Eddie Lack starts Heritage Classic, as Canucks dust off the ol’ goaltending controversy

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:

 

The Aristocrats!

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:

So probably.

“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?

 

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.

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.

34 comments

  1. steveB
    March 1, 2014

    Urge to flip pool rising…

    There better be a good reason for this malarkey, it makes no sense to me at this point.

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  2. akidd
    March 1, 2014

    if there’s no trade coming then it makes absolutely no sense. lou has been great this year. maybe lack’s been a bit better but not enough to justify this decision. despite what mckenzie says there’s gotta be something brewing. maybe the interest in kesler is so great(and for good reason) that they figure they can package lou with him. it wouldn’t be such a bad deal. the pens could play lou for a few years and then buy him out. or the flyers. lotsa capspace coming. the landscape may have changed enough and lou has proven himself to be pretty durable both mentally and physically. he really does look great between the pipes this year.

    otherwise, it’s just mindboggling. put booth in the shootout one night, start lack in the classic the next? it’s not even consistent if points are what matters. mindboggling.

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    • shoes
      March 2, 2014

      You cannot buy out contracts after this summer. In fact the retroactive CBA rule that cost Gillis the first Luongo trade makes “cap recapture” a rule specifically designed to punish the Canucks for circumventing the NHL’s almost rules. Rules that seemed OK in Detroit and NJD, but got Bettman angry when Gillis did it. As a result Luongo has to be traded and right now there is 6 teams in the West and 8 teams in the East that think they can win it all. it was a perfect opportunity arising for the canucks to trade Lou…..but alas….they really blew it.

      Unless they are trying to get him so mad he expands his “trade acceptance” list to include ALL of the other 29 teams, the KHL, and the SEL.

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      • akidd
        March 2, 2014

        am no cba lawyer but i thought you could still buy out a contract but would take the cap hit.

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        • Neil B
          March 2, 2014

          Why buy him out? The team getting Luongo just requires the Canucks cover $1.65 million of his salary. That way, when Lu retires in 2018, the team has been compensated by the Canucks for the clawback; meanwhile, the Canucks lose $1.65 mill off their cap until he retires, and then $1.9 mill off their cap per year until 2022.

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      • mb13
        March 3, 2014

        “the retroactive CBA rule that cost Gillis the first Luongo trade makes “cap recapture” a rule specifically designed to punish the Canucks for circumventing the NHL’s almost rules.”

        LOL – did you make the tinfoil hat or is there a store one can purchase them?

        The rule shouldn’t be a problem because we all know that both Lu and the Canucks intend on Lu playing out his contract. So the point is moot. If both sides didn’t intend on Lu playing out his contract, then they got caught in a lie. Either way – stop crying about it.

        The worse they get, the sooner GMMG gets fired… then maybe I”ll start wanting them to win again. Probably not though – I’ll just continue to call it like I see it.

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  3. tj
    March 1, 2014

    This is just too much. Lu has been amazing.

    Are we trying to compete with Montreal for being horrible to goalies!

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  4. Origamirock
    March 1, 2014

    This might just be hopefulness, but at this point people are going insane and all we have to go on is a tweet by Lalji. The team hasn’t actually announced the decision. What they have said is that the starter would be announced in the morning. Again, this might be delusionally hopeful, but aren’t we getting ahead of ourselves?

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  5. Jo
    March 1, 2014

    Just part of the Torts mind games. This stuff has to stop and is part of the reason why players do not want to play in Vancouver. Gillis needs to go, he’s the worst GM in the league.

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    Rating: +6 (from 12 votes)
  6. Naturalmystic
    March 1, 2014

    Tortorella is pure cancer in the Vancouver dressing room. He will be fired not this season but probably sometime next season. It doesn’t matter how much money or how long his contract is when you lose the dressing room as a coach you are done. His antics this season and the way the team has performed for him lead me to believe that they are tuning him out and want him gone.

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  7. rob
    March 1, 2014

    What a sh@# storm. What a kick in the face of a classy guy. Reminds me of another coach that came to this team, made his guy the new captain, and shipped an icon out of town.

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  8. dontpassjustshoot
    March 1, 2014

    Luongo is a great goalie. I hope they play him tomorrow. I miss seeing him play, and he’s been fantastic this year. There’s every reason to think he is kind of aching to prove himself right now. And on the Canucks home page, under the “Heritage Classic” header, the two featured stories are Bieksa’s comments and Luongo’s Heritage Classic gear.

