From the moment he became a full-time NHLer, Cory Schneider was fully aware that the prospect of him becoming the Canucks’ No. 1 netminder was slim.
With one of the game’s best goaltenders, Roberto Luongo, ahead of him on the depth chart and on the books through the 2021-22 season, it seemed as though the most Schneider could ever amount to was a hot commodity the Canucks could flip to shore up other positions on the roster.
But in 2011-12, that all changed. Schneider (Marblehead, Mass.) posted a sub-2.00 goals-against average and supplanted Luongo as Vancouver’s starter during the playoffs, which led to the Canucks naming the now-27-year-old as their go-to goaltender going forward.
Many never would’ve guessed that day would come, but even fewer hockey pundits foresaw Schneider coming full circle just one year later, ultimately becoming the backstop dealt away.
“It was pretty shocking,” Schneider said of finding out he’d been traded to the Devils for the ninth overall pick on the day of the NHL Draft. “I didn’t really know what to think. Coming up in the NHL my first year, it was always kind of assumed I’d be dealt at some point, so you always kind of prepare yourself for that. But then a lot of drafts and trade deadlines went by and nothing ever happened. With the extension last year, I sort of felt like I finally got away from those trade rumors.”
Schneider, who signed a three-year, $12 million deal expecting to become the Canucks’ long-term solution between the pipes, knows that such bombshells are bound to happen when you’re a professional athlete.
“I think my agent and I, when we signed the contract last year, we told them we weren’t sure they’d be able to trade Roberto,” said Schneider, as Vancouver unsuccessfully tried to move Luongo and his lengthy contract for nearly a full calendar year. “We understood that’s part of the risk you take signing a deal with a (no-movement clause). Whether or not you think it’s going to happen, you know it’s always a possibility. It sort of happened pretty quickly. To actually have it happen was somewhat unexpected.”
Schneider was in no way openly critical of the way GM Mike Gillis and the Canucks’ management handled the situation, but he didn’t paint a pretty picture when it came to the communication between the team and the former Boston College standout.
“I never had much contact with them to be honest,” Schneider said when asked during his introductory Devils conference call if he felt he’d been misled by the Canucks’ brass. “We had my exit meeting last year, we hammered out the contract and then I spoke briefly with them in my exit interview this year. They didn’t really tell me what their plan was or what may or may not happen. That’s well within their right, but I wasn’t really privy to what their plans were.”
And how does that sit with the former 26th overall pick who owns an impressive 55-26-8 record in his young career?
“Could it have been handled differently?” Schneider said. “That’s a question you’d have to ask them. There’s not much you can do about it now. It’s time to move on.”
Moving on is exactly what he’s quickly turned his attention to, but doing so is still a challenge.
“It’s tough for me, having spent nine years in the organization,” Schneider said. “It’s the only team I’ve known. I‘ve made a lot of great friendships on and off the ice, and with the staff, and I really felt like a part of the community in Vancouver. That aspect of it will be an adjustment, but I’m just really excited to be going to New Jersey, where they’ve won three Stanley Cups in the last 15 years and they have a pretty rich history in a short amount of time.”
At the heart of that rich history is Martin Brodeur, the winningest goalie in NHL history. Brodeur and the Devils had a tough year during the lockout-shortened 2013 campaign, but the fact remains that the 41-year-old legend is just a year removed from a trip to the finals and still more than capable of logging the lion’s share of starts for New Jersey — a team he’s been a part of since being selected 20th overall in 1990.
“I don’t think you replace Marty Brodeur,” said Schneider. “I don’t think anyone’s going to replace what he does for this franchise or what he’s done for a long, long time. My hope is I can come in and learn from him, and take away things that have made him so successful so I can hopefully continue the work he’s done for the last 20 years in New Jersey.”
Schneider feels he’s up to the task.
“They expect great goaltending every year,” he said. “I accept that challenge and I’m excited for it. In Vancouver, it was going to be how you’re going to replace Roberto Luongo. They’re both great goalies and I think anyone would be lucky to work with both of those guys in their career.”
Schneider, who earned an invite to Team USA’s orientation camp for the 2014 Olympics, feels blessed to have the opportunity to form a tandem with yet another gold-medal-winning goaltender in Brodeur. But as his superb play in Vancouver showed, Schneider won’t be daunted by even the most spectacular of hockey résumés in his quest to become a team’s top puck-stopper.
This article originally appeared in the August 2013 issue of New England Hockey Journal.