Luongo Love/Hate

There is no figure in hockey more polarizing than Roberto Luongo.
Yesterday’s game against the Rangers only added more fuel to the fiery debate.
(Photo by byJeff Vinnick/Getty Images)

Guest post by Stefan

Editors Note: Stefan is my coworker, and an avid hockey and Canucks fan. We have frequent e-mail debates about the merits of the Canucks, their lines, the coaching, and most frequently – Roberto Luongo. To preface this post, in his own words…"This is important because I think Canucks fans need to come to reality with respect to their ‘elite’ goaltender. He is the best goalie the team has ever had, but he’s unstable and he is not elite. A certain level of criticism is deserved, but also recognize that Canucks fans tend to get too high and too low and we need to treat Luongo like an insecure teenager; criticize too much and you may destabilize him. "

By: Stefan G

Since last night’s strange tilt against the Rangers where Canucks fans jeered Luongo for yet another sub-par October performance, I’ve been reading much debate online as to whether the fans’ treatment of Luongo was justified.  I read one comment that highlighted the fact that last night’s ‘bronx cheer’ was not simply due to a single poor performance in October; but rather a snowball of frustration, built from 3 straight years of playoff meltdowns.  I agree with that.  However, as a long-time Canucks fan who has been witness to the stability of Kirk McLean, the revolving door of goaltenders following McLean’s departure and the Cloutier era, I do not accept the idea that Luongo is somehow a victim of a ‘goalie graveyard’ city where fans will criticize him no matter how successful he is.
If Luongo stops being a head case and plays to his potential (and salary) consistently when it matters most, the fans will embrace him with open arms.  The fact is that he is mentally fragile. 

Only a mentally unstable person would care or even think about whether Thomas is “pumping his tires”, let alone be stupid enough to say it. 

Only a mentally unstable goalie would allow that goal to Marchand in game 6 and then continue to let in weak goals instead of shutting the door. 

Only a mentally unstable goalie would give up on the puck on the partial breakaway by Bergeron in game 7 of the freakin’ SCFs!!  Oh, poor baby, you got knocked into your net – stop the puck you fool!!!  Luongo is not an elite goalie because of his mental instability.  He is a good goalie, but he is not in the same league as Thomas and Lundqvist – it’s just too bad he’s paid like he is.  After game 2, Thomas was criticized for being out of position for a couple of the Canucks’ goals.  What was his response? (With a smile) “I don’t think I need any advice on how to play goalie at this time.”  And then he followed that up with 5 games of perhaps the most impressive goaltending display in the SCFs we’ve seen in recent memory.
The criticism of Luongo is well deserved.  His numbers are solid because he is a good goalie with a great team in front of him, but the numbers do not tell the whole story.  He plays great as long as things are going his way and nothing bad or unlucky happens.  As soon as something bad happens when the pressure is on, the wheels tend to fall off more often than not – and that’s when as fans we all get that weird nervous feeling that the opposition can score at will because Luongo ain’t gonna stop it.  You know that feeling.  It’s the same feeling we all got in game 7 vs. Minnesota in 2003.  When the wheels fall off, Cloutier and Luongo are identical.
The fans will always have a love-hate relationship Luongo as long as he continues to give us reasons to feel that way…


Stefan is an avid hockey and Canucks fans. You can’t follow him on Twitter because he doesn’t know what it is.

  • Mantastic

    Agreed for the most part. The thing about a CDN markets is, everyone is watching all the time. There is no place to hide when a team or individual is not playing well. Cdn fans are smart, they know their game and will let you know when you are sucking at it.

    So Lu got jeered last night, big deal. The leaf fans booed their team tonight for the entire 2nd period – no one said anything. Price was booed last season before he even played a game. Kiprusoff spent most of last season jibbed from Flames fans (Khabibulin as well). In Philly, well, they boo everything. It’s life in a a major market, deal with it.

    To the Canuck players (mainly Bieksa) who cried in post game interviews about the jeering, they need to man up! “People in this town like to point fingers when things aren’t going well”. Yes, only people in Vancouver have opinions when it comes to hockey….. get a grip Bieksa. The players need to stop playing the ‘we’re victims’ card, find a sense of urgency for once, and play reasonably well in October. I’m sick of seeing them let a month slide by – like it means nothing.

