Breaking News: Roberto Luongo is human.
The day after the Canucks were eliminated from the 2009 Stanley Cup playoffs by the Chicago Blackhawks, the knives of Canucks fans have come out and most of them are looking to slash the throat of their goaltender, who apparently isn’t allowed to be human. It’s all his fault and it’s inexcusable that in the biggest game of the year he fell short of spectacular. Never mind a goal off a skate and some sick skills displayed by Patrick Kane. Never mind the defense who collapsed in front of him, or the player who took the bad penalty, or that turnover. Oh, and we’ll just forget how he held the Canucks in the game in the first half of the first period.
Nope, it’s all Roberto Luongos’ fault! Where is that tombstone? Cory Schneider, you’re up!
I’m not going to sit here and absolve Luongo of any responsibility. He’s the first one to know that he did not have his best series against the Hawks, and that last night there were goals that 9 times out of 10 he’ll stop, which means he isn’t perfect but that’s not acceptable to some. But I’ve been a Canucks fan for over 30 years, and played team sports for much of my youth. The fact is you win as a team and you lose as a team, and not one of his teammates is going to come out and say they lost because of Roberto. The fact is without him, they probably wouldn’t even have even made the playoffs, and perhaps not even advanced past the first round.
So, what to do?
There were many factors as to why the Canucks lost this series. The biggest one was the fact that Chicago simply was the better team. Our defensive corps aren’t deep enough, and as the Hawks proved, neither are our forwards. Mats Sundin, who everyone assured fans would show up in the playoffs, basically didn’t.
Instead crucifying Luongo, we should debating the worth of having 7 million dollars tied up in your goaltender. The Detroit Red Wings seem to thrive with adequate goaltending, while investing in the players in front of him and it’s been a pretty successful formula. If Luongo tells Mike Gillis he wants out, then you move him this off-season. If he wants a raise, you do the same. Luongo has stated he wants to play for a contender, and in order to keep the Canucks one, he may have to give up some money to sign other players. Decision number one for Mike Gillis, find out if Luongo fits into your long term plans.
Next, get more depth on defense. When Sami Salo was out the team lacked a puck moving defensemen, and when you have one guy on your roster that fits the bill and gets injured as much as Salo, you have an issue. Alex Edler has shown promise, but had a mediocre year following great expectations. Mattias Ohlund has lost a step and likely won’t be back. Kevin Bieksa was hot and cold all year, but he doesn’t fit the mold either. Drafting a defensemen with some offensive upside would be a plus.
As for the forwards, more scoring is needed, and you have to wonder if Alex Burrows can repeat his feats of this season consistently. Ryan Kesler has emerged as a leader and must be re-signed long term and the same goes for the Sedins. They proved they can play in the playoffs, and seriosuly folks the “sisters” label is getting a little weak. These two are tough durable players, and they love playing in Vancouver. They are a must to keep. Cody Hodgson will arrive with much anticipation, and Michael Grabner could provide a spark, but if the Canucks can add thru free agency here it would certainly help. Mats Sundin, thanks for coming.
As far as the coaches go, I would think a first place finish in the Northwest and a playoff round will earn Vignault the right to start the year. That will drive some fans nuts, but it’s the right decision. For the most part, the club was ready to play most nights, save “the slump.” but Vignault didn’t panic and kept the room calm, which tells me his players play for him.
So Canucks fans, the sun will rise, Luongo is still a world class goaltender, and oh yeah, he is human too, no matter how many people refuse to acknowledge it.
Mike Gillis won’t panic, and neither should we.
GO CANUCKS GO!