Speaking to TSN Drive radio, Tortorella on Wednesday addressed the situation that leaves Luongo as the Canucks' No. 1 goalie after Cory Schneider was traded to the New Jersey Devils at the 2013 NHL Draft on Sunday. The deal ended more than a year of goaltending controversy in Vancouver.
"I think Roberto's a hell of a goalie," Tortorella said. "I've done many interviews, and people start saying, 'Well, Schneider's going to be the starter, and he's the backup.' Roberto Luongo isn't a backup. I watched him in the Olympics, I've watched him through his career. He is a really good goalie.
"I'm not sure what happened along the way, how this all got into this here, but I'm hoping he will get himself straightened out mentally. I believe he will because everybody I've talked to said he's just a great guy and a great pro, and he's going to be the backbone of our team."
Schneider became the Canucks' starter during the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs and seemed destined to be their goalie of the future. But general manager Mike Gillis was unable to trade Luongo and his long-term, expensive contract, leading to the deal of Schneider on Sunday for the No. 9 pick, which the Canucks used on forward Bo Horvat.
Luongo at the time said, "I'm shocked. I have to let this sink in and figure out what I'm going to do."
Tortorella said he has spoken to Luongo since the trade.
"I think I needed to," the coach said, "and I hope what will help him is that you have new guys coming in as far as a coaching staff, and how they feel."
Luongo, 34, went 9-6-3 with a 2.56 goals-against average and .907 save percentage in 20 appearances in 2012-13. Schneider, 27, went 17-9-4 with a 2.11 GAA, .927 save percentage and five shutouts. Each goalie started two games of the four-game first-round playoff sweep by the San Jose Sharks.
"It's kind of a unique situation going on with the goalies here, with [Schneider and Luongo]," Tortorella said. "From afar, I watched it last year and I thought those two players handled themselves tremendously. Again, I only saw a little bit of it. ... It was a really precarious situation."
Tortorella said it's his job to push the Canucks to the Stanley Cup, and he expects Luongo to be the goalie when he does.
"If you just wipe away what's happened, he is our No. 1 goalie, and I think that's the way he's got to look at it," Tortorella said. "And he's got to try to put our team on his back and carry 'em."
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