The Luongo/Schneider Competition Doesn't Exist

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On the Canucks' 5-1 whooping of the seemingly half-there Minnesota Wild on Friday night Cory Schneider told the media: "It's made my life easy and I'm getting comfortable. Hopefully I can take on some tougher games on the road in the future." That got my mind going in several directions (brace yourself).

1. What a great attitude from this kid! He's hungry and I like that. His level of compete is where it needs to be.

2. His chance to be peppered with more tricky shots (on the road even) will come. Do you find yourself having a high level of faith in this guy already? He looks solid positionally and as confident as Lord Aragorn jumping off the ship at Minas Tirith with the Army of the Dead about to pounce.

3. New goaltending coach Roland Melanson's techniques are paying off quicker for Schneider than Roberto Luongo. I was talking to a goaltender/goaltending coach tonight and he said what many of us are seeing: Luongo's butterfly stance/positioning looks awkward at times compared to Schneider's. There is a reason for that. Schneider, 24, was mostly raised in this style where

Luongo, 31, was not. Luongo has had to reinvent his game to a large degree over the past couple years and it takes a lot of time to do so. Schneider is gung-ho about Melanson's tutelage. "Rollie kept saying, 'Trust me on this, believe in me, stick with it, and it's going to work. Sure enough, I'm buying in and it's really helped me."  (The Province) Melanson wants the goalies playing deeper in net and not getting caught out of position further out beyond the crease...the most glaring difference between Melanson and former Nucks goaltending coach Ian Clark.  Last month, in regards to Melanson's differing techniques,  Luongo said: " "It’s not going to happen overnight. Obviously you play the game a certain way for many years and to make a change like that is going to take time. I’ve always had that mindset a little bit except that I’ve always played a different way. So as long as things go well, I don’t have a problem with it." (In Goal Magazine) If you read that article you will see that verbally Lou is open to the changes as well.

4. The Canucks' fanbase tends to be full of impatient people and I find I have to sit back and/or kick myself to maintain some form of balanced opinion. With Schneider playing this well early and Luongo having been somewhat inconsistent game to game and even benched, people are screaming: "Why are we  paying Luongo $10 million while we have Schneider playing better and making over $8 million less?" My answer to that is

Hush! Cue the word "early". After 6 games started by Roberto this season, he has a 1-3-2 record, 2.92 GAA and a .903 save percentage. Schneider has started 2 games and has a 2-0-0 record, 0.86 save percentage and a .968 save percentage. Wow, enough to start a Canucks nation-wide controversy right? Yes, but no. "Yes" for all the knee jerkers and Luongo haters from the past short-comings and "No" for all the people that realize that it's way too early into the season to throw anybody under a bus. 

Personally I am concerned that Schneider is going to continually out play Luongo on most of his chances given and then what? Are we going to ride a red-hot, red-headed goalie over the franchise goalie when times are dire? I just don't see it. Not on a $10 million investment. Management has stated that Roberto will play 60-65 games this season, meaning it's a structured schedule and Luongo will be given every chance to snap out of it any time he falters, regular season or playoffs. Lou likes the organization and it's direction and commitment to winning and the organization committed themselves to him by signing him to the massive 12-year deal. Keep in mind that he has a no trade clause in his contract over the next 5 years. So if you are part of the section screaming "trade Luongo!" and thinking it is indeed a possibility, get over it.

5. What is very apparent with the last couple years of Luongo's tenure here is that the team plays a much more solid all-round game at a more consistent basis in front of Luongo's backing goaltenders. Last season Andrew Raycroft bettered Luongo's GAA and nearly matched his save percentage. This year (and yes it's early) Schneider is killing Luongo's stats. You can say that these goaltenders are/were fighting for their NHL lives and so play with desperation and better than Lou but that is not entirely the case. It's as if the Canucks take more chances offensively in front of Luongo because they are thinking that he is one of the best goaltenders in the NHL and he has their back. But at the same time, Luongo can be quick to point out defensive flaws in the team's game after losses as a result of this aggressive behavior. What gives?

In my opinion "what gives" is that the team needs to tighten up in front of Luongo (like the Chicago game last week) and Roberto needs to up his game. I hope the players ALL feel the same way. That balance (at a consistent level) is not apparent. It is how it has to be. Management is going with the "proven" money goalie and the option of riding a red-hot streaking Schneider is most-likely non-existent unless management changes their stance. There is no competition in net. Not to the level that I would prefer, anyway. I just have to live with it.  I have to believe that Luongo is focused and possessed to win and that he will become the lights-out goaltender that he is being paid to be.
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