Vancouver Canucks Season Preview: It All Starts In The Crease

Owen MunroCorrespondent ISeptember 16, 2008

There is a saying in hockey that defence wins championships. Whether it be the New Jersey Devils of years past, or the Montreal Canadiens of the sixties, the reasoning behind the phrase has always been backed by the wins of teams with the stingiest players who want it more then anyone else.

Meanwhile, in Vancouver, that logic seems to be in full force. But, not entirely is it about the defence this year; it starts, like it has the last two seasons, inside the blue ice.

Roberto Luongo started the year out strong, and had people believing in another playoff appearance for Vancouver. Sadly, we were mistaken. And sadly, we fell out of the picture, mainly due to the fact that Luongo played about ten more games then he should’ve.

And, unfortunately, we all know how it goes from there.

I’m not saying Luongo was the only player in blame, because he clearly wasn’t. Even though he showed flashes of brilliance and resembled even a young Patrick Roy, Luongo took himself out of too many games with mental errors, and didn’t give the team enough chances to win on some nights.

Is it just on him to lead the team, or can we expect someone to step up, perhaps even in the crease, alongside number one? I can’t say that with a simple certainty, but I will say that you can expect Luongo to turn back to his play of two years ago to help the team climb back into the thick of things in the Western Conference.

But it isn’t just on Luongo to make the team click. We already know that Alain Vigneault will lighten the work load of the world class goaltender, so the only question is, who is going to be the back up?

Dave Nonis built up a healthy plethora of goaltenders and the team now is reaping the benefits of it. Cory Schneider looked brilliant tending the night in Camrose tonight, playing very well amongst a strong group of prospects that the Oilers present. Let us be reminded that one game doesn’t make a career, a season, or even a pre-season, but if anything is a good sign, it’s that.

As mentioned, one prospects game isn’t going to make or break the job that Curtis Sanford should have battened down. The veteran is still a great option in net and is good for fifteen to twenty consistent efforts tending the nets. He was very good and consistent in the games he had last year, and played well down the stretch, while his partner faltered a fir bit. He is a great goalie to have for relief situations, and fortunately for Sanford, I can’t see him losing his role as a dependable back up.

The Canucks are very deep here, and that can only ease the suffering if worse comes to worse and Roberto Luongo is either shipped out or splits from Vancouver.

Julien Ellis and Morgan Clark head the list after Schneider, and will fight for time with the Moose and Salmon Kings this season.

This has to be considered one of the Canucks strong suits, and the depth is there if injuries strike (knock on wood) or inconsistencies plague the team. Brief action and consistency at the college level suggests that Cory Schneider could be the man tending the nets by as close as next year, depending on the situations.

After all, what could be worse then what we witnessed down the stretch last year?