The storylines in this game is a writers dream. A struggling team desperate for points, playing an equally bad team, in a stadium of 54 thousands fans who were upset with Roberto Luongo sitting on the bench.
Where to start.
Let's begin with the most pressing and somewhat dire situation. The fiasco that is now Roberto Luongo and the relationship with the Vancouver Canucks. It is a well documented affair that has the makings of a marriage just staying together for the sake of the kids. Or in this case, a contract that no one else in the league wants to take.
But after Cory Schneider was traded at the draft last year, the reigns were handed back to the former captain and 2010 gold medal winner.
So why was Luongo benched in one of the biggest games in the history of the franchise?
"He wasn't benched. I decided to play Eddie Lack over him." said a somewhat red faced John Tortorella after the Heritage Classic.
Correct me if I am wrong, but doesn't choosing Lack over Luongo constitute a benching for 'Lou'? He did sit on the bench the entire game. #confused... #sitting on bench, but not benched...
Torts didn't end there.
Asked if he made the right call by going with Eddie Lack, Tortorella replied, "I would make the same call yes. I think eddie looked, uh..."
Torts hesitated before continuing,
"You know some of the things going on around him before the game, during the game, I thought he looked not himself. Honestly, but he made some big saves. Second period I think he would like to have that third one back. but he made 3 or 4 really good saves prior to that. But if you are asking me..."
another brief pause...
"You guys make the call if it's right, and you will, but I would make the same call if it came up again like this."
That is as close to regret that you will see Torts make without actually admitting fault. Does anyone care about the excuses? If Lack couldn't handle the so called "things going on around him before and during the game," then why was he in there to begin with? Don't you think Torts, that Luongo would have made 3 or 4 really good saves too?
John Tortorella continued,
"Before this game, the way Eddie was playing, I thought it was our best chance to get these two points. but I also understand all the stuff going on around it. and I believe Louie can handle it. I think he is a tremendous pro. He was unhappy. Him and I have had one-on-one conversations quite a bit, (and) will continue (to do so). I believe he is a huge part of this team. But I made the decision for this game that Eddie Lack would play."
He's a huge part of this team? Right. I guess that's why he is riding the pine.
Darren Dreger of TSN even piped in.
"I believe Roberto Luongo feels this is somewhat of a slap in the face," said TSN Hockey Insider Dreger. "Almost a year ago, he fought hard to get out of the Canucks organization and hoped for the same in the summer and that didn't materialize. You have to think this is going to amplify the hard feelings that may continue to exist between Luongo and the coaching staff and by extension, the management of the Canucks."
"You also have to look at it from the perspective of head coach John Tortorella," added Dreger. "He doesn't care about the spectacle of the Heritage Classic, he cares about the two points on the line. Eddie Lack has been lights out good for the Canucks in the past couple of games. This is not a popular decision and I predict that this going to add to why this relationship between the player and the organization won't end well."
Bob McKenzie of TSN also felt the need to share his feelings on the matter.
"VAN obviously went into this eyes wide open and believes upside of Lack starting over Luongo outweighs downside of accompanying controversy," said TSN Hockey Insider McKenzie on Twitter (@TSNBobMcKenzie). "I don't believe for a moment this decision to start Lack is related to any imminent Luongo trade possibility."
Let's be clear here for a moment. The decision for Luongo not to start falls completely on the Canucks bench boss, John Tortorella.
But the decision to start with back-up Eddie Lack screams Cory Schneider all over again. Granted 'Torts' wasn't part of this team when Cory was here, and doesn't have a full understanding of what this franchise has done to Roberto Luongo. We get that. But if you trust your back-up to get you to the promise land over your starter, in one of the biggest games of the year in terms of points and almost importantly, fan appreciation, you are writing a familiar script that has not worked in this city, as well as puncturing any hope of Luongo wanting to stay in Vancouver for the remainder of his career.
We could potentially lose Cory Schneider and Roberto Luongo in a span of 2 years, an unfathomable demolition of a team that was a goalie graveyard between the Kirk McLean and Luongo era.
Some of the blame can most assuredly be put on General Manager Mike Gillis, who should have stepped in. Not that the decision is his to make, but Gillis, more than anyone, knows the dynamics of the Luongo situation. I would like to believe a strong conversation was had between the coach and GM on this decision.
Don't get me wrong. I love Eddie Lack. I'm always "backin' Lack" as Bro Jake says on The Team 1040. And had he won, it would be difficult for anyone to fault this goaltending decision. As it is, they lost, so let the hyenas eat.
All of this is really trivial in the sense that the Canucks are not going to make the playoffs anyways. Even if they did sneak in on that 7th or 8th spot, there is no confidence that they can beat Chicago or Anaheim with this fan base, and probably with the players in that dressing room.
What should have been an amazing experience, turned out to be a spectacle that only the Canucks brass can bring us. Even my 8 year old son was chanting, "We want Lou," thanks to some beer chuggers in front of us.
It might be fair to say Canucks fans are the best in the world, especially when they have to deal with the mind numbing decisions that have only brought this team to its knees since the loss to Boston in game 7 in 2011. It's now up to the owner to step in.
Francesco Aquilini, if you are a fan of your own team, perhaps now is the time to make a change at the top, because I guarantee the "sell-out" streak of over 460 regular season games is in major jeopardy, and that's money out of your pocket.