A few days ago I came upon a yahoo article on Mark Cuban arguing with a basketball sport analyst. For those who don’t know Mark Cuban (We are in hockey country after all), he’s the owner of the Dallas Mavericks. What was so interesting about the article was Cuban’s opinion on sport’s media and how it generalizes the sports into simple rhetoric on why a team won and another team lost.
Skip Bayless, the basketball analyst Cuban was arguing against, kept insisting the reason the Mavericks won and the Heats lost in the NBA finals in the previous season was because Lebron James broke down. Cuban countered that basketball is a team sport and how the media always wanted to attribute it to an individual player's fault.
As I was watching that video, I thought about the Canucks run for the cup last year and how throughout the playoff Luongo was being painted as a scapegoat and been given, quite unfairly, the title of being weak in the playoffs and lack the mental fortitude to win. Where did this idea come from anyway? Was it the playoff games when Luongo got lit up by a much underrated Chicago Blackhawks team? Was it the pre-games when Luongo admitted that he would try to get into his zone by jogging along the seawall which painted him as melancholy and weak as compared to the militarily tough guy personality we expect from players who are ‘strong’ enough to win us the cup? Or was this weak persona developed when Luongo cried during an interview after an emotional lost?
This good season goaltender, but weak playoff goaltender image has been hanging over Luongo’s neck like a scarlet letter for some time for the past couple of years and often when team breakdowns occur the fans and the media tend to point the finger at the one spot that is most vulnerable to scrutiny. We ask "Why didn’t Luongo save that one?" "Why did he let that weak one in?" "It was just a two on one." We rarely talk about the whole team collapsing or how a failed pass up the offensive zone caused a turnover which led to a goal. Perhaps we know it as it was happening in the bar, but at the end result all we see is the replays of the let in goals and an image of Luongo hanging his head and that disappointing feeling we remember and it is associated to that lasting image on that television set: Luongo’s image.
Yet, as Cuban insisted like in basketball, hockey is a team game and when a goal is scored, the whole team should be blamed. Why isn’t the offense scoring more than one goal a game? Why isn’t the fore-checking happening? Why did Mason Raymond try to check Dustin Brown off the puck instead of making the easy play and poke it away? Why can’t the defense clear the zone? These are probably not as easy or fun to write and read about and readers love a good tragic character story. Which comes to Luongo on his way out of Vancouver, not because he isn’t a good goaltender, as most observers can remember in our short playoff run could agree that goaltending was not the issue. However, of all the players we wanted to ship out first the fans and media wanted Luongo out first.
I have already accepted the fact that Luongo will most likely be traded and I personally like Schneider a lot. I am also still reserved on Schneider’s abilities. He hasn’t handled a full schedule load yet and we don’t know how he handles when the full spotlight is on him without Luongo sheltering him. He is definitely having the honeymoon period right now. So in reality, Schneider is not as a proven goaltender as Luongo, yet we are so ready to ship the proven but older goaltender out. Many have said that Luongo is passed his prime, but is he really or is that just another fabrication by emotional fans and sports writers. Steve Nash is 38 and still playing. Tim Thomas won the cup when he was 37 and Martin Brodeur brought the Devils to the cup finals when he’s 40. Luongo is 33 and we are ready to call him done. The Sedins are 31 now, so should they be done in two years as well?
Words such as mental fortitude or ‘pass his prime’ while in his early 30s are really flashy shortcuts in lazy thinking to prove a point. The Canucks really should be addressing real problems such as how the offense is only scoring one goal per playoff games so we need to address an offensive problem or we keep having defensive breakdowns in our zones and Edler needs someone to play with him then we should trade Schneider for a top 4 winger or top 4 defenseman not let’s trade Luongo for picks because of a perceived image that he is weak. If Luongo can fetch us someone who can address a fault in another area, we should trade him, but if Schneider can fetch us someone even better in that other area, then he definitely should go but if we can't get anyone to fill those spots at this period of time, we shouldn't trade either as well until the proper opportunity arises and I hope this is the line of thought GMMG is on.
As I conclude this short article, a quote from Ken Hitchcock of the St. Louis Blues keeps ringing in my head. Why are the Canucks, and Luongo so hated and so ridiculed? Sure they don’t possess the whole tough guy persona that is usually associated in sports, but there must be a core reason. Perhaps Hitchcock is right when he said this,
"It's because they win," Hitchcock said of the hated status. "Want to be liked? Start losing and everybody will love you. You think we were liked in Dallas? San Jose wanted to strangle us. As for Boston, you get to brag for a while until somebody knocks you off your perch. You get to toy with them [Canucks] now because you have status."
I guess Luongo is much hated; he is the Canucks all-time leader in wins after all.
Mark Cuban calls out Skip Baylesshttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hv2jqFd2-qI&feature=player_embedded