Vancouver Canucks: Has Roberto Luongo Won Back the Starting Role?

Joel Prosser@@JoelProsserCorrespondent IMarch 16, 2013

VANCOUVER, CANADA - JANUARY 30: Roberto Luongo #1 of the Vancouver Canucks stretches out a pad to make a save against the Colorado Avalanche during the first period in NHL action on January 30, 2013 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.  (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
Rich Lam/Getty Images

After 2-1 and 7-4 victories against Columbus and Nashville, the Vancouver Canucks have halted their downward slide in the standings.

And it wasn't an accident that they did so with Roberto Luongo in net.

Against Columbus, he kept is close in regulation and overtime, and then punctuated a good night with an emphatic poke check to win the shootout.

Against Nashville, giving up four goals normally wouldn't be considered a good night for a goalie. But when the two teams are determined to play an '80s style run and gun game, it wasn't bad at all. Luongo outlasted Pekka Rinne, who was pulled in the second period, and made a couple of highlight-reel saves, including a diving effort against Shea Weber, so it was still a pretty good night.

Luongo is now getting his third start in a row on Saturday’s game against the Detroit Red Wings on Hockey Night in Canada.

The Red Wings, in case anyone in Vancouver is suffering from goal-light induced amnesia, are the team that obliterated the Canucks by a humiliating 8-3 score a few weeks ago. Luongo was in net for all eight goals, and along with his teammates, he will be itching for revenge.

If Luongo pulls off a win, I think that clears up the issues enough to definitively say that he should be the starter in Vancouver down the stretch.

Going into Saturday’s game, Luongo is outplaying his erstwhile replacement Cory Schneider by a significant margin.

Luongo has a 7-2-3 record compared to Schneider’s 6-5-3. 





Luongo’s 2.23 GAA is significantly better than Schneider’s 2.63, although their save percentages are much closer at 0.913 to 0.910.

Schneider has been given every chance to keep the starting role he earned last year, and he hasn’t played badly by any measure, but Luongo has simply been better.

While the two goalies have been great at keeping it light and preventing this situation from escalating into a locker room distraction, one of them has to go.

The trade deadline is coming up fast on April 3, and it simply isn't a case of good cap management to have either a $5,333,333 or a $4,000,000 cap hit sitting on the bench as a backup.

The Canucks have critical issues to address at other positions, notably center, and trading away one of the two goalies is a way to both address that need, as well as allowing the remaining goalie a chance to make a run down the stretch and get into a groove prior to the playoffs.

While a case can certainly be made for trading Luongo, especially now with his stock rising, a greater case can be made for trading Schneider. 

Seven years younger and with seven less years on his contract, Schneider is a much easier piece for a GM to fit into a salary-cap puzzle. 

His upside is still huge, and any miscues this year can easily be attributed to the situation in Vancouver, along with the unsettled nature of this lockout-shortened season in general.

With more teams potentially interested in acquiring him versus taking on Luongo's problematic contract, the return in any trade should be much greater for Schneider.

Luongo is starting on Saturday, and then there are back-to-back games on Monday and Tuesday that the two goalies should split. 

With Luongo getting four out of five starts in the span of a week, it appears that Canucks management agrees that he has won back the starting role.


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