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THN.com Blog: How Luongo almost became a Flame

Roberto Luongo is 31-17-2 this season with a 2.35 GAA and .919 save percentage this season. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Roberto Luongo is 31-17-2 this season with a 2.35 GAA and .919 save percentage this season. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

I had an interesting discussion with former Flames GM/vice president and current NHL Network analyst Craig Button last week that’s worth sharing.

It seems that, in the hours leading up to the 2000 NHL Entry Draft, Button and then-Islanders GM Mike Milbury were having the type of telephone discussion GMs engage in all the time.

Milbury and his hockey staff – having decided to draft Rick DiPietro with the No. 1 pick that year – were fishing to see what they could get for Luongo. So Milbury offered Button a straight-up trade: Luongo to Calgary for defenseman Derek Morris – an NHLer who today is on his fifth team in the past 10 years, but who, at the time, was a supremely regarded Flames prospect.

“Derek was a good young player,” Button said of Morris, who was dealt to Colorado in 2002 with Dean McAmmond and Jeff Shantz in return for Chris Drury and Stephane Yelle. “But I just wasn’t ready to start moving players in and out at that point.”

So there you go, Flames fans. If not for a GM’s (rightful) belief in his own prospects, Bobby Lou might have been yours.

• Martin Brodeur can rest assured he assuredly will be resting for the rest of the tournament – if not for its entirety, then definitely if Canada faces the Americans again in the gold medal game.

Some may argue Luongo should have been in Canada’s net for every game.

To me, though, Canadian coach Mike Babcock established the rules of engagement the right way: Luongo got the first opportunity against Norway and played well enough to continue starting, but Brodeur’s performance against Switzerland was better and he earned the right to take on the Americans.

But now, there’s virtually no chance Babcock goes back to Brodeur.

Granted, he wasn’t gawd-awful against the Americans. But that doesn’t matter. Neither does a player’s reputation or how many Stanley Cups he has on his resume. From Team Canada’s perspective, you get one shot at outplaying the elite opposition Ryan Miller established Sunday.

And if you don’t, one of the other two Canadian goalies is getting his. Sorry, Marty.

Related Links

• Do you think the autographed Miller Sabres sweater I scored at the Conn Smythe Celebrity Dinner auction last month just increased in value? Me too.

• The Canada/U.S. preliminary game demonstrated that, at least for one night, Ron Wilson (a) can work with a young team; and (b) lead that team to victory if he gets good goaltending.

Just something to keep in mind the next time someone tries to persuade you that Wilson’s coaching tactics are the fly in the Maple Leafs’ ointment.

• Everybody wants to talk about the Americans, Canadians and Russians in this tournament. But very quietly, Sweden has two straight shutouts – thanks to Henrik Lundqvist – and promises to be a handful for any opponent.

The Swedes were my pick to win gold at the start of the Games. Thanks to Lundqvist – and Loui Eriksson’s chemistry with Nicklas Backstrom – I’m feeling quite comfortable with that pick right now.

Adam Proteau, co-author of the book The Top 60 Since 1967, is writer and columnist for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog will appear regularly in the off-season, his Ask Adam feature appears Fridays and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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