I was listening to a sports radio station in Toronto the other day and the question put forth by the host was simple—if you ran the Vancouver Canucks what would you do with Roberto Luongo? I thought he was asking a rhetorical question but no he actually wanted to know. I thought it was rather silly considering that unless some other team is desperately below the salary cap floor during an off-season there is no way that Luongo will wear another uniform other than the Vancouver Canucks. The question should have been rhetorical.
From a distance this past off-season the Florida Panthers seemed to go a little crazy with the overpaying of fringe players and the trade for overpaid former superstars. But the Panthers were simply trying to get over the salary cap floor of $48 million and it is the main reason why they accepted the albatross that is the Brian Campbell contract in a deal with the Chicago Black Hawks. Campbell signed a huge seven year $50 million deal with Chicago after the 2007/08 season and that meant that his cap hit in each season would be an unseemly $7.14 million. The Hawks could not afford that cap hit and expect to contend anymore and were fortuitous that the Panthers were in such a state of despair that they needed the cap hit just to get up off the floor.
Luongo falls into the same category. Luongo signed a 12 year extension with the Canucks before the 2009 season that will take him through the 2021/22 season. The average salary cap hit is $5.33 million per season—though the numbers drop off after 2017/18 when his contract will stop being such a monstrous weight to his team. With those numbers it is highly unlikely that any team would be willing to take on that salary meaning, of course, that Vancouver, the team that signed him to the unholy extension in the first place, will be on the hook for it likely for the contracts’ entirety.
So, Canuck fans, remember this the next time you feel like deriding the obviously over-sensitive and soft-hearted goaltender—by ripping him apart you are doing a disservice to your favourite hockey team. Luongo obviously responds poorly to criticism and has a hard time putting negative thoughts, and performances, out of his mind—a bad trait to have as an NHL goaltender.
The Canucks know that they will need to keep a quality; albeit expensive, goaltending tandem around if they wish to compete for a Stanley Cup. They certainly can’t rely solely on Luongo. And with a payroll in excess of $65 million the Canucks will be, or at least hope to be, a Cup contender for some time yet. They are fortunate that Cory Schneider is still earning an exceptionally affordable salary—he makes just less than one million per year—but that luck, and the contract, runs out after next year. At that time the Canucks will have to decide whether to pay Schneider an inflated worth or else go out and find another below market value goaltender capable of carrying the team whenever their multi-million dollar anchor is going through one of his many lengthy sorrowful streaks.
Roberto Luongo will more than likely spend the remainder of his career in a Vancouver Canuck uniform. And, more than likely, he will continue to suffer through lengthy periods of self-doubt where he will wonder if he has the ability to lead a championship team. He knows that his club was out-goaltended in the Stanley Cup Finals and was the main reason why the Boston Bruins are the defending champions—and he is reminded of this fact every day. For a man with deep feelings, a bad case of anxiety, and large ears this is a fact that is nearly impossible to forget. The Canucks better hope that when the playoffs start the memory of last spring’s meltdown will be gone from his mind, or else they are going to need Schneider to play saviour.
For an organization still looking for its first Stanley Cup after more than forty years and with a fan base that is so overwrought with expected failure expecting Schneider to shoulder the entire load and backstop the team to a title would be like asking the Greeks to teach financial competency classes to the rest of the civilized world.
…It looks like Jerry Sandusky has decided, or at least has been advised to by his lawyers, to go on the talk show circuit with the hope of getting public opinion on his side. How is this possible? Who is his lawyer—the guy from Seinfeld? What was his name—Jackie Chiles. Has Jackie told Sandusky that the more he tells the press that he is innocent of everything other than showering and sleeping with boys that it will benefit him? Wouldn’t it be better for Sandusky to go into hiding and hopefully let most of the anger and disgust dissipate? (It will never completely go away) It just seems that with every public appearance Sandusky’s skin becomes more scaly and slimy. All I know is that if I was the father of one of those boys I can flatly and unequivocally state that Sandusky’s life would be in danger every single day.
…That was one weird Sunday in the NFL. The Packers were pushed to the limit but managed to eek out a last second win in New York to remain undefeated. How about the formerly left for dead Miami Dolphins absolutely thrashing the supposed back from the dead Oakland Raiders. Or the supposedly Super Bowl quality Chicago Bears looking like they have lost their heart and soul when quarterback Jay Cutler got injured—yes the very same Cutler who was roasted for not playing through injury in last season’s NFC championship game. And what is up with the Detroit Lions? Here was a team that, through the first five weeks of the season, looked like the next quality team in the NFL but now look like an angry and disorganized roller derby team. The players on this club show absolutely no self-control and act like a bunch of spoiled rotten kids who are upset because things are going their way. And how about the vaunted New England Patriots running out to a 28 point half time lead against the winless Colts and then hanging on at the end. And then there’s Tebow…
…So why is Tim Tebow the talk of the NFL? Sure it has something to do with his late game dramatics—bringing his team from the cusp of defeat to victory five times in the past six weeks. It actually has much more to do with his character. Here is a guy who is polite, positive, caring and giving, a guy who seems to think more about others than he does himself, and a man who has beliefs that go so much deeper than football. His critics look at his deficiencies as a football player and at his rather boisterous belief in God. But who cares about his beliefs? Who cares that every phrase he utters begins with his thanks for God? Why does this bother people? I think that Tebow is utterly refreshing—whatever his beliefs they go to the core of his being and that is laudable. There is no superficiality to him—no phoniness. In an era of narcissistic self congratulatory athletes I think that Tebow’s presence in the world of professional sports is a breath of fresh air.
…Could this be the time when the Toronto Blue Jays take that next step into contention? Will this be the week when GM Alex Anthopoulos makes the moves necessary to catapult his club into the upper echelon of AL teams? Will he be able to continue on his evolutionary path to greatness—the Pat Gillick re-incarnate—and add the pieces needed to ensure that his club can compete with the beasts of the east? The organization has the money and says that they are willing to spend it, and if so then the resources are there to make a big splash at this week’s winter meetings. And with the usual suspects, the Yankees, the Red Sox, the Angels and the Dodgers seemingly willing to sit out most of the action this year the road is open for the Jays to go shopping. Hopefully Christmas comes a little early this year for Jay fans.
Follow me on twitter @mhobson12Tags: Alex Anthopoulos, Cory Schneider, Green Bay Packers, Jerry Sandusky, Roberto Luongo, Tim Tebow, Toronto Blue Jays, Vancouver Canucks, Winter Meetings