Monday, October 22, 2012

A New Home for BobbyLu?

Over the weekend, I saw a blurb that Roberto Luongo might be headed to the Toronto Maple Leafs. This isn't the first time that this rumor has floated around, but the Florida Panthers and the Edmonton Oilers also seem to be in the mix this time. There are some things I like, but there are a lot of things I just don't understand about this move. Maybe I should start with what I do know.

There is absolutely no way that Roberto Luongo can return to the Vancouver Canucks for whenever this lockout ends. Well, they may take him for half a season, but unless he wins the Cup, he will not be returning for the next full season (and even at that it's probably iffy). Why do I say that? No matter the team, the goalie is almost always the player carrying the brunt of criticism when teams lose. There is no difference here. When the Canucks are losing, fans are quick to criticize Luongo's play. And part of that stems from the fact that he carries a huge contract. He still has ten years left on his twelve-year contract with a $5.33 million cap hit. The expectations that come with a contract like that are huge, and in Canada, forget it. The Canucks are expecting to win the Cup, and when they appeared but lost in the Finals in 2011, a lot of fans blamed Luongo. And this past season, when they lost in the first round to the eight-seed Los Angeles Kings, Vancouver fans were calling for his head. To be honest, losing to the Bruins in the Finals was not all Luongo's fault. That team played like they were running out of steam, and it very well could have been because the Western Conference is far more competitive than the Eastern Conference. But there are no excuses, you have to be playing your best hockey when it comes to the playoffs. The Canucks that year just weren't playing as well, and the Bruins were on top of their game. This past year, they entered into the playoffs without one of their best forwards, Daniel Sedin. Luongo was pulled from this series, but I'm not sure that if he was playing at the top of his game that the Canucks still would have won the Cup or even that series. I say this mostly because of the absence of Daniel Sedin, but Kevin Bieksa also wasn't contributing in the way that he usually does. But also, the Kings kicked into high gear and went on a historic run to win the Cup. However, what happened, happened, and the team began reconsidering the value of the Alain Vigneault and Roberto Luongo. When the team extended A.V.'s contract, attention turned to the goaltender yet again, despite the fact that he has a no-trade clause. But the way that the city reacted to the disappointing playoff run, it became more and more clear that BobbyLu was no longer welcome in Vancouver.

Enter Toronto Maple Leafs. This is a struggling team. It should be noted that the struggles aren't just on the ice; they also have some monetary constraints and have had to be creative when it came to making trades and free agents. With Luongo's contract, I'm not entirely sure how this will work, but I'm guessing if the rumors are true that the organization has approached Mike Gillis, then they must have some sort of plan. They have made great improvements over the last few years, but they still haven't been able to make the playoffs despite the promises of Brian Burke. One of their weaknesses is at the goaltender position. They had been rotating between James Reimer and Jonas Gustavsson, but neither of them are truly a star goaltender. I think that Reimer shows promise, but I don't know if he will ever be elite. When the team traded Gustavsson to the Jets (Winnipeg not the Tebow ones), it became clear that the Leafs would be in the hunt for a goaltender. It would make a lot of sense that the Canucks are looking to unload one while the Leafs are trying to acquire one. But does Toronto make a lot of sense for Luongo? This is where I struggle. The Leafs are not a Cup-contending team, even if he does go there. Right now, I think they are concentrating on getting into the playoffs more than anything else. But again, he would be playing for a Canadian team who have now made this big trade to acquire him in an effort to inevitable make a run at the Cup. The pressure is huge again. However, I read an article on the Yahoo! Puck Daddy blog by Greg Wyshyski (article here: that points out Luongo could legitimately put the Leafs into the Cup race and that he would be a "savior" of the team rather than a scapegoat. I can see this as a possible scenario, but I'm struggling to accept this as a likely one. I think it will boil down to what the Leafs are going to have to give up in order to acquire the goalie. I believe that Luongo will put the Leafs in the hunt for a seed in the playoffs, but for a trade of this magnitude, I would think you would want a little more. In the Eastern Conference right now, the eighth seed is not going to be enough to make a deep run into the playoffs. If this trade does happen, it will be extremely interesting to see how this team does.

The Florida Panthers are also in the mix. BobbyLu did spend some time with the franchise before Vancouver, so there is some familiarity there. The Panthers made a lot of roster changes and produced a great team that secured a playoff spot for the first time in twelve years. Like the Maple Leafs, this team is not without its financial problems, as they have had to fire their mascot, but this team has already made significant strides to make playoff runs. One of their weaknesses is at goaltender, which makes this trade intriguing, but it is unclear whether they would like to take a veteran or look to their developing prospects. I would think that Luongo might be more interested in the Panthers because they have a stronger team that has already produced results, and he won't have to deal with the intense Candian media and fan scrutiny. But I think it's really a question of how interested the organization is in the goaltender.

Now, here is where things stop making sense. The Edmonton Oilers have expressed interest in BobbyLu. This is the youngest team in the league and has made every effort in developing a team that is not only young but also talented. The aim is to create a team that can make the playoffs for many many years and contend for the Cup. When the lockout ends, the Oilers may be presenting the first line of consecutive number one picks in Taylor Hall (2010), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (2011), and Nail Yakupov (2012). The only reason they wouldn't be debuting Yakupov is if they apply the same philosophy that they did with Nugent-Hopkins and wait to see him in training camp to decide if he is ready to play at the NHL level. It was revealed in an episode of Oil Change that Steve Tambellini was willing to put Nugent-Hopkins in the AHL or juniors until he was ready. He did not want to interfere with the player's development. This is an organization that clearly has every intention in getting the most from their draft picks (which have been high because they're horrible) and have faith in the farm system. While they have been awaiting Devan Dubnyk to be that franchise goalie they would like him to be, they have put Nikolai Khabibulin in net. If the Oilers acquired Luongo, they would be severing ties with either Dubnyk or Khabibulin. Let's say they drop Dubnyk, then the team has two veteran goalies, which isn't the end of the world, but unless they are getting something more valuable by moving Dubnyk, it's probably not the direction that the Oilers are trying to go. Like I said, they've been trying to go younger. So if they drop Khabibulin, we're looking at a Luongo-Dubnyk tandem. The problem is this is that they will be in the same conundrum as Vancouver. Luongo is a big contract, so you're going to have to start him. But Dubnyk is a young potential star, if he begins to shine like the Oilers think he will, then you're going to want to eventually start him since he is younger. As a long-term plan, you'll want to go with Dubnyk. However, with the money you had spent on Luongo, you're not going to want him on the bench counting towards the cap, but it'll be even harder to move him since he's older now. I find this rumor to be the least believable, but from what I understand, the Oilers were just interested in hearing some numbers to assess value. It was a sniff, so to speak. However, I still don't understand it for the above explanation.

And the last thing I don't really understand is the timing. Well, that's not entirely true, I get it but I don't get it. Right now, we're looking at a lockout in which owners want to shorten contracts and bring down the ceiling on how much players earn. BobbyLu has a TEN-year contract, which was drafted up by the owners in the first place. I understand that this deal was made a couple years ago and that what's done is done, but if we are to go forward, why is this contract being circulated now? Obviously, there wasn't enough interest before the lockout started, and I am guessing that that is because owners didn't want to take a large contract before the new CBA was in place (though that didn't stop some). But right as owners are trying not to honor the large contracts signed just before the lockout, this Luongo rumor is going around. I don't understand that. I know he can't stay in Vancouver, but why isn't this deal hammered out once the CBA is agreed upon and the money issues are settled? It's not as though the season is about to start in a few days.

No comments:

Post a Comment