Say what you will, watch the hockey games you want and follow your favourite teams and players, but the 2013-14 NHL season will be plenty about Roberto Luongo.
There isn't a more compelling story right now. Sure how Jason Spezza, Erik Karlsson and the Ottawa Senators bounce back will capture our interest. We'll keep a watchful eye on how Daniel Alfredsson, Jarome Iginla, Tyler Seguin, Alain Vigneault and John Tortorella get by at their new addresses.
It will be curious to see what the remnants will be for the Toronto Maple Leafs after their flop in the first-round finale, how the Edmonton Oilers will perform under their rookie head coach Dallas Eakins and can Carey Price carry the Montreal Canadiens once again?
But Luongo, and how he performs for the Canucks and likely Canada at the 2014 Sochi Olympics in February will be the main man to watch.
For the past seven weeks we've waited for the 34-year-old Luongo to break his silence since the Canucks did an about-face and traded Cory Schneider to the New Jersey Devils, deciding instead to keep Luongo. He was supposed to be the guy on his way out of town since the end of the 2011-12 season when Schneider usurped Luongo as the Canucks No. 1 netminder in their first-round series against the eventual Stanley Cup-champion Los Angeles Kings.
Instead, Vancouver general manager Mike Gillis could not move Luongo and his hefty contract, which still has nine years and $40.5 million left as well as a salary cap hit of $5,333,333 for the Canucks.
Gillis tried. Luongo, who has a no-trade clause, ideally wanted to wind up back in Florida with either the Panthers or the Lightning. When Gillis had more interest from Toronto and two other teams, Luongo told his GM to try his best to work something out the two Florida teams and if that didn't work out he would at least entertain other destinations like the Maple Leafs.
But Gillis didn't receive enough from anybody, until he decided to move Schneider instead. Even that deal, had some wondering whether the Canucks received enough in return for their younger goalie.
A few days before Luongo will be in Calgary for the Canadian Olympic orientation camp, he sat down for an on-camera conversation with TSN's James Duthie. The first of the two-part interview was aired on the all-sports television network on Friday.
Luongo wanted to voice his thoughts now in an attempt to lessen the scrutiny he'll be under in Calgary.
Plenty to prove
Among the highlights in the interview with Duthie, Luongo compared what happened on draft day, when Schneider was shipped to Devils in exchange for ninth overall selection (London Knights forward Bo Horvat), to "like a divorce ... except she wanted me back.
"I had moved on from Vancouver and was ready to start fresh somewhere else," the Canucks goalie said.
"I wasn't angry. I was just shocked."
It has been well documented that Luongo put his family's $4.2-million penthouse up for sale after the season.
Luongo also revealed that he sat down with NHLPA officials in May to discuss the possibility of voiding the remaining nine seasons and $40.5-million of his contract.
He will report for Canucks training camp next month, but he didn't sound like somebody who was committed long-term to staying in Vancouver. Nevertheless, he does seem to be one motivated hombre. He wants to regain the form he exhibited in his 47-win season in 2006-07, a time when he was considered one of the game's best goalies.
He wants to be Canada's No. 1 goalie for the Olympics, a spot that will be wide open when the NHL season begins on Oct. 1.
Like I said, is there anybody more compelling out there.
Luongo's career stats climb
Games: 747 19th all-time
Wins: 348 17th all-time
Save percentage: .919 sixth all-time, among goalies with a 100 or appearances.
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