NHL

Gillis: Canucks 'made the choice' to stick with Luongo

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TSN.ca Staff
7/24/2013 12:12:12 AM
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Roberto Luongo enters the 2013-14 season as the Canucks' number-one netminder.

It's a position he did not enjoy entering the lockout-shortened 2013 season.

Embroiled in a long battle for playing time with fellow netminder Cory Schneider that dates back to before the Canucks' 2011 Stanley Cup Final run, Luongo spent the better part of the past 12 months addressing trade speculation.

However, at last month's NHL Draft, Canucks general manager Mike Gillis would make a shocking move - dealing Schneider instead of Luongo.

The deal netted the Canucks the ninth overall pick - which they would use to select Bo Horvat - and handed the net firmly back over to Luongo for the foreseeable future.

Speaking at the Vancouver Canucks' Summer Summit - an event organized by the Canucks for its fans to update them on team business and news - Gillis was asked immediately about his decision to deal Schneider.

“What happened could have been the result all the way through,” Gillis said of the decision to deal Schneider. “At the end of the day we had to make a choice and we made the choice to go to Roberto.”

The choice was a surprise to many, so much so that Gillis travelled to Florida to have a face-to-face visit with Luongo at his home to discuss his role moving forward. Gillis' recount of that conversation was one of a changed Luongo, the same player that has become a loose and candid person with the media and fans alike.

“It's been a remarkable transformation,” Gillis said of Luongo's shift from the end of 2011 to now. “He felt that after that [2011 Stanley Cup Final] series happened he was blamed more than others or that he was held accountable more than others.”

However, Gillis would reiterate that he's comfortable with Luongo as his starter and also stated his belief that his goaltender would also be representing Canada at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

"Roberto will be our starting goalie," Gillis added. "I feel very optimistic about it."

Other issues addressed at the summit included the hopes that the roof will be open at B.C. Place Stadium when the Vancouver Canucks host the Ottawa Senators in the Heritage Classic in March.

"If worse comes to worse and it needs to be a covered facility, it'll be a covered facility," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said. "We hope that's not the case."

Daly fielded questions ahead of Gillis and spoke of the Heritage Classic, amongst other league business like officiating, the health of the League and the possibility of an NHL franchise in Seattle.

"I think there's a willingness to consider (expansion)," said Daly. Seattle was seen as a popular destination for the troubled Phoenix Coyotes, who faced a possibility of relocation ahead of a Glendale City Council vote last month.

The vote, however, wound up a positive one for the Coyotes, with the City approving a lease deal that could pave the way for the sale of the team to the Renaissance Sports and Entertainment Group.

New head coach John Tortorella gave Canucks fans some unexpected news, unveiling two new assistant coaches in the question and answer period.

Tortorella revealed that the team has added Mike Sullivan - with whom he worked with the New York Rangers - as well as former Dallas Stars head coach Glen Gulutzan as assistant coaches.

Gulutzan spent two years behind the bench in Dallas, posting a 64-57-9 record. The Stars would miss the playoffs both years under Gulutzan, who was replaced last month by former Buffalo Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff.

The team also announced at the summer summit that they would be honouring Canucks great Pavel Bure, by retiring his number 10 in a ceremony during this upcoming season.

Roberto Luongo  (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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