It didn’t seem like it at times because of the flak he’s received over the years here, but Roberto Luongo’s work in Vancouver was appreciated. Just look back to this weekend, when Canucks fans so obviously wanted Lu to start the Heritage Classic.
The fact is, Luongo shattered the long standing perception of Vancouver as a goalie graveyard. All you need to do is look at the list of Canucks’ goalies in the 10 years prior to his arrival – Corey Hirsch, Arturs Irbe, Garth Snow, Sean Burke, Kevin Weekes, Felix Potvin and Bob Essensa, among many, many others – and it’s easy to see just how much he’s stabilized the Canucks’ goaltending position.
His accomplishments here are undeniable.
He won 252 regular season wins (1st in franchise history) and posted 38 regular season shutouts (1st in franchise history) in a Canucks jersey.
He holds the Canucks’ single season records for games played (76), wins (47), shutouts (9) and longest shutout streak (242:36 minutes).
Lu won 32 games in the playoffs, 2nd only to Kirk McLean, though his playoff GAA (2.53) and save percentage (0.916) are better than Captain Kirk’s. Like McLean, he won 15 games in one playoff season and took the Canucks to within one game of winning the Stanley Cup. Never mind the team in front of him was decimated by injuries in the Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins and couldn’t score – the Canucks scored just 8 goals in 7 SCF games – he posted 2 shutouts – only the 2nd goaltender in NHL history to post 2 1-0 shutouts in the Final – and carried them on his shoulders.
He was nominated twice for the Vezina, once in 2009 and again in 2011, and if the Canucks had gone on to win the Cup in 2011, chances are, he likely would have won the Conn Smythe.
During the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, he took over an embattled Martin Brodeur in net and won a gold medal for Canada. He again represented Team Canada in the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, where he shut out Team Norway in his lone start.
Not bad for a goalie who supposedly can’t win when it matters the most.
The truth is, expectations from Lu were always sky-high. Often, they were even unreasonable. Maybe it’s because he was able to keep his old, weak Florida Panthers teams competitive for so many years. Or maybe it’s because, he took Canucks teams, some of which couldn’t shoot a puck into a soccer net if they wanted to, from missing the postseason and into the second round of the playoffs, and then from there to the team’s return to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in 17 years.
But despite Lu’s obvious success, too many fans eventually turned on him and openly called for the new, sexy redhead or the outgoing Swede with the great sense of humor in net to take over. For his part, Lu was nothing but a consummate professional and teammate, even to the end.
As Luongo leaves Vancouver, he also leaves behind the most successful goaltending era in Canucks history. Some may not agree with this sentiment, but I think most do. And when you think about it, the last thing he heard from Canucks fans was on Sunday at the Heritage Classic when 50,000+ fans were chanting, “We want Lu.”
And to that we add, thank you, Lu.