Photo via Darryl Dyck
It’s fitting that the day Roberto Luongo was traded was a dark, dreary, rainy one in Vancouver. While he’s not dead, nor is he being shipped off to play in some sort of inaccessible region which’ll prevent us from ever seeing him again (though some would argue Florida is the closest thing the NHL has to it), I don’t think that being sad and retrospective at this very moment is even remotely unreasonable.
The Vancouver Canucks have struggled mightily as a team throughout the 2013-14 season, and will more likely than not miss out on the playoffs outright. It’s a rather precipitous, steep drop for an organization and fanbase that was in the Stanley Cup Final just 34 months ago.
But it’s also one that has been looming overhead for a while now; the writing has been on the wall, and by trading away the best goaltender to ever don its uniform, the franchise is essentially accepting the end of an era and trying to turn over a new leaf. As Thomas Drance wrote in his analysis of the trade, it’ll likely behoove them for stopping the circus and trying to get a fresh start.
And we’ll get that closure eventually, but for now let’s reminisce about the good times we shared. There were a lot of them.
Here’s a list of Luongo’s predecessors between the pipes for the Canucks (guys that appeared in at least 20+ games in a season) for the 10 years prior to his arrival:
Alex Auld: 2005-06 – 67 GP, .902 save %
Dan Cloutier: 2003-04 – 60 GP, .914 save %
2002-03 – 57 GP, .908 save %
2001-02 – 62 GP, .901 save %
Johan Hedberg: 2003-04 – 21 GP, .900 save %
Petr Skudra: 2002-03 – 23 GP, .897 save %
2001-02 – 23 GP, .907 save %
Bob Essensa: 2000-01- 39 GP, .892 save %
Felix Potvin: 2000-01 – 35 GP, .887 save %
1999-00 – 34 GP, .906 save %
Kevin Weekes: 1999-00 – 20 GP, .898 save %
Garth Snow: 1999-00 – 32 GP, .902 save %
1998-99 – 65 GP, .900 save %
Corey Hirsch: 1998-99 – 20 GP, .890 save %
1996-97 – 39 GP, .894 save %
1995-96 – 41 GP, .903 save %
Kirk McLean: 1997-98 – 29 GP, .897 save %
1996-97 – 44 GP, .889 save %
1995-96 – 45 GP, .897 save %
Arturs Irbe: 1997-98 – 41 GP, .907 save %
Good lord, that’s bad. And we didn’t even get to include Martin Brochu’s 6 game run back in ’01-’02. I’d say that the franchise was on a run of horrid goaltenders prior to Luongo’s arrival for the ’06-’07 season, but that would be a massive understatement.
In his 8 seasons as a Canuck, Luongo posted a .919 save percentage en route to setting new franchise records for wins (233) and shutouts (35). He started 443 times during the regular season over that time.
There’s a lot of Canucks fans out there that have come up in recent years during the team’s golden age of goaltending – Luongo, Schneider, Lack; this is a goaltending factory, isn’t it? – but there’s even more of them out there that know how things used to be. It hasn’t always been this good. Roberto Luongo played a monumental part in changing the game.
There seems to be this widespread belief amongst the general public out there that Roberto Luongo is a “choker”, and has something inherently wrong with him that supposedly stops him from “winning the big game”. Except for that time he won Olympic Gold for his country on their home turf, and that time he posted 2 shutouts in the Stanley Cup Final. Other than that, he’s *never done anything* when it has mattered.
I’ve long since given up trying to fight the good fight in arguing otherwise; if you’re honestly going to be that narrow-minded and short-sighted in your analysis, you probably won’t be swayed by my silly little facts. And most of those people are just trying elicit a reaction, anyways, rather than actually believing what they’re saying. Thus is the internet.
Regardless of what kind of legacy leaves Vancouver with, there’s no taking away from the big moments he has provided us with over the years. The fact that we got to indulge in most of them with Jim Hughson, and his “GRRREAAAT SAAAAAVE LUOOOONGOOOO” call, is pretty cool:
That’s a sampling of my personal favourites. But seriously, there are so many more, and you can’t go wrong with this 5 minute compilation on Youtube.
— Strombone (@strombone1) March 4, 2014
While it seems disingenuous to say that the goaltending love triangle from last year worked out for Luongo, the entire ordeal seemed to do wonders for his image and the way he was perceived. He created the @strombone1 account (which somehow, unfortunately still has more than 200k fewer followers than Paul Bissonnette’s), and allowed his personality to shine by producing legitimately witty zingers.
It seems silly now, but he was once thought of as a shy, quiet guy, whose ego was a problem. But then he went on to handle the entire ordeal with Schneider with the utmost class, showing a very human and real element to his personality that we don’t often get to see from professional athletes. All of it put together turned him into something of an underdog, who everyone was now pulling for. It’s amazing what some good PR can do for you. I guess it didn’t hurt that he had a good sense of humour at his disposal:
He went out of his way to communicate with his fans, and be part of the community. He obliged us in setting up a fantasy football league (which I competed in, and was a blast), he participated in conversations, and he wasn’t afraid to have fun with things and in turn, let his personality shine.
It’s because of all of that, that I think many fans of the team are feeling bittersweet right now; on the one hand, it’s tough to say goodbye, but Roberto Luongo has deserved better than he has been treated by this organization in recent years and now he has been freed from it.
Anyways, I assume he’ll continue to do his thing online, but regardless, he made sure to leave Vancouver with one final Strombonian touch. All of this will take some getting used to, but it’s all part of the cyclical nature of professional nature. Hopefully we’ll get to continue admiring from afar.
What was your personal favourite moment?