Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Either You're With Him, Or Against Us

The title of my blog seems to be the general consensus of Canucks diehards when it comes to their goalie. You either love him unconditionally and with blinding faith or you’re labeled a bandwagoner, a fake fan and a hockey ‘tard who knows nothing about the Canucks. I have to admit the peer pressure on this one gets to me. I rarely say a bad thing about Roberto Luongo because I love my twitter friends and don’t want to be the kid who has to eat lunch by themselves (or more accurately, eat dinner by themselves at the next tweet-up).

But the night before my wedding last week I had a revelation as I was being teased by my future husband’s relatives (all diehard, lifelong Habs fans). One of his cousins said to me “Do you still believe in your goalie?” And I was honest with him. For the first time out loud I uttered the truth. My answer was “I have to believe in him because he’s not going anywhere.”

The fact is I’m not honestly sure if Roberto Luongo can or will ever win a Stanley Cup in Vancouver. Now before you log off this blog and block me on twitter, I will fully admit that last year he was a beast in regular season. We could not have won the division without him. We couldn’t have had such great comebacks or wins. He isn’t a horrible goalie. He’s not even a mediocre one. I once got into such a heated fight with my now-husband when he said Luongo didn’t earn his Olympic Gold Medal that I slept on the couch. Seriously. But the fact is – if I can reveal my true feelings and not be attacked – I don’t trust Roberto Luongo. I think he’s sporadic in both his abilities and his drive.

Is he lazy? Is he comfortable? Is his skin too thick? My thoughts – No, Yes and Yes. He’s not lazy. He trains hard and works hard. I won’t fault him that. But is he comfortable? Most definitely. He’s got a solid contract locked down with no chance of a trade and a guaranteed, serious paycheck until the end of his career. It doesn’t matter what happens, how many fans rant about him or TSN commentators snark about him, or how many times he belly flops (Example 1001: Malkin’s shoot out goal in the home opener). Lu’s not going anywhere.

As for the thick skin – the only two goalies in the league that are playing in a pressure cooker are Luongo and Price. Habs fans are rabid and merciless. Vancouver fans can be that way too but on top of that Luongo has the pressure of playing on the most hated team in the league and the one voted most overrated by players themselves. He’s got added negativity, pressure and scrutiny so he has to have a thick skin. The problem is I think his skin has become too thick. Every time he’s interviewed after a loss he blows it off BIG time. Like with hurricane wind-like force.

After the game 6 loss in 2010 to the Hawks he said “I don’t know what to tell you. I battle as hard as I can out there you know?” His demeanor was flippant and lackadaisical. His comments since the Stanley Cup game 7 loss have been similar. Stuff like “I’m not going to over analyze things right now. I mean that’s hockey. Sometimes you’re going to win and sometimes you’re going to lose.”

Now here’s some of Ryan Kesler’s comments: “There are no excuses…. We had a chance to put them away in their own building and we didn’t.”

A little bit different. And yeah, Kes is locked into a contract too although not with a No Trade Clause and he also has the sting of an Olympic second best spurring him on I suppose. But either way. Lu too easily shrugs off the failures. It irks the crap out of me. No he shouldn’t carry the entire weight of a loss on his shoulders but he should at least look to be carrying something other than his hair lube.

I really don’t hate him. I am not screaming TRADE HIM. I swallow down the frustration when I watch a goalie like Marc Andre Fleury repeatedly manage drop to his knees to block a shot and not belly flop onto his stomach. REPEATEDLY. Did I mention that – as in more than once…. And I think Luongo CAN lead his team to a Stanley Cup. I just don’t know if he wants to be bothered to do it.

What Can Light His Fire
Ginger Bricks. That’s the answer. AV, who is definitely a big part of making Lu too comfortable, has said he will play Schneider more this season than last. But if he only plays him against the Oilers or the Blue Jackets or other random, no-risk teams he’s not doing Schneids or Lu (or fans) any favors. Cory needs to start in big games. If I had a say, Cory would start every game in the United Center. He’d start in LA, in San Jose and yes, Boston. Give him games against rivals. We all know Luongo is better on home ice so give Schneider the opportunity to be better on away ice.

I’ve been saying it to anyone who will listen – Vancouver has TWO STARTER GOALIES. This is likely the last year we have this advantage – so let’s use it. Play them equally. Lu has proven he is no Carey Price. Where Price turtled under the pressure of a starter quality back-up (Halak), Luongo seemed to get more driven and focused with the emergence of Schneider. This is the only leverage we have – the only way to light his fire. Even he must know that if Schneids out performs him, trade clause or not playing in Vancouver would be unbearable. So throw Schneider out there often and in important circumstances. Luongo, if history remains repeatable, will only get better with the competition.

I think the one thing we can all agree on whether we love Lu or hate him or are ridiculously conflicted over him like I am, is this – Vancouver NEEDS a Cup. If that means sitting a million dollar goalie in a crucial game I'm okay with that. And you should be okay with that too.