It is a presumed axiom that the Vancouver Canucks are ‘nothing’ without goaltender Roberto Luongo.
(Believe me, listening to Toronto sports radio and being exposed to the Toronto media writ large, most of whom never actually watch the Canucks, is testament to this. The familiar refrain is that the Canucks are only competitive because of Luongo; that they are, essentially, a one man team.)
I think this is a preposterous assertion, for a number of reasons.
1. Even if you want to entertain the ‘one man team’ nonsense, in the post-lockout NHL most teams are dependent on one or two highly-paid ‘star’ players. In this sense, similar sentiments can be expressed about many teams. Where are the Penguins without Crosby? Where are the Sharks without Thornton? Where are the Lightning without Lecavellier?
The only difference, perhaps, is that a goalie, unlike a position player, has arguably more of an ability to single-handedly prevent losses and garner wins. Be that as it may, however, this does not make the Canucks a ‘bad team’ because they have such a goalie. The fact they chose to invest $6.75 million per year in Luongo does not mean the rest of the team, as a matter of course, ‘sucks’.
2. One can easily identify, if s/he cares to actually watch the Canucks, a number of gifted players on the team.
The Sedin brothers, for instance. As much as many people would like to think they are one person, we are talking about two players, both of whom contributed around 80 points last year and are on pace to do it again. They also have a remarkable ability to dominate shifts when they are on their game. (Take a moment next time you watch the Canucks and try to account for how much time the Sedins spend in their own end of the rink.)
Also, a resurgent Markus Naslund. Now that Naslund has thankfully rediscovered his scoring touch, he is a potent offensive contributor, on any team in this league.
Finally, the Canucks have among the strongest defensive corps in the NHL. Find me a team that would not want and could not use the likes of Willie Mitchell, Sami Salo, Lukas Krajicek, Alex Edler, or Mattias Ohlund.
Say what you like about the greatness of Luongo (I certainly do) but do not lose sight of the fact the rest of the Canucks should not be taken lightly.
3. An example of 2, is the Canucks’ play in the absence of Luongo. To be sure, back-up Curtis Sanford has only started in three games. But, he is 3-0.
4. The Canucks are the 7th highest scoring team in the Western Conference. Not exactly the 1980s Edmonton Oilers, I admit, but not exactly a team that, beyond the goalie, is a bunch of plumbers and jobbers filling up ice-time. Make no mistake, this is a team that is much-improved offensively since last year.
Strangely, the team is comprised of roughly the same players. The difference? As any Canucks fan would tell you last year, the only reason the Canucks were such a low-scoring team was because of the inexplicable absence of offence from Markus Naslund and Brendan Morrison.
With both of these players reasonably back on track offensively, the Canucks are right where they should be. A team back-stopped by one of the best (if not the best) goalies in the league and can score enough to make the opposition have to be very good to win on any given night.
Perhaps the naysayers might want to pay more attention to the games, rather than joining in with the kind of cursory analysis of this team that suggests nothing more than ignorance.