Saturday, October 23, 2010

Cory Schneider Earning His Keep

Is it too soon to say there's a goaltending controversy in Vancouver?  Okay, maybe it is.

Luongo is not at risk of losing his starting job, but backup goaltender Cory Schneider has played two great games on home ice, backstopping the Vancouver Canucks to identical 5-1 wins over the Carolina Hurricanes and the Minnesota Wild.

On Friday night, Schneider stopped 23-24 shots and appeared well composed and in great position.  He was on pace to record a shutout until the Wild got a late goal with just over two minutes left.  Schneider has been one of the season's early highlights for Vancouver, who has endured a slow start out of the gates this year.

In past years, Luongo rarely got a night off and the team seemed uneasy with the journeymen backup goaltenders behind Bobby Lou.  Be it Danny Sabourin, Andrew Raycroft, or Curtis Sanford, Canuck fans have seen some solid performances from them, but not many Canucks fans exuded much confidence with that group between the pipes.  Schneider however gives the Canucks a formidable backup option should Luongo be off his game or in need of a rest.

When Gillis did not sign a veteran goaltender in the summer to backup Roberto Luongo, the writing was on the wall that Schneider would finally get some regular time in the NHL.  This move should play out really well on a few fronts:

1) Cory Schneider will develop against NHL level competition.  Schneider has been arguably the AHL's best goaltender for two years running and does not have much left to prove there.

2) Schneider can be showcased as a tradable asset.  By giving Schneider 20 games or so at the NHL level, he is being showcased to other teams as a potential starting goaltender, greatly enhancing his value from solid prospect to potential star.

3) If all goes well, Schneider could give Roberto Luongo a little push.  While his salary and profile dictate that his starting job is secure, the fans in Vancouver would quickly turn on Roberto and demand he be traded if a younger goalie making $1 million per season performed better than the all-world goaltender.

Rest assured that Luongo will likely solidify his form in the coming weeks, but at least in the interim the Canucks can rely on some steady goaltending from Cory Schneider until Roberto hits mid-season form.

Vancouver fans should sit back and enjoy the show between the pipes this year.  This tandem between the pipes is arguably the best the Vancouver Canucks organization has ever had.

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