Roberto Luongo wants to win. He wants to win all the time. I believe that he wants to win here in Vancouver.
In his career, he has had more success in three short years here in Vancouver than he had with the Panthers or Islanders. He has broken Canucks goaltending records, he has put the team on his back and taken the Canucks to the playoffs two of out three years. The Canucks have given him the keys to the executive bathroom and he seems empowered by his responsibilities.
Wouldn’t you always want this type of player on your team, leading your team? Of course you would.
There has been a LOT of talk in the last couple of days, following the final game for the Canucks, that the team should trade Luongo. Some of the suggestions are borne out of anger and frustration, and some are borne out of thoughts of the salary cap and the ability to form a Stanley Cup winning club.
For those of you who are calling for Luongo’s head because you’re mad at him – go get a beer and chill out. Yes, he had a bad game. And yes, I understand that this happened at the exact moment when you want your marquee player to play his best. But the best goalies in the world have all had one of those games in the playoffs. Patrick Roy let in six goals in a playoff game, before getting pulled before the midway point of the game. Martin Brodeur let in a goal with 0.2 seconds THIS YEAR, and his team lost in the first round. So kids, it happens.
The Vancouver Canucks did not lose to the Blackhawks because of Roberto Luongo. Luongo is the primary reason why they lost their last game. The Vancouver Canucks lost that whole series because the team in front of him is simply not good enough yet. Their defense is too slow and old and not talented enough to take a run at the Stanley Cup.
For those of you who suggest that Luongo’s salary hinders their ability to formulate a top-to-bottom squad… I hear your point and that argument is valid. And I am open to the argument that he could be moved for the sake of salary. However, I believe that you can get this team better without trading our captain and best player. Look at how much cap space the Canucks had this year before signing Mats Sundin. It is possible to get this team shaped and ready for a real playoff run next year without assuming that you have to divest yourself of Luongo’s salary. A perfect example of this is the Chicago Blackhawks, who have $12.4m tied up in goaltender salaries this season, but still have a formidable team who are now in the Western Conference final.
Yes, I know that Kane and Toews make less than $1m each. However, it is possible to get young players cheap who can have immediate impact. Detriot has been doing it for years now. They brought players up and got them playing in their system quickly, learning the ropes and getting NHL experience as soon as possible. Cody Hodgson and Michael Grabner have that ability to make the leap to the NHL and be successful for the Canucks. Next season, I believe that they will do that.
I have faith in Mike Gillis. He proved his value to me this off-season. He got a few players that filled gaps and did an admirable job with the limited time and space he had. He appears to want to play hockey’s version of Moneyball. Call it Moneypuck. I believe that Gillis will do good work this off-season with the money he has available. I believe he will re-sign the Sedins at a reasonable rate. I believe that he will extend Luongo at a reasonable rate. I believe he will continue on his quest to get this team younger and faster.
Luongo’s collapse against Chicago in Game 6 will be a blessing in disguise. He will want to redeem himself. Canucks fans know how much passion and fire Luongo has for this game and for winning. I do not, for one second, think that Roberto Luongo has a second-round playoff hex on him. But I bet that he thinks that. Or rather, I bet that he feels that people think that of him.
And I bet that he will want to do everything in his power to eradicate that supposed jinx and prove that he can win.
I want someone with that drive and will power on my team. And I want him leading my team.