I know it surprises quite a few people that Chris Higgins is as productive as he is considering how terrible his time spent in Calgary, Florida and New York was, but to be fair, those teams were all awful to begin with. Florida is only now on the verge of the playoffs. The Rangers are an Eastern powerhouse now but they were once a group of overpaid, over-aged and underachieving veterans. The Flames…well, the Flames haven’t changed, I guess.
But anyone who watched Higgins in his first three seasons in Montreal could tell you how much of an impact player he was. There was talk amongst Habs fans that he could be their future captain and it wasn’t hard to see why, putting up 38-points in his first two years and 52 in his third. Combine those Cody Hodgson or Mason Raymond (quite similar to MayRay actually…since his 4th year was terrible) numbers with his physical play and never quit work ethic and you have a pretty complete player. Not top end talent but a guy with character you could use on your team. The Canucks have given Higgins the opportunity to win and he’s run with it. We’re getting the guy New York thought they were getting in the Scott Gomez trade.
Want an example of that work ethic? You don’t get a washboard like that sitting on your ass.
I’ve always thought AV was a funny guy. A little dry wit at appropriate times, usually at the expense of local media but still, while he maintained that stoneface for many of his early Canucks years, this year in particular he’s really lightened up. I don’t think I need to remind any Canucks fans of his uncontrollable giggle-fits as Vernon Fiddler did his best Kevin Bieksa impression. Seems it doesn’t take much to give Coach V an attack of the funnies.
On the other hand, AV does not find wrecking Vancouver very funny…so don’t do it or he’ll bag skate you til next playoffs.
I was downtown during the game 7 fiasco and walking down Granville Street, some guy handed my buddy several pairs of board shorts, several sizes too large for anyone who’s name doesn’t end with “the Hutt”. I wondered why on earth he took them from the store because one, he wasn’t going to wear them and two, since he was handing them off, he wasn’t even taking them home to use as table cloths or car covers. But that about sums up a lot of silliness that happened after the 4-0 game. Just people being stupid for the purpose of being stupid.
What’s also stupid is how the Canucks backup goaltender has been playing…stupid awesome, that is. Cory would like to remind you to steal games, steal wins, steal goals from opposing players…but leave the Hutt shorts in the clearance bin where they belong.
In honor of our French-Canadian-pests-supreme-turned-first-line-wingers, today’s CHB PSA is brought to you by Maxim Lapierre and Alex Burrows, who have six points between them since they got bumped up to the first line with Henrik Sedin. Burr and Lappy would like to remind you that being a jerk is only okay on the ice…whenever the referee isn’t looking.
I’m guessing some of our younger fans aren’t going to know about Stan Smyl, which is too bad because he meant as much to the franchise from ’78 to ’91 as many of the modern era’s leaders. There’s a reason his jersey is up in the rafters of Rogers Arena. Remember how Trevor Linden scored the Canucks two goals in game seven of the ’94 finals? Smyl had the only one in a 3-1 game four that saw the Islanders, who were a powerhouse compared to the Canucks in 1982, sweep Vancouver. He wasn’t the captain in that run but he was given the C the year after. That was also the only one of the Canucks Stanley Cup Final appearances that didn’t end in a huge mess downtown.
Steamer might be 54 now but I still wouldn’t mess with him…so don’t mess with Vancouver, or you might have to answer to Stan Smyl.
If you smash a window, Trevor would be mad. He'll just be disappointed.
Vancouver seems to want to move away from public gatherings in the city and trying to move people to suburban areas but let’s face it, the downtown core will be packed as long as the Canucks are in the playoffs.
So when you’re out there this post-season, we here at CHB would like to remind you to have a great time but that if you do decide to start some trouble, your actions will have consequences. Not only will you make poor Roberto Luongo cry, but you might get a look like this from Trevor Linden. I don’t know about you but I wouldn’t want to disappoint a man that played on one leg to try and bring Lord Stanley to Vancouver. I’m sure he was pretty close already when people needed to be told not to torch their own city.
Yesterday, the Canucks launched their Celebrate Responsibly Campaign with a series of touching videos each titled “This Is Our Home.”
