Alain Vigneault announced his starting goalie today, and for the sixth straight time Vigneault will be giving Cory Schneider the nod. Giddy sports writers immediately hopped up and down at this news, with the prospect of the hottest controversy in this town since the Dickenson-Printers saga.
While I can certainly understand the giddiness of the media, this situation is a little different from the Printers-Dickenson situation the BC Lions faced in 2004-05. At least initially.
For now, Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider are saying all the right things. Luongo has been very complimentary to Schneider and vice versa. Luongo had this to say about Cory Schneider:
Cory has unbelievable talent. He has been working his bag off for the last two years. He never complained and was always 100 per cent behind me so same thing goes for me. He deserves what he’s getting right now.
Cory Schneider getting six straight starts is a big deal in Vancouver because something like this has never happened to Roberto Luongo before. Of course, he’s never had a backup like Cory Schneider before. Luongo missed the first two games of this streak due to injury, but he’s been healthy for almost a week now. Schneider in the meantime has been exceptional, save for the Chicago game.
So head coach Alain Vigneault has decided to ride the hot hand, giving Luongo another night off against Columbus tomorrow night. If you ask me, it’s the right decision, and Schneider should be kept in until he loses or isn’t exceptional between the pipes. It’s not an unheard of philosophy and you only need to look at the Pittsburgh Penguins last season.
Last year Marc-Andre Fleury of the Penguins got off to a terrible start. He lost 6 of his first 7 games and had to watch Brent Johnson start a lot of games because of it. Brent Johnson started 8 of 12 games in late October/early November before Fleury finally turned his game around and had an exceptional season. Fleury ended up with great numbers and was a big reason the Penguins fared so well despite the absence of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
What Alain Vigneault has to figure out is if he ultimately will do everything possible to try to ensure that Roberto Luongo is playing at full capacity by the time the playoffs roll around. It’s all fine and dandy to give the keys to Cory Schneider in November and ask him to carry the load while he’s playing well. Luongo gets some rest and has a lot of time to get in the groove before the playoffs start. But what happens if Schneider is outplaying Luongo in February or March? It’ll be then, not now, that the real tough questions will have to be answered.