much Roberto Luongo has accomplished in his career, particularly during his six years in Vancouver.
He's currently second in the NHL in wins among active goalies behind Martin Brodeur. He's won an Olympic Gold Medal, two IIHF World Championships and reached Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals.
He's a four-time NHL All-Star, a Jennings Trophy winner, a three-time Vezina nominee and runner-up for the Hart and Lester B. Pearson trophies.
Here are a few of his achievements with the Canucks: He leads the team in all-time wins and shutouts, lowest GAA in a season, most shutouts in a season, most wins in a season and longest shutout streak.
Put aside the issue of his long contract. Luongo's past achievements point to the fact that he could easily play at a top level for at least another four or five years in the NHL.
2. Schneider Is Unproven as a Starter
Cory Schneider is a good goalie. He looks like he has all the tools to carry a big load in the NHL. But so far, he hasn't played more than 33 games in a season.
Goaltending is an unpredictable position. Consistent, successful starters like Ilya Bryzgalov have been exposed when they've switched teams. The Chicago Blackhawks now have themselves in a netminding pickle after jettisoning expensive Cristobal Huet in favour of rookie Antti Niemi, then letting Niemi go after an arbitrator ruled in his favour following their Stanley Cup win.
Schneider certainly looks like he has all the tools to be an NHL starter, but will his performance be impacted by the pressure of being No. 1 and the different treatment he'll receive from Canucks fans once he's no longer the underdog?
Maybe it wouldn't be such a bad idea to keep Luongo around until we see how Schneider settles into his new role.
3. Best Duo in the NHL
It's generally believed that having two No. 1 goalies is unworkable in the NHL, especially in the salary cap era.
So far, Luongo and Schneider have coexisted well. The pair have a genial relationship and have put up some good numbers during their two years together. In 2010-11, they won the Jennings Trophy with the best goals-against in the NHL, and they finished fourth in 2011-12.
Luongo's goals-against of 2.11 in Schneider's first season was his personal best, and a Canucks team record.
Despite perceptions, you could say that Schneider has actually brought out the best in Luongo while performing very well himself. It remains to be seen if Schneider can be as good outside of the relationship.
4. Maximize Trade Value
With all the labor uncertainty surrounding the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, teams are making roster and personnel decisions, but really don't know when they'll play again or how the league will look when they do.
Teams like Toronto and Chicago should upgrade in goal, but so far, they haven't felt the urgency to pull the trigger on a big deal for Luongo.
Mike Gillis is staying patient because he believes that once the games are being played and the pressure's back on, there could be more suitors and Luongo's trade value will increase. For the short-term, at least, it wouldn't hurt to see Luongo return as a Canuck once NHL play resumes.
5. Proper Closure
Roberto Luongo's six seasons with the Vancouver Canucks have been some of the best in franchise history.
Longtime fans can easily harken back to the days when a successful Canucks season meant making the playoffs, rather than nowadays when they regularly rattle off division championships, compete for top spot in the league and seriously challenge for the Stanley Cup.
After Vancouver's devastating loss to Los Angeles in this year's playoffs, the knee-jerk reaction was that big changes must be made, and Luongo was an easy scapegoat.
He still has detractors—who will likely be quick to chime in with their comments below—but many Vancouver fans have softened. They feel he doesn't deserve to be run out of town and they worry that he'll excel in his new home, possibly at the Canucks' expense.
Keeping Luongo in the fold a while longer could give all parties a chance to mend this relationship so that when Luongo does leave Vancouver, it's in a much more positive light.
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