Showcasing the natural beauty of the region, ‘This is Our Home’ promotes a simple message of the inclusive and positive nature of sports and community. It shares the values of the season-long Heart of A Canuck tradition celebrating courage, honor, humility, integrity and passion.
After seeing the events that took place immediately after Game 7 last year, you can count us here at CHB to be in full support of the campaign. We count ourselves as some of the best Canucks fans out there and it pained us significantly to see other so-called fans unleash terror and chaos on many innocent people & businesses. And as the premiere Canucks blog, we thought it prudent to provide you our own posters in support of the campaign (albeit a more tongue-in-cheek take).
The first in the series is the Sad Luongo poster. Feel free to spread far and wide!
A few days ago, we explored the first of many trades between the Vancouver Canucks and Florida Panthers, which was the exchange of Jesse Belanger to the Canucks for a third-round draft choice in the 1996 NHL Entry Draft. While Belanger only played for a short time in Vancouver and wasn’t offered a contract the following year, the third-round pick the Canucks gave up started a domino effect throughout the Panthers organization from the way they drafted to the players they traded for, the results of which can still be seen on the current Panthers roster and farm system. Today, we’ll be examining one of the most infamous deals in Canucks history, the one that sent an unhappy Russian Rocket to Florida for, amongst others, fan favorite swashbuckling defenseman, Ed Jovanovski.
Year:: 1999 Canucks receive: Ed Jovanovski, Dave Gagner, Mike Brown, Kevin Weeks and a first-round pick in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft. Panthers recieve: Pavel Bure, Bret Hedican, Brad Ference and a third-round pick in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft.
Background: In case you didn’t follow the Canucks during their last Stanley Cup run…which is probably a lot of you young whippersnappers I see on Twitter these days…Pavel Bure is still to this day the most exciting, electrifying, get-up-out-of-your-seat-when-he-touches-the-puck sort of player the Canucks have ever had. Don’t get me wrong…Trevor Linden is still my favorite all-time Canucks player but he never brought the same sort of offensive danger that Bure did when he stepped on the ice. If you watch Alex Ovechkin today and get that sense of anticipation you feel when he gets that black rubber on his stick that he’s going to do something amazing, that’s the sort of sensation Canucks fans expected during Pavel Bure’s 7 seasons with the Canucks.
Bure still sits 7th on the all-time Canucks scoring list, 4th in goals with 9 hat-tricks and 32 game winners. He’s also got a Calder as Rookie of the Year and remains the only Canuck to score 60 goals in a season, which he did back to back from 1992-’94. Most Canucks fans of that era can tell you exactly where they were when Bure scored some of his most important goals, including that incredibly breakaway goal on Flames goaltender Mike Vernon to advance the Canucks to the Conference Final, completing one of the greatest comebacks in team history being down 3-1 in the series and winning three times…all in overtime…to take the series in the seventh game.
But unlike fellow ’94 alumni like Linden, Kirk McLean, Greg Adams and Gino Odjick, Bure isn’t a universally loved player in Vancouver. Despite his absolutely beast-mode 31 points in 24 playoff games that year (24GP-16G-15A-31P), Bure is thought of by many as a selfish player that turned his back on the team that drafted him. Although he had 51 goals in his last season with the Canucks, the canyon between the Russian Rocket and the Canucks organization had grown. By the 1997-’98 season, Bure had told management that he would not be playing for the Canucks again even though he had a year and $8m left on his contract, which led then-GM Brian Burke to trade him halfway through the season to the Florida Panthers.
What Happened: All you need to know this trade is that it happened during the Mark Messier era in Vancouver Canucks history, which were truly the dark ages. After the ’94 Cup run and the ’95 lockout, a number of changes occured in the Canucks organization, including the hiring of Mike Keenan and the acquisition of former New York Rangers center Mark Messier. I won’t go into detail as even talking about this particular moment in time makes the veins in my head bulge and I don’t know what I did with my Messier voodoo doll but suffice to say, Bure wasn’t happy with the team and wanted out.
The trade didn’t really have any playoff implications that year as both the Canucks and Panthers missed the playoffs, with the Canucks occupying the Western Conference basement and the Panthers were only one point ahead of them.
