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Canucks coach says Luongo is his No. 1 goalie

Nov 29, 2011, 1:08 PM EDT

Roberto Luongo, Cory Schneider AP

Vancouver Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault will start goalie Cory Schneider against the Columbus Blue Jackets this evening. It’ll be the sixth consecutive time Vigneault’s started Schneider, a decision that’s led some to suggest Schneider — not the incumbent starter, Roberto Luongo — is the new No. 1 goalie in Vancouver.

Not so, says Vigneault.

“Roberto wants to play, he is a competitor, he is a very proud guy,” Vigneault told the Vancouver Sun. “He knows he is the No. 1 goaltender on this team and he wants to play. But at the end of the day Cory right now is playing real well and those are the decisions a coach has to make.”

Not that this decision was especially tough. Schneider’s riding a four-game winning streak and has allowed just two goals on his last 91 shots faced — if anything, the decision not to play him would’ve been contentious.

Would Vancouver ever officially make Luongo its backup?

Those in the “Hell No” camp point to Luongo’s albatross of a contract (only 11 years and $54 million to go!) as the primary reason why.

Successful teams have employed spendy backups in the past — Tim Thomas was once a $5 million backup in Boston, Chicago won a Stanley Cup with Cristobal Huet making $5.6 million on the bench — but the Vancouver situation is a lot different.

The Canucks couldn’t conceivably buy out Luongo, because they’d be paying it out until the year 2063 (approximately).  It’s also unlikely he’d accept being a Swiss league loaner to free Vancouver of his cap hit (not to accuse Chicago or anything). There are also legitimate concerns that, given the amount of hockey he’s played, Luongo’s best days are behind him — casting doubt on a potential Thomas-like revival to reclaim the starting gig.

(Remember, the 37-year-old Thomas is still at only 335 games played for his career. Luongo hit that total by the time he was 26.)

So, when does Luongo play again? The Canucks begin a four-game homestand starting tonight, so you’d expect he’ll get one of the games against Nashville (Dec. 1), Calgary (Dec. 4) or Colorado (Dec. 6).

But if you’re looking for dramatic narratives, keep an eye on who Vancouver starts on Thurs, Dec. 8 — when the Canucks head into Luongo’s hometown of Montreal to take on the Habs.

  1. elvispocomo - Nov 29, 2011 at 1:31 PM

    Thomas having only 335 NHL games hardly means he has less wear and tear that Luongo. I could see you arguing Luongo’s past groin injury preventing him from being better (despite excellent reg season stats last year), but ‘more games played’ isn’t really a great argument.

    • Mike Halford - Nov 29, 2011 at 1:36 PM

      I’d say Luongo playing twice as many games (685 to 335) as Thomas is a valid point. Part of what allowed Thomas to regain his starting gig at age 36 was he had minimal tread on the tires. Luongo has much more. That’s all.

      • hibackhand - Nov 29, 2011 at 4:55 PM

        maybe if he had someone pumping them, he would have less wear on his tires…

  2. lsxphotog - Nov 29, 2011 at 1:50 PM

    The facts are the facts, Schneider has been playing very well and there is no reason to let that stop him from playing. Luongo was hurt, Schneider stepped in and has performed as well as you could ever dream from a goaltender. Luongo is better and Schneider hasn’t slowed down one bit. Why take him out? Van will go back to its regularly scheduled program very soon, but Cory doesn’t need to waste away on the pine. Now if Roberto comes in and starts playing poorly and the team mimics this, Cory will find himself between the pipes a lot more this season. (Why you don’t sign goalies to long contracts)

  3. abrienza428 - Nov 29, 2011 at 2:21 PM

    Pittsburgh did this early last season when MAF was struggling. Johnson was playing well, and they rode him for a few weeks. It’s more emphasized here because of Luongo’s reputation and the fact that Schneider is probably a better backup, but I imagine this will blow over soon enough.

    • Mike Halford - Nov 29, 2011 at 2:31 PM

      Fair point, although Bylsma made sure he never sat Fleury for more than three games in a row.

  4. whatswellydoing - Nov 29, 2011 at 2:32 PM

    Schneider’s great, but ultimately Lu is the better goalie. He’ll be the starter once Schneider cools off a bit. Of course, if Schneider keeps this up…

  5. canucks18 - Nov 29, 2011 at 2:52 PM

    Halford have you lost it? As great as Schneider is playing he still isn’t the number 1 guy. You seem to have jumped in with rest of the turds who make Van brutal for a goalie… Everyone talks about how great Thomas is, how incredible he played last year, do you forget that he was “on the way out” according to you analyst/writer types with Rask being the next big guy for Boston… Rask and Schneider are 2 of the best that are not #1 guys. Should they be? Yes but you can’t just throw Luongo out the door, cause Schneider plays well for a couple weeks. It’s still to be seen how Schneids deals with a full season and playoffs year after year…

    • Mike Halford - Nov 29, 2011 at 3:06 PM

      When did I throw Luongo out the door?

    • imleftcoast - Nov 29, 2011 at 3:20 PM

      I’m not sure why people are so quick to rush to Luongo’s defense when he’s saying the right things and not making it into a pity. Vancouver is not a goalie graveyard – that was Burke making excuses for himself. The argument that Schneider can’t be #1 because he’s never been #1 is obviously circular.

      Finally, Halford is not pushing Luongo out – he’s just pointing out that there may be a question with Schneider starting six straight games. The media is trying to stir it up though, and I give it a week before McIntyre or Botchford write the article blaming Canuck fans for doing what the media are trying to get them to do.

  6. rabidbillsfan - Nov 29, 2011 at 2:59 PM

    Well I don’t see another guy wearing a number 1 so he has to be…

  7. canucks18 - Nov 29, 2011 at 3:02 PM

    Good one rabid lol

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