It was the most bizarre of times in Vancouver. We had all come to grips with the fact that Roberto Luongo would be dealt at some point during the 2013 offseason. Bridges appeared to be burnt between Luongo and the Canucks front office, which left the former desperate for a change of scenery.
The power vacuum in the Canucks crease appeared ready to be filled as soon as it was vacated, by the waiting Cory Schneider. It didn’t quite work out that way. Schneider was dealt to the Devils, returning the crease to Luongo in the interim, with Eddie Lack assuming the role of backup. This was of course the plan going into that season, but John Tortorella had other plans.
With his off the cuff sense of humour and easy going demeanour, Lack could take the air of a room minutes after a crushing loss, or harrowing victory alike. Lack would crack jokes, field multitudes of questions related to his affinity for tacos (more on that later) and he embodied the ability to take it all in stride. Frankly, these are a few traits Luongo might have learned himself, through his understudy.
Their presence coincidence with a golden age in Canucks twitter. Their presence on social media built a connecting fibre between fans and them, as they would regularly connect and interact with their fans. Human moments like those are what made it so difficult to see them both leave town.
Lack and Luongo often talk of their bromance on Twitter, before and now.
— Strombone (@strombone1) May 26, 2014
Someone did a great job updating Wikipedia! pic.twitter.com/PN3oQfiDCP
— Eddie Lack (@eddielack) March 29, 2014
Lack even added a nod to Luongo on his mask in Carolina.
— Eddie Lack (@eddielack) July 8, 2015
It didn’t just stop with Lack’s affection for Luongo. He made sure some of his other teammates, such as Chris Tanev (whom he came up through the minors with), the Sedin Twins or new goaltending partners were also covered:
— Eddie Lack (@eddielack) May 22, 2014
— Eddie Lack (@eddielack) March 2, 2015
— Eddie Lack (@eddielack) January 29, 2015
Or sometimes, even himself:
Almost had it…. pic.twitter.com/xi8aq7gBeD
— Eddie Lack (@eddielack) March 9, 2014
Now, I’m not saying Lack’s tenure in Vancouver was perfect. He showed moments of dominance, and was put in some positions that were simply unfair – playing the final quarter of the 2013-14 season almost in its entirety springs to mind. Lack also led the Canucks to the playoffs last season, when Ryan Miller went down with injury, and that largely led to the opportunity for him to cash in and move to Carolina. It was a tough pill to swallow when Lack was dealt, but it’s not like Jim Benning was dealing Martin Brodeur.
During Lack’s tenure he had to deal with a lot of weird stuff, none stranger than being tossed into the spotlight in Vancouver’s lone outdoor game in 2013 against the Ottawa Senators. The aforementioned Tortorella decided to play Lack in Luongo’s place, in spite of the latter’s enthusiasm about that very game. This marked the end of Luongo’s tenure in Vancouver and brought in the Lack era. Lack felt the brunt of the fans anger, as they reigned down “Lu” and the occasional boo alike – not as a knock to Lack, but rather the sequence of decisions which led to his start.
Lack, again took it in stride:
“It’s their opinion and if they want to give a ‘Lu’ chant, I am okay with it. He’s the best goalie this franchise has ever had and I understand he has a lot of fans.”
It was one of the only time during Lack’s tenure in Vancouver that he was treated with negativity by the fans.
Now, about those tacos… He was the ambassador of the Mexican culinary staple during his time here, and you’ll be hard pressed to read an interview, or scroll through his twitter feed without a reference to his favourite food.
I don’t wanna Taco bout it!! pic.twitter.com/SlYD8EiTQu
— Eddie Lack (@eddielack) August 23, 2015
Lack’s stats weren’t much to write home about – they were good and they got the job done, along with setting him up for the potential to get even better.
It was Lack’s impact on the fanbase though which will be his legacy in Vancouver. Lack was able to bridge the gap between the over-critical Canucks fanbase and the goaltenders they love to rip apart. Lack knew of the “goalie graveyard” mantra and kept an even keel about it.
Did Lack’s time in Vancouver end as everyone had hoped? No, probably not. Handcuffed by the ill-advised Ryan Miller contract, the Canucks were left with no choice but to send Lack elsewhere – or did they?
This is all in the past now though. While the Canucks season isn’t going exactly to plan – last in the league with wins – it’s hardly by virtue of Lack’s absence, given his struggles thus far with the Hurricanes.
We reached out to Greg Balloch of InGoal Magazine for some insight on why Lack has faltered a bit in Raleigh and he did not disappoint:
Eddie Lack’s two best assets are his size and hands. He is a very smart goaltender, reads the play well, and as a result, knows in which situation it is appropriate to block and when he has to be reactive.
When he was having that success at the end of last season in Vancouver, he started playing a bit deeper in his crease. That was a Rollie Melanson suggestion. Playing deeper gave him even more time to read the play, and allowed him to take shorter routes around the crease. This was also a smart decision because Lack isn’t a fantastic skater. He carried this over to his summer training, and kept playing deeper in his net.
The Hurricanes’ goalie coach is David Marcoux, and he’s more old school. He likes his goaltenders to have their knees outside of the blue paint whenever possible. A great fit for Cam Ward. Not so much for Eddie Lack.
As soon as he arrived in Carolina, they tried to adjust Lack’s depth. You can’t fault them for trying, but it was a bit of a disaster. Teams were simply passing around him, and he had no chance at recovering properly. His high-danger save percentage took a tremendous hit.
One simple adjustment may not seem like it would make a huge difference, but changing a goaltender’s depth will have a trickle down effect. It changes everything.
Carolina’s mentality is that bigger goaltenders should be more aggressive, but it’s actually the complete opposite. Lack’s size affords him the luxury of playing a bit deeper. Why not take advantage of that?
In December, Lack made the decision to return to the depth that he was previously having success with. If his last six games are any indication, he is back to his normal self, and the Carolina Hurricanes look pretty dangerous.
So that’s all it was. Just an experiment with his depth gone wrong. He seems to be back to normal now, and is finally getting comfortable with his new team. Now all he needs is a string of starts in a row!
So as the Canucks meet up with a former friend in Vancouver on Wednesday you can be sure he will be treated with a loud ovation, a million signs and a chance to show the Canucks fans one more time how much they mean to him.