Canucks: For the Canucks, this trade meant that they immediately lost one of the foremost offensive threats and easily their most explosive player. Despite injuries that shortened several previous seasons, Bure was still productive and when healthy, he remained a top-level player for years to come.
The centerpiece in the package the Canucks would get in return was Ed Jovanovski, a former 1st overall defensemen who had spent 4 years with the Panthers already. At 23, he had barely scratched his prime. With the Canucks, “Jovocop” would spend 7 years on a high-flying Canucks team that also featured the West Coast Express of Markus Naslund, Todd Bertuzzi and Brendan Morrison. He would play 434 games in that span with his last three years cut short by various injuries. Although the Canucks wouldn’t make it out of the second round of the playoffs during his time here, Jovo put up some very good numbers for Vancouver (434GP-57G-177A-234P) and for me in particular, he is responsible for some of my best memories of that era. I can still see him jumping up and down in the penalty box after Matt Cooke scored against the Flames to send it to overtime (Martin Gelinas would win it for Calgary a minute later) and that time he knocked Adam Deadmarsh the hell out. He had great years in Vancouver but the team was looking for a change in 2006 and Jovo would sign with the Phoenix Coyotes as a free agent.
Dave Gagner, on the other hand, was not particularly important to the Canucks. He played 33 games (33GP-2G-12A-14P) before retiring later that year. At 35, I don’t know why he was even part of the trade but the last time I heard, Burke insisted that he be included. My dad is still angry about this particular part of the trade to this day. Gagner is currently the Director of Player Development for the Canucks.
Mike Brown spent most of his time in the minors after being selected 20th overall by the Panthers in 1997. While not overly big, he still played the enforcer role decently at the minor league level, once topping a whopping 300 PIMs in 1997-’98, a season where he also scored 56 points in 72 games. At the NHL level, he never quite got there despite being a Brian Burke favorite. He played a total of 16 games for the Canucks, with no points and 78 PIMs. He would sign with the Mighty Ducks after the Canucks left him unrestricted in 2002-’03, the season where he would score his only NHL goal.
Kevin Weekes…oh man, here we go. I’m tempted to talk about his current stint on Hockey Night in Canada but before he tortured our ears with partner Mark Lee (okay, I’m done…), he was the Canucks goalie-from-the-future! …I mean, goalie-OF-the-future. Drafted 41st overall by the Panthers in 1993, Weekes was a big part of the Bure deal as the Canucks were looking for a goalie to stop the revolving door and Weekes showed tremendous promise. Unfortunately, he never panned out with the Canucks, who were disappointed with his play, posting only 6 wins during his tenure of 31 games (31GP-6W-15L-5T/OTL). He would be packaged with Bill Muckalt and Dave Scatchard and sent to the New York Islanders for Felix Potvin, a 2nd and 3rd round pick in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft. Potvin would be an even more forgettable goalie and would be dealt to the Kings for future considerations as Dan Cloutier and Bob Essensa took over goaltending duties for the Canucks. Since I can’t find anything about what happened to those “future considerations”, we’ll just assume the Canucks received a shiny bag of pucks, which I’d like to think are still somewhere in Rogers Arena today so we can get some value out of all this.
The 2nd round pick from the Weekes deal was moved to New Jersey in a 3-way trade where the Canucks got Vadim Sharifijanov (…who?) and a 3rd rounder, which ended up being Tim Branham. Branham would never play an NHL game and Sharifijanov, despite scoring a goal in his first shift as a Canuck, played only 17 games (17GP-2G-1A-3P) before he would be released. The 3rd round pick from the Weekes deal was used to draft Thatcher Bell, who also never played a NHL game. Not sure if the Canucks released him or traded him but he has popped up in the Rangers and Ducks system.
With guys like Brad Boyes, Justin Williams and Niklas Kronwall still on the board, the Canucks used Florida’s 2000 first-round draft pick (23rd overall) to draft Nathan Smith. Injuries derailed much of Smith’s time in the Canucks organization where he played from 2002 to 2007. His claim to fame is that he played the same number of games for the Canucks in the regular season and in the playoffs. He would be called up for 4 games spread between 2003 to 2007 and also played 4 postseason games in 2007. He would never score a point at the NHL level, a great example of how poor the Canucks scouting department was at the time. He’s so forgettable that a Google image search brings up a picture of a Smith jersey some ridiculous Canucks fan bought and a screencap of his back. He’s playing in the German Elite League these days.
