For better or worse, the Vancouver Canucks and Roberto Luongo appear to be stuck with each other. (Darryl Dick/AP)
Roberto Luongo has suffered through a great deal of drama in his time with the Vancouver Canucks. With the rise of young star goaltender Cory Schneider, Luongo had to defend his starting job and his 12 year, $64 million contract for years. As soon as it seemed that Luongo would be granted his reprieve by being traded from Vancouver, general manager Mike Gillis pulled a reverse and dealt Schneider to the New Jersey Devils, in turn recasting Luongo as the franchise’s star goaltender. Additionally, Gillis brought in John Tortorella, who has a long history of calling out his players in public, as head coach.
It could be said that, with nine years left on his monstrous contract, Luongo is facing a new beast to deal with in Vancouver. Seeing the road ahead, Luongo parted with longtime agent Gilles Lupien, who had advised Luongo since he was a 15-year-old goalie preparing to make a run at the NHL. In an interview with the Globe and Mail’s Rob MacGregor, Lupien acknowledged the need for Luongo to find some change of pace and hire a new agent at this point in his career.
“I was shocked,” Lupien says. “But I understood, too.
“He said, ‘Gilles, I want to take a new path – what do you think?’ Maybe another guy they’d listen.”
Lupien had some extremely harsh words regarding the treatment Luongo has taken in Vancouver, from management and fans alike.
“I played on a team [Montreal] with nine Hockey Hall of Famers,” he says. “I’ve never seen a star treated like that. I think personally he’s been treated like a piece of paper, a fourth-line player.”
“I’m in net,” Lupien says of the goaltender he considers almost a son. “There’s a guy at the red line with the puck and the fans start to boo me. The people aren’t behind you. The newspapers aren’t behind you. But you have to stop the puck.
“It’s not like a forward who can pass the puck when people start to boo. It’s not like a fourth liner who only gets out every once in a while. You have to stop every puck or else.”
“It’s almost impossible for him to perform under those circumstances.”
Like it or not, Luongo is the guy in Vancouver once again. Perhaps Mike Gillis was asking for too much in potential Luongo deals, and when push came to shove he decided to move one of his franchise goaltenders. That is just a smart hockey move, as opposed to using one of the team’s amnesty buyouts provided in the new collective bargaining agreement to remove Luongo and get nothing in return.
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Around the Rink Columnist Joe Ray – @jpray_SK