Back in May, after the Vancouver Canucks had been swept out of the playoffs, general manager Mike Gillis said it was “unlikely” goalie Roberto Luongo would be back with the club for the 2013-14 season.
That was Luongo today in Vancouver, coming out onto the ice to practice informally with his Canucks teammates. A horde of reporters no doubt awaited his departure from the ice.
But while much of the media focus will be on the 34-year-old veteran during training camp and the preseason, perhaps the better goaltending story in Vancouver — certainly, it’s the fresher story — is the battle for the back-up job between Swedes Eddie Lack and Joacim Ericsson.
Heading into camp, Lack is considered the favorite to land the gig. And given he’s got a one-way contract and Ericsson has a two-way deal (he’d make just $70,000 in the AHL), the Canucks are probably hoping that’s the case, too.
Just one little cause for concern: Lack had hip surgery in January and hasn’t played for nine months.
Oh, and another cause for concern: Neither goalie has played a second of an NHL regular-season game.
Even if Luongo plays well and stays healthy, the Canucks will need their back-up to be solid. In fact, it could — not definitely will, but could — be the difference between making and missing the playoffs.
As The Province’s Jason Botchford writes, “It’s not inconceivable the best place for the two goalies, to start the season, is in the AHL. It would leave the Canucks trying to get a netminder off of the waiver wire this fall to play fill-in. If it hadn’t sunk in that Cory Schneider is gone, don’t worry, it will soon.”