Today’s results: The Canucks did not get much in return for Bure apart from Jovanovski, who was allowed to walk just like several other players involved in the trade. While the 2000 draft wasn’t deep, several NHL-caliber players were available along with Nathan Smith such as Niklas Kronwall, Brad Boyes, Ilya Bryzgalov and Jarret Stoll but instead, the Canucks picked a bust in Smith and busts with all their other acquired picks as well. As a result, all we are left with today as a result of the Bure trade is a couple pictures of Ed Jovanovski hanging in the halls of Rogers Arena and a bunch of 11-year old pucks.
Panthers: In Bure, the Panthers acquired a game-breaker, one of the only guys in the league at the time that could take over a game all by himself. Unfortunately, Bure’s knees would never be quite what they were as a result of his style of physical play. He would appear in only 11 games the season after the trade (11GP-13G-3A-16P) before he had to have surgery on his ACL. Bure would play 3 more seasons with the Panthers, which included a 58-goal season, a 59-goal season and a 94-point season – the latter two still team records. Bure is 9th on the Panthers scoring leaders (223GP-152G-99A-251P).
On March 18th, 2002, Florida would trade Bure along with their 2nd-round pick in the 2002 draft for Igor Ulanov, Filip Novak and the Rangers’ 1st and 2nd-round picks in the same year. Ulanov played a couple of years with the Panthers with little success (70GP-1G-5A-6P). He’d sign as a free agent with the Edmonton Oilers the next season. Novak would spend most of his time with the Panthers injured on their AHL affiliate San Antonio Rampage’s roster before being dealt to the Ottawa Senators for a conditional draft pick, which doesn’t appear to have been invoked probably since he didn’t re-sign.
The 1st round pick the Panthers would receive in the Bure deal resulted in Petr Tatíček, who they drafted 9th overall. He would play 3 games for the Panthers (3GP-0G-0A-0P) before being sent to Pittsburgh for Ric Jackman. Jackman would be sent to the Ducks a year later (where he won a Stanley Cup) for a conditional pick, which became 181st-overall pick Corey Syvret, who is playing in the ECHL today. The 2nd rounder would turn to Rob Globke, who would play a total of 46 games with the Panthers (46GP-1G-1A-2P) before leaving for Europe.
In that original trade with the Canucks, the Panthers also received, in exchange for Bure, defensemen Bret Hedican, Brad Ference and a 3rd rounder in 2000 that became Robert Fried. Fried appears to have disappeared after playing 4 years at Harvard. Yes, that Harvard.
Hedican stuck around for two full seasons after he was traded to the Panthers (202GP-17G-48A-65P) and was dealt in 2001-’02 to Carolina along with Kevyn Adams and Tomas Malec, where he would win a Cup in 2006. In return, the Panthers received Byron Ritchie (111GP-10G-15A-25P) and Sandis Ozolinsh (88GP-17G-38A-55P). While Ritchie would leave Florida as a free agent (he signed with the Calgary Flames, then the Canucks, and finally in Europe), Ozolinsh was traded to the Mighty Ducks for Matt Cullen, Pavel Trnka and a 2003 4th rounder that became James Pemberton.
At the age of 34, Cullen is still a productive player in the NHL today, but played a season and a half of his worst hockey (statistically) with the Panthers (86GP-12G-19A-31P). He would leave Florida as a free agent after the lockout and sign in Carolina. Trnka (89GP-3G-16A-19P) would head to Europe after the lockout and Pemberton never broke into a NHL roster.
