|Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo speaks to the media during a press conference at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, BC. on September 13, 2010. (CARMINE MARINELLI/QMI Agency)
VANCOUVER AND PENTICTON, B.C. -- The goaltender of the present is the de facto captain of the past, but pressure is mounting on Roberto Luongo to become a Stanley Cup winner in the future.
The netminder gave up his unofficial captaincy of the Vancouver Canucks Sunday night to focus on the job for which he is paid $10 million annually. The decision was announced Monday. He said winning a championship for the blue, white and green is the priority.
“You gotta be focused all the time and thinking about your job,” Luongo said at Rogers Arena. “For me, I think taking a step back and putting my entire focus on that is more important.”
The 31-year-old was named the 12th captain in Canucks’ history on Sept. 30, 2008, even though NHL rules prohibited him from wearing the C on his jersey or act as captain during games.
General manager Mike Gillis said Luongo could now concentrate solely on winning instead of dealing with heightened pressure and media demands.
"He said he would rather just focus on stopping the puck and he's going to continue with all the leadership stuff he did before but not have the same sort of expectations with the media on game days," said Gillis in Penticton, where the team is currently holding its prospects camp. "He loved being the captain of this team but in order to be the best prepared to play and to win, it was in the team's best interest to go this route and his best interest and we support that."
In four Canucks’ regular seasons, Luongo is 155-112 (including 26 tiebreaker losses), but only 17-17 in playoffs.
The team will take their time choosing a replacement, with Gillis hinting the team could start the season without a captain. They will not rotate the captaincy.
"It's an opportunity for us to sit back and see who really wants this and who wants to step forward and grab it," he said. "There are a lot of candidates and there's a lot of possibilities and we're going to take our time and observe them and see how it turns out."
Luongo was heavily criticized after consecutive Stanley Cup quarterfinal series losses to the Chicago Blackhawks since Gillis designated him the team leader.
Since last May’s elimination, goaltending consultant Ian Clark was replaced by goaltending coach Roland Melanson and Luongo’s 12-year, $64 million contract was investigated by the NHL, but they chose not to void the deal.
Luongo will be a Canuck until age 43, unless he agrees to a trade.