Canucks coach says Luongo is his No. 1 goalie

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Vancouver Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault will start goalie Cory Schneider against the Columbus Blue Jackets this evening. It’ll be the sixth consecutive time Vigneault’s started Schneider, a decision that’s led some to suggest Schneider — not the incumbent starter, Roberto Luongo — is the new No. 1 goalie in Vancouver.

Not so, says Vigneault.

“Roberto wants to play, he is a competitor, he is a very proud guy,” Vigneault told the Vancouver Sun. “He knows he is the No. 1 goaltender on this team and he wants to play. But at the end of the day Cory right now is playing real well and those are the decisions a coach has to make.”

Not that this decision was especially tough. Schneider’s riding a four-game winning streak and has allowed just two goals on his last 91 shots faced — if anything, the decision not to play him would’ve been contentious.

Would Vancouver ever officially make Luongo its backup?

Those in the “Hell No” camp point to Luongo’s albatross of a contract (only 11 years and $54 million to go!) as the primary reason why.

Successful teams have employed spendy backups in the past — Tim Thomas was once a $5 million backup in Boston, Chicago won a Stanley Cup with Cristobal Huet making $5.6 million on the bench — but the Vancouver situation is a lot different.

The Canucks couldn’t conceivably buy out Luongo, because they’d be paying it out until the year 2063 (approximately).  It’s also unlikely he’d accept being a Swiss league loaner to free Vancouver of his cap hit (not to accuse Chicago or anything). There are also legitimate concerns that, given the amount of hockey he’s played, Luongo’s best days are behind him — casting doubt on a potential Thomas-like revival to reclaim the starting gig.

(Remember, the 37-year-old Thomas is still at only 335 games played for his career. Luongo hit that total by the time he was 26.)

So, when does Luongo play again? The Canucks begin a four-game homestand starting tonight, so you’d expect he’ll get one of the games against Nashville (Dec. 1), Calgary (Dec. 4) or Colorado (Dec. 6).

But if you’re looking for dramatic narratives, keep an eye on who Vancouver starts on Thurs, Dec. 8 — when the Canucks head into Luongo’s hometown of Montreal to take on the Habs.