September 17 2012 09:56AM
After a summer in which, Roberto Luongo proved immovable do I still think the gold medal winning goaltender will call a city other than Vancouver "home" by the time the puck drops on the 2012-13 NHL season? Yes, I do. I'm just not as bullish about it as I was back in July, when it seemed to be a certainty.
After everything that has transpired and been said in the media, it would be a rather questionable decision to have Roberto go back into that locker room. Also, allocating north of $9 million in cap space between the pipes would be a spot of uncharacteristically bad asset management from the Canucks' management team.
At the same time, it has been made abundantly clear that Gillis is not in the business of trading away a top-10 goaltender, in his prime, just for the sake of trading him. Given the reluctance of teams such as Florida and Toronto to part ways with their young talent, we're caught in the midst of the ultimate game of chicken.
Based on everything he's done in his career (as a retired NHLer taking on Alan Eagleson, as a player agent, and as a General Manager), I've got my money on Gillis not being the first one to blink. Gillis' willful patience is a major reason why we should, at this point, assume that the Canucks will enter the season with Roberto Luongo as part of the team. Until something happens, at least.
I'm a contrarian by nature. I know, I know: "a contrarian blogger? The devil you say!"
But ever since the Los Angeles Kings series - when Cory Schneider took over, and we all felt the proverbial changing of the guard - the Roberto Luongo bandwagon has steadily been unloading. I've personally never been a huge Roberto Luongo fan, and would like to think that I've managed to stay relatively rational in assessing his performance throughout his tenure as a Canuck. He is what he is. He has obvious flaws (as everyone does), but at the end of the day, he has been one of the very best. And I believe that he still is.
What would happen if Luongo came back to Vancouver, and wound up submitting a vintage season? Would Vancouver, and the internet explode? How many stellar performances would it take for everyone to jump back on board the wagon?
All of this recently brought me to a realization - haven't we seen this sort of script play out right before our very eyes, in the not-so-distant past?
As crazy as you may initially think that I am for saying this, there are parallels to be drawn between the '10-'11 Boston Bruins, and the '12-'13 Vancouver Canucks. Work with me for a second.
From 2006 to 2009, Tim Thomas was 'the guy' in Boston. He had established himself as their starting goaltender, and ultimately wound up winning the Vezina trophy in '09. He was considered one of the very best at his craft. The following season, he hit a rough patch, experiencing uncharacteristic struggles.
He was supplanted by the young upstart (Tuukka Rask), as the Bruins made their way towards the playoffs. The B's wound up bailing out of the postseason in brutal fashion, but it wasn't all doom-and-gloom as they now had their goaltender of the future who seemed poised to take the next step. In fact, Rask was a very trendy preseason pick to win the Vezina the following season and it seemed like Thomas' time in Boston was up.
Is it just me, or does the general outlines of that plot sound awfully familiar?
Here's the thing - to have ever reached the level of performance that Tim Thomas had in the first place, he needed to carry around an exceptionally large ego and a certain level of pride. Every professional athlete needs that "core of steel" or that "swagger", frankly. I'm sure that he read all the stories of people leaving him for dead, and writing him off. It's the 'nobody believed in me (us) effect'.
Which is what made the following season that much sweeter for himself, and his fans, I'm sure. Unfortunately, we all know how their 2010-11 season played out. It turns out that there's some things that even the largest amount of liquor can't erase.
I know that there will be those out there who will be quick to point out that you can't compare the history that Luongo has in Vancouver with what Thomas had in Boston. And you're right. It's very possible that a breaking point has been reached, with no way of going back. There's also the fact that the Canucks are far more financially committed to Schneider at this point than the Bruins were to Rask. I get it. But the basic parallel remains: Thomas spent the entire summer of 2010 on the trade block, Chiarelli was unable to move him, and he returned the next season and was absolutely lights out.
Luongo is a world class competitor, and I'm sure he would relish the opportunity to regain the luster surrounding his name in hockey circles. You don't accomplish everything that he has by being willing to fade gently into obscurity.
Mark my words - Luongo is on deck for a renaissance season. It's just a question of what uniform it will be in.