The Goaltending Distraction

The Canucks are currently trying to battle their way out of a 3-1 deficit against the L.A. Kings and Canucks fans couldn’t be happier. Cory Schneider has finally taken the reigns and established himself as the number 1 goaltender of this city. But before we burn our Luongo jerseys and usher in a new dawn of Canuck fan satisfaction, there are a few important factors to take into consideration.

If Schneider somehow gets us out of the first round, there is no guarantee how he plays in the second round. For all we know, we could be seeing Luongo gear up if the Canucks somehow manage to beat the odds and come back from the 3-0 deficit. Although this is highly unlikely, the odds are  against Schneider to win the next 3 games anyways. So if Cory does lose against the Kings, that leaves him a maximum of 2 more post-season wins to add to his collection. A max of 3 playoff victories short of the 4 game reverse sweep means the Canucks head to the bargaining table with Schneider, a goalie that is unproven but no doubt the favourite in Vancouver.

One of the largest grievances with Luongo is his massive contract and cap hit, but if Schneider sticks around in Van his won’t be that much of a drop off. Other teams know exactly how much Schneider is worth and every additional game he plays this playoffs just lifts his price point higher. The Canucks have to sign Cory prior to trading Luongo to keep him from dominating them at the bargaining table. Cory will most likely dictate how things go regardless; There is no way he gets less than $4 million bare minimum.

Even if the Canucks decide Schneider is the direction they want to take, they still have to get through Luongo’s no trade clause. Should the Canucks be unable to find a deal both they and Luongo like, Lu isn’t going anywhere. Luongo has a family and has lived in the city for years; it isn’t that easy to convince someone to just pack up and move. Yes, he is a professional athlete and it comes with the territory, but he is also a person, something we tend to forget as spectators from outside of the glass. And just like that, Schneider is gone because the team can’t afford both and neither goaltender wants to play second fiddle for the remainder of their career.

If Luongo does agree to open his clause and the team finds a suitable deal, it will be at a pittance of what he is worth and minor compared to what we could get for Schneider. Luongo’s stock is going down fast. The Canucks have shown they don’t trust him in big game situations anymore, so why should anyone else? coupled with his age, monstrous contract  (which still has 10 years left on it), and his reputation as a head case, any team that puts a bid in for Luongo will be stealing him at a fraction of what he is worth. On the other hand, Cory is worth his weight in gold; he has infinite potential and is the kind of goalie teams can build around. He is also only 26, as opposed to Luongo who is 33. In terms of building the team as a franchise for future years, trading Schneider could make the Canucks substantially better overall, not just between the pipes. In the end, it comes down to whether or not the Canucks management trusts Luongo to be the goaltender they signed as the figurehead of their franchise.

Regardless of how this season ends, Gillis is going to have to make a decision  this summer about which goaltender will be starting in net come next season. And Lu, much like for the majority of his time in Vancouver, is the ideal goat to send to the slaughter. But for the time being, Luongo will handle the heat while he is stapled to the bench and keep the team’s focus on winning the next 3 games. Because right now, everyone is talking about who will be starting game 1 of 2013, not that Mason Raymond should be sent to the Chicago Wolves for all eternity after an abysmal defensive play against Kopitar. And with the amount of pressure the Canucks are under anyways, a little distraction isn’t such a bad thing.

After all, it ain’t over ’till it’s over.