For years, the goaltending situation in Vancouver had been a constant headache. One night, Roberto Luongo looked like the better netminder, and the next? Cory Schneider continues to make a case as the starter. Trade rumors surrounded Luongo for months, and just when you think the Canucks were prepared to send their veteran goaltender away, they don’t.
They trade Schneider, instead.
So, with Luongo as the undisputed goalie in Vancouver, could we see a rejuvenated man between the pipes? Well, there is a lot going for him as we approach the start of the 2013 season.
With Schneider out of the mix, Luongo can finally cement himself as “safe.” Every time Luongo would step out on the ice, he’d have those thoughts in the back of his mind. “Will I be traded? Is this my last game?” It was a distraction, and in all honesty, it could have very easily affected his play out on the ice. Media had been creating rumors, storylines, and Luongo must have been pressured to play to the very best of his ability each and every night to avoid being dealt. However, now with two backups who have never even appeared in an NHL game, Luongo should realize that he is this team’s rock right now.
The presence of Tortorella could quietly do wonders for Luongo’s production this season. A defensive-minded head coach, Tortorella will stress the importance of killing penalties, clearing the puck and playing solid defense. Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist can certainly tell you a thing or two about playing under Torts’ system. Of course, Lundqvist is the best goalie on the planet in any system, but under Tortorella, Lundqvist won the Vezina trophy in 2012 and has never posted a goals against average higher than 2.43. During his tenure with the Rangers, Tortorella has led his defenses to post some strong numbers.
The Canucks still have a solid defensive core with guys like Alexander Edler, Dan Hamhuis and newly acquired Yannick Weber, this roster still has the talent in front of Luongo to help him succeed. And, of course, while Tortorella will continue to stress the importance of blocking shots first, asking questions later, there is still a good amount of offensive firepower to help cushion Luongo. The Sedin twins are still very dominant players, Ryan Kesler and David Booth are more than capable forwards, assuming they can stay healthy. This is still a very sound hockey club. Last season, the Canucks still ranked 10th in goals allowed per contest (2.40), so their defense is clearly a top-10 group in the league today. This unit also ranked 9th in penalty kill percentage (84.0%). With the presence of Tortorella and a rejuvenated Luongo between the pipes, they should take an even bigger step forward in 2013, which will only help Luongo’s fantasy prospects.
Last season, Schneider’s presence was difficult for Luongo, and as Schneider excelled in net, Luongo saw his numbers decline. Basically to the point where he was named the outright backup. I think Lu has 65-70 starts in his range this season, and don’t forget, this is still a guy who three seasons ago 38 games and posted a GAA of 2.11, the lowest of his entire career. Of course, he is 34-years old, so regression is almost expected, but with the right pieces in front of him, as well as plenty of opportunity. Luongo could easily reassert himself into a top-10 fantasy goalie once again.
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy sports columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.