    And otherwise, what’s the plan? Keep playing Lack until he has a bad game or two? Because that’s typically what you do with your starter. I love Lack, and he has also been great, but I really want to see Luongo treated right. Alternate possibility: could Luongo have a niggling injury that he could play through but that they’ve all decided to baby? That’s the only answer that totally would make sense to me.

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    • rob
      March 1, 2014

      or a pending trade?

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  9. Naturalmystic
    March 1, 2014

    What if….Lack was being showcased? What if Gillis is pulling a Hodgson and is showcasing Lack as trade bait? He can’t move the core but he can move Lack.

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    • shoes
      March 2, 2014

      You being a guy who has supported K. Lowe through thick and thin, you really should not comment on the Canucks management.

      Regardless they are NOT showcasing Lack. He is the perfect fit for this retool and everybody knows it. Everybody also knows Luongo is gone, however his stock had been built up to where he could get a reasonable return and with this decision they just obliterated that. He will now have to be bought out or traded for a 7th rounder.

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  10. Sandy
    March 1, 2014

    Torts is going out of his way to deliberately humiliate Roberto Luongo -the number 1 goaltender. Two points or not, this is a slap in the face for him. This comes after Torts throws a hissy fit —behaviour he would never accept from his players—and costs the team 7 games. I just bet my husband tonight that come the end of the season Torts and his dogs will be gone. I think they should bring in Kevin Dineen. Not only is he a good coach, but he is also sensitive to his players.

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  11. Ocularcontusion
    March 1, 2014

    I wish someone would pay me not to work.

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  12. shoes
    March 2, 2014

    I have supported this team through thick and thin, but I would not be surprised if the team comes out and plays their worst game in 8 years today. The management has no doubt turned the dressing room upside down with this horrible mistaken decision.

    Both Lack and Luongo have played good, and while the numbers favor Lack very slightly, you have to look at the actual games and see how bad the D played. I the downside of this decision is so far off the charts that I cannot believe the team nor Luongo will recover. Even if they come to their senses and say “just kidding” and start Luongo in net. Damage done.

    Thank you Harrison for a perfect take on this totally unnecessary decision. Team lays an egg today and a disgruntled Luongo comes in against the Yotes oon tuesday and plays poorly and our season is over, which it may have been anyway, but in the worst possible manner.

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  13. frank w
    March 2, 2014

    Torts has to go. HE has strange ideas about motivating people. Trying to get into an opponents dressing room, pulling for the swedes in the gold metal game and now not playing Luongo. Luongo is our # 1 goalie and there should be no question that he play this game. The goal tending is not the problem with the team it is the scoring. Perhaps Torts should figure out how to motivate and get our offence going instead of creating another controversy. Maybe Torts is an American subversive and his real reason for coming to Canada is to screw with are chances of getting to the playoffs. Torts is Gillis’s man and if does not get the Canucks into the playoffs and at least past the 1st round then he along with Torts must be fired.

    Roberto you have been a very classy guy over the last few years don’t let these bastards get you down!

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  14. Andrew
    March 2, 2014

    Has there been any other franchise that has fallen from the top so fast and so far? 2009-2011, the Canucks were regarded as one of the models to follow, innovative in their use of advanced stats, sleep Dr’s, etc, etc.

    But many, many decisions since then seem strategically designed to cause as much self-damage as possible. Hodgeson trade, PP rosters, let alone the Kesler/Lu/Schneider stuff. Yikes.

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  15. Celeste
    March 2, 2014

    Maybe Luongo’s hurt, eh?

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  16. Zach Morris
    March 2, 2014

    And lo, did Lu go through purgatory before reaching the promised land.

    Canucks management is just messing with us at this point.

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  17. bluemoonjones
    March 2, 2014

    Are you kidding me? Torts, if this is all on you, then you really don’t have a soul, great dog saver of the universe or not…

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen a pro sports organization be so blatantly obvious with their “shut up you got the dough” treatment to one of their own as the Canucks’ management is towards Luongo.

    Sure, we all like Lack, but this isn’t about that. And to Lu, of all people, who just doesn’t deserve it.

