NHL

Luongo ready for challenges as Canucks' camp begins

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TSN.ca Staff
9/16/2008 10:58:18 PM
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Like many other of the Vancouver Canucks' players, star netminder Roberto Luongo examined his team's summer of discontent from afar.

The team's early exit last season prompted a flurry of activity, with Mike Gillis replacing Dave Nonis as general manager, the departure of veteran forwards Markus Naslund and Brendan Morrison and the arrival of new faces like Pavol Demitra, Steve Bernier, Kyle Wellwood and Darcy Hordichuk.

It left Luongo with a lot of questions on his mind as he arrived in Vancouver, but after his first conversation with Gillis, he was assured that the club's situation was not going to be a do-over like his final days with the Florida Panthers.

"Obviously, there's a lot of new faces," he told reporters on Tuesday. "There's not a lot there I can control. The one thing I enjoyed from my meeting with Mike was that he's not here to re-build and that he's here to win. And that's a good sign."

To return to their winning ways, the Canucks will need Luongo to return to the form that made him a Hart Trophy finalist two seasons ago. In the 2006-07 campaign, the team in front of him had minimal offensive talent and played defence first.

This year's team has similar offensive questions by comparison, but may try to open the offence a bit more. Either way, Luongo will be the first to tell anyone his job isn't scoring goals.

"There is only one expectation I have, and that is to stop the puck," he explained. "I can't worry about how many goals we are going to score."

There have also been questions about Luongo's long term future in Vancouver. The team's biggest offseason acquisition - Demitra - signed a two-year contract, while the same term was offered to unrestricted free agent Mats Sundin. That same number of years is also left on Luongo's contract.

"First of all, it's still two years and that's a long way down the road for me," he said. "It's not something I'm thinking about right now. My goal is simple - to win a Stanley Cup and that's the only reason I play hockey."

From a personal standpoint, Luongo arrived in Vancouver this week with a lot less baggage.

Last season, the he played with the pressure of a growing family that was a continent away. But this year, with his wife and baby daughter with him, his focus is clear. "You prepare the same way, but it's nice to have your family with you," he said. "That's (personal life) not really something that I really enjoy discussing. I think it really took a portion of its own last year, more than it needed to be."

Along with shedding his off-ice concerns from last season, Luongo also shed his famous locks, giving him a new look and less of a target.

"She was pulling on my hair all the time - my baby, not my wife," he said with a laugh.

Written with files from TSN's Farhan Lalji.

TSN's 30 Teams In 30 Days preview of the Vancouver Canucks will be available online on Oct. 3.

Roberto Luongo (Photo: Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

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(Photo: Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)
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