Over the last 18 months, Roberto Luongo looked to be on decline.
The 34-year-old netminder fell short of Stanley Cup expectations and was even demoted to backup on the Vancouver Canucks. The 2013 offseason saw a strange but intriguing reversal of fortunes that has kept Luongo in Canada’s spotlight.
Luongo, who turns 35 next April, said the adversity has not deflated his spirit or ego.
“If anything, it’s the opposite,” Luongo said. “It’s tough when you’ve been a starter all your life, it’s tough to accept sometimes that you’re a backup, you know? If anything, it fuels you and gets you going and you want to show people you can still do it and you’re one of the best in the league.”
So far, Vancouver has responded well to Luongo’s continued presence in goal, with a third place spot in the Pacific division that places them fifth in the Western Conference. For the most part, Luongo has found his old form with a winning record, a .909 save percentage and a 2.46 Goals Against Average.
It was only months ago that Vancouver were trying to shop Luongo, but could not make a move as no other team thought he was worth his US$64-million contract. Instead, the man who pushed Luongo out of the starting line-up, Cory Schneider, would be traded to the New Jersey Devils to back up Martin Brodeur.
Luongo insists he is taking everything in stride.
“There’s always something to prove. Ever since I’ve been in the league, you always feel like you have to prove yourself. There are always guys pushing behind you and in order for you to stay at the top, you’ve got to perform. That’s the motivation for me. And obviously with what’s happened over the last year, being back to No. 1 is an exciting time and I want to make sure I take advantage of that.
“Time heals wounds. We’ve got a new coach. We’ve got a different approach as a team, which gets the guys excited a bit more to play. As a group, I think we’re learning every day and trying to improve as a team and looking forward to the season.”