The Vancouver Canucks and goaltender Roberto Luongo have cleared two hurdles en route to a copasetic relationship going forward.
But while Luongo has surrendered his captaincy and gotten over the disappointment of having his preferred goaltending coach fired, he still isn't drinking from the Canucks fountain when it comes to playing time.
Luongo, who relinquished his captaincy Sunday - amid rumours the team was prepared to strip him of the 'C' - is expected to be sat down more often than in previous years as the organization hands playing time to backup Cory Schneider, a top prospect who has yet to prove himself in the NHL.
"This is my fifth year [in Vancouver]and this is the fifth time I've heard that," Luongo said about plans to reduce his playing time and keep him fresh. "So, we'll see."
Luongo explained that he had doubts about continuing as captain immediately after a second-round playoff loss to the Chicago Blackhawks in May, and he sensed the organization did, too. He raised the subject in exit meetings with general manager Mike Gillis and head coach Alain Vigneault, but was told to take the summer to think about it, and not make an emotional decision.
Luongo said he wanted to simply focus on stopping pucks, and acknowledged the individualistic nature of his position made it difficult for him to serve as an honest team spokesman without being accused of blaming the skaters in front of him.
"It was a precarious position to be in," he said. "Sometimes, it came off the wrong way."
NHL rules prohibit goaltenders from serving as on-ice captains, but Luongo served in a ceremonial capacity at team events and in the dressing room. He said he would continue in a leadership role, and that several teammates would be worthwhile successors.
Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler were named alternate captains prior to last season, and they are the favourites to assume the 'C.' Gillis said the team hoped to have a new captain named by the end of training camp, but might wait longer. He also said a rotating captain system would not be adopted.
"There is an opportunity for people to step up," Gillis said when asked why a successor was not immediately named.
Luongo said he was on board with management's tough stance this summer, a culture change after two disappointing playoff performances from their would-be star goalie.
But that will be revealed in time, because the Montreal native took some body blows, particularly the decision to fire goaltending consultant Ian Clark and replace him with Roland Melanson, a full-time coach.
Luongo, 31, has a long history of wanting a say in his goalie coach, going back to his years with the Florida Panthers, and he didn't get that with an organization that used to cater to his whims. He wasn't consulted on Melanson's hiring, nor Clark's release.
"Obviously, at first, I was surprised and disappointed," he said about losing Clark. "At the end of the day, this is a business."
Luongo is extremely loyal to Clark, so much so that he spent part of his summer working with the deposed coach in Florida. Melanson joined them for a week, but Luongo didn't get back to Montreal to work with François Allaire, another of his preferred tutors, who coaches for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Luongo started 67 and 54 games in the last two seasons, respectively, despite missing time with injuries in both campaigns. Prior to that, he had four consecutive seasons with at least 72 starts.
As Luongo noted, Vigneault often makes camp proclamations about reducing his No. 1 goalie's workload, only to pencil his name into the lineup game after game. In this case, however, the missive is coming from Gillis.Report Typo/Error