Ed Willes has started to say what I've been
thinking dreading since before Christmas about Roberto Luongo. Willes puts it far more mildly then I do: "Is [how this team plays] starting to get to Luongo? Has Vancouver become like the jail he escaped in Florida, only with lousier weather? Has being the focal point of this organization on and off the ice worn him down?"
Of course it has.
With rare exception, Luongo has been the only player in two straight NHL seasons to show up daily for this team, 100% committed to getting two points a night. You can't say that about the rest of this roster that Dave Nonis is happy with.
How would you like to go to work everyday surrounded by 25 slackers? Imagine your boss comes to you and says "You're such a valuable asset to this firm I'm going to ask that you be CEO, CFO and CTO on top of your normal duties. The other 25 will do their best to support you, but we need you to be the #1 guy in all areas from here on out." So you do just that but can't help but notice you see the other clowns putzing around on Ebay, playing foosball in the rec room and setting their fantasy lineups while you pull the company forward. (This, sadly, is not far from true if you work at a tech firm). You'd last like 10 days before you punch out a co-worker or flat out quit, leaving the company to sink as it should.
Look at every playoff article you can find about what teams people don't want in the playoffs and you'll see Vancouver mentioned because of their goalie. You think Detroit or Dallas tremble in their boots at the idea of the Sedin twins barreling down on them? Anaheim is going to be petrified of Naslund? Calgary loses sleep over Morrison? Please, they don't want to face Luongo because they saw (especially Dallas) how far he can drag a subpar team with him if he wants to.
I know it feels like he just got here, but this is now two seasons into a contractually-obligated four. You think he wants to stick around after 2010? Why, so he can play two more years, get 75 more one-goal games and 164 more tiring games of watching this team in front of him?
Let's be honest with ourselves: despite the stats, despite their record and despite 8th place, this team doesn't belong in the playoffs. Period. They just don't. What's the point of eeking out 8th place so Detroit can embarrass them in four flat and leave the impression on Nonis that he's done a good job? As painful as this is to admit, Edmonton deserves that slot they way they have been playing. Not Vancouver.
Or how about this: the Canucks get into 8th and go on a dark horse run all the way up until the last second of a game seven Stanley Cup final and lose. Are you honestly still going to be happy when Nonis feels all too giddy with himself to ice the same roster with a Pettinger-like change here and there in the off season? Fuck that.
This smells eerily like 2005: a roster that isn't working but was held together anyway. As Willes puts it: "...[Luongo] now looks around and sees the same core group that is unwilling or unable to raise its level of play in big games. He sees a team that doesn't have the horses to play run-and-gun, which has also abandoned the airtight defensive game that gave them a chance last season."
The absolute best thing for this franchise would be to get ousted from these playoffs before it begins. Let the sting of an early spring settle in on the players who will be around next season. Let the embarrassment sink in on the management and coaching squad as they have to watch round after round of a tournament they should be playing in. And, above all else, let the anger that Luongo is hiding come through - in either a public or private way - so that Nonis and the rest of the players feel it. It's time for Luongo to use that big stick for something other then stopping 40 shots a game.
Otherwise nothing will change. This team will just love being all too mediocre until the day Luongo leaves and then you know what the Canucks will be? Tampa Bay without the scoring. Swish that around in your head for a bit.
Willes concludes: "Sure, [Luongo] can still get the Canucks into the playoffs but where do they go from there? Luongo can even stand on his head and win them a round, but where do they go from there? They still need scoring. They still need size. They still need grit. And they need to dramatically alter their core. If they don't understand that, they're fooling themselves. But you sense they're no longer fooling Luongo."
1:39 PM ET Update: Seriously, just stop it right now.