Russo's NHL Insider: Canucks' goalie controversy stays quiet in house

  • Updated: February 9, 2013 - 7:47 PM

Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider remain friends, even though it's clear one will be departing Vancouver.

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Roberto Luongo.

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You have to hand it to Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider.

This Vancouver goalie controversy might be the least controversial in the history of goalie controversies.

Take Wednesday: As Luongo began to talk about his current situation -- one in which everybody knows Luongo's destined for another city, one that Luongo will essentially be able to choose thanks to a no-trade clause -- Schneider was surrounded by reporters a few feet away talking openly and loudly about starting against the Wild.

This came one day after Schneider's agent, Mike Liut, spouted off a variety of opinions to the Vancouver Sun.

As Schneider was peppered with questions about starting in Minnesota and his agent's comments, it would have been natural for him to talk in a whisper or for Luongo to duck out to a back room.

Neither happened.

"It starts with our relationship, our friendship," Schneider said. "It takes any possible awkwardness or tension out of the whole situation. It's very easy to be very normal around each other."

Both are used to the questions. The story has legs and won't die until Luongo is traded.

"It's pretty much the talk on a daily basis," Luongo said. "I don't really let it affect me. I know [the questions] are coming, and I just handle it the way it goes that day. At this point, we all know what's going on. There's no secret [he will be eventually traded].

"Everybody's up front and honest, and now it's just a waiting game. I just focus on playing because it's really out of my control at this point."

So far, like the former agent he is, Canucks General Manager Mike Gillis is standing firm. He wants real value for Luongo and won't just give him away. Chicago seemed a potential landing spot until the Blackhawks' scorching start with great goaltending. Toronto, Washington and Florida, where Luongo lives and his wife and kids remain, are the top contenders now.

The Canucks can be patient. They have an embarrassment of riches in goal, and the distraction hasn't affected the team. They lead the Northwest Division. Luongo, who had goalie guru Francois Allaire in Florida for eight weeks during the lockout to improve his game, has a 1.53 goals-against average. And since an awful opener against Anaheim, Schneider is 3-1 with a 1.71 goals-against average.

Canucks coach Alain Vigneault, who jokes (we think) that he flips a coin to choose starters, said both goalies and the team have done a remarkable job not allowing the sideshow to become a distraction.

Vancouver Province hockey writer Ben Kuzma says: "I wouldn't be surprised if I wrote 200 stories since last summer. It's quite the day when I don't write a goalie story."

Luongo, 33, is in his third year of a 12-year, $64 million contract. Schneider, 26, is in the first year of a three-year, $12 million deal. It's obvious which goalie is the future.

Luongo, after much scrutiny the past few years, has become a sympathetic figure in Vancouver. In large part, it's because of his hilarious secret anonymous Twitter account (@strombone1) that everybody knows is him.

I covered Luongo for a long time in Florida. I got to see his wit and intelligence on a daily basis, and he's finally allowed fans and media to see this different side of him.

Some of the best tweets recently have been: "Phone lines are open" once the lockout ended (referring to the fact he's on the trading block again); "Guys I've just been dealt........... POCKET ACES! #latenightpoker"; and this golden retweet from the league's official Twitter site: "Can't wait!!! RT @NHL: #Canucks fans, are you ready to see Cory Schneider as No. 1 in net? #hockeyisback."

It's become such shtick, Luongo's not about to come clean to his 67,000 followers that it's him. It's like Batman. Luongo is the Caped Crusader. He can't take the mask off @strombone1. It would lose its cache, wouldn't be as fun.

Part of the charm is knowing it's him, but actually not really knowing. It's kind of like who's the real No. 1 goalie in Vancouver.

RUSSO'S NHL SHORT TAKES

Realignment still kicked around

While there is a meeting this month to iron out the Olympics and the fact there is little doubt NHL players will participate in the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, realignment continues to be a hot-button topic.

As members of the NHL and NHLPA hierarchy gather to write the collective bargaining agreement, they are also discussing realignment. NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly says the league "hopes to have a resolution in the near future."

While the Olympics and the uncertain future of the Phoenix Coyotes affect the schedule's release in June, Daly says it should not hold up realignment.

The Coyotes' sale to Greg Jamison did not occur by a Jan. 31 deadline set by the city of Glendale. The league continues to operate the team and there is the possibility for an eventual relocation, perhaps to Seattle.

The NHLPA would not provide its consent for realignment last year, something that disappointed Wild owner Craig Leipold.

At the time, Leipold promised "to continue to pursue this realignment plan as aggressively as possible. ... Our fans were universally excited to be playing against Midwestern teams in the previous old Norris Division."

The Wild wants to move out of the Northwest Division with Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Colorado into a "conference" with Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit, Nashville, St. Louis and Winnipeg.

WILD'S WEEK AHEAD

Monday: at Calgary, 8 p.m. (FSN Plus)

Tuesday: at Vancouver, 9 p.m. (FSN)

Thursday: vs. Colorado, 7 p.m. (FSN)

 

PLAYER TO WATCH

Jarome Iginla

The Flames captain, who is in the last year of his contract, is the all-time leading scorer against the Wild with 35 goals (10 winning goals) and 64 points in 67 games.

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    While there is a meeting this month to iron out the Olympics and the fact there is little doubt NHL players will participate in the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi,...

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