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ROBERTO LUONGO logged more than a thousand miles on his bicycle over the summer and dropped from 215 pounds to 207. But eight pounds is nothing compared to the weight Luongo dropped when the captain's c came off his sweater—or if you want to be literal, off his mask. (A new captain has not yet been named.) He had publicly embraced the honor, bestowed on him two years ago by Canucks G.M. Mike Gillis, but it was always an awkward fit. An NHL captaincy carries responsibilities, and there's a reason teams don't anoint goaltenders—since the 1940s there has been an NHL rule against the practice. When Luongo, 31, vacated the position before the start of camp last month, he said, "[Goalie is] a weird position. You are on your own. You have to be focused all the time and thinking about your job."
The 6'3" Luongo (2.57 GAA, .913 save percentage last season) seems happy to once again be just another name on the roster. Along with new goaltending coach Roland Melanson, he has been steadily toiling to improve his angles, footwork and puckhandling skills.
Aware of the bumping and bashing Luongo took in the second-round playoff loss to the Blackhawks last spring, Gillis picked up two veteran defensemen: trading for Keith Ballard and signing Dan Hamhuis as a free agent. The defense also needs mild-mannered 6'3", 217-pound Swede Alexander Edler to continue his snarling playoff form from last season.
Vancouver's stylish and skilled forwards will be back in force. The Sedin twins are coming off magnificent seasons; Henrik led the league in both assists (83) and points (112), while Daniel's numbers (29 goals, 56 assists) were diminished only because of a broken left foot. Four others—Ryan Kesler, Alexandre Burrows, Mikael Samuelsson and Mason Raymond—each added at least 25 goals, making them the most balanced set of scorers in the NHL. "We feel we have the talent to compete with anybody," says Luongo. "It's a matter of putting things together at the right time."
Joe Sacco (2nd season)