Roberto Luongo is my favorite goaltender of all time. Long had goaltenders like Tony Esposito and especially Grant Fuhr held that place in my cold heart. I have always found myself defending Luongo, even after a bad game. Most of the time I pinned the blame on the lousy defence in front of him or the lack of goals for, especially in the 2011 Finals. I never liked his embellishing or some of his earlier interviews where I thought he gave reporters too much information. But his play on the ice...golden. His growing maturity in front of the media over the past couple seasons: stellar. His Twitter entries: money.
Now I find myself once again coming to his defence over his current awkward and frustrating situation with the Canucks. Yea, I generally try to compose myself to not give too much craps about multi-million dollar athletes. But it's a hard stance to maintain. Especially when the guy grows on you. Especially when so much shit gets tossed his way over the past few seasons....in Vancouver....big surprise. One day after Mike Gillis holds a Summer Summit open mic for season ticket holders (and other fans) and says that his visit with Roberto was mostly jovial, and the announcement of the honorary retirement of a Canuck legend's number, who controversially left town years ago, news comes out that Lou has severed his ties with long-time agent Gilles Lupien and has hired two power house agents in hockey: J.P. Barry and Pat Brisson.
Now, why would you fire your agent, who helped you sign a monstrous lifetime deal with your current squad? Because you need serious professional help with your current situation. You need guys that are going to hound Mike Gillis in dire personal times. You need professional advice on what to do going forward after your have mentally said goodbye to a team and its fans because the team had led you to believe you were going to be moved elsewhere, but then changed their minds at the last minute before and during the NHL Entry Draft, dealing Cory Schneider to the Devils, and then proclaiming you the #1 goaltender....for a club...that you had moved on from. A club that you had moved on from because they both told you they were trading you, and they had given the #1 spot to Schneider as far as playing time goes.
Something really stinks here. It starts with Mike Gillis, naturally. Is this an issue of Gillis "promising" a trade out of town and then failing to deliver? Is this an issue of Gillis telling Luongo not to make any serious plans because he was not 100% sure Roberto and his contract would or could be traded, and then Luongo jumping the gun with his life plans? Was buying out Luongo's contract ever put on the table and then taken off? Why in the hell would Luongo sell his condo and be so seemingly ready to say goodbye and thank you to the fans and organization?
Something really, really stinks here.
Mike Gillis said at the Summit:
"I left it with him that we were going to talk again this week. I have full confidence in him and I have full confidence that he will be here and that’s how we’re operating. We went through every issue and I didn’t leave it with any sense of trepidation or that I was concerned about things. I left it that we had a good conversation and laughed. And 95 per cent of the stuff that was reported was inaccurate and people made up trades and teams he was being traded to. There was a lot of misinformation out there."
So you can see why Luongo's new hires as player agents makes anyone with a brain concerned about contradiction on MG's comments, especially with the "we're going to talk again" part. They have to talk again because clearly Roberto Luongo is not 100% certain mentally that he wants to be a Vancouver Canuck in 2013-14. However, he does not have very many choices. Would he sit out? No. Especially not now with a chance to represent Canada at the Sochi Winter Olympics. Especially given his professionalism shown at this point.
I do however believe that with the hiring of Barry and Brisson, Luongo's tenure in Vancouver will not last much longer. Those two guys are going to continually hound Mike Gillis and Canucks' management to continually push the Canucks and other teams for a trade, or to buy out the remainder of his contract in the future.
JP Barry told the Vancouver Sun on Wednesday:
"There’s a misperception about what agents do in the business. We do more than just negotiate contracts. Our job is to guide players and their careers year to year and whether it deals with public relations or it deals with marketing or it deals with many, many other different things, obviously he is a star player and has been one of the best goaltenders in the world for a long time, so we’re here to help him out."
When asked about why Luongo changed agents, Barry said:
"I think I am going to have to reserve comment for a while. We need to get up to speed and take some time. Obviously we are coming on to a difficult file and we need to give him proper advice and we need to take some time here, talk with Roberto, talk with Mike and Laurence. There are media reports and then there’s talking to the parties. We’ll take the time to do that over the next little while here … we’ll try and reach out to them in the next day or two."
It all adds up to a funky situation. Yea, that's an agent talking..but so what? The signs are what they are.
I ask once again: What confidence in a trade did Gillis give Luongo? What deals or offers did he turn down in the process?
I can assure you that once Luongo finally speaks to the media that he is going to say all the right things, as he has over recent years. He is going to put the team first and give his all. The actual hard truths won't ever be known, unless Roberto writes a tell-all autobiography. Hell, we didn't get the Pavel Bure dirt for several years.
What we do know about Luongo is that he moved on, mentally and emotionally. He was annoyed that his contract "sucks" and it was a hard one to trade. We know that he said that he would tear that contract up if he could.
While I do put blame on Gillis and Luongo for agreeing to that contract in the first place, I also understand why they did it and what it meant to the Canucks' organization under the old CBA. They wanted cap space to add more players for a Stanley Cup run. I also hate the new CBA for penalizing the teams that made these deals. So they found a loophole....don't penalize them for it...MOVE FORWARD! If the NHL didn't like Luongo's contract in the first place then they should have shown some balls and vetoed it. BAH!
But here we are in the now, under a new CBA. With a Canucks management team that refused to buy out Luongo's contract or buy out another team's contract in a trade for said netminder. Suddenly I find myself reverting back to my "don't feel sorry for multi-millionaire athletes" stance. This is complicated.
But I do maintain my stance that Luongo's days in Vancouver are numbered, and are very-much without controversy. I hate the drama. I really do. Luongo is a superstar goaltender, and Vancouver does not get their hands on many of those. I maintain my stance that management mostly messed this situation up. I cannot find facts that prove otherwise.
I also believe that if and when Luongo reports to training camp, and plays out the remainder of his days in Vancouver that he will be a stellar netminder. So, enjoy it while it lasts, folks!
UPDATE: Luongo's new agent says his client will report to Training Camp, which is not a surprise.
Some humor in the whole mess came today via Twitter, where Luongo and Eddie Lack took friendly jabs at eachother:
Hey @eddielack I'm warning you now! Don't get any ideas this upcoming season!!! Got it???— Strombone (@strombone1) July 25, 2013
@strombone1 water or Gatorade in powerbreaks??? I got my own iPad too:):):):)— Eddie Lack (@eddielack) July 26, 2013
THAT...is pure comedic gold right there, and some timely funny stuff.