This column was written by RobTheHockeyGuy’s newest blogger Ian Lusher! Ian has written about the Canucks on his own blog for a few years and knows his stuff. You can follow him on Twitter at @IanLusher.
The Vancouver Canucks no longer have the luxury of a 1A and 1B situation in goal thanks to the draft day trade of Cory Schneider which means that the back-up goalie job is wide open. Head coach John Tortorella has gone on record as stating that he would like to play Roberto Luongo in the 60-65 game range this season necessitating the need for the Canucks to find a back-up goalie that is competent and reliable. The Canucks goalie depth is decent, but unproven at the NHL level. Here’s a look at the contenders:
I would be shocked if Eddie Lack isn’t the Canucks choice to back-up Luongo this season. His 6′ 5″ frame is intimidating and he has shown flashes of brilliance in the AHL with stints in Manitoba and Chicago. He posted some impressive numbers in 2010-11 in Manitoba (2.26 GAA, .926 SV% in 53 games) and in 2011-12 in Chicago (2.25 GAA, .925 SV% in 46 games) before seeing his numbers drop last year in an injury (hip flexor) shortened season in Chicago. Rollie Melanson is sure to like Lack’s deep net positioning and strong leg play. Combine that with Lack’s cap-friendly $725K one-way deal, his friendly, laid-back demeanor, and you have the clear-cut favourite to start the season as Luongo’s back-up. The only concern on the part of the Canucks would be if Lack has lost some mobility due to the hip surgery from last year.
Newly signed Joacim Eriksson could very well push Eddie Lack in the hunt for the vacant back-up job. Eriksson is an unknown quantity in North America, but his numbers the last two seasons with Skelleftea of the Swedish Elite league were downright sick. Eriksson posted GAA and SV% of 1.82 and .932 in 2011-12 and 1.67 and .931 in 2012-13. Even better was his performance in the playoffs last year in Skelleftea’s championship run (1.06 GAA, .952 SV%)! By all accounts, Eriksson was impressive in the Young Prospects camp and his $925K entry-level contract is another cap-friendly number. Eriksson would have to outplay Lack by a large margin in the main camp to win the back-up spot as the Canucks would likely want to see Eriksson handle the bulk of games in Utica and get some AHL experience under his belt before testing him at the NHL level.
If Lack and Eriksson prove that they’re not ready to be NHL goaltenders this preseason, the Canucks may be forced to look elsewhere for Roberto Luongo’s back-up. There are a few experienced goalies left on the market.
Theodore’s name has been linked to Vancouver for almost two years with the constant chatter of Luongo being traded to Florida, now he could be the answer to work with Lu as the second half of the Canucks goalie tandem. If the Canucks decide that neither Lack nor Eriksson is ready for primetime, Theodore is most attractive goalie left on the market. Theodore would be reunited with Rollie Melanson from his Montreal Canadiens days. Theodore posted his best season in Montreal, but it has been reported that the Theodore-Melanson relationship was tenuous. Do the Canucks really want another ex-Panther in the line-up?
The Best of the Rest
Tim Thomas is on a pro tryout with the Florida Panthers, but is free to sign with anyone in the league, wouldn’t that be interesting? Almost as interesting would be signing Ilya Bryzgalov, who is still available. Mathieu Garon and Johan Hedberg are long in the tooth and posted poor numbers last season, but they are certainly experienced. If the Canucks get really desperate, they can see if Rick DiPietro can get his career back on track.