Ferrence would spend about 4 years with the Panthers (167GP-4G-24A-28P) before heading to the Phoenix Coyotes for Darcy Hordichuk and a 2nd rounder in 2003, which which was traded again along with a bunch of other picks for the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 25th overall pick. Hordichuk played enforcer for the Panthers for 60 games (60GP-3G-1A-4P) where he’d amass 173 PIMs before heading to the Nashville Predators after the lockout and then signing with the Canucks. The Canucks traded him back to the Panthers for Andrew Peters last year, but signed as a free agent with the Edmonton Oilers this past off-season. The 25th overall pick would be Anthony Stewart (105GP-4G-8A-12P), who then signed as a free agent with the Atlanta Thrashers, where he would score go on to score 39 points in 80 games. He’s currently with the Carolina Hurricanes on a 2-year deal.
Today’s results: Like the Canucks, the Panthers received a number of decent assets when it was time to repackage an aging Bure with bad knees but squandered the draft picks on players that never even came close to making the big leagues. Anthony Stewart was probably the best they did in this entire mess but he still isn’t the sort of player you’d want to result from a first round pick and he left the club for nothing two years ago. As a result, the Panthers have nothing today to show for their end of the Bure trade, although they did get two productive, Rocket Richard Trophy-winning seasons out of the Russian Rocket.
Tough one to call. If it comes down to the Canucks getting 7 years of Jovocop compared to Florida’s 4 years of Bure’s services, I’d have to call that one in favor of the Canucks. Despite Bure being a bigger star, the Panthers only made the playoffs one of the years Bure was in the lineup and they were swept in 4 games by eventual Stanley Cup Champion New Jersey Devils. On the other hand, the Canucks with Jovo in the lineup would return to the postseason (4 times in Jovo’s 7 years with the team) after missing it for 4 consecutive seasons during the dark Messier/Keenan era. He recorded 18 points (8G-10A) in 31 playoff games.
While both teams made poor choices with the assets they acquired as a result of this trade, the Panthers basically threw away three high draft picks during this time including a 9th overall. However, at least they got draft picks to waste. The Canucks didn’t even get that with a very poor return for all the players they received for Bure, including letting Jovanovski walk at the end of his contract. As a result, I’d call this one a draw.
When a friend starring at his smartphone told me that the Canucks made a trade with the Florida Panthers, I could swear I saw a glitch in the Matrix. Seriously, this has happened so many times in recent years, it actually does give me some deja vu. The Vancouver-Florida connection continued this past Saturday with news that the Panthers had sent David Booth, Steve Reinprecht and a third-round draft pick in the 2013 draft (which is the same pick the Canucks sent to Florida at the deadline last year for Chris Higgins) in exchange for Mikael Samuelsson and Marco Sturm. While Sturm is in the lineup for the Panthers tonight and Booth will line up with Kesler and Chiggins tomorrow against the Edmonton Oilers, Samuelsson remains in Vancouver as he tries to get back to 100%. However, even if Sammy wasn’t on the mend, it will be at least a few months before we can begin to pick a winner in this trade.
…but I’m sure as hell going to try anyways!
But first, let’s go through the history of trades between these two regular dance partners, who between them have swapped some rather popular NHL stars in players like Roberto Luongo, Ed Jovanovski, Todd Bertuzzi and Pavel Bure.
Before we get started, did you know that if the Canucks didn’t make the Cam Neely for Barry Pederson deal way back in ’86, the Bruins may never have drafted Milan Lucic 20 years later? It’s true! This is the sort of analysis you can look forward to in this series as I look at the Canucks/Panthers trade history and see how the deals have affected both teams at the time, today and all the time in between. You’ll see how a trade has long term consequences and shapes rosters for many years after it happens. This is the hockey version of the Butterfly effect, if you will.
Year: 1996 Canucks receive: Jesse Belanger Panthers receive: 3rd-round draft pick in the 1996 NHL Entry Draft
Background: This might look like a relatively insignificant trade but read on! It’s probably the most important in Panthers (and perhaps Canucks as a result) history!
This was the earliest trade I could find between the two clubs as the Panthers joined the NHL in 1993 with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. Belanger was signed by the Montreal Canadiens in 1990 but never held a regular spot in the lineup. He played a total of 23 games with the Canadiens between 1991-’93 before he was left unprotected by Montreal and selected by Florida in the 1993 NHL Expansion Draft. Belanger had his best statistical season after joining the Panthers in 1993-’94, putting up 50 points in 70 games (70GP-17G-33A-50P) but only another 67 points over the next 110 games with the organization (110GP-32G-35A-67P).
