Is Roberto Luongo Finished with The Vancouver Canucks?

May 12th, 2010 5 Comments

Taken by the New York Islanders with the fourth overall pick in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft, Roberto Luongo was widely viewed by scouts and NHL general managers alike as a Can’t-miss prospect, who many expected to be a franchise goaltender someday.

As Canada’s go-to goaltender, Luongo would win a Silver Medal at the 1999 world Junior Championships, taking Best Goaltender honors with him.

Luongo made his NHL debut during the 1999-200 season with the Islanders. Hampered by a very thin team in front of him, Luongo struggled in his first season, posting a 7-14-1 record in 24 games played with a 3.25 goals against average and a less than stellar .904 save percentage.

New York Islanders GM Mike Milbury drafted American goaltender Rick DiPietro with the first overall pick at the 2000 NHL Entry Draft, all but signaling that Luongo, through no fault of his own, would be traded.

That summer Luongo was moved to Florida along with forward Olli Jokinen for forwards mark Parrish and Oleg Kvasha. Luongo and Jokinen would play well for the Panthers, Parrish and Kvasha would struggle for the Islanders.

With the confidence of his new team and a new outlook, Luongo would go on to have a decent first season with the Florida Panthers posting a 12-24-7 record with a 2.44 GAA and a .920 save percentage. While Luongo’s record was poor his numbers (GAA and save percentage) were very good, especially when you consider how bad the Panthers team was at that time.

Luongo would go on to endure three more losing seasons, all the while posting impressive goals against averages (2.77, 2.71, 2.43) and save percentages (.915, .918, .931) in 2001-02, 2002-03, 2003-04, respectively.

The 2005-06 season would mark the first time in Luongo’s career that he would post a winning record, going 35-30-9 with a 2.97 GAA and a .914 save percentage with four shutouts.

As was the case in New York, something soured between Luongo and the Florida Panthers as, with a new contract apparently “very close” according to Luongo, Then Florida GM traded Luongo (and others) to the Vancouver Canucks for a package of players including forward Todd Bertuzzi, defenseman Bryan Allen and goaltender Alex Auld.

Shortly after the trade the Canucks locked Luongo into a four-year, $27 million deal, giving Luongo another vote of confidence and, once again, a new start from which to go forward.

Luongo quite possibly had the best season of his career in his inaugural season with the Canucks posting a record of 47-22-6 with a 2.29 GAA and a .921 save percentage. His 47 wins remain a career high, his 2.29 GAA remains his best showing of his career and his .920 save percentage stands as the second best save percentage of his career (posted a .931 save percentage during the 2003-04 season as a member of the Panthers).

As good as Luongo was in the 2007 Stanley Cup Playoffs (5-7 record with a sparkling 1.77 GAA and a sizzling .941 save percentage), Luongo was unable to propel his Canucks past the second round.

For “Robbie-Lou”, the 2007 season marked his coming out party; Luongo had arrived and was now regarded as the legitimate NHL franchise goaltender many felt he would be someday.

Despite a season which saw Luongo post a record of 35-29-9 the Canucks failed to make the playoffs in 2008, leading many to once again question Luongo’s abilities. To be fair, it was not Luongo’s play that was the issue, rather some bad luck with personal injuries (an abductor strain) that prevented Luongo and the Canucks from making a run at the Stanley Cup.

For “Robbie-Lou”, the 2007 season marked his coming out party. Luongo had experienced some success on the International scene; winning a Gold medal at the 2003 and 2004 World Championships, a Silver medal at the 2005 World Championships and a Gold at the 2004 World Cup, but never had he experienced a strong performance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Clearly, Luongo had arrived and was now regarded as the legitimate franchise goaltender many felt he would be someday….or had he?

On the back of Luongo’s strong play, the Canucks would make the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2008-09. Luongo, who had posted a 33-13-7 record in just 54 games (due to injuries), looked to be back in form and was expected to do big things in the playoffs.

Unfortunately, despite some decent play form Luongo, the Canucks fell in six games to the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference semi-finals. Luongo, who seemed to lack focus in the series, gave up seven goals in game six, which lead many to once again protest that Luongo was not a money goaltender.

The 2010 season began as many of Luongo’s season’s do, full of promise and high hopes for the playoffs.

Luongo entered the 2010 season on the short-list for Team Canada’s Olympic hockey team, which would be played on Luongo’s home turf in Vancouver. For Luongo, a selection to Team Canada would be a dream come true, a dream that became a reality for him once the team was announced.

Luongo entered the Olympics as goaltending legend Martin Brodeur’s backup. Luongo would go on to start the first game of the tournament, posting a 8-0 shutout over Norway, but what did that really mean? Norway never tested Canada or Luongo, so, in many people’s minds, Luongo had not proven himself.

