Roberto Luongo

Luongo on possibility of playing in Toronto: “It’s something I can handle”


Where will Roberto Luongo be traded? What will Roberto Luongo be traded for? Wait…will Roberto Luongo even be traded?

The questions are plentiful; the answers at this point, not so much.

Such is the level of interest among Maple Leafs fans that the Toronto Sun sent a reporter to Coral Springs, Florida, where Luongo was practicing today (in a Canucks jersey) with goalie coach Francois Allaire.

The idea that Luongo would be scared to go to a hockey-mad market like Toronto has always seemed laughable to us. The 33-year-old has started the two highest-pressure games that exist – he won the gold-medal game for Canada in 2010; he lost Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup finals for Vancouver. Call him a choker all you want — he’s had nightmare outings — but most goalies don’t even get the opportunity to choke in big games because they’re not good enough to get to them.

Meanwhile, in Toronto, Leafs coach Randy Carlyle was asked about his current net-minding tandem of James Reimer and Ben Scrivens.

“We have NHL caliber goaltending,” said Carlyle, echoing GM Brian Burke’s past statements on the issue.

Meanwhile, in Vancouver, Canucks GM Mike Gillis was asked Sunday about his Luongo conundrum.

Predictably, Gillis wasn’t willing to say much: “Until (the CBA) gets ratified we are not talking trade with any other teams. We’re not going to do anything until we see a collective agreement that’s ratified, that’s approved by the players and ratified by the owners. At that point, we’ll begin to move forward on a variety of different fronts we’ve been thinking about.”

Gillis has said in the past that he’s more than willing to keep Luongo and have him share the goaltending load with Cory Schneider. Which would be…interesting.

“I’m open to a lot of ideas right now,” Luongo said. “I don’t want to corner myself, especially since I might have to start the season in Vancouver or play the whole season there. Who knows.”

He added: ““I’m prepared right now to go up to Vancouver and start training camp. Unless Mike tells me otherwise, I’m ready to go, I’m excited. I miss being around the guys.”

As for other possible destinations:

—- Florida. Believed to be Luongo’s first choice for family reasons. The Canucks have reportedly expressed interest in Panthers prospect Nick Bjugstad. This makes sense, as Bjugstad is a very good prospect. Probably too good for the Panthers to give up.

—- Columbus. In case you missed it, the Blue Jackets struggled between the pipes last season. But would Luongo waive his no-trade clause to go to Columbus? (No offense to Columbus.)

—- Chicago. Can you imagine? Whatever Blackhawks fans may think of it, Luongo gives their team a better chance to win than Corey Crawford.

—- Edmonton. Even if the Oilers were interested, would Vancouver management consider trading Luongo to a division rival? Especially a division rival that’s on its way to becoming an elite team.

Kyle Connor expected to be healthy scratch for Jets

WINNIPEG, MANITOBA - OCTOBER 23:  Goalie Cam Talbot #33 of the Edmonton Oilers pushes Kyle Connor #81 of the Winnipeg Jets  during the 2016 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic hockey game on October 23, 2016 at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. (Photo by Jason Halstead /Getty Images)
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Jets rookie Kyle Connor played just 10:09 in Sunday’s outdoor loss to the Oilers, and tonight in Dallas it appears he’ll be a healthy scratch for the first time in his NHL career.

Connor was not among the 12 Winnipeg forwards taking line rushes this morning. The 19-year-old has just one assist in his first five games as a Jet. He’s a minus-5 and has also struggled in terms of possession, as evidenced by his 38 percent Corsi.

The 17th overall pick in the 2015 draft, Connor spent one year at the University of Michigan before leaving school to turn pro. He’s eligible to be sent to the AHL this season, something the Jets are no doubt considering.

Winnipeg has a number of potential call-ups on its farm club, including Marko Dano, Quinton Howden, Andrew Copp, Nicolas Petan, and Jack Roslovic.

