We’re now into our third week of this abbreviated NHL season and the transformation of Roberto Luongo has been downright incredible. Remember how Luongo was viewed by many fans and media back in April? He was for sure the second best goalie in Vancouver, he had an ego, he was overrated, he crumbled under the pressure and on and on and on.
Fast forward to February 2013 and Luongo’s image has been transformed. He has been a class act, has let his sense of humour show on Twitter and most importantly he has played exceptionally well to start the season. Luongo has transformed himself from the underperforming star with a big contract to the lovable underdog. He has become that legendary veteran player everyone routes for.
In the offseason it became clear that the Canucks wanted to move forward with Cory Schneider as their starting goalie because he was younger, cheaper and better than Roberto Luongo. To my surprise, Luongo seemed to agree. He indicated that he wouldn’t stand in the way of a trade despite his no trade clause. Prevailing wisdom indicated that Luongo would waive his no trade clause because he didn’t want to become a backup goalie, to sit on the bench for most games.
But things have changed.
The best goalie to start the season has clearly been Roberto Luongo and he is playing a lot because of it. The Canucks organization has not played Cory Schneider more than deserved, as many thought they would to ensure Schneider’s status as the team’s number one goalie.
If I’m Roberto Luongo, I wouldn’t want to waive my no trade clause… not this year at least. With less than 3 months left in the regular season, it makes no sense for Luongo to accept a trade to a non Stanley Cup contending team. If he continues to play exceptionally, he will get to play. And given his start to the season, there’s every reason for him to believe that he can outplay Cory Schneider. If he outplays Schneider, he’ll play in the playoffs and have a chance to win a Stanley Cup. And he’ll get to do that in a city that has fallen in love with him all over again.
Not many people thought that Tim Thomas would supplant Tuukka Rask in the 2010-11 season after losing the starting job in 2009-10 and take back his net, but he did. And he went on to win a Stanley Cup (as if I needed to remind anyone of that). The same thing could happen in Vancouver, whether Mike Gillis likes it or not.