By electing to start Eddie Lack over Roberto Luongo on a stage such as the Heritage Classic, the Canucks may have upset their No. 1 and created a whole new goalie controversy. Didn’t they just end one?
When the Vancouver Canucks traded Cory Schneider to New Jersey to select Bo Horvat ninth overall in the draft, it was supposed to be the end of the long-running goalie controversy. It may not have been the expected result, but Roberto Luongo was now the undeniable No. 1 for the Canucks.
But on Saturday, old became new again, when it was reported by TSN’s Farhan Lalji that backup Eddie Lack would get the start in Sunday’s Heritage Classic game against the Ottawa Senators at BC Place.
Luongo – the happy-go-lucky, take it as it goes goalie – sounded frustrated when he spoke to the media. And it brought old tensions to the fore once more.
Lu: “I don’t want to go through this whole thing again”
— Jason Botchford (@botchford) March 1, 2014
Luongo: “I’ve always wanted to play in an outdoor game.” — Jason Botchford (@botchford) March 1, 2014
By the numbers, Lack has outperformed Luongo. His save percentage is eight points higher, his goals-against average 33 points lower – and he’s only allowed two goals in his past three games.
But when the Canucks didn’t trade Luongo for pennies on the dollar, deciding to move Schneider instead, they elected to shackle themselves to the former. He has as immovable a contract as there is in the NHL and just as unpalatable is a compliance buyout, which the Canucks would need to take advantage of this summer.
Luongo did not go into the Olympic break well. He allowed 17 goals over five games, contributing to his team’s seven-game losing streak. But he hasn’t yet made a post-Olympic start – and he only played one game in Sochi. If he does start Vancouver’s Tuesday game in Phoenix, which isn’t a given at this point, it would be his first start in nearly a month.
The Canucks have fallen out of playoff position and Luongo has played a hand in that. But to make him the focus of a losing stretch is still not the answer in Vancouver. Especially not anymore. If the past should have taught this team anything, it’s that it does not need a goalie controversy on top of all its real roster issues.
There are a lot of other concerns with this lineup that need to be addressed, or else it will get worse before it gets better in Vancouver, no matter who is in net. The defense has been mediocre and the once-mighty offense has all but dried up. Ryan Kesler seems to want out. The Canucks are stale and you can feel the need for a breath of fresh air.
Vancouver is in dire need of some change to prevent and protect against what looks like an inevitable fall.
Giving Luongo – their goalie of the present and future – a vote of confidence for once is a good way to start. At the very least, he deserves to start the spectacle.