Events of the last few days have not changed Cory Schneider's mindset one iota.
He's been getting himself ready for the start of Vancouver Canucks training camp, which begins a week from today at the University of British Columbia. Schneider is fully intent on winning a goaltending job with the team and stick in the NHL for good.
So when news came down Wednesday that the Canucks had signed their captain and all-star goaltender, Roberto Luongo, to a 12-year, $64 million contract — one that undoubtedly affects Schneider and his future with the Vancouver organization — the 23-year-old from Marblehead reacted with his typical calm demeanor.
"It doesn't change what I'm trying to do — make this team and help us win some games," Schneider said yesterday afternoon. "It really doesn't make a lot of difference as far as my situation goes; Louie (i.e., Luongo) was still going to be here even if he hadn't signed an extension.
"I still have a lot to prove at the NHL level and to show I can play at this level. It's all about making the team for me; that's what I'm focused on."
Luongo, whom general manager Mike Gillis told Vancouver reporters was "the face of our franchise," is clearly the team's No. 1 netminder for both the present and the future (he'll be 43 when his contract expires in 2022).
Schneider, the reigning American Hockey League's Goaltender of the Year who guided the Canucks' AHL team, the Manitoba Moose, into the league finals this past spring, will battle former Boston Bruins keeper Andrew Raycroft for the backup job in Vancouver.
Making his NHL debut last winter when Luongo was injured, Schneider went 2-4-1 in eight games with a 3.38 goals-against average and .877 save percentage. He's determined not only to prove he's better prepared to play in the bigs than he was a year ago — but also isn't going in thinking he'll be satisfied being Luongo's backup.
"If you're always striving just to be a backup goalie, you'll never be a No. 1," said the former Boston College star. "You have to be better than most guys in the world just to play in the NHL, but in no way to I want to be content just to make it; I want to play.
"I remember watching (Raycroft) when he played for the Bruins 4-5 years ago; he's a good goalie. It's not going to be easy at all; he's not going to roll over and give the job to me, but I won't roll over and give it to him, either."
Naturally, the internet rumor mill has been running rampant since news of Luongo's signing came down, speculating on when and where Schneider may be dealt to another team. The consensus seems to be that if there's no future for him to make it as a starter in Vancouver, the team owes it to him to trade him someplace where he can fight for the starter's job.
Again, however, Schneider said he doesn't pay much attention to the conjecture of others. The 2004 first round pick has heard his name bandied about in various scenarios for almost five years now and has become immune to all of it.
"I'm sure Vancouver is exploring their options as to what they can do with me," he said, "but to be honest, there's nothing I can do about it. I can't force them to do anything or demand anything; for a guy like me fighting to make the team, I just have to be ready."
Schneider spent his summer taking classes at Boston College (he's two electives away from earning his bachelor's degree), vacationing in Nantucket and Las Vegas, and worked on things such as his stickhandling and rebound control.
Currently working his way back from a rolled ankle — he was trying to pivot during a side-to-side drill while doing dry land training on a football field, but caught his ankle at an awkward angle — Schneider is back skating and working on getting his range of motion back.
He's well aware that preseason games between two-and-a-half days after training camp begins, and the window to showcase his skills will be small.
"I want to show right away that I'm ready to win this job," he said. "One of the things I've learned is that you have to come in prepared, and I feel that I am."