Poor Bobby Lou
Never in the 26-year history of the President’s Trophy has the winner been in a situation where they've face a first round sweep.
That is the case for the Vancouver Canucks tonight as the Los Angeles Kings have a chance to make history and say good bye to the league’s best team.
The situation of who starts between the pipes for the Canucks has been well documented and scrutinized all season for Alain Vigneault, as both Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider have proven they are capable NHL starters.
Vigneault’s decision to go with Schneider tonight in game four, their most important game of the season, won’t only be scrutinized but also opens the door to the question many knew would eventually come, what to do with Luongo?
Luongo, who was replaced after dropping games one and two at home but wasn’t the reason why the Canucks lost, has been under the microscope in Vancouver ever since his collapse in last year’s Stanley Cup final. Luongo has always had strong regular seasons but when games get important, many wonder if Luongo can handle the pressure that came with them.
Vigneault’s decision to go with Schneider tonight solidifies what many believe that Schneider is the more dependable goalie who gives the Canucks a better chance to win.
Whether or not the Canucks avoid the sweep or make a miracle comeback, Mike Gillis will have some tough decisions to make this off-season. Schneider is set to become a RFA when the season concludes, while Luongo will head into year three of a twelve year contract.
It’s not a matter of who Gillis’ moves this summer but more of who Gillis’ can move between the two. Schneider at 26 could bring a huge return, with many teams around the league just licking their lips at a chance at a young star goaltender. Luongo on the other hand will be much tougher to move with that monster contract.
Luongo’s relationship with the Canucks could be ruined with Schneider starting tonight’s crucial game four and there is no doubt Luongo still and should believe he is a starter in the NHL.
The list of teams who would take on Luongo’s contract is very short and really only one team comes to my mind, the Tampa Bay Lightning. Luongo enjoyed his most successful hockey in the sunshine state playing for the Panthers and would be in a more relaxed situation than in hockey central Vancouver. I don't necissarily think Steve Yzerman is ready to take on Luongo's contract or what kind of return the Canucks would receive (Ryan Malone?) but it's a situation that makes a little bit of sense with all of the Lightning's goaltending issues.
It’s not an easy situation for Canucks management, one I would think not many GM’s would want to be in. What’s the best move for the Canucks going forward? I think sticking with Schneider but I really don’t like their chances of moving Luongo and his contract.
The Canucks have to get over the hump as back-to-back President Trophy winner and win a Stanley Cup as their window is slowly closing.
If one thing is clear, Gillis could live and die by Luongo’s contract because unless Bobby Lou can finally deliver that Cup to Vancouver, I don’t think he will ever gain the trust of the home fan base nor will Gillis ever survive.
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