What Happened: After the trade at the deadline, Belanger played 9 games with the Canucks with a rather unimpressive statline, scoring only three goals (9GP-3G-0A-3P) in the remainder of the regular season and only two assists in 3 games during the 1995-’96 playoffs. The Canucks finished 7th in the West (1 point above 8th place the original Winnipeg Jets), losing in the first round in 6 games to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche. The Panthers, on the other hand, reached the Stanley Cup Finals for the first and only time in their franchise history but were swept by the aforementioned Avs.
Belanger was released by the Canucks the following off-season and signed with the Edmonton Oilers. After appearing in only 6 games that season for the Oilers, Belanger popped up in the NHL two more times: once with the Canadiens in 1999-’00 (16GP-3G-6A-9P) and in 2000-’01 with the New York Islanders (12GP-0G-0A-0P). The ’01 season was the end of Belanger’s NHL career although he continued to play in the minors and overseas. Today, you can find him as a member of the Saint-Georges CRS Express with which he won a Lique Nord-Americaine de Hockey (North American Hockey League) championship in 2009-’10, the same year he was named the league’s Most Sportsman-like Player and a 1st team All-Star.
Long term consequences:
Canucks: The Canucks released Belanger at the end of the season they traded for him so it’s safe to assume this trade hasn’t impacted the team long term. Today’s results: none
Panthers: With the 65th overall pick in the 1996 NHL Entry Draft, the Panthers selected Oleg Kvasha, a 6-foot left wing from Moscow, Russia. Kvasha cracked the Panthers lineup in 1998-’99 and played 146 games over two seasons in Florida (146GP-17G-33A-50P).
In 2000, he was traded in the off season by the Panthers along with fellow winger Mark Parrish to the New York Islanders for Roberto Luongo and Olli Jokinen…which simply has to be one of the most lopsided trades ever as both Luongo and Jokinen would become cornerstones of the Panthers franchise for years while Kvasha played 5 seasons for the Islanders (332GP-60G-96A-156P) with Parrish (who has also popped up with the Canucks recently on a try-out). Kvasha would be dealt from the Islanders to the Coyotes in 2005-’06, where he would finish his NHL career.
Roberto Luongo was widely considered one of the best goaltenders at the time he was the Panthers starter. The teams in front of him were questionable defensively, which showed in the number of shots he routinely faced. During his time with the Panthers (318GP-108W-154L-35T), although the wins were scarce, Luongo set single season records for saves and shots faced. Luongo would later be traded to…yes, Vancouver. Jokinen on the other hand spent 7 seasons in Florida where he was captain from 2003 to when he was traded in 2008. In 7 seasons, he played 567 games and put up 419 points (567GP-188G-231A-419P).
Luongo’s blockbuster trade brought Todd Bertuzzi, Bryan Allen and Alex Auld to the Panthers while Olli Jokinen was dealt for Nick Boynton, Keith Ballard and a second round pick in the 2008 draft.
Bertuzzi only played 7 games for the Panthers that season due to a number of injuries before he would be traded to the Red Wings for Shawn Matthias and conditional picks. Allen would remain part of the Panthers defensive core for several seasons (284GP-14G-53A-67P) before the Panthers would trade him for Sergei Samsonov. Alex Auld played 27 games for Florida in 2006-’07 before leaving as an unrestricted free agent.
The conditional pick in the Bertuzzi trade would be part of the Tomas Vokoun deal between the Nashville Predators and Panthers. Sergei Samsonov would play 20 games with the Panthers last season but is currently an unrestricted free agent. Vokoun would also leave the Panthers as a UFA but not before playing 4 seasons with the club (248GP-101W-108L-30OTL). In short, today as a result of the Luongo branch of the Kvasha/Parrish for Luongo/Jokinen trade, the Panthers have…Shawn Matthias.
Nick Boynton would play a season with the Panthers (68GP-5G-16A-21P) before signing with Anaheim the year after as a UFA while Ballard would play two full seasons (164GP-14G-48A-62P) before being traded to Vancouver at the 2010 draft for Michael Grabner, Steve Bernier and Vancouver’s 1st round pick.
