Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 10/3/13
At the beginning of last season in this space The Province ran a cover story previewing the year ahead about Cory Schneider. The line was: “It’s his time.” Boy were we wrong. The short-lived Schneider era is now long gone and it’s back to the future with Roberto Luongo on a team that has not been reset as promised in the spring. It’s been rehashed. The Canucks this season will be trying to wring the last drops of juice out of a core which was sensational in 2010-11 but dry stale and overmatched in the postseasons since. Instead of roster change the Canucks did what they’ve done for years. They re-signed as many of their veterans as possible and filled up any holes by picking through the NHL’s recycling bin. They do love that core. So the promised freshness so obviously needed after the Sharks swept them will need to come from the coaching change. Because it’s not coming from the players. And if John Tortorella is going to extract any improvement from the group he will need a lot of things to go right. The Canucks will need to cross their fingers that Ryan Kesler remains healthy and finds chemistry with someone anyone. The team has faith the Sedins can handle penalty-killing and continue to produce the points needed to carry the Canucks offensively. We’ll see if they’re right. The power play has to rebound significantly. Zack Kassian needs to prove he’s a top-six player. Alex Edler has to show once and for all that he can consistently be a top defenceman. And then there’s the third line and this question: Will the Canucks ever find one again? Yes as the season starts the questions seem to be everywhere. Except for the one spot that produced the most angst in the offseason. The one rock the Canucks have is the one they have in net. Luongo is like a three-chord rock song. You know exactly what you’re getting and it never seems to get old. He is a virtual lock to get 35 wins a .920 save percentage and end the season as one of the top 10 goalies in the league. For all the discussion about his slow Octobers and playoff meltdowns Luongo doesn’t get nearly enough credit for his remarkable consistency over the years. In his six seasons leading up to the last one when he was the backup during a lockout-shortened year Luongo averaged 37 wins and a .919 save percentage. The fact he is desperate to do it again should mean more to everyone than whether or not he’s happy in Yaletown. “Winning motivates me but re-establishing myself as one of the top goalies in the league motivates me more than anything else this year” Luongo says. There will be concern about Luongo’s workload. He hasn’t played more than 65 games in four years. But this isn’t the goalie who arrived in Vancouver who thought he could play every game.
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