It’s been a weird year. Between John Tortorella’s Punch-Out, Alex Burrows’ goalless streak, the slumping Sedins, and the general decline of the Canucks, which has been so sharp Tom Sestito’s begun to look like a contributor, the patience of Canucks’ fans has been thoroughly tested.
And yet, through it all, we’ve been able to rest on one simple and wonderful thing: despite everything, at least there hasn’t been a goaltending controversy. It took some doing, but with Roberto Luongo finally reporting to camp, a smile on his face, Cory Schneider elsewhere, and new backup Eddie Lack happily, quietly, paying deference to his elder, all has been quiet in the Canucks crease.
Until this bolt from the blue paint:
— Farhan Lalji (@FarhanLaljiTSN) March 1, 2014
If I didn’t know better, I’d assume the Canucks were trying to drive Roberto Luongo to the brink of madness. This is some House of Cards stuff right here. You half-expect Mike Gillis to start breaking the fourth wall for wry soliloquies.
Will Luongo be annoyed by this? Well, the photo above was taken before we heard the news, but one wonders if he already knew by then. I’m no body language expert, but I am experienced at the Internet, and that is undoubtedly the look of someone struggling to accept a second-place finish:
“I’ve always wanted to play in an outdoor game,” Luongo said. “I was excited when I saw we got one this year. I was looking forward to it.”
Congratulations, Canucks, on unnecessarily alienating this guy once again.
The writing was on the wall for this decision when Eddie Lack started the first game back from the Olympic break. You’d have thought that would be Luongo’s start. After all, he was completely healthy, and he should have been completely fresh. But John Tortorella went with Lack.
The decision paid off. Lack shut the Blues out, allowing the Canucks to hit the ground running, and it’s unsurprising that Tortorella decided they should run with Lack for at least one more start. Lack played well there too, giving the Canucks a chance to win versus the Wild. Unfortunately, they couldn’t give him any run support.
It’s a stretch, but you could argue Lack’s playing so well Tortorella would be silly to take him out of the net. I guess. I can see why riding the point thief might make sense here. The way the Canucks are going, they’re definitely not going to be making the playoffs on the basis of their offence.
But even still, this decision can’t be made in a vacuum. Not at this point. Not after everything the Canucks and Luongo have been through. The team can’t seriously believe starting Lack over Luongo outweighs the downside of an accompanying controversy, can they?
VAN obviously went into this eyes wide open and believes upside of Lack starting over Luongo outweighs downside of accompanying controversy.
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) March 2, 2014
Oh. Well then.
Over at Puck Daddy, I had to wonder if the Canucks were holding Luongo out of games because they finally had some traction on a possible move.
Admittedly, the whole thing is a bit suspicious. Why didn’t Luongo start the first game back from the break? He was obviously fresh. He played just one game in Sochi. Either the Canucks are truly dense, they’re gaslighting him, or they’re working on a deadline deal and are understandably paranoid about it falling through — say, due to injury or an untimely, bad performance.
At this point, none of these three would surprise me. But either way, this is terribly handled. It’s like watching a bachelor hold a baby.
Terribly handled, especially if, according to Mr. McKenzie, option C is unlikely.
I don’t believe for a moment this decision to start Lack is related to any imminent Luongo trade possibility.
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) March 2, 2014
Which means this is just the Canucks continuing to make life difficult for themselves, and test the patience of the goaltender
sentenced signed to a contract through the next decade.
Now, okay. Luongo’s a professional, and there’s definitely a precedent for him choosing to be professional rather than petty in situations like this. But the fact remains that, for six glorious months, nobody was talking about a potential distraction in the crease. There was no drama. None. It had finally, mercifully passed. Then, somehow, the Canucks managed to overshadow the Heritage freaking Classic with another round of this garbage.
In terms of sequels that nobody wanted, this is up there with American Psycho 2.
And now, with the Canucks staring a sprint to the playoffs in the face, and Ryan Kesler’s trade request rumour already providing enough drama, they’ve thrown this into the mix. It’s absurd. It’s foolish. It reeks of shortsightedness. It hardly makes any sense at all.
The best I can come up with: over in Buffalo, Pat Lafontaine just stepped down as President of Hockey Operations after just four months on the job. It’s a total sideshow with the Canucks’ expansion cousins right now. Maybe the Canucks are just being good cousins. After all, family sticks together.