April 18, 2012
Luongo-Canucks marriage on the rocks?Schneider's rise could signal end
By RANDY SPORTAK, QMI AGENCY
LOS ANGELES - When Roberto Luongo signed his 12-year contract extension with the Vancouver Canucks, it appeared to be a lifetime marriage between the two parties.
After all, it's a deal worth $64 million and runs through the 2021-22 season. When that season concludes -- just imagine, that's another decade from now -- Luongo will be 43 years old.
Maybe it's fitting that the relationship appears to be dissolving just a stone's throw away from Hollywood.
With the Canucks facing a must-win game against the Los Angeles Kings to keep their Stanley Cup hopes alive Wednesday night, they turned to Cory Schneider, the backup who obviously is no longer the No. 2 man, instead of Canada's 2010 Olympic gold medal-winning goalie.
Head coach Alain Vigneault said, "not really" when asked Wednesday morning if would explain why he made that decision.
"I told both guys, and, uh, it is what it is," Vigneault said. "Goaltending has not been the issue for us this year and in this series. We've had great goaltending so whatever decision I made would have been the right one.
"Without getting into the specifics of why Cory is playing (Wednesday), I am confident he'll have a good game and the guys will play real hard in front of him."
From a hockey standpoint, turning to Schneider is not a bad call.
Sure, Luongo can't be faulted for the first two losses of the series, a pair of 4-2 games in which he surrendered seven goals, but it's all about winning at this time of year. It was worth making a change for Game 3 simply to mix up things, and Schneider responded by making 19 saves in a 1-0 loss.
Therefore, sticking with the 26-year-old from Marblehead, Mass., is no shock.
After all, Schneider posted a 1.96 goals-against average and .937 save percentage in the regular season, while collecting a 20-8-1 record. He's shown to be more than capable.
"I was expecting either (goalie to start)," Schneider said after the morning skate. "I think we've got to a point where nothing surprises us and we're comfortable either guy. I'll be ready for it."
Luongo doesn't speak to the media on game days, and kept with that routine despite not receiving the starting nod.
However, this move potentially creates a sticky situation between now and next season.
Sure, it's possible the Canucks could have both Luongo and Schneider, who is due to be a restricted free agent, in the fold next season, but it seems highly unlikely.
And, even if Luongo has such a long and lucrative contract, it's more likely he'll be the man on the move, with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Tampa Bay Lightning a couple of potential destinations.
Luongo's contract reportedly has a clause in which he can get out of it in a couple of years and the team can do the same after the 2015-16 season, so it's not as big of an albatross as it appears at first glance.
The Canucks may be hoping it's not as difficult to trade Luongo, since the turn of events is a big shot to his pride, something Schneider understood.
"He's the ultimate competitor and he wants to play more than anybody," Schneider said. "But you know he's all in, he's behind the team and whatever the team decides, either one of us, we support fully.
"So we have been talking and joking like we always would. Nothing in our relationship has changed. The coach said we are going to need both of us throughout this whole thing."
Yeah, but moving forward, the Canucks can only have one of them.
It would seem the choice has been made already.
On Twitter: @SUNRandySportak