Brodeur struggled against Team USA as Canada lost 5-3 in the preliminary round. With Canada down and out, Luongo was asked to step in for Brodeur. Luongo would get his dream, to be the number one starter for Team Canada…

While never dazzling, Luongo played well enough to help guide Canada to a Gold Medal victory over the United States. Make no mistake about it, Luongo never really emerged as a dominant goaltender, which once again had people questioning if Luongo could get it done in the big games.

Fast forward to this years Stanley Cup Playoffs and we find Roberto Luongo in familiar territory—ousted in the Western Conference semi-finals by the Chicago Blackhawks in six games, losing the deciding game at Home and in grand fashion.

This time around (co-incidentally a year to the day that the Canucks were ousted from last years playoffs by the Hawks by that horrific 7-5 score) Luongo gave up five goals to the Hawks, many of them questionable, all of them completely deflating for his teammates and Canucks fans alike, losing “a close one” (insert laughter here), by a final score of 5-1.

As was the case in last years playoffs Luongo was a huge factor in determining both the Canucks modest success (getting out of the first round) followed by the Canucks complete collapse in round two.

Now, given Luongo’s spotty playoff past and his apparent inability to win the big game, I will ask the obvious question…Is Roberto Luongo finished in Vancouver? Will he once again find himself being traded? Or, will the Canucks be willing to give him and his team another chance to redeem themselves?

If this is the case, God help them if they should meet the Hawks again next year!!!

Odds are Luongo will stay. While not impossible to move, Luongo has a hefty contract and, based on his past two playoff performances, many NHL GM’s may be a bit weary of Robbie-Lou.

One thing’s for sure, Luongo has a long way to go before anyone will be calling him a “Money goalie”, and he has no one to blame but himself for that…

Until next time,

Peace!

5 Comments

  1. Steamer says:

    Silly article.
    A brief glimpse at wkipedia will tell you luongo’s history – not needed.
    And then you provide zero answer or colour for the inflammatory question the title poses.
    Here’s your answer: NO Luongo will not get traded. He just signed a lifetime deal at a very reasonable cap hit, any nitwit knows this. And just because they lost in the 2nd round due as much or more to injuries on D, lack of secondary scoring and horrid special teams as to Luo’s play, does not mean Gillis is going to hit the eject button.
    Don’t know if you were watching, but Luo kept them in in the 1st — it was OB’s, Bieksa’s and Demitra’s gaffes that let the Hawks run away with the game.
    While I realize an inflammatory and controversial title is the rage to grab attention, I suggest for accuracy’s sake you retitle this: Boring Recount of Luongo’s History

  2. MarkRitter says:

    If you knew anything about writing a sports article you’d know that you had better back up your thoughts before you go on record as suggesting the Canucks may entertain trading Luongo, thus the background info.

    And, yeah, I did say I felt Luongo would remain in Vancouver, so how is it I did not give an opinion???

    Thanks for coming out…

  3. MarkRitter says:

    Here is the Excerpt where I made my opinion known…maybe read the entire article next time, k?

    …Odds are Luongo will stay. While not impossible to move, Luongo has a hefty contract and, based on his past two playoff performances, many NHL GM’s may be a bit weary of Robbie-Lou.

    Oh yeah, and Luongo was horrific in the series against the Hawks, the numbers do not lie…He needed to be a star, instead, he was a “chump”, again!!! AND, his attitude sucked after the game, his answers were very “a matter of fact” and void of emotion…came off as a loser to me…

  4. J Dizzle says:

    Two Minor things:

    1) It’s Bobby-Lu, not Robbie Lou.
    2) The criticism of Bobby Lu went pretty quiet after he won gold in Vancouver. Many people here (in Vancouver) started to think of him as a Grant Fuhr type goaltender. While his numbers aren’t great, he makes the key saves. Whether or not Luongo looked shaky, he still made the saves.

    As for your article, I think it’s asking the wrong questions about Luongo. He’s not going anywhere, as his contract is too large.

    I think the questions you should be asking are why is he playing too much? How much can and will he play next year? What happened to the defense in front of him? Why did the top 6 scorers go dry during the second round? Finally, should Luongo be captain?

  5. Joey Baloney says:

    Bobby Lou, like him or not, is here to stay with Vancouver and its unlikely he will be traded. I have to believe that Luongo knows he lacks mental toughness and focus when adversity is at its highest and I’m sure he’s not happy at his own shortcomings. That said, Luongo is a reflection of the team he plays for which to me, right or wrong, seems content year after year to finish in the same place year after year. I personally feel the coach needs to go, the team needs to get tougher and Luongo needs to become mentally a lot tougher; otherwise, as the author suggests, he’s just an overpaid fall short of the mark goaltender.

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