Count me among the fifteen Canucks fans in this city that have stayed loyal to Roberto Luongo throughout the years. Through thick and thin, he has always been my guy. That's not to say I haven't in fits of emotion driven rage blamed him for a loss here or there, but I've always reminded myself in team sports you can never blame one player for a loss. A notion that is foreign to most Canucks fans, I've found.
One of the greatest lessons I got in sports was that you win as a team and you lose as a team. It's never any one persons fault; no matter how untimely or egregious an error is made by your team mate, he is never to blame. What about the missed scoring chances, or defensive breakdowns that happened minutes or even periods earlier? Or will eventually happen? With six players (five skaters and one goalie) on the ice for each team, it just seems ridiculous to single out any one player when finding out what went wrong in a loss.
Sadly for Roberto Luongo though, he plays in a city (at least for now) where players are singled out like it's going out of style. Maybe players isn't the appropriate word, seeing as fans can overlook any mistake or series of mistakes a forward or defensemen makes. Goalies on the other hand, well that's an entirely different story.
I can't think of one playoff series we've lost since acquiring Luongo that hasn't apparently been his fault. If almost our entire defense is hurt, and he gets lit up it's his fault. If the entire team is flat, plays horrible, and he doesn't bail them out that loss will also be his fault. Hell, if it's a close game where he's made multiple great saves to keep his team in it, but lets one in late that will also, oddly enough, be his fault.
The criticism doesn't end there with Luongo. He's mentally weak too apparently. Never mind the fact that the entire Canucks team played horribly against Chicago in our two playoff series losses to them, it's Luongo's head that they are apparently in. Sure, we only scored eight goals in a seven game series against Boston for the Stanley Cup, but it's his fault we lost that too. The Canucks shouldn't have started him on the road. The city of Boston, was also apparently in his head.
Luongo never made excuses for himself in those series, but here I will provide valid reasoning for why he didn't single handedly win them for us. I'm referring of course to the two against Chicago, and the infamous Boston series.
- In the first Chicago series of 2008-2009 this team simply wasn't good enough to beat them. Not by any stretch of the imagination. Eleven of the players on the Canucks roster for that year's playoff run aren't even in the NHL anymore. The Canucks also used 9 different defensemen in that playoff run. As strange as this sounds, Canucks fans are not entitled to a Stanley Cup and this team was far from ready to deliver one. File this series loss under Luongo's fault.
- In the second series against our bitter rivals they were the eventual Stanley Cup champions. The depth on that team was so good, I can't imagine any goalie looking good against them. Nobody had any business beating that year's version of the Blackhawks. Once again, we were exposed for our horrendous defensive depth as well. Our best shutdown defensemen was dealing with concussion symptoms from a dirty Malkin hit, and everyone else was playing hurt. In the last game of that series Sami Salo was playing with what was widely speculated as a ruptured testicle, in case you're wondering how thin our blue line was. File that series loss under Luongo's fault too though.
- In our last Stanley Cup Finals appearance Luongo was great. At home. He pitched two shutouts and was the only reason we had any chance in our three victories in that series. On the road however, Luongo, like the rest of the team, was putrid. There is no denying that. The team was horrible and he did nothing to make it less noticeable. At the end of the day though the Canucks scored eight goals in that seven game series. Can't win if you average barely over a goal a game. File this series loss as Luongo's fault as well.
When you take into account the circumstances surrounding Luongo's supposed history of playoff choking, it seems kind of silly that he's the scape goat. If anything, he was the victim of a team falling apart in front of him in almost every instance.
Last year Vancouver's time honored tradition of making the goalie a scape goat for the team's shortcomings sunk to a new low though. The Canucks had fallen behind 0-2 in their series against the L.A. Kings and something had to be done to motivate the team. The only logical solution of course, was to bench Luongo in favor of Cory Schneider. Never mind the fact that he was probably the Canucks best player through those first two games. This apparently spelled the end of the Roberto Luongo era in Vancouver.
If losing the starting job to Cory didn't spell the end of his time in Vancouver, his willingness to waive his no trade if asked by Mike Gillis had to. Or did it? He never demanded a trade. Not publicly anyways. He said he'd be willing to waive his no trade clause if asked. That's it.
The reason he would be willing to waive his no trade, or even go so far as to want out of Vancouver, is based solely on the fact that he wants to be a starter. He deserves to start, and the Canucks made it clear that Cory was there guy.
It was assumed by everyone that Luongo would be shipped out of town by training camp, at the very latest. Then the lockout happened. Then it was assumed a deal would be made as soon as the lockout ended. Once again wrong. Seven games into the season and Luongo's still here. As a matter of fact, he's set to make his third straight start against the Chicago Blackhawks.
I now find myself wondering why exactly we have to trade Luongo? Why can't we just go ahead with the original plan, and trade Schneider? We will garner much more interest, from several other teams and get much more back.
Based on everything I know and have been told, Luongo wants out because he feels he is still a starting goalie. He's not wrong. He's an elite starting goaltender. He holds almost every Canucks goaltending record, and if that's not enough has been nominated for the Vezina trophy three times and the Lester B. Pearson trophy twice. Oh, and he won a gold medal.
Luongo is the best goalie in Canucks history. By a country mile. For some reason though that's never been enough for Canucks fans, and they are now oh so close to getting their way and running him out of town. It doesn't have to be that way though. Mike Gillis is going to do what's best for the team, and as far as I'm concerned the best thing for the team is to keep it's proven commodity in net and trade the untested Schneider. Luongo got us within one game of the cup only two years ago, whose to say with the kings ransom we could get for Schneider he can't help the Canucks get that extra win?
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