Roberto Luongo announced today that he would be giving up the Canucks captaincy. When speaking to the media it was clear that while giving up the title he prided himself it was a difficult decision, Luo felt that stepping down was the best move for the team.
“My main goal is to be the best that I can be,” he said. “I just want to put my whole focus on goal tending. I’m going to continue to be a leader, but at the same time I want to focus on helping this team win and be the best that I can be.”
The 31 year-old goalie faced criticism during his 2-year tenure as captain during which had a .917 SV% and a 2.46 GAA. Many questioned whether it was the best choice for the team to have a goal tender as their captain. Luo never actually wore the ‘C’ on his jersey, but he did sport one on his helmet. The added pressure of the captaincy was often cited as a distraction for the goaltender, and despite repeatedly telling reporters that the responsibility did not affect his game play, today he did admit that it was a consideration.
“As a goaltender you have a lot of jobs to do on the ice, focusing for 60 minutes, and you don’t want a lot of other things creeping inside your head, and maybe causing some distraction, even subconsciously.”
The added pressure from the media was another aspect often talked about when considering the captaincy, especially in a city with a fan-base as large as Vancouver’s. Roberto, however, denied that the added pressure influenced his decision, after all as one of the league’s top goaltenders and a fan favorite on and off the ice, the press will be always be eager to speak to the star player either way.
“It has nothing to do with pressure,” he said. “I’ve dealt with pressure my whole career. It’s part of the job, and it’s something I don’t mind. It had more to do with a focus on goaltending, because it really is a unique position, when you’re on the ice you want to be 100% focused on playing goal, which I was, but sometimes when you’re away from the rink other things get involved. I’m still going to talk to the media pretty much every day. Really that wasn’t a factor.”
Luo is known for his commitment to his teammates, both stressing the importance of others after wins, and accepting his own responsibility for losses. That aspect of the man isn’t going to change anytime soon, and giving up the captaincy may allow him to stay out of particularly sticky situations with the press.
“I’m accountable for my actions, and I’m always the first to admit when I feel I could be better, but at the same time when you’re the captain you’re being asked on a daily basis what the team can do better, what do you say? You don’t want to look like your throwing your teammates under the bus, and sometimes it was a difficult position for me to be in, sometimes it came off the wrong way unfortunately, and being a goal tender you don’t want to be in that position when you feel like you’re putting the blame on someone else.”
When asked if he thought that having a goal tender serve as captain had hurt the team Luongo dismissed the idea, saying that he considered his time as captain a success. Despite missing out on the Stanley Cup the team has won their division for the last two years.
“I’m not going to say I regretted being a captain. I didn’t at all, I enjoyed it, I had a great two years, I had a lot of fun doing it, but at this point in my career, and where the team is now, I think we want to take the next step forward as a team, and for myself, taking the next step is what I’m doing today.”
Roberto plans to uphold the leadership role he has taken within the team, but declined to comment on who he thought could step up and be the next captain. Saying only that:
“We have a lot of guys that are capable of filling the role. It’s going to be a decision Mike and his management are going to make.”
The most popular choices so far seem to be Henrik Sendin (29-83-112) and Ryan Kesler (25-50-75), both of whom served as assistant captains last year, however no official statements have been made.
Luongo enjoyed his time as captain, but is able to put it all in perspective, and he seems ready to move into the season in a positive mindset, putting the team first, remaining a leader to his team mates, and hoping for success throughout the season.
“We have a good leadership group in the locker room. It’s really just a letter, to be honest just because I won’t be the captain, I am still going to consider myself one of the leaders in the group. At the end of the day it’s really just a letter and a title, but something that I took a lot of pride in.”