Roberto Luongo spoke publicly for the first time today, sitting down with TSN’s James Duthie from his home in Florida. Luongo spoke very candidly and backed up most of the facts that Jason Botchford from the Province has been reporting on Twitter for months.
The take-home message is that Luongo is not happy to be a Vancouver Canuck and he would still like to play elsewhere. He says that will not affect his play and that he has a lot to play for personally, which he does. He wants to re-establish himself as a top goalie in the NHL and to be the #1 goalie for Canada at the Olympics in February.
Luongo came across as well as he could have given that he told the world that he doesn’t want to play in Vancouver anymore. I get why Luongo was ready to move on and why he had checked out mentally, but I’m not going to shed a tear for Roberto.
Look, I am a Roberto Luongo fan. I love his passion for the game and I would love nothing more than for him to be the guy between the pipes if the Canucks ever win the Stanley Cup. I would love to see a comeback story of sorts, and I don’t think I’m alone. And that’s precisely why I’m a little disappointed that Luongo can’t seem to get over this.
Roberto Luongo is an excellent goalie and always has been. Nobody in the Canucks organization has disputed this, nor have they attacked his character or reputation.
So what exactly happened?
Cory Schneider’s emergence
Roberto Luongo was the undisputed #1 goalie for his first 4 seasons in Vancouver. He started every single playoff game except one (game 6 in Chicago in 2011), which was understandable given Luongo’s history with Chicago and Schneider’s strong play. In 2011-12 Luongo was still the team’s #1 goalie, starting 54 of the team’s 82 games despite the fact that Cory Schneider was outplaying him (this is not to suggest that Luongo was playing terribly, just that Schneider was playing better).
In the 2011-12 playoffs Luongo got the first 2 starts based on reputation, not based on merit. Again, Luongo had a good season in 2011-12 (2.41 GAA, .919 SV%), but wasn’t as good as Schneider (1.96 GAA, .937 SV%). After 2 losses against LA where Luongo was average (3.59 GAA, .891 SV%), Luongo was pulled in favour of Cory Schneider for game 3-5. Luongo wasn’t horrible in game 1 and 2, but he wasn’t excellent and he certainly wasn’t their best chance to win. That distinction goes to Cory Schneider who was superb in game 3, 4, and 5 (1.31 GAA, .960 SV%).
After the 2012 playoffs Luongo saw the writing on the wall, knowing that Schneider was better, younger and cheaper. He and the team felt it was best to move him to get a fresh new start.
Refusing to waive his no trade clause
The 2012 offseason was the best chance for the Canucks to trade Luongo. Before the lockout (and the new penalty put in place to retroactively penalize contracts like Luongo’s), Luongo had value on the trade market. There were teams interested in him (notably Toronto), but Roberto Luongo wasn’t prepared to waive his no trade clause for any team outside of the state of Florida. According to reports, Luongo refused to waive his no trade clause before the 2012 draft and once more prior to the lockout.
Mike Gillis is receiving all of the blame for not moving Luongo, but Luongo needs to share a lot of that blame.
In the end, Mike Gillis’ hands were tied. He wanted to and tried to move Luongo but couldn’t. Luongo wanted to go also, but misplayed his hand.
Vancouver ain’t all that bad
Luongo is back as the team’s number one goalie, and I think Luongo should be a little more enthused about it to be quite honest. He is playing in a city that fell in love with him all over again after seeing his humility and class during the goaltending controversy. He is playing with teammates who he has developed a bond with. The man who he probably feel has wronged him the most for not playing him in favour of an injured Cory Schneider in the 2013 playoffs, Alain Vigneault, is gone. And above all else, the Canucks are still a good team.
Would Luongo really be happier playing for the Florida Panthers next season? They were a bad team last season and just lost their number one centre Stephen Weiss to free agency. Nobody else seems to want to go there, why would Lu? Obviously he has family connections to Florida, but moving there likely means kissing his Stanley Cup dreams goodbye. The grass is not always greener on the other side.
The Tim Thomas example
For advice on this situation, I think Luongo could consult his old buddy Tim Thomas (I’m sorry for saying that… I still hate Tim Thomas and anyone else who played on the 2011 Bruins). In 2008-09 Thomas won the Vezina Trophy, posting spectacular numbers (2.10 GAA, .933 SV%). A year later, Thomas lost his starting job to youngster Tuukka Rask. Thomas wasn’t bad (2.56 GAA, .915 SV%), but he wasn’t as good as Rask (1.97 GAA, .931 SV%). Thomas watched every minute of all 13 playoff games from the bench in 2010 despite the fact that Rask was in net for their epic 3-0 series lead collapse to the Flyers.
Thomas didn’t demand a trade following the 2009-2010 season. Instead he returned to form, re-claimed the number 1 job and won the Vezina Trophy, Conn Smythe Trophy and the Stanley Cup. He did all of that at age 37 by the way.
I’m sure that Tim Thomas had a more enjoyable 2010-11 in Boston than if the Bruins had traded him to a team destined to miss the playoffs where he would be the undisputed starting goalie.
Let us love you
You’re in a city where the fans and your teammates love you. The decision by management to trade you was never personal, it was based on merit. Nobody said they didn’t like you, nobody said you weren’t any good.
I’m not going to cry for Roberto because this isn’t a terrible situation. If he is able to return to a Vezina Trophy candidate and some of the Canucks young players develop into good players (a possibility with Horvat, Shinkaruk, Gaunce and Corrado in the fold), he will get the chance to win the Stanley Cup.
I just wish that Luongo would realize that he has a pretty good thing going here in Vancouver and he is going to receive a lot of credit by fans, media and teammates for persevering. Let us love you Roberto… again.