Jason Botchford has a great article (Let Cory Schneider Play) about the current goaltending situation in Vancouver. I highly recommend a read
Memo After the Jump
I know I've given you a long, read and your attention span may not be the highest, but please, bear with me.
I love Roberto Luongo possibly more than anyone. I still think he's one of the best, if not the best Goalies in the league. He's one of the best goalies in the league since the all star break. He steals games and never gives up. In games where things have looked bad for most goalies confidences, but the game is still close, he elevates it going into he third and keeps his team in the game.
I admit, he has been slumping, but when he is on, quite simply he is an amazing goaltender. The way he tracks the puck, makes acrobatic saves, never gives up on a play. It's easy to fall into a trap of playing him.
But seriously, give the guy some rest. Some time to rest, reflect and mentor Schneider. I know you love him because for a couple of seasons he kept you in your job, but you seriously need to reflect on what you are doing here.
Let's face it. Between you and me, two Luongo lovers, he's in a bit of a rut. But why?
It's not simply because of him playing a lot. He played amazingly in his first year, right up until one bad goal (stop talking to Refs Lu) and carried the team on his back, and how many games did you run him? Sure, he's a bit older, but Marty Brodeur is only now tailing off a bit and he is several years older than Roberto.
Nor is it simply because of the pressure of playing in a Canadian city either (directly - more on this). This is his fourth year and only recently has he tapered off. He loves pressure and thrives on it.
No, its neither of those things on their own I suspect - they are perhaps related, but not the direct cause. Possibly, its the groin injury and it never healed. But I don't think its that either. I think its all the focus on him which you and Gillis put on him over the years. First, he was the face, then the Captain. On their own, they are nothing, but the increasing focus that the Franchise put on him seems to have weighed him down slowly. Rushing him into games, playing him almost 80 games in the regular season, foisting him on the public constantly. Luongo has become a lightening rod for the success and failures of this team, fairly or not. At first, when Luongo had amazing regular seasons, he was simply "the awesome goalie we got for Bert." Yes, we expected a lot out of him as "the best goalie in the world" but he seemed to thrive on that sort of pressure. The pressure which demanded he was good every night - but only that. Witness the Olympics. Mired in a slump, Luongo elevated his play and won gold. Was he the BEST goalie in the tournament? No, he let in a softie in the Slovakia game and one or two in Russia. But he was very good, especially when he had to be (re Russia), and made lots of key stops in the big games, like the one on Kane only a minute before Ryan Miller (tournament MVP) cheated and let in a softie to lose the Gold. What was different there? Luongo was not team Canada - he was only their star goalie. And witness his performance change. Less pressure? Are you kidding me? Being the starting Goalie of Team Canada, in your own rink, IN CANADA? No pressure?
Due to the Organization's infatuation with Luongo, the fan base is obsessed not just with his ability, but every aspect of him: is he committed? is he good? can he lead us? No longer is the question "will he make that save" or "will he steal this game." This has become a vicious cycle now, because we think that this shift is justified because of his play of late. But I think this sort of shift happened before his play spiralled. With all the mounting attention on every aspect of Roberto Luongo following his amazing performance in St Louis in 2010, he sputtered a bit in front of a good team, along with his teammates (people tend to forget that part) and things just spiraled downhill out of control faster than a Mack Truck whose brakes have failed.
I don't think Roberto can thrive under THAT sort of pressure, nor anyone for that matter. It gets to you, it gets in your head. And we all know that Roberto's mistakes have been mostly in his head lately. A lot of people focus an inordinate amount of energy on Luongo as the most important reason for the team's success and failures, which is completely insane, given the team that Gillis has assembled. And as his coach, you need to recognize this and DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.
I think Roberto and GIllis recognized this. Roberto gave up his C and openly jokes about his flaws now. Gillis openly speculated about removing Luongo getting his C dumped, and suggested he wanted him to play less. Yet you are lost in the wind and still riding Roberto like its 2007 and you have a revolving door back up position and that Noone other than Lu can save your team.
You have what appears to be a great goalie in your backup, Corey Schneider. I say "appears," because we've only seen him in four or five games this season, and when the team usually seemed especially motivated to win games. But I have faith in the man anointed our Ginger Jesus. This is to say that you don't have to worry about other teams focusing on their #1, because those teams have to ride their starter. You don't. Schneider will win you games. Have faith in the Ginger Saviour. You have a really good young back up, a really solid, deep team. You don't need Roberto Luongo in order to keep your job man. Play him. He's good, so is your team.
More importantly though, you need to ease off the pedal of this never ending need to focus all attention on Luongo. Let him go back to being the star goalie of the team. Ask him to mentor Corey and let him play a bit more. With less Luongo, let the fans watch the Vancouver Canucks and not the Vancouver Luongos. Let the team's successes failures be just those, the team's successes failures. Playing Schnieder more takes the gaze of hockey fans everywhere off of Luongo's every move.
Gina Luongo is pregnant again, reportedly, and I can just see the questions circling now. "Will this affect his play?" "Should he skip the birth?" "If he misses a game or two, is he really committed to the organization?"
Take the pressure off. Play Schneider more. Stop pinning this team's successes and failures to Roberto by relying on him. Let him come out and just play goal. He's a great goalie. Let him be that and nothing else.
Thanks a lot,
A concerned fan from Canuck Nation.