For those Vancouver Canucks fans who have been crossing their fingers, hoping Roberto Luongo would be making an appearance soon in the Canucks net, sorry to say that the wait is going to go on indefinitely. Luongo did not make the team’s latest trip to Edmonton and was experiencing pain while making “dynamic movements”. He is now back on the shelf again, and won’t practice again until he is pain free. Right now the Canucks are listing Luongo’s status as week to week, which, with a nagging groin injury, could turn into month to month in a worst case scenario. Luongo last played on November 22nd and had been enjoying a Vezina trophy caliber season up until that point.
This means that backup Curtis Sanford and AHL recruit Cory Schneider will continue to share the netminding duties until Luongo can make a full recovery. The Canucks have played decent hockey since Luongo went down, but they are going to have to bear down in the defensive zone if they want to keep their perch atop the Northwest division. Of course, if the Canucks are able to land prized free agent Mats Sundin that will certainly help.
There are a couple of positives about the Luongo injury. First of all it gave prospect Cory Schneider a chance to prove what he could do at the NHL level. Schneider has been dominant for Canucks’ AHL affiliate Manitoba Moose, and there has been speculation by fans and media that Schneider, much like Carey Price in Montreal, was ready to make the jump to the big club. So far Schneider has been proving those optimists 100% correct. However, if the Canucks want to keep Schneider in their system he will be better off with the Moose where he will get much more playing time than he would as a backup to Luongo.
Another benefit of the Luongo injury is that it has allowed the team to bond, and given them confidence that they can be a good team without their star netminder. Critics of the Canucks had asserted that Luongo basically carried the whole team, and the Canucks wouldn’t be able to compete in the event Luongo went down. Well, that even happened and the club has proven that they can still play decent hockey without him.
That being said, this team can’t delude itself. Barring the acquisition of Sundin, they will start to slide in the standings if Luongo can’t make it back soon. They can still be a playoff team without him, but with him they have a chance to be a Stanley Cup contender.