Vancouver Canucks Rumors: John Tortorella Happy Roberto Luongo Starter After Cory Schneider Trade, Coach Praises Veteran as Backbone of Team

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Jul 05, 2013 02:05 PM EDT
Vancouver Canucks
Vancouver Canucks goaltenders Roberto Luongo (L) and Cory Schneider (R) talk on the ice during practice."

The Vancouver Canucks are attempting to rebuild off two very disappointing seasons of postseason play. After yet another early exit, the Canucks fired their head coach in favor of John Tortorella. As general manager Mike Gillis stressed change for the team, many thought that included a trade of veteran goalie Roberto Luongo. Instead, 2012-13 starter Cory Schneider was traded away in favor of draft picks. Tortorella is happy Luongo remains with the team.

The Schneider/Luongo situation was a saga that began to play out at the end of 2011-12 season, when Schneider took the place of struggling Luongo. After spending all season as the No. 1 goaltender, he was traded away in favor of keeping Luongo around, ending the goalie controversy in Vancouver.

"I think Roberto's a hell of a goalie," Tortorella said to TSN Drive radio. "I've done many interviews and people start saying, 'Well, Schneider's going to be the starter, and he's the backup.' Roberto Luongo isn't a backup. I watched him in the Olympics, I've watched him through his career. He is a really good goalie."

Tortorella does not know all of the details that happened in the past that caused Luongo to get benched in favor of his then-backup Schneider, but the head coach is confident the goalie has put all of that behind him in favor of a fresh start both mentally and physically. Tortorella refers to Luongo as the real "backbone of our team" and he certainly will be for some time.

It is likely that Luongo remains in Vancouver because of his large contract. Currently signed through 2020, the Canucks could not trade away the goalie if their lives depended on it. Instead of using the amnesty provision and just releasing Luongo for nothing in return, they opted to trade Schneider for the No. 9 overall draft pick. It was a move that shocked both goaltenders. Luongo has since said that it has to hit him that he will be back in Vancouver for another season.

At 34, Luongo appeared in 20 games last season, posting a 9-6-3 record and a 2.56 goals-against average. Schneider is a much younger 27 who posted a 2.11 GAA and a 17-9-4 record as the starter. Each played in two playoff games against the San Jose Sharks who swept the Canucks out of first round.

Tortorella found the goaltending situation to be very unique for the Canucks last season. Both players had the skill set to start and Vancouver spent most of the year unsure of whom to put in the net as each goalie got hot at certain times. He plans on pushing the team to a Stanley Cup and expects Luongo to be in the net when it happens.

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