VANCOUVER — I SPENT $200 on two tickets to see the Vancouver Canucks take on the league-leading Chicago Blackhawks at the Rogers Arena a couple of weeks ago. I bought the tickets off Craigslist and held my breath as the usher scanned the bar code with her digital wand. Luckily the tickets were not counterfeit and we were let in to the arena.
There’s no rivalry quite like the Canucks and Blackhawks. Pure blood and bitterness. Each team has stuck a dagger in the heart of the other in past years and they both possess players whose mere presence on the roster causes skins to crawl. It is a classic hate-on and it’s a lot of fun to watch.
The Canucks are a team with Stanley Cup ambitions and enough talent to get them to the dance again.
But the road to the Stanley Cup Final goes straight through Chicago in the Western Conference and the Canucks are going to need their best players to rise to the occasion if they’re going to have any chance of playing for the NHL’s biggest prize.
And that, quite simply, is why the Canucks will not trade Roberto Luongo.
Canucks GM Mike Gillis has done a nice job of using the disposable puppets of the Vancouver sports media to convince Vancouver hockey fans that a) Corey Schneider is a legitimate #1 starting goalie for a Stanley Cup calibre team in the NHL, b) there is a robust trade market roiling with first round draft picks and NHL-ready first or second liners ready to be showered down upon the Canucks team like manna from heaven, c) that he’s prepared to wait for the right deal.
*cough* bullshit *cough*
Talk to any mass media compliant Canucks fan and they’ll tell you that keeping Schneider makes ‘good economic sense’ and really ‘helps the team move forward in light of the new CBA’.
If you spend enough time speaking to these fans – almost all of whom are also somehow Habs fans, perhaps not ironically – you walk away wondering how you ended up in Stepford.
Mike Gillis says that Schneider is a true #1 goalie on a Stanley Cup ready team…
… and then the Canucks start Roberto Luongo at home against the Chicago Blackhawks.
The media compliant Canucks fan will tell you that this is because the Canucks are ‘showcasing’ Luongo for a possible trade. They’re ‘showcasing’ Roberto Luongo because there are GMs and coaches out there in the NHL who are unaware of Roberto’s work. His resume is so quiet and unassuming.
The goalie who won an Olympic gold medal and backstopped the Canucks to game seven of the Stanley Cup finals against a team from one of the largest media markets in North America needs to be ‘showcased’.
Um, no. The Canucks started Luongo because he is by far the better goalie and gives the Canucks a much better chance of beating a team like Chicago.
And guess what? He did.
That is the exposed nerve for Canucks fans this year.
Luongo holds all the cards: he has a no-trade clause, he is the better goalie, Olympic gold medal, playoff resume.
Gillis and Canucks fans know this: Schneider is unproven, cheap, and a risk for a team with a shortening window of contention.
The shadow of Roberto Luongo lengthens with every game.
Which brings me to this awesome graphic screen captured from the Sportsnet website.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t expect the Leafs to maintain a position higher than the Canucks for any longer than 24 hours during this hockey season but it does give me great satisfaction to see them one point ahead of Vancouver at any point this year.
It seems like only yesterday that Canucks fans were telling me how they could reasonably expect to get Nazim Kadri and a couple of first round picks from Toronto for Luongo.
And while we’re examining this surreal moment where, on paper at least, the Toronto Maple Leafs are better than the Vancouver Canucks, let’s look at some statistics regarding the goalies for both teams.
Roberto Luongo: Wins: 4 Save %: .934 Goals Against avg: 1.63 2013 Salary: $6,714,000
Corey Schneider: Wins: 4 Save %: .912 Goals Against avg: 2.62 2013 Salary: $3,500,000
Ben Scrivens: Wins: 4 Save %: .939 Goals Against avg: 1.93 Salary: $600,000
James Reimer: Wins: 6 Save %: .929 Goals Against avg: 2.31 Salary: $1,600,000
You do the math.