  • Mantastic

    Nope. This is so off-base it’s not even funny. From buying into the misinterpretation of Luongo’s comments about Tim Thomas to the overwrought and inaccurate descriptions of the goals he gave up in a series where he posted two shutouts and the Canucks scored 8 goals in 7 games…I just can’t take this seriously.

    His numbers are solid because of the good team in front of him? That doesn’t explain his numbers in Florida or in 2006-07 where he carried a mediocre Canucks team.

    The accusations of mental instability, particularly in big games, doesn’t explain his performance against the Stars in 2007 or his gold medal or getting to the Stanley Cup Final. It’s an easy explanation, but it’s not the right one. And it’s frustrating to see so many people jump to that conclusion and excuse an idiotic point of view as justified.

    The idea the Luongo is inconsistent only proves that people have no idea what consistency actually means. Every single goaltender, including Tim Thomas and Henrik Lundqvist, will have bad games. But from season to season, Luongo has been one of the most consistently fantastic goaltenders in the NHL. Expecting an elite performance night in and night out is unrealistic, even for elite goaltenders. It’s a misunderstanding of what elite means.

    That’s one of the reasons Vancouver is considered a goalie graveyard: this city has a complete lack of understanding of what a good goaltender is. We see a visiting goaltender once or twice a year who puts up a good performance and we think that’s all there is. So when our goaltender doesn’t put together 60 performances as good as the one that we’ve seen from another goaltender, we go on a tirade. It’s pathetic.

    The issue with pointing fingers right now is that it’s not one person’s fault that the team is not performing well. That’s what Bieksa and the rest of the team are talking about: the team is not performing, not just one player. The defensive breakdowns in front of Luongo were ridiculous in that Rangers game, making it even more absurd that Luongo was the target of the fans jeers in the arena.

    I’m trying not to be too negative on this post (yes, this is me not being negative) because this is really just a lot of frustration building up to a breaking point with a lot of different Canucks fans. It just needed to come out.

    • Mantastic

      I think you need to go back and read my words carefully. A few disjointed bullet points:
      – I never said that he NEVER performs well in pressure situations. Of course there are examples of him stepping up. By the way, his Olympic performance was ‘good enough’, but nothing to write home about.
      – I never spoke to his regular season performances.
      – I said that he is inconsistent in pressure situations and I don’t think anyone can deny that.
      – He has shown to have a higher % of ‘bad games’ in pressure situations than in the regular season.
      – Of course his numbers were still decent in FLA, he is a good goalie and I said that. But when did he ever have an ounce of pressure there? And when did he play in the playoffs?
      – My opinion of Luongo has nothing to do with Lundqvist’s performance the other night.
      – I agree Luongo has been one of the most consistent goalies over the past few years….in the regular season….where it doesn’t matter.
      – I don’t expect Luongo to be elite every game; however based on the number of times he has fallen apart in pressure games in the playoffs, one must conclude that he is not elite. His mental instability trumps his talent too often.
      – I’m sorry, but suggesting that Luongo’s comments about Thomas were misinterpreted is a classic case of having the rose-colouring, homer glasses on. Take your Canuck fan hat off and look at it objectively. Luongo was a MORON for giving the opposition any motivation whatsoever, especially a guy like Thomas who has been the underdog and battled his entire career for where he is today. Luongo is a spoiled little brat for even caring or thinking that the opposition goalie needs to give him compliments in the media.
      – Go look at the tape, an elite goalie doesn’t allow the goals that Luongo did in game 6, especially when his team was outplaying the opposition – and that goal in game 7….jeez, no battle whatsoever.

      • Mantastic

        So how many elite goalies are there when it matters?(Theres only one cup handed out each years so I guess the list is short)

        Lundqvist? He’s gotten past the 1st round once, and choked away a 3-1 lead.

        Miller? Hes been to 2 conference finals and choked hard in the last one, adding to that losing to 3 Phili backups.

        Bryzgalov- Self explanatory lit up by detroit and not very good in Anaheim.

        The list can go on and on.

        And when did the Canucks ever dominate in Boston? They got destroyed start to finish and our supposed #1 offense takes no flak at all. Boston had plenty of offense to spot Thomas a few bad goals and comeback from 3 goals+ deficits throughout the playoff run. Why is our team so mentally fragile? Why cant they battle back? Does Luongo destroy their confidence that bad that they cant battle back after 1 weak one? Sounds like a Mentally in-stable team more so then goalie.

