Vigneault: Luongo wants out
Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo during practice at the Kings' practice facility in El Segundo, Calif., April 17, 2012. (DANNY MOLOSHOK/Reuters)
A month after the Vancouver Canucks were eliminated from the NHL playoffs, rumours concerning goaltender Roberto Luongo's status with the club were confirmed by head coach Alain Vigneault.
In a telephone interview with the TVA Sports, Vigneault, who signed a contract extension Wednesday, said that Luongo asked to be traded from the Canucks.
"This is what he wants now," Vigneault told TVA's The Match on Wednesday. "And what we must do is (make the best decision) for our organization."
If you believe what the coach says, Luongo's fate could be decided during the summer when both he and the team would have time to find an amicable solution.
The rise of backup Cory Schneider, who took over starting duties in net mid-way through Vancouver's first-round playoff series against the Los Angeles Kings, has opened the door for a possible trade involving Luongo.
"We will act in the best interest of our organization while trying to do what is best for Roberto," Vigneault said.
Speaking with English media in a conference call Wednesday, Vigneault spoke about possibly having to handle both goaltenders for another season.
He hinted that Schneider would be in line for more playing time.
"What happened in the playoffs would be an indication of what might happen moving forward," Vigneault said. "If you look at (Roberto's) stats, other than the month of October, for the six years he has been with the Vancouver Canucks, he has always been one of the best goaltenders in the league.
"On different games here and there, there might be some questions on who I should throw in and not throw in. I think Cory's development from last year to this year, obviously he's improved. The reason Roberto was playing so many games was because he's a great goaltender and he deserved the starts he was getting."
The Canucks were eliminated from the post-season by the Kings, who went on to win the Western Conference final Tuesday.
Although this is the third consecutive year that Vancouver has been eliminated by a Stanley Cup finalist (Chicago Blackhawks in 2010 and Boston Bruins in 2011), Vigneault came to the defense of Luongo.
"Roberto has been blamed (for the Canucks' playoff losses) more than any other player. Especially after the defeat against Boston. It was not fair," Vigneault told TVA. The coach stressed that Luongo remained professional despite the hardships.
After the elimination of the Canucks and the appointment of Marc Bergevin as general manager of the Montreal Canadiens, rumours circulated that Vigneault was being considered for the Habs coaching job.
Was there any truth to the rumours?
"The rumours with Canadians were only ... rumours. Analysts made certain assumptions and drew their own conclusions."
According to Vigneault, Montreal is not the only city where hockey rumours run rampant.
"Rumours in Canadian markets are part of our daily lives. This is normal, because everyone has an opinion. Nobody is afraid to share them."
Montreal supporters of Vigneault should not be surprised that he chose to stay in Vancouver, where he says live a rewarding experience.
"There is no doubt. Vancouver is where I want to be. It's a city I love," Vigneault said. "My job there is to win a Stanley Cup. We're nearly there."
- With files from Hosea Cheung