Remember when we had goalies like this?
Unhappy with Roberto Luongo? Perhaps we should go back and remind ourselves first of where we’ve been. One of the best rugby coaches I’ve ever worked with, Kevin Elliott, has a great saying he tells his players which goes along the lines of ‘perfection is impossible but excellence is achievable.’ In other words, is this the best we can do? Well, let’s have a look at non-Luongo Canucks goalies of the recent past…
Kirk McLean – Captain Kirk seemed great, is remembered for a great save, but look at the numbers. Even when we consider that this was the shoot-’em-out late 80s/early 90s, they aren’t great, nor are they that good as we move into clutch-and-grab late-90s hockey. We loved him, but he was pretty average. I’d rather have Lou.
Corey Hirsch – Remember when we thought he was the guy to take it all? My goodness…the redhead came to Vancouver with a rather famous pedigree and supplanted Kirk McLean for a time, but that should happen when you have two pretty average goalies battling for a starting spot. One will be out-playing the other at any given time. If you lose a goalie battle to someone you’ve already said you like less than Lou, well the choice is obvious.
Arturs Irbe – The Little Latvian never got the due he deserved, he played pretty damn well for a basically abysmal Canucks squad. Because, apparently, Mike Keenan didn’t like small goalies, he wasn’t brought back. He’s as good as you remember him, but as good as Lou? Not quite.
Sean Burke – One of the run of goalies during 97-98, he was as awful as the team in front of him. We all thought he was done when he left Vancouver, but he revived his career in Philly and later Phoenix. A big goalie, he was many times considered ‘one of the best,’ even if it wasn’t always true. At his peak he pushes Lou, but there were a lot of pretty bad days too. In the conversation but he certainly wouldn’t drive you any less nuts.
Garth Snow – The guy who won the Keenan goaltending sweepstakes, he was a battler for 3 seasons. Also known for being accused of putting wood in his shoulder pads – was that ever actually refuted? – he was an average goalie on a below-average team. Not even in the conversation
Kevin Weekes – Ah yes, everyone’s favourite commentator. Remember when he was the goalie of the future? Brian Burke’s first foray into the talent mines of Florida, Kevin never once suggested that he was worth the time and effort. Was there ever a time when you found yourself thinking, gosh Kevin Weekes is a good goalie!
Didn’t think so. Moving along…
Felix Potvin – The Cat. The poor, poor cat. He was once had a high reputation, it’s questionable whether it was ever worth it. What did we learn about Felix? Rebounds. Making saves with reflexes and nothing else. Having good defencemen is really, really important. Felix was terrible and the Canucks were but a whistle stop on his train to oblivion.
Alfie Michaud – Yes, so Alfie played at U of Maine with some Kariyas. He was pretty good there. Then everybody on the Canucks got hurt and he got to play.
Corey Schwab – Being a bit of a fan’s underdog on a team which employed Harry York for 54 games is never a good thing. He was brought in because the Canucks were so thin they were playing Alfie Michaud, he was let go because the Canucks already had Kevin Weekes. That should tell you enough.
Bob Essensa – Goalie Bob was loved, but mostly because he wasn’t The Cat. An 89.2 save percentage? In the dead puck era?! Wow, not quite what we remembered, eh?
Dan Cloutier – Poor Dan. He was, really, a pretty good guy. He wasn’t a bad goalie either. He just wasn’t great. He’s long been compared with a certain someone else, and that certain someone else has always been picked as the winner. No contest.
Martin Brochu – Perhaps he should lead off the post on the Canucks’ worst-ever players (not just goalies). Played awesome in the AHL. Was thought to be ‘the next thing’ for some amound of time, anyway. Seems he wasn’t.
Peter Skudra – Got a job because Brochu couldn’t do anything. Had a hot wife. Put up decent numbers. For a backup. Do we really want to waste time comparing Lu with backups? I guess I already have. Sorry.
Johan Hedberg – Came in because Skudra left. By the end of the year, Marc Crawford didn’t trust him anymore. Lost the battle to Alex Auld (see Alex Auld).
Alex Auld – Thought he was great because we had the same hairstyle. The replacement for Kevin Weekes as ‘goalie of the future.’ Once his future arrived (05-06, or ’04 playoffs. Pick ’em), we found out that he had the world’s largest five hole. Apparently no one had told him that Canucks fans knew all about five holes from the Kirk McLean days. Comparison points: he’s damn big. So’s Lu. Both are still in the NHL. One is first choice. The other has played for seven teams since ’06.
Tyler Moss – Was brought in to be the AHL veteran leader for the Moose. Pretty much what he did.
Rob McVicar – Got 3 minutes in a game because, literally, everyone else was hurt.
Maxime Ouellet – picked up off waivers from Philly, mostly because Rob McVicar was all of a sudden the number one goalie. Max had been Canada’s goalie at the world juniors one year, but fizzled after. Wasn’t all that great, played a year in Europe, then the East Coast League, then beer league, then Quebec fight league. Leave him alone.
Mika Noronen – Remember when the Buffalo Sabres were carrying three goalies because they didn’t want to lose Mika Noronen? Well it’s true. Noronen was thought to be a stud, once upon a time. Dave Nonis brought him in, thinking, this could be something going forward. Then the summer of ’06 came, and Nonis found us a bigger, better golie. Noronen read the writing on the wall and said ‘bye bye’ and bundled himself off to Kazakhstan.
Dany Sabourin – A really quality backup for Lu’s first season in Vancouver. Had an angry-Ducks mask. Got to play when Lu got the runs in the playoffs. Got a nice contract in Pittsburgh for his troubles.
Curtis Sanford – Apparently acquired because he kept beating the Canucks. Eventually lost his job to Jason Labarbera.
Jason Labarbera – A former Kings’ goalie of the future, he’s now in Phoenix, proving himself as a NHL goalie. Wouldn’t mind having him back, but would he be any better than Lu? Doubt it.
Andrew Raycroft – Played so well beating the Leafs in relief of Lu that he got my buddies on national TV. Pretty much a hero because of it. He proved that he had been mis-cast as a starter, basically couldn’t handle the work load. As a backup, he was perfect, as long as the coach was willing to give him a chance.
So there we have it. Every goalie since the late 90s, and how many would we even consider bringing back? Maybe Sean Burke in his prime. Maybe Labarbera or Razor. Even then, though, do we really think any of those three would really be a better long-term option than Lu? Didn’t think so. It’s fine to complain, as long as you have an alternative. No one is perfect, but some of us can be pretty damn good. Know what you have, and celebrate.