Babcock’s had his fill of goalie questions, thanks

SUNRISE, FL - JUNE 26:  Head coach Mike Babcock of the Toronto Maple Leafs looks on prior to the first round of the 2015 NHL Draft at BB&T Center on June 26, 2015 in Sunrise, Florida.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Mike Babcock is aware Toronto’s goaltending hasn’t been good this season.

He’s also aware that Toronto’s goaltending hasn’t been good the last few seasons.

Thing is, he doesn’t want to talk about it.

“It’s five games in, isn’t it?” Babcock replied on Tuesday, when asked about the Leafs’ shaky netminding so far, specifically the play of Frederik Andersen. “Let’s just take a deep breath here.”

And here’s a transcript of what followed (courtesy Sportsnet)!

Reporter: The guy on Saturday night said the Leafs goaltending has been lousy this year.

Babcock: Who did?

Reporter: The guy on Saturday night — Don Cherry.

Babcock: Oh, OK. Well now that I know where I’m getting my facts from, here we go. Come on. Let’s move on. What’s next here? Holy [expletive].

Reporter: No, but seriously, it’s been an issue for this market probably since Ed Belfour left, and I’m wondering if there’s anything to that.

Babcock: But I’m not dealing with that. This is what I would tell you. We think we have a really good goaltender. At the World Cup I had three outstanding goaltenders, and they all talked about how much time it usually takes to get ready.

Our guy didn’t have that opportunity because of his injury. We’re real comfortable with him. Do we think he’s played as good as he’s capable of playing? No. Do we think he’s going to? Yes.

Babcock’s right to suggest it’s too early to start grading Andersen. First, there’s the adjustment from playing behind a good team in a small market (Anaheim) to playing behind a “growing team” in a massive, pressure-packed market like Toronto.

There’s also the additional pressure that came with Andersen’s acquisition price (a first- and second-round pick) and his subsequent contract extension (five years, $25 million).

The injury suffered playing for Denmark in Olympic qualifying was definitely a setback, as there’s no doubt some games for Team Europe at the World Cup of Hockey would’ve better prepared Andersen for the season.

Still, it’s hard to look at his numbers — 1-0-3, .879 save percentage, 3.63 GAA — and not be at least a little concerned.

Unless you’re Mike Babcock, that is.

Related: The list of struggling netminders is a long one, as it’s been goals galore to start the year

Elliott gets the start in return to St. Louis

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 24: Matt Stajan #18 and Lance Bouma #17 of the Calgary Flames congratulate Brian Elliott #1 after a shootout win against the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center on October 24, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The Flames defeated the Blachawks 3-2 in a shootout. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Brian Elliott will be in Calgary’s crease against his old team tonight in St. Louis.

Even though Elliott played last night in Chicago, it was an easy decision for Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan. Elliott had easily his best game of the season against the Blackhawks, stopping 31 of 33 shots in a 3-2 shootout victory. The 31-year-old turned away all seven Chicago shooters in the breakaway competition, helping the Flames to just their second win of the young season.

“I definitely wanted that one,” Elliott told reporters afterwards. “We haven’t been playing like we wanted to and the guys came out and had a heck of an effort.”

Elliott started 164 games for the Blues during his five years in St. Louis. Last season, he backstopped them to their first conference final since 2001. He was then traded to Calgary in June, paving the way for Jake Allen to become the full-time starter in St. Louis.

Related: The list of struggling goalies is a long one

Crosby on track to make season debut tonight

NEWARK, NJ - JANUARY 30: Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins waits for a face-off against the 
New Jersey Devils during the third period at the Prudential Center on January 30, 2015 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images)
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Yesterday, Sidney Crosby participated in a full-contact practice.

Today, it appears he’ll make his season debut when the Penguins host the Panthers tonight in Pittsburgh.

“He had a strong practice this morning,” head coach Mike Sullivan said, per the club. “Everything is pointing in the right direction. If he’s comfortable, he could play.”

Crosby has missed just six games due to the concussion he sustained during practice on Oct. 7. Given his history with concussions, if he plays tonight, it has to be considered a best-case scenario. Certainly, there had been fear he could be out much longer.

For the record, Crosby told reporters he’ll be a game-time decision.