Posts Tagged 'The Vancouver Luongos'

The implications of the injury at the Igloo

First off, my apologies to anyone who actually reads this blog on a regular basis for the recent inactivity at Vancouver Viewpoint.  A busy week at work combined with an even busier week after work resulted in me not being around the computer much.

With that said, let’s get down to brass tacks.  The injury to Roberto Luongo in yesterday’s otherwise impressive 3-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Less than five minutes into the game, Luongo went down to make a routine save and seemed to injure his groin when he kicked out his left leg.  Whatever the case, it was clear he was in a lot of pain.

And Canucks fans let out a collective gasp of worry.

cory-moose-revisedWhile neither the extent nor the duration of the injury is clear at this point, the Canucks did recall Cory Schneider from Manitoba.  That means Luongo will be out of commission for at least the next game against the Detroit Red Wings.

Let’s assume, for the sake of a thought experiment, that Luongo is out for a few games.  There are two ways for Canucks fans to look at the situation and two ways for the Canucks coaching staff to deal with it.

From the fan’s perspective, the Luongo injury could be viewed as either an unmitigated disaster and crippling blow to the team’s fortunes or an opportunity to assess the progress of the team’s blue chip-prospect.  (As an aside, Schneider has played tremendously in Manitoba, going back to about the mid-point of last season.)

As for the coaching staff, either backup Curtis Sanford is given the opportunity to get a run of games in or Schneider is provided with an opportunity to prove his mettle in the NHL.

The way I see it, if Luongo is going to miss any more than three games, Schneider needs to play as many games as possible.  Though it is obviously not what Sanford would want (nor what he thinks he deserves, under the circumstances), the Canucks need to see what Schneider can do at this level.  He has excelled at every level he has played (college, international hockey, and the American Hockey League) so there is not much more he can prove.  More importantly, the Canucks face a situation where Luongo is due to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of next season.  If he does not re-sign before the start of next season, it could be an indication that he has intentions to leave.  And, if that is indeed the case, the Canucks will be turning to Schneider to be the number one.  If he does re-sign long-term, then Schneider would have to be moved.  Evidence of capability at the NHL level (coupled with his sterling play at all other levels) would make Schneider a highly valuable asset in any trade.

So, the injury situation may not be as bad as it might seem, after all.  Opportunity knocks, as they say.

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Dispelling myths

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.