Is the Vancouver Canucks' crease big enough for both Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider to remain with the team for the rest of the season, or should GM Mike Gillis look to move one of his goaltenders to bolster another spot prior to the trade deadline?
This is a question likely to be asked a multitude of times over the next two and a half months, and there really is no easy answer. While it's difficult to know exactly what kind of commodity either netminder would fetch on the open market and with Vancouver possessing one of the deepest rosters in the entire League, there is one area that could be addressed.
The need to add another gritty forward and / or defenseman remains a possibility.
After the way the team was worn down physically by Zdeno Chara, Milan Lucic, Brad Marchand, and the rest of the hard-nosed Boston Bruins in a seven-game loss in the Stanley Cup finals last spring, it isn't too much of a stretch to imagine Gillis will be seeking to bring in some more battle-tested warriors for a potential Cup run beginning this coming April.
Luongo had an uneven Finals against Boston, posting two shutouts and winning three games, but seemed to spark the Bruins when he allowed several soft goals. Already having achieved the ultimate success on the international stage with a Canadian Olympic gold medal on his resume', Game 7 was the perfect opportunity for the 32-year-old to finally put all of the scathing criticisms of his pundits to rest. He collapsed mightily on home ice, and
Signed through the 2021-22 campaign at $5.33 million annually and possessing a No-Trade Clause, the Canucks-Luongo relationship could be a very long one -- "until death do us part" kind of long, unless a divorce is deemed the best course of action.
Both Luongo and Vancouver got off to a slow start this season. The Canucks didn't really appear to get untracked until Luongo went out of the lineup in mid-October with an upper body injury. He would miss two games but Schneider was playing so well, coach Alain Vigneault decided to run with his hot hand.
Schneider had posted a 2-4-0 record in spot duty previously, but went on a five-game winning streak. The club played with a confidence that had been lacking this year, so Vigneault waited to make the switch back to Luongo until Schneider's first rough start.
That came on December 1st against the Nashville Predators. After stopping just two of five Preds' shots, Schneider was lifted for Luongo, who yielded three goals on 15 shots the rest of the way and took the loss when the club fell, 6-5.
In an attempt to get his franchise backstop on a roll, Vigneault has gone with Luongo in every start since. All Luongo has done is gone 4-0-1, allowing just six goals in the five contests.
Included in that stretch was a 6-0 shutout of the Colorado Avalanche in which Luongo had to leave the game after taking a Gabriel Landeskog shot in the neck area and just under his mask. Schneider came in and finished the last 35:54, stopping all 20 Av's shots.
The rare combined shutout was something of a perfect example of just how the two work together, and afterwards Luongo dispelled any talk of a goaltending controversy via the Canadian Press on TSN.ca.
"It was nice to both contribute to a win together, and at the same time,
pitch a shutout," Luongo said after the combined 6-0 whitewashing of
If there comes a time that Vancouver loses faith in Luongo, it may become a situation of irreconcilable differences and a split may be the only resolution. But there are other considerations in the meantime.
While Schneider has had some amount of success in limited playing time, including a sparkling 16-4-2 record last season. Many of Luongo's detractors believe that Schneider can handle the additional work load, but the Canucks' 2004 first round draft pick has yet to stand the pressure of a gruelling schedule as the number one starter.
Moving Schneider may not be the best course of action, either, especially if Luongo continues with his hot-and-cold lapses.
Some of the injuries we've seen hit the goaltending ranks this year may also cause Gillis to proceed with caution. In addition to the usual maladies suffered by netminders, there is an increasing number of goalies falling prey to freak injuries.
After beginning the year at a red-hot 4-0-1 clip, Toronto Maple Leafs' James Reimer suffered a whiplash-type injury against the Montreal Canadiens when struck in the head by a skater passing by the crease. He has not been able to recapture his success since returning after missing 18 games, posting a mediocre 1-2-1 mark.
Buffalo Sabres' goaltender Ryan Miller has had a tough season. He was run over by Boston's Milan Lucic in November and missed several games, then was blasted by Nashville's Jordan Tootoo in his first game back.
If Gillis were to move one of his current tandem, he could find himself in a rather unenviable position down the line. As things stand right now he has two very reliable goaltenders and his team is starting to hit their stride. If either goalie were to be out of the lineup for an extended period of time, the other should be able to hold the fort.
While Luongo -- if he were to waive his NTC -- would bring a great return, it would be a risky move to trade him. Even with his shortcomings, the Montreal-native has a stellar 204-107-35 regular season record and is 32-27 in the postseason since changing addresses from South Florida.
When looking back on one's track record, the best deals are sometimes the ones that aren't made.
Photo credit: Getty Images
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