Sep 23, 2013, 1:19 PM EST
“Under Pressure” is a preseason series we’ll be running on PHT. For each team in the NHL, we’ll pick one player, coach, GM, mascot or whatever that everyone will be watching closely this season. Feel free to play the song as you read along. Also feel free to go to the comment section and tell us we picked poorly.
For the Vancouver Canucks, we pick…goalie Roberto Luongo.
Full disclosure: we were going to pick Ryan Kesler for this, because 1) there’s quite a bit of pressure on Kesler to return to form, and 2) everyone’s kind of sick of the Canucks’ goaltending saga.
But we just couldn’t do it — nobody’s under more pressure this season in Vancouver than Luongo, for these reasons:
1) His reputation is on the line. Earlier this month, he said his goal is to “get back to where I was two years ago and re-establish myself as one of the best in the league.” Luongo finished the 2013 season with a .907 save percentage, his lowest mark since his rookie season with the Islanders.
2) There’s no legitimate Plan B for the Canucks. Vancouver’s backup is probably going to be Eddie Lack, a 25-year-old who’s yet to make his NHL debut and is coming off hip surgery. Which is to say, Lack is no Cory Schneider. Not yet anyway. If Luongo isn’t good, the Canucks could miss the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
3) The Olympics. Luongo wants to play for Team Canada again. “This is a big year for me,” he said. “I have been sitting on the bench for a while and I want to show everybody what I can do. We all know it’s an Olympic year so I just want to make the best of it.”
On top of all that, Luongo’s long-term future in Vancouver is far from clear, even though the 34-year-old is signed through 2021-22. Remember, the Canucks still have one of their compliance buyouts remaining. And while ownership was obviously loathe to use it this past summer, if Luongo struggles badly this season, the pressure from fans (a.k.a. customers) to use it next June will be immense. Vancouver hockey fans pay some of the highest ticket prices in the NHL. In return, they expect ownership to use its deep pockets to put the best team possible on the ice.
But that debate can wait for later, if necessary. (We don’t even want to get into the whole “Luongo might not actually mind getting bought out” angle.)
Luongo, by the way, didn’t get off to the best start in the preseason; on Wednesday, he allowed four goals in the first 12:24 versus the Oilers, including this stinker:
For all of our Under Pressure series, click here.
Nov 28, 2014, 5:18 PM EST
He was quite composed when he said it, for the record.
Nov 28, 2014, 5:03 PM EST
Anaheim forward didn’t take another shift for the remainder of the opening frame.
Nov 28, 2014, 4:54 PM EST
Veteran d-man wasn’t playing much for Tampa Bay.
Nov 28, 2014, 4:15 PM EST
Oilers looked better last night in Nashville.
Nov 28, 2014, 4:04 PM EST
Cam Talbot shuts the door again, Blueshirts win 3-0.
Nov 28, 2014, 4:00 PM EST
“Just that idea destroys the whole credibility of an organization.”
Nov 28, 2014, 3:41 PM EST
Even after Semyon Varlamov returns from injury.
Nov 28, 2014, 2:45 PM EST
Not bad for a little guy who wasn’t even drafted.
Nov 28, 2014, 2:39 PM EST
News and notes from around the crease…
Nov 28, 2014, 1:50 PM EST
Veteran d-man will be parked in the press box in Buffalo tonight.
Nov 28, 2014, 1:36 PM EST
Minnesota’s in Dallas tonight.
Nov 28, 2014, 1:08 PM EST
Semyon Varlamov was brilliant last season, but not so much this season.
Nov 28, 2014, 12:08 PM EST
Rivals meet for the second time this season.
Nov 28, 2014, 11:37 AM EST
“And I say that with all due respect to the players we have.”
Nov 28, 2014, 11:35 AM EST
Nov 28, 2014, 11:22 AM EST
After missing the last 11 games with a separated shoulder.
Nov 28, 2014, 11:19 AM EST
“Need a little more traffic, need second efforts.”
Nov 28, 2014, 11:01 AM EST
Former King, Devil and ‘Cane joins HC Lokomotiv.
Nov 28, 2014, 10:45 AM EST
Eat some leftovers and watch some quality afternoon hockey.
Nov 28, 2014, 9:50 AM EST
He could return in about a week if things progress well.
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