Roberto Luongo sits on the bench again as Cory Scheider performs brilliantly between the pipes for the Vancouver Canucks against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Schneider makes a big save and the camera cuts to Lu. It’s an awkward shot but one Canucks fans are drawn to due to the dynamics of Luongo’s 12 year contract and Schneider’s incredible play. It’s a shot that we’ve seen a lot recently and will see again and again until Lu gets a chance to get back between the pipes. There has been a lot of talk of trading Lu, trading Schneider, in an effort to end this inner turmoil that has the city abuzz. It’s a story that is hard not to be fascinated in.
The real issue here isn’t Luongo sitting on the bench. The real issue is Luongo’s reaction to being benched. In the past the team has walked on eggshells around Luongo. They’ve let him call his own shots. He’d start when he wanted to start eventually pushing himself to where he was burnt out and unable to perform to his absolute best. In the NHL, there is no where for a goalie to hide when he’s not at this best and he will be exposed. This is what has happened to Lu over the past few years as he’s flamed out spectacularly in the playoffs. Canucks’ fan are fed up with it. But this year the team seems to be willing to manage him instead of letting him manage himself. They’ve let the better goalie play. But can Luongo’s ego live with this? He’s been quoted saying it’s not about him, it’s about the team. This is what the Canucks and their fans want to hear, but is it the truth? If so, than there is no controversy, there is no issue. You simply have 2 high-caliber players playing as teammates. But if Luongo is saying this without sincerity, than you have a major problem, a problem that management has to deal with by moving Lou and his contract, if possible.
Whose fault is it that he has been mismanaged in the playoffs for the past few years? Is it Luongo’s fault or is it Alain Vigneault’s fault? AV has a tricky job here because he has to have insight into Luongo’s ego and if that ego can handle the disappointment of being benched, even if it is for his own benefit. It’s AV’s job to sell this scenario to his Lu. If Lu doesn’t respond, than that 12 year contract is a major problem. But so far, up until now AV has been scared to put Lu in this scenario, to keep him on the bench. AV has to give the Lu the chance to live with this scenario to see how he responds. If he can’t deal with it, trade him. If he can, you know you’ve got a player that you can work with, that you can move in and out of the lineup hopefully allowing him to remain fresh and focused.
Eventually the Canucks are going to have to move one of these goalies. It’s simple asset management. But the Canucks need to see how Luongo responds here before that happens.