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  18. Brent
    March 2, 2014

    I really hope this means a trade in imminent. I mean it even has Raffi pissed off. RAFFI! He also questions the Sedin’s being on the power play, who knew he was a hockey expert too?

    https://twitter.com/FarhanLaljiTSN/status/439889738133041152

    Maybe Lou sings “Baby Beluga” when he walks around Stanley Park?

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  19. Aaron
    March 2, 2014

    I don’t get it. the only possible scenario where this is even remotely ok is if a trade is almost done. The only reason I can agree with. I love the Canucks but their treatment of Lou is pissing me off. HE DOES NOT DESERVE IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  20. enzoe flock
    March 2, 2014

    All right! Eddie Lack! Old time hockey!

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  21. Malmsteen
    March 2, 2014

    A long standing gripe of mine: mixed sports metaphors. Why say “run support”? “Goal support” works just as well. Hit it out of the park man!

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  22. BBoone
    March 2, 2014

    I do not understand replacing “Coach ” with “Canucks” in discussing the lineup . If the lineup decisions were made by the “Canucks” , Grabner would be at 35 goals as the Sedins wing . Right or wrong it is the coach that determines the lineup. . Mike Keenan , Bobby Valentine and Bill Laforge ,all rolled into one , are” in the house.”.

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  23. shoes
    March 2, 2014

    Well now…..that turned out good…..now who starts in Phoenix? the rattled rookie or the po’ed veteran that has probably seen enough of Torts and Gillis.

    Unbelievably bad move.

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  24. akidd
    March 2, 2014

    well, that was just drudgery. what completely un-fun hockey to watch. nice to get the big stage for the end show.

    the team has quit on tortorella. he has obviously lost the room. and watching his system, if that’s what we were watching, just isn’t worth the wins, let alone the losses.

    i know it hasn’t been a full season yet but i’ve seen all i care to. he seems like a nice guy and all but…FIRE TORTS!

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  25. J Belle
    March 3, 2014

    I usually stay away from the comments because it’s as close to a lose-lose as you can find, but I’m hoping to inject a little bit of a calm head here.

    Roberto Luongo, coming in to the Heritage Classic, has played one competitive hockey game in about a month, and it was against a team that most AHL teams would generally expect to win against. Before that, he had come off a personal 6 (not sure exactly) game losing streak. He also had to recently go through a 13 hour time change from Sochi, so any work he may have done with the team in the first few days back from Russia is eesentially worthless, from a physiological point of view.

    Eddie Lack, on the other hand, has been practicing with the team (what’s left of it) uninterrupted for the entirety of the season, and is recently coming off back-to-back starts at the level equal to any other goaltender playing in the NHL since the Olympic Break.

    The reason why Torts started Lack makes a lot of sense to me. Whether or not you personally like the guy is irrelevant. He started the goalie with the best chance of winning the game. If anyone has an argument for why Luongo should have started that stays away from sentimentality, i’d love to hear it, but the fanbase whinging over their ‘feelings’ about ‘respect’ and ‘what Luongo deserves’ need to remember that this is a profesional sport played by professional athletes and Vancouver badly needs two points. It’s not a Roberto Luongo tribute evening.

    That being said, regardless of your feelings, the fact that Eddie Lack was booed is disgraceful. We have a reputation for having one of the worst fanbases in the league (and professional sports in general), and though I typically try to defend us to my friends and colleagues, it’s nights like last night that make me think they have a point.

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    • d.bech
      March 3, 2014

      Blaming all losses on the goaltender is about why the Canucks are in the position they are in. The Canucks don’t win because they don’t score. The coach made the wrong decision. The management made the wrong decision. That is all!

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  26. d.bech
    March 3, 2014

    Pretty sure Mr. Kesler isn’t the only player asking for a one way ticket out! The Sedins look like that want to be anywhere else but stuck in front of a bench anywhere close to Torts. Perhaps it’s time Gillis try to convince the AHL team that management will treat them with the utmost respect. Gillis can’t fool the team anymore. What a disgrace. Free Torts allright, and Free Gillis why your at it.

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  27. a.mitchell
    March 3, 2014

    Yes a formal appology should go out to Eddie Lack. You never boo your own goalie. What kind of horrible fans are Vancouverites? Get some class and get behind your team, ALL of them! I agree with previous comments I am embarassed to be grouped with the majority of fans who behave that way.

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