One of the most dynamic moves this past NHL offseason involved the trade of Cory Schneider from Vancouver to New Jersey. In the last two seasons, Schneider had relieved Luongo of his starting role after he had struggled to remain consistent. The peak of the drama surrounding Luongo began in the 2011 Stanley Cup final against the Boston Bruins, where he was replaced by Schneider twice in just three games. From that point on, the debate of whom the Vancouver organization felt deserved to be their starter raged on between Luongo and Scheider until this past summer.
The trade rumors circling around Luongo lasted for the majority of last season, and only intensified after another poor postseason performance. Many thought that with the NHL’s new buyout policy that if there were no suitors for Luongo’s monster contract (which guarantees him a job through the 22’ season) that Vancouver would pay him just to send him packing. But the Canucks shocked the hockey world when they announced that they had traded their impromptu starter in Schneider to New Jersey for a first round draft pick.
With the Canucks and Devils both recently playing their first games of the season, it was the first chance to see who may benefit early from the summer’s blockbuster trade. Unfortunately, there were no immediate payoffs. Ironically, Luongo and Schneider lost their respective debuts 4-1. Then with the former teammates finally playing each other last night it was an opportunity to get a peek at the answer for the biggest question of the year: when the dust of the season settles, who will emerge as the superior goaltender?
Last year in Vancouver, Schneider built himself a 17-9-4 record while maintaining a .927 save percentage. Carrying the Canucks to the top of the Northwest division and into the playoffs, where the Canucks were promptly swept out in the first round by the San Jose Sharks. That quarterfinal series only added to the oddities of the Luongo/Schneider contest, as both goaltenders lost two games in the series.
Conversely, Luongo again found himself in Schneider’s shadow with only 20 appearances last season posting a 9-6-3 record and a relatively poor .907 save percentage and allowing, on average, more than 2.5 goals a game.
Now that the trade has been made, Schneider is back in the eastern U.S. where he grew up and played college hockey, which could work in his favor. At the same time, Luongo has been given yet one more chance at the number one spot, hopefully giving him the confidence he needs to perform at the level that’s expected of him. Unfortunately for Luongo, if history is any indication, he is looking at another lackluster season. Also working against Luongo, is that Schneider now has soon-to-be first ballot Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur at his side to hone his game even further.
After continued failure in the postseason, Luongo has yet to solidify himself as an ultimate solution in net. However, it is hard to argue that he will never reach Lord Stanley’s summit, with dominant performances throughout almost every regular season. If Luongo can finally figure out a way to carry his impressive performances into the playoffs it spells danger for any teams that stand in his way. But until he puts more wins on his playoff record, I lack confidence in Luongo’s success.
In contrast, I expect Schneider to blossom into a certified number one goaltender. Once he becomes accustomed to his new team he is sure to be more comfortable in net. This along with Brodeur’s extended playoff experience available at his disposal, I believe that New Jersey will possess the better goaltender at the conclusion of the 2014 schedule. I believe this to be true regardless of which team has a better record, because I do think that Vancouver will win more games. But as far as performance and reliability, Schneider will absolutely be the number one.