It’s tempting to look at Cory Schneider’s play so far this season and suggest that the Canucks may have a goaltending controversy at their hands.
First, the obvious. Like it or not, Roberto Luongo has a no-trade clause in his 12-year/$64 million contract that kicked in this year. There are a couple of windows of opportunity during the life of the contract to move him should he or the Canucks decide to part ways, but the first such opportunity isn’t until around the fifth year of the cotnract. Like it or not, Luongo is here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future.
The second point is a closer look at both Schneider’s and Luongo’s starts this season. I’m pretty sure most Canucks fans were skeptical when GM Mike Gillis indicated in the preseason that the Canucks would like to see Cory Schneider start in 20-25 games this season. By my rough count, Luongo has started all but 24(-ish) total games in which he was healthy in his first four seasons with the team. That Schneider has already started 2 of the Canucks’ first 8 games – a pace that would see him play in 20 games – tells me that Gillis and co. are serious about sticking to whatever schedule they’ve drawn up for their goaltenders.
There’s no doubt that Schneider has done well in his starts (and in his one period of action in Minnesota). The numbers – 3 GP, 2-0-0, 0.86 GAA, 0.968 save % on 63 shots faced – scream for themselves.
In comparison, here are Luongo’s numbers – 6 GP, 1-3-0, 2.92 GAA, 0.903 save % on 175 shots against.
It’s obvious Schneider’s numbers are better, but to be fair, while Luongo’s had a couple of stinkers, he’s also played very well in others. Remember that he stopped 72 of 74 shots against in the Canucks’ first 2 games. Even without Dan Hahmhuis and Keith Ballard in the lineup, he was very good against the Chicago Blackhawks, or at least he was until the shootout. He was even good against the Anaheim Ducks until the Canucks suddenly forgot how to play defense in the third period.
The one difference between the games in which Schneider started and the ones in which Luongo started is the offensive support both received. In Schneider’s 2 starts, the Canucks scored a total of 10 goals (or 5.00 goals per game). In Luongo’s 6 starts, the Canucks also scored a total of 10 goals (or 1.67 goals per game). I’m not saying the lack of offensive support fully accounts for Luongo’s rough start, but you have to admit that it’s hard to win games when the team scores less than 2 goals per game.
IMHO, it’s too early to talk about a goaltending controversy. If you ask me, all the Canucks have right now is a backup goaltender making the most of his opportunities – starts at home against tired teams. But let’s talk again later if the Canucks continue to win with Schneider and lose with Luongo.