        Also is there no more motivation then the stanley cup to up your game.. Boston really destroyed and intimidated the Canucks because of Luongos comments amirite?

        • Mantastic

          I think the debate is getting a little side-tracked. The purpose of my post was to argue against the point that ‘Vancouver is a goalie graveyard and that Canuck fans will hate Luongo no matter how success he is’. I disagree with this. My point was not to claim that it was Luongo’s fault that the ‘nucks lost to Boston or that he is to blame for the nucks poor start this year.

          I believe that Canuck fans will embrace Luongo as soon he stops giving us reasons not to. I believe that he is mentally unstable and provided examples of that. Do you disagree that he is inconsistent when the pressure is on? That is the only point that matters.

          Your question however, “How many elite goalies are there when it matters?” is a good one and sparks another debate on the importance of having an elite goalie and how much a goaltenders stats/success is dependent on the team in front of them. Bryzgalov was never going to win in PHO with that team in front of him. Luongo never even made the playoffs in FLA, but no one would blame him for that. Niemi won a cup, but that CHI team was, in my opinion, one of the best we’ve seen in years. It’s an entirely separate debate, but the fact remains – Luongo is hit and miss when the games matter most; especially on the road.

          For the record, I do not place the blame on Luongo for the loss to Boston – and I could care less about the slow start to the season; they be fine. I have also never said that the Canucks cannot win with Luongo. I just think Canuck fans need to take the focus off of Luongo and come to the realization that is not elite (because of his fragility). Luongo was one of the factors in our loss to Boston. However the no.1 reason we lost was Tim Thomas; but other reasons include: Boston had better team defense and more effective power forwards; Boston was healthy; Van had no scoring depth with all the injuries; Luongo was Jekyll and Hyde.

        • Mantastic

          look at the teams playing in front of them before you make those accusations. NYR, Buffalo and ANA did not have a president cup team in front of them, or the high scoring offense and the low GA team, all of which Luongo does have in vancouver.

  • Mantastic

    About consistency:

    In the 1993-94 season Kirk McLean’s Numbers

    52GP 23W 26L 891S% 2.99GAA

    30th best save% in the league among goalies who played more than 20 games

    In the 1994-95 season Kirk McLean’s Numbers

    40GP 18W 12L 904s% 2.75GAA

    Good for 13th best save percentage in the league among goalies who played more than 20 games.

    In 1995-96 season Kirk McLean’s Numbers

    45GP 15W 21L .875S% 3.54 GAA

    That made his save percentage 43 best in the league among goalies who played more than 20 games.

    The last three years Luongo has been 5th,18th and 4th in the league for save percentage among goalies with more than 20GP.

    The only thing I see is that McLean was consistenly average while Luongo has been consistenly among the best goaltenders in the league. Don’t buy into the boos.

    • Mantastic

      I agree & I don’t think he got the same treatment as Luo gets. Luo has HELPED get us to the finals. We had a great season last year. The whole TEAM needs to perform. What made McLean so great was the team in front of him. When everyone does their job, we are unstoppable & at the top of the league. We can still have a great season. It’s not too late to turn it around. Maybe we should be pumping the whole teams tires ;p and that was meant to be a joke by Luo…ever have anything not quite come out the way we meant it to? Except his comments were recorded and posted … Buck up Nuck fans they’ll get there

  • Mantastic

    I agree with Stefan. As much as it pains me to say, Luongo’s head is not in the right place.

    He lets his emotions get the better of him. He looks sky high in frustration after letting in a bad goal, he’ll sometimes lash out at the media (Remember when he said “I’d love to pitch 82 shutouts for you guys”?).

    How many times has he been on the verge of a shutout, only to let in a softie in the final few minutes?

    Does anybody have confidence in him to make stops in the shootout anymore?

    Lately, his trend is letting in goals from horrific angles.

    He can very often be a great goalie but unfortunately, his meltdowns against Boston and (almost) Chicago for a 3rd time seem to have cemented his status with Canucks fans as an unreliable, inconsistent headcase.

  • Mantastic

    The greatest moment in Canucks hockey and the one I’m looking forward to the most is when (if?) Luongo hoists the Cup…

    Can you imagine the weight falling off his shoulders as he lifts that thing?