With expectations as high as they have ever been heading into the season, the Vancouver Canucks are looking to avoid any potential distractions that could derail their Cup hopes. For that reason, general manager Mike Gillis is set to meet with goaltender Roberto Luongo at some point next week to discuss whether the star goaltender will remain team captain or not.
Gillis discussed the situation on Wednesday with Vancouver radio station the TEAM 1040. While he said that he wants to get Luongo's feelings on the situation, ultimately the decision remains with Gillis.
"There will be a discussion and a debate, but at the end of the day it's always my call if I want something done with this team or if I want a change made," Gillis told the TEAM. "But we definitely look to people for input and get their feelings and get their vision about things, and it's influential. We're going to go through a process with him and get to the bottom of it before the season begins and we'll move on."
There has been plenty of debate on the suitability of Luongo as a team captain. Before he was given the ‘C' last season, no goaltender had been a captain in the NHL since Bill Durnan in the 1947-48 season with the Montreal Canadiens.
While the team appointed Luongo as their captain, the Montreal native cannot officially serve as captain during games, making the role largely ceremonial and for off-ice duties. Prior to the 1948-49 season the NHL changed its rules to prohibit goaltenders from being on-ice captains.
There was a lot of talk amongst fans and in the media that Luongo's play took a dip last season, largely due to the responsibilities of wearing the ‘C.' Luongo saw his statistics fall across the board and looked shaky at times during the Canucks' second round ouster from the post-season at the hands of the Chicago Blackhawks.
While Gillis did not think that the extra responsibility weighed too heavily on the 31-year old's shoulders, he did admit that it was something that they would pay attention to.
"No, I don't think (it affected him)," Gillis told the TEAM. "But I also think that if (Luongo) feels that it did or if it was a little much on gamedays, then we are going to look at it and make an evaluation."
The Canucks have been picked by several pre-season publications as favourites to bring home the first Stanley Cup title in franchise history. While Gillis believes they have a solid team, he says he is not ready to declare the team front runners, stating that they will need a great deal of luck to bring home hockey's ultimate prize.
"I think we're one of four or five teams that are considered to be capable of winning the Stanley Cup," Gillis told the TEAM. "But you have to have a lot of things go your way that are out of your control. Injuries play a major factor. I think our team is really deep in every area. I don't think we have a glaring weakness that needs to be addressed at this point in time, but injuries and different things can change that. You know, I feel really good about the team we have. I think it's deep, I think we have a lot of key elements, but these guys have to come together and perform, and we have to get a little lucky."
Gillis will find out just how much luck is on his side when the Canucks open training camp in Penticton, BC on September 18th.