There are six guys in this picture. They have all played well of late.

Cory Schneider will make his sixth straight start Tuesday versus the Columbus Blue Jackets, a fact that has sent many into a tizzy. Isn’t Roberto Luongo usually the one that starts games? How come he’s not doing that lately? You probably already know our thoughts on the matter. Yesterday, Daniel looked at the faux goaltending controversy in which the Canucks are currently mired, and I am in complete agreement with him. This situation isn’t what it’s being made out to be. No, Roberto Luongo has not lost his starting job. No, the Canucks aren’t suddenly in possession of a backup signed through 2021. No, this isn’t the end of the Roberto Luongo era in Vancouver and Vincent Lecavalier has not been asked to waive his no-movement clause.

Still, while I’m loath to admit it, this is a pretty big story. Prior to this stretch, a healthy Luongo had never played backup for three consecutive games. Now he’s about to spot Schneider his fourth. This is unprecedented, and the unprecedented needs to be examined.

As Daniel said, this has nothing to do with Luongo. But I would add that it’s not even solely about Schneider — it’s about the entire Canucks lineup, all nineteen guys that have played their roles to perfection over this four-game winning streak, none of whom deserve to be plucked from the lineup just because someone has to come out. This is about Alain Vigneault sending a message to the whole room. That message is: continue playing well enough to win, and you will continue playing.

Heck, Luongo isn’t the only member of the Canucks that declared himself good to go over the weekend only to find out there wasn’t a place for him. Mason Raymond’s been at the ready since late last week; he’s been a healthy scratch. (He was slated to crack the lineup Tuesday night, but with Alex Burrows opting to play through the damage he took to his left ring finger on Saturday night, he’ll have to wait).

Aaron Rome is also on the outside looking in. After missing Friday’s game with a hand injury, Rome declared himself ready to play the following night, but he’ll sit for his second straight game.

Frankly, Vigneault’s decision to leave Rome and Raymond in the press box should be a much bigger story. Both have been accused of being coach’s pets for some time, and the fact that they’ve been looked over in consecutive games is a genuine twist. But everyone is so wrapped up in the non-troversy in goal that they haven’t seen the bigger picture here.

That’s a common theme in Vancouver, and frankly, it’s likely playing a major role in Alain Vigneault’s current strategy. In that sense, this situation does involve Luongo. While Funny Bob took much of the blame for both the Canucks’ Stanley Cup Final loss and their early struggles this year, Vigneault saw it for what it truly was: a team letdown.

His recent roster decisions are a clue to his players that the entire team plays a role in the ups and downs of its starting goaltender. Luongo may have been nominated for a Vezina, he and Schneider may have won the Jennings, and Schneider may be the one taking home NHL second star honours this week, but they didn’t earn those accolades on their own. It’s often said that shutouts are a team statistic, in that the play of the goalie is a reflection of the play of the team in front of him.  Clearly, Alain Vigneault believes that to be true. The goaltending controversy is a team controversy.

In other words, Cory Schneider may be playing well enough to leave the starter on the bench, but so is everyone else. As long as that fact remains unchanged, the lineup will too.

Tags: , , , ,

21 comments

  1. Dave
    November 29, 2011

    I hate you Harrison – quit showing how much sense all these decisions make. How can we flip out over idiocy when there’s a voice of reason explaining everything.

    (Kidding about the hate part.)

    VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  2. Chris
    November 29, 2011

    It speaks to the amount of character in the Canucks dressing room that winning takes precedence over playing time. Every guy wants to play, but if the coach wants them to sit while someone else is on a hot streak, we don’t hear whining in the media.

    VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  3. J21
    November 29, 2011

    I wouldn’t have thought of Raymond as a coach’s pet, but I think in both their cases it still seems a little “early” for them to come back, so the decision not to play them is much more justifiable if you’re the coach. Hell, I’d much prefer Raymond get a conditioning stint before suiting up for an NHL game (aren’t there LTIR implications for his return, too?)

    But man, I just hate the media sometimes. Get a load of what The Province sports page looked like this afternoon — not the Canucks page, the entire sports page… right after the BC Lions win the Grey Cup, no less:

    The thrust seems to be “Schneider is carrying the team! This totally screws up Luongo!” Even the innocuous “Canucks’ road trip a confidence-builder” features a subheading about the Canucks feeling optimistic because of Schneider.

    I love Schneider — I think he has been amazing. But that’s the story, not the relationship between him and Luongo. Your guys’ point is very well made — how come no one is talking about how, say, Higgins’ fine play is taking away ice time from everyone else?

    VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
    • J21
      November 29, 2011

      OK, so tags don’t work? I thought I’d seen people using them before. Here is a JPG of the plethora of headlines:

      http://i244.photobucket.com/albums/gg16/jyrki21/J21/schneider-headlines.jpg

      VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
      Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
      • Harrison Mooney
        November 29, 2011

        The comments section is messed up. Soon it will be different.

        VN:F [1.9.16_1159]
        Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
        • CanuckFanInSF
          November 29, 2011

          Somehow I imagine you stroking a cat on your lap while you say this.

          VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
          Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
          • Harrison Mooney
            November 29, 2011

            Strangely enough, I was when I wrote it.

            VN:F [1.9.16_1159]
            Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
      • peanutflower
        November 29, 2011

        Huh. I never noticed the Province page before you pointed that out. That’s pretty pathetic. Whatever sells papers I guess. Whatever fuels the fire.

        VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
        Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  4. mas
    November 29, 2011

    The goalie making close to 7 million dollars this year is backing up a goalie making under a million for four consecutive starts, in a city where goalies are overly scrutinized and where Luongo is largely blamed for the collapses in Boston and in game 7 (maybe unjustifiably).

    If I’m a journalist you’re saying I shouldn’t write about that and instead write about Aaron Rome’s thumb because that’s more intriguing story?

    VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
    • Daniel Wagner
      November 29, 2011

      I think you’re missing the point. It’s not that Rome’s thumb is a more intriguing story, it’s that both Rome and Raymond being healthy scratches casts Schneider’s starts in a new light. Instead of it being about Schneider being the number one goalie instead of Luongo, it’s about showing confidence in a winning team. Is Raymond a better player than Volpatti or Weise? Absolutely. Is Rome a better player than Alberts? Arguably. So the fact that they’re not in the lineup does not mean that they are not better players than those in the lineup, in the same way that Luongo not starting does not mean he’s now the backup and Schneider is the number one goaltender.

      Schneider is on a hot streak, the kind of streak that doesn’t happen too often. Other much worse goaltenders have gone on similar streaks and have gotten consecutive starts over number one goaltenders: this is no different.

      VN:F [1.9.16_1159]
      Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
      • mas
        November 30, 2011

        I get it, and I reject your premise. Raymond is coming off a nearly career-ending surgery. Him being eased in to the swing of things seem more likely (especially in light of Kesler’s early struggles). And Rome slots in next game with Salo out, and that has more to do with the mysterious injuries that befall Vancouver d-men. So where does that leave your theory?

        This is different, and it’s obtuse of you not to see it. It’s different because it’s Luongo and because of his twisted relationship with the media and the fans. I like your guys’s writing, but often it seems like you guys are trying to echo the party line rather than say anything of substance.

        VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
        Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  5. JDM
    November 29, 2011

    While I fully agree with this article I am not entirely sure I’m on board with the decision making process if it is as you cast it. The correct, in my view, and utterly cliche roster-setting scheme is the one that puts the team on the ice that gives you the best chance to win. I’m thinking Aaron Rome gives this team a better chance to win than Andrew Alberts the way those two have played this year.

    And while it’s hard to say without seeing him back in action, I would think Raymond would be an upgrade on Volpatti simply on the basis of puck possession. Whether he’s best left in practice for a couple more games depends largely on whether he needs that extra time to get timing and such intangibles back in order before stepping into a game.

    If they’re not changing the roster simply because they haven’t lost, I think that’s a pretty poor decision trigger. Win or lose, they could be much better right now, and the fact that Schneider had to steal the San Jose game is easy evidence to point to for that. In the last game, the play of the goalie was only a reflection of the team in front of him in that he had to make a lot of good saves on a total of 45 shots.

    VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
    • The Bookie
      November 29, 2011

      Andrew Alberts scored our most recent game winning goal..

      VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
      Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  6. Kate Fullerton
    November 29, 2011

    oh man harrison, you’re never gonna drop that whole Luongo for Lecavalier incident, are you? I’m glad you aren’t because that was probably the dumbest suggestion I’ve ever heard :) Thank you for your common sense, more people need it :D

    VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  7. tj
    November 29, 2011

    Take that (not the Robbie Williams version), all you un-nuanced sports writers out there! Huzzah.

    Thanks, Harrison.

    VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  8. akidd
    November 29, 2011

    every player will go through peaks and valleys throughout the year. the smart coach plays his peaking players as much as he can, maximizing their contributions over the whole the year. pretty simple really.

    the other side of the coin is coaches who tries to play players through their slumps. for too long that’s been the procedure with lou. this current little blip in AV’s strategy gives hope. that’s all i can say.

    as far as the superstition of keeping a winning lineup together, sometimes AV is superstitious and sometimes he’s not. whatever’s convenient for him really. because truth be told AV is a hunch/ favourites guy. he loves to roll the dice and watch what happens(look what i did, mom.) his whacky line juggling is ample proof of that. i think the thing he’s most interested in is to test the universe…and to make sure that he’s still squarely in the centre of it.

    VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
    • Daniel Wagner
      November 29, 2011

      Prior to last season, though, it was Luongo or bust. AV had no choice but to play Luongo through his slumps because the alternative was Sanford, Labarbera, or Raycroft.

      VN:F [1.9.16_1159]
      Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  9. RepubliCameroon
    November 29, 2011

    Once again, bang on. Canucks fans should feel blessed to have a backup who’s better than a lot of starters on other teams, and a starter who is perfectly OK with it.

    VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  10. DaveM
    November 30, 2011

    I get bored with the mainstream media’s hype about the Luongo/Schneider situation too, but come on. Leaving so-so types like Rome and Raymond in the press box is never “a much bigger story” than leaving a big-name, big-money goalie on the bench for several games and counting.

    Still, so long as there’s no turmoil in the room as a result, Gillis must be happy. Some team is going to make a hell of a trade offer for Schneider at this rate. Gillis just needs to get his timing right on pulling the trigger — this season, or next off-season. The two of them are not going to even pretend to be happy for any longer than that.

    VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
    • Daniel Wagner
      November 30, 2011

      I think you missed the point of the article.

      As to your other suggestion, Schneider will be a restricted free agent in the off-season, so the most Gillis could do is trade his rights, which would not fetch too much in return.

      VN:F [1.9.16_1159]
      Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  11. Tom
    November 30, 2011

    Don’t forget, it isn’t the writers that write the headlines, it`s the infamous `editors`.

    VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)