Vancouver - September 10, 2014 - When Ryan Miller was signed it by the Canucks it was the finalization of the full circle debacle that was the terrible mismanagement of assets by the organization, specifically former GM Mike Gillis. Gillis took a position of strength in the organization and basically played it like someone who was just learning his job on the fly with zero consideration of the picture at large.
The Luongo Debacle
Roberto Luongo became the scapegoat in town for all the failures of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and Finals, because as far as fans and management were concerned he was the weak spot. Fans went so far as to call for Schneider to get starts in that Playoff over Luongo, now I understand a poor performance or two but in my opinion you give the best guy the chance to bounce back. Never mind the fact that the only actual poor Playoff came in 2009-10 when he posted a .895SV%, aside from that he was floating around in the .914SV% area which is very respectable performance if not average. Regardless, Luongo wanted out and everyone else wanted him out also and quite frankly I can’t blame either side. So what did Gillis do? He juggled Luongo around the league asking for the moon and failing to pull the trigger on any deal involving the disgruntled tender and instead traded away the up and coming Cory Schneider who is most certainly a goalie the Canucks should be building their future around at this moment. Now the entire fault can’t be put at Gillis’ feet… I suppose, the contract was very onerous after all and of course the great quote from Luongo admitting as much when asked why he wasn’t traded and he replied “My contract sucks”, that’s Luongo in a nutshell.
So the Canucks started last season with a Luongo-Lack duo backstopping the team, not ideal, but everyone involved seemed ready and willing to make it work. The season started out as usual but eventually injuries and coaching started to take their toll on the entire team. Flash forward to the Heritage Classic and Head Coach John Tortorella puts the final dagger in Luongo’s back when he started rookie net minder Eddie Lack and not the veteran, number one goalie who has been looking forward to this event since the beginning of the season in Roberto Luongo...and then Lack goes out and plays the part of overwhelmed youngster. It was at that moment that Luongo was finally going to be traded, there was no other option, even Gillis had to admit it. Unfortunately for Gillis the asset was all but worthless at this point and he sent Luongo to Florida and all he got back was a maybe of a utility player in Shawn Mathias and a never gonna be goalie in Markstrom...oh and don’t forget having to eat some of Luongo’s salary for the foreseeable future. So ended the Luongo debacle, and it was a debacle of massive proportions and one that continued to haunt the Canucks into the off-season.
Enter Jim Benning as the new GM and boy did he have a mess of a goaltending situation to clean up. Don’t get me wrong here, Eddie Lack is a perfectly good up and coming goaltender, and he may one day be a starter in the NHL (you never know with goalies) but he is not that guy right now. So Benning was forced to hit the slim goalie market looking for help and eventually ended up spending $6M per season for three years on Ryan Miller. Spending $6M on a goaltender is not ideal in any situation, especially a goaltender who is on the tailend of a career, but Benning had to do something and so he bit the bullet and locked Miller up. There was no way Vancouver could be competitive with a Lack-Markstrom duo in net, that’s nothing against Lack either, he just needs more seasoning before he can handle that pressure and workload. Instead the Canucks will enter the season with an aging Ryan Miller, who I believe has a good season or two left in him, but the hard truth is Miller is being paid too much and for too long, and a young Eddie Lack who may take the reins someday but may also turn into the next Devan Dubnyk. Oh and of course don’t forget that a chunk of Luongo's remaining salary remains on the books as a constant reminder of the debacle that was. Benning had to do something; because this isn’t a full rebuild and he did the best he could with the mess handed to him. Makes you wonder if a rebuild would’ve been the smarter path…