A little friendly competition never hurt anyone did it? Or did it?
Recently the Vancouver Canucks have been the centre of an interesting goaltending debate. Their former No. 1 goaltender Roberto Luongo was bumped for “the future” of the Canucks in Cory Schneider, who took over for Luongo at the end of last season during the playoffs.
Heading into the first game of this season Schneider was said to be the solution for the Canucks in goal. Fast-forward to Feb. 5 and Luongo, not Schneider, has a three-game win streak, while Schneider has been riding the bench. The last time they went to Schneider he got lit up for four goals against the San Jose Sharks (7-1-1 as of Feb. 5) on Jan. 27. Since then Luongo has got the nod from head coach Alain Vigneault, allowing five goals in four games. In four games Schneider’s GAA is 3.13, while Luongo’s is 1.53 in six games.
Moving between goaltenders is a good thing at certain levels, but there becomes a point where the team only cares about winning games, as in the NHL. In this situation by “giving up” on their plan to have Schneider (26 years old) as their No. 1 goalie to putting Luongo (33 years old) in that role, it could hurt them slightly now that they’re nearly a quarter of the way through the regular season.
With seven years on Luongo, it’s clear Schneider has more time in the league (should he not get injured) and by not sticking with their decision they’re getting the wins, but they only have two seasons, after this one, left on Schneider’s contract. Luongo is signed through to 2022.
Obviously a talented player, Schneider has the potential to be a number-one goaltender when given the opportunity, which led to Luongo being on the trading block heading into, and early in the season. The original plan was to gain some cap space and gain some talent elsewhere in their lineup. Now that the roles seem to be reversed, general manager Mike Gillis has an interesting decision to make. Does he keep looking for a move to make with Luongo or switch his focus to Schneider?
A shock to someone who was preparing for an increased role with the team, Schneider hasn’t said anything negative about the situation. Therefore it’s a healthy battle for top spot, right? Although this might be good for the team’s on-ice situation as the two goaltenders battle for top spot, the Vancouver Canucks will take a hit at the bank. If they stick with this situation they will be paying $9,333,333 for the next three years to have two No. 1 worthy goalies. Eventually Gillis needs to move one because their projected cap space is under $1 million and next season he’ll have 11 skaters (forwards and defencemen) becoming free agents, which will likely mean a hit on their cap space as well.
Right now the team is finding ways to win hockey games, now 5-2-2, but leaving this situation until the end of the season could prove costly. If Schneider rides the bench too long it will take away from his value, but at the same time it could increase Luongo’s. That said, if Luongo continues to play well his trade value could go up, but then do you even want to move him? Gillis needs to act fast if he wants the most bang for his buck in this case.
Depending on what happens with injuries throughout the league, waiting out the situation, a gamble, could pay off as well. Jaroslav Halak was recently put on injured reserve after straining his groin (3-0-0, two shutouts with St. Louis this season). If more goalies catch the injury bug Gillis could be licking his chops with GMs desperate for a No. 1 goalie. If not he could have a money-heavy back end of his roster and finding himself in a situation where he doesn’t get what he wants for either Luongo or Schneider.
In a short season Gillis needs to seriously sit down with his coaching staff to discuss where they feel their resources should be focused and jump into the deep end to make a move, having no regrets.
Christopher Cameron is the sports reporter for The News and can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter: @NGNewsChris.