Now, long time readers will know I am a Luongo fan. I like the guy as a player, and have always been baffled by the way he gets treated by the media and some fans in this hockey mad market.
But after reading this from Ed Willes today, I thought it time for a Mask Musing. Here's what Ed said.
We’ll concede Roberto Luongo has been a slow starter throughout his career with the Canucks. We’ll also concede his track record buys him the benefit of the doubt and he’s just as likely to go on a 10-game unbeaten streak beginning this week as stay in a slump.
But there’s also something about Luongo’s play to date that isn’t as easy to write off and it’s not just the numbers. It’s the flopping It’s the struggle to get back to his feet. It’s that horrendous belly-on-the-ice, legs-splayed position which leaves him vulnerable in scrambles and on rebounds.
In short, it’s the lack of athleticism. Luongo turns 33 late this season. This is also his 12th year in the NHL and he’s played 60 or more games in seven of them. Some Hall of Fame goalies have played into their late 30s and beyond without losing a thing. Some very good goalies have lost their effectiveness in their mid-30s.
The Canucks have wagered a lot of money that Luongo is in the former camp. If they’re wrong, they’ve got a huge problem on their hands.
Let's get into it after the break.
I am not a goalie, and do not claim to be one on TV. My experience at the position was as an occasional donner of the pads in minor hockey, and a deep and abiding love for the position as a middle aged floor hockey goalie. I know there are some out there that are, and will delve into the arcane questions of style and the way a goalie plays.
But I also know that Ed Willes has about as much real knowledge of the position as I do! I do know that I did hear the same kind of talk about Luongo after Roberto's first two starts. I am not dismissing it entirely. But really, come on Ed. Most every one of those times is after he made the first save getting across! Its the quickest way to get the leg there.
If the player then reaches forward trying for a puck, well, yes, he is going to go down. If he gets deked ( like on the Malkin shootout winner ) its going to look that way. But to have this, in his classically crafted, passive aggressive style, is a bit much. Its the "flopping" Ed? The "struggle to get back to his feet". ( note for Ed ; He is a butterfly goaltender. They play on their knees ). From watching the goaltender closely over the start of the season, to characterize it as a "struggle" to get to his feet is a bit asinine. He is no more problematic in that regard than any other goaltender of his size.
The part I have a big problem with is the next paragraph. The "lack of athleticism" shot. About a goaltender that has been nothing but every year. That came to camp last year with nine less pounds and miniscule body fat. Who did the same thing this year. To then try to give that ridiculous claim more credence by mentioning the age of 33. When there are many, many others that played that position in much older than that years just fine thanks. Yes, thanks for acknowledging that argument with the negative of " well, just as many sucked at that age too!". To close it up with the bizarre shot at the "contract" sort of shows the narrative we will be hearing from this particular expert this year. Well, not just him. More's the pity. Ed.
This is a guy that played 339 games in Canuck Blue and Green since being acquired in 2006. He has 194 outright wins in that time. Stats that few other goalies in the league has maintained since then. One of the best career save %'s of the modern era. His team has made it to the playoffs in all but one year. ( where Ed and his cadre of nodding heads wrongly and savagely blamed the fact his wife was having a difficult pregnancy with his first child in a classic example of the kind of "journalism" I am railing against ) His goaltending was one of the main reasons they made it to the Final. Yet, its this kind of story, this kind of "talking out of both sides of my face" reporting that the small, vocal minority points to when they propose their ridiculous trade proposals to TEAM 1040 DJ's who must enjoy the sentiment, as they get more to talk about, more fuel for a non existent fire.
It leads to the same narrative being pointed to by other media from other sources. "See? Ed says so...so...". Let's take a break from that narrative guys. Please. After hearing the great goalie "experts" Mark Lee and Darcy Reaugh in the first period of the Edmonton game try the same thing, it needs to be a narrative that is relaxed.
Yes, he has had a few goals go in that he normally gets to in this early season. The whole team seems to have slow starts. Its the same team that averaged 107 points the last three. The best Canadian team by far. With a goaltender that was nominated for the Vezina two of the past three years, who won the Jennings last year ( and insisted they give Cory Schneider a phantom start to get his name on the trophy ). Backstopped a Gold Medal team, ( that folks like Ed Willes like to tell us was only because of the team he was on! ), and knows what to do in the crease. Missing getting to a couple pucks and being on his belly as a result is not "flopping all the time". It does not mean that one of the best athletes on the team is not "athletic" enough. It does not mean the Canucks have a "Big Problem" in net.
It might actually be something that he "gasp" has discussed and been coached on by his goalie coach. It might mean, in some cases, that its just the way to get across to get that puck, and maybe if the rest of the guys were there to get the rebound instead of allowing, say, noted "power forward" Ryan Nugent Hopkins three whacks at the puck, you would not notice that as much.
It IS a team game, after all. Blaming the goalie all the time is just shortsighted. It means the team and goaltender are off to a slow start, and people should relax, and give both the benefit of the doubt. Both team and goaltender have given you enough in the past years to earn that benefit, instead of having Mr Ed and those that bray his words as their own pointing at an arcane example of "style" as a reason we are stuck with a "bum" for the next decade!