Tuesday, 4 March 2014

More Than Pumping Tires

Well, this should be interesting. In case you missed the breaking news today, Roberto Luongo is going home. The Vancouver Canucks finally moved the Canadian Olympian after all of the drama last season as Luongo and minor-league forward Steve Anthony will head south to Sunrise, Florida in exchange for goaltender Jacob Markstrom and center Shawn Matthias. If you're thinking one step ahead, we're thinking the same way because Luongo will join Tim Thomas as the netminders for the Panthers - the same man who he had a war of words with during the 2011 Stanley Cup Final.

I can tell you this: Luongo's contract probably ensures that Thomas will not be a Panther next season. And considering their bodies of work this season, Luongo will probably get a pile of time in the blue paint that Thomas probably thought he was getting. Both men are competitors and have a lot of pride, so you know that one of these two Cats will be a little unhappy with the amount of games he plays down the stretch.

Luongo was asked today by TSN 1050 in Vancouver about being teammates with man who beat him in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final. Luongo took it in stride, laughing, and replied, "I don't know, we'll see how it goes when I get there."

Luongo, for what it's worth, gets to go home where he spends the off-season. He returns to the team that traded him to Vancouver in 2006, and will most likely be expected to carry this team as far as he can. While he is older and a little wiser than his last time in a Panthers jersey, Luongo sounds like he's ready to move on after the last couple of years of drama in Vancouver.

"I was not expecting it," Luongo told reporters shortly after the trade. "Go figure, right? I'm happy for myself and my family and a little bit sad to be leaving Vancouver. All in all it was a great run. There was a lot of stuff that happened in between but I have nothing but good things to say about the fans that were really supportive especially towards the end. This organization brought my game to another level. It's all positive stuff."

I expected Roberto Luongo to deliver a classy exit speech at last year's NHL Entry Draft, but it was Cory Schneider who was traded. Luongo appeared to be the starter once again, but the Canucks seemed to be working Eddie Lack into the blue paint more often, including the Winter Classic this past weekend. Luongo was saying all the right things about not getting the start in the highly-anticipated game, but you know he had to have been disappointed.

With Markstrom and Lack, the Canucks have a pair of young Swedish goalies who they should be able to start building around nicely. Markstrom is 24 and Lack is 26, so both are entering their primes as hockey players. Matthias will be a nice addition to the third-line in Vancouver, and is versatile enough that he can be moved around to fit into the Canucks' lineup.

It will be interesting to watch the two veteran goalies in Florida, though. These two highly-competitive men won't give an inch in their battle to earn and keep their ice-time. While both men will put on a happy face and say nice things about each other, the fires that burn within Luongo and Thomas will burn hot as they compete down the stretch.

The rebuild is underway in Vancouver, but the battle is on in Florida!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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