January 31 2013 09:45AM
Now that the 2013 NHL season is a few weeks old, we are able to begin to form some preliminary thoughts and opinions on teams and players across the league. Because of the condensed schedule, this season is going to be more difficult than a typical 82-game season to predict. The larger the sample size in a given situation, the lower the impact that luck and randomness have on the outcome.
And the opposite holds true for a shortened season with a smaller sample size (in this case, a 48 game season). If the Canucks don’t get Ryan Kesler and/or David Booth back soon, they may be facing an uphill battle in the Western Conference, as they won’t have the benefit of 82 games to get back on track as a dominant hockey club.
And although the inevitable (or is it?) Roberto Luongo trade continues to hang over the Canucks, goaltending has been the least of the problems for Vancouver in the early going. The Eddie Lack injury news (out six months after hip surgery) doesn’t affect the Luongo trade talks all that much, as he wasn’t going to be backing up Cory Schneider this season anyway.
It may give Vancouver the appearance of less leverage in trade negotiations, but I doubt it changes their stance on what an appropriate return would be at all. Let’s take a look and see how the goaltending situations are playing out for teams rumoured to have expressed interest in acquiring Luongo.
The tandem of James Reimer and Ben Scrivens has been OK for the Leafs in the early going. It is quite obvious that this version of the Maple Leafs is going to give up far fewer defensive chances compared to the Ron Wilson-coached squad, and that will make things easier on whoever is playing between the pipes.
Both Scrivens and Reimer have GAAs near 3.00, and Scrivens has an ugly .881 save percentage. The sample size of a few games is very small, and with a strong start or two, Scrivens will improve his GAA and save percentage numbers tremendously. I wouldn’t say the Luongo-to-Toronto rumours have been affected at all by the early season play of either goalie all that much, though.
Reimer has been excellent at times, but Luongo still gives the Leafs a much better chance to win (both this season and for the next few) than do either of their young 'tenders. Dave Nonis is a very patient man (it was this patience that likely cost him his job in Vancouver), and it seems like he is willing to outwait Mike Gillis to get a deal he likes. However, he has to make sure he doesn’t wait too long and miss out on acquiring a proven top 10 goaltender for 50 cents on the dollar.
And don’t mention Jonathan Bernier as a trade target – it is debatable if he is even a better goaltender than Reimer.
Corey Crawford’s strong start this season has quieted the doubters – for now. With Luongo between the pipes, Chicago would undoudetdly be the Cup frontrunner right now. (Although how could they ever win the big game with Luongo in goal?!)
To say Florida’s goaltending has been poor in 2013 would be an understatement. Theodore’s GAA of 3.47 is actually better than Scott Clemmensen’s grizzly 4.80 GAA. Florida’s goaltenders over-performed last season, and the universe appears to be balancing itself out through the first few games of 2013 (in addition to stomping all over any luck that Florida's shooters might benefit from). Florida has hopes of repeating as Southeast Division champ, but they may find themselves stuck in the division basement if their goaltending doesn’t turn around, and quickly.
Luongo wants to go to Florida, the Panthers have an obvious need for him (although Jacob Markstrom is waiting for a chance to start), and the team could put together a solid trade package to acquire him without mortgaging the future. We all know that Mike Gillis really wants 6-6 prospect Nick Bjugstad, and Florida has considered that a non-starter for trade talks. However, a trade could be made involving another good prospect – Quinton Howden and Drew Shore would both fit the bill.
Does Florida go through a season with inconsistent goaltending before giving Markstrom a shot to start in 2013-14? Can they sell another losing season to a waning fan base? Dale Tallon has the luxury of a deep and talented prospect pool, and he can give up a few promising youngsters without hurting the long-term prospects of his team all that much. Luongo would give the Panthers an instant injection of consistency and talent in goal.
When the rumours broke a few weeks ago that the Flyers were interested in Luongo, many in the hockey world were stunned. The Flyers had paid handsomely for Ilya Bryzgalov less than two years ago – would they be willing to shell out over $40 million to buy out their mercurial starting goaltender? The Flyers seem to have interest in every single high-profile player who becomes available, and I’d chalk up the Luongo interest more to them doing their due diligence than anything else.
Unless Bryzgalov melts down this season (and/or in the playoffs, if the Flyers qualify), I don’t see the team buying him out and trading for Luongo – although that would be the most “Flyers-y” thing possible, wouldn’t it?
The Luongo-to-Edmonton trade rumours continue to intrigue me – would the Canucks ever trade a proven star goaltender to a divisional rival with a ton of upside? Colorado was a team chalk-full of young talent back in 1996 when the acquired Patrick Roy from the Montreal Canadiens, and we all know how that story played out.
In terms of pure value, Edmonton could put together a nice package for Bobby Lu. The rumour we have heard involves Sam Gagner – a solid top six forward with connections to the Canucks (his dad Dave works in the organization), and the Canucks could probably pry Magnus Paajarvi from the Oilers as well. However, could Gillis sleep at night knowing that Luongo would instantly transform the Oilers into playoff contenders?
I am sure many fans are getting tired of reading the Luongo trade speculationm but I find it fascinating, as all sides involved have handled a potentially tricky situation with a lot of class and patience. Luongo understands the process and doesn’t want to cause any problems. Cory Schneider, who has deserved to start for a few years now, continues to wait for his chance to really cement his position as “the man” in Vancouver - something that he'll have to wait even longer for now apparently, on the heels of Luongo's two consecutive quality starts against the Kings and Avalanche this week.
And for Gillis, it is a high-profile game of chicken with several other NHL executives. The coming days/weeks/months are going to be really interesting to follow. Whoever gets Luongo will be acquiring a consistently elite goaltender, a great teammate, and one of the funniest people on Twitter.
Luongo had a fantastic game against Colorado on Wednesday night, and in the early going this season he is sure doing the Canucks a favour with his strong play.
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