Tough questions abound about Canucks' goaltending

The decision over the future of the Vancouver Canucks’ goaltending position might be the most important of general manager Mike Gillis’s administration but, in analyzing things as they stand, there is one number that stands out for Roberto Luongo.

It is not the 10 years he has left on his contract. It’s not the $5.333 million US annual cap hit he represents. It’s not even the number of Stanley Cups he’s won.

No, those are all relevant in the great Vancouver goaltending debate but the most important number connected to Luongo is this: 21,743.

And that isn’t the number of times Canucks’ fans have called the open-mouth shows saying: “We can’t win with this guy.’’

That number, in fact, represents the number of shots Luongo has faced in his 12-season NHL career. It is the third-highest total among current NHL goalies which isn’t overly alarming. But dig a little deeper and you begin to understand the Canucks may be confronting the law of diminishing returns with Luongo and, given what Cory Schneider represents, that creates a dilemma for Gillis.

At least it should.

Schneider turns 26 next month. Luongo turns 33 in two months. Over the last two seasons, Schneider has played 46 games and put up numbers worthy of a Vezina finalist.

We’ll give you there’s a Pacific Ocean’s worth of difference between a relative neophyte who’s enjoyed two notable half seasons and a goalie with Luongo’s body of work.

But, considering what’s at stake here, a number of factors have to be considered.

The two active goalies who’ve faced more rubber in their career than Luongo are Marty Brodeur and Nikolai Khabibulin. Brodeur, of course, is from another planet. Now in his 19th season, he turns 40 in May and he’s already played more games than any goalie in NHL history.

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