Why the Vancouver Canucks Must Keep Roberto Luongo for the 2013 NHL Season

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Why the Vancouver Canucks Must Keep Roberto Luongo for the 2013 NHL Season
USA TODAY Sports

We are only two games into the 2013 NHL season and the Vancouver Canucks already have a goalie controversy to deal with.

After watching starting goaltender Cory Schneider struggle in the season opener against the Anaheim Ducks, and then seeing Roberto Luongo lose to the Edmonton Oilers on Sunday, head coach Alain Vigneault will have to make a difficult decision on who to start between the pipes each game.

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With neither player proving that he's the clear choice to be the No. 1 goalie, general manager Mike Gillis should not trade Luongo before the April 3 trade deadline since Schneider has yet to show that he can handle the starting job.

We all know he has a lot of talent and experience, but being the starter is a much different role than the backup job. The pressure and expectations are much higher, especially in a market like Vancouver.

Schneider allowed five goals on just 14 shots versus the Ducks. He allowed five goals just twice last season and was 2-0 against Anaheim.

Was the reason behind the 25-year-old goaltender's poor performance just opening day nerves, a lackluster performance from the team in front of him or do the Canucks have a real problem on their hands?

It will be tough to tell until we are a few weeks into the year, but the safe and smart move would be to keep the team's current goaltending tandem intact for the entire season.

If the Canucks traded Luongo and Schneider's struggles do not go away, there would be a very real possibility that Vancouver could be in danger of missing the playoffs, especially with the Minnesota Wild and Edmonton Oilers starting the season strongly.

You need an experienced goaltender such as Luongo in a shortened season because playing the same goalie too often can be a real problem. Teams cannot afford to have their starting goaltender be fatigued late in the year before the playoffs because he was forced to play too often during the regular season.

With six more back-to-back game situations remaining on the Canucks schedule, they will need two quality goaltenders to avoid dropping crucial points in those games.

Every NHL team wishes it had a goaltending tandem as good as Luongo and Schneider, and it's very possible to have playoff success with two great netminders.

The Boston Bruins achieved a lot over the last three years with a great duo of Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask, including a Stanley cup title in 2011, and the St. Louis Blues' tandem of Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott won the William M. Jennings trophy last season for allowing the fewest goals in the league.

For the Canucks to contend for the Stanley Cup, they need Schneider and Luongo to improve, but the entire team must also play better.

Vancouver's defense was quite awful in the season opener, and the team failed to score a single goal in the shootout against Edmonton on Sunday despite having some of the most talented offensive players in the league.

Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Keeping Luongo wouldn't be an overreaction to the Canucks' 0-2 start to the season; it would be the smart move for the franchise.

There is no pressure to trade Luongo this season since he is under contract into the next decade, and he should still have a lot of trade value in the summer.

With the salary cap dropping about $6 million in the summer for the 2013-14 season, the Canucks might as well get one more season from Luongo before trading him. Trading a goaltender of his caliber before you need to would be an awful mistake by Gillis.

Luongo and Schneider had a combined record of 51-22-9 last season, and this duo gives Vancouver the best chance to win a Stanley Cup.

Until Schneider proves to the coaching staff that he's capable of playing at a high level as the starter on a consistent basis, Luongo has to remain with the team.

 

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