Grabner was released by the Panthers last season before the Islanders picked him up on waivers on the way to his 31-goal, Calder trophy candidate season. Bernier would play a season with the Panthers but leave as a UFA (and he still is). The 1st round pick from the Ballard deal would be used to select Quinton Howden, a promising 19-year old prospect with the Moose Jaw Warriors of the WHL.
The 2nd round pick included with the Olli Jokinen deal was first acquired from the Ottawa Senators. This was the 49th overall pick in 2008 and was later traded to the Nashville Predators in a package for the 46th overall pick. Pick #46 became Colby Robak while #49 became Jared Staal. Robak is still with the Panthers organization today as part of the San Antonio Rampage in the AHL. Today’s results: Shawn Matthias, Quinton Howden and Colby Robak.
The Panthers obviously won this trade. Although…and I actually have to scroll up to remember his name…Jesse Belanger’s stint with the Canucks was brief, the 3rd round pick the Canucks dealt for him had ramifications throughout the history of the Panthers. Although they’ve lost many All-Star quality players that have turned up as a result of this deal, the Panthers still come out on top here with 2008 WJHC gold medalist Shawn Matthias and two early round prospects still on their roster as opposed to the brief-if-it-even-exists entry that Jesse Belanger has in the Canucks history books. The shrewdness here by the Panthers was turning two promising young players in Kvasha and Parrish (at the time they were) into better, more promising young players in Luongo and Jokinen. It really got the ball rolling for the franchise. Given the history in Florida…that’s probably the best trade they’ve ever made even if they don’t have much playoff (…or regular season, for that matter) success to show for it. Without this seemingly innocuous transaction between the two teams, perhaps Roberto Luongo never ends up in Florida…and later, as a result, Vancouver.
I don’t know what I was expecting when I read Katie’s rant the other day on how unfair and silly the early calls for Luongo’s head are. Here I was thinking that people who read it and think “Oh, maybe we are being a little unfair… I mean, the guy backstopped the Canucks all the way to game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. But alas, for every person that agrees, there are two more that think we’re the crazy ones.
I really don’t think I would’ve bothered to put in my two cents but I was at the game Tuesday night sitting behind a guy that started heckling Louie before the last lines of O Canada. I understand at the end of the game when he’s 4 goals behind on 16 shots but before? Nothing says bandwagoner (…I hate sitting in the lower bowl) more than stuff like this where someone has made up their mind and boos their own team when they’re in a bit of a slump.
…especially so early in the season.
…especially since the home team went to game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final just a few months ago.
I always thought that was more of a Toronto thing. It must be great fun to only cheer for your team when they’re winning and disown them completely when they’re not. That way, your team never loses! You only have to cheer for the Sedinery, Hamhuis Hammer Time and LUUUUUUU when he actually plays standing on his head. Never those bums that can’t take a hit, can’t shoot the puck or can’t stop a beach ball.
Fact of the matter is this exact thing happened last year. I don’t have a crystal ball so I can’t tell you the Canucks will be the best team during the regular season for a second consecutive season but they were last year after a similar start. Vancouver freaked out and the weirdos called into TEAM 1040 in force, calling for AV or Luongo or whoever was the scapegoat that day to be tarred and feathered. The emergency room was full of people breaking their legs from jumping off the bandwagon. The rest is history. The Canucks were lights out for the rest of the year and came within a game of the Stanley Cup.
Nevermind that Luongo is probably the best goaltender to ever play for the Vancouver Canucks. He’s at least equal to Kirk McLean now if we’re accounting for playoff success. None of that matters because, according to the Luongo haters around town, the following reasons are why Luongo is terrible and he should be drawn and quartered:
Luongo can’t win the big game. He can’t make the save when it matters.
Luongo is overpaid. He’s the highest paid player on the team and needs to play like a $10m goalie.
Luongo is just not a good goaltender. There are so many other goalies in the league that are better than him.
Let me break these down for you one by one.
Luongo can’t win the big game. He can’t make the save when it matters.
The argument that he’s not a big game goalie has followed Louie throughout his career. He wasn’t able to make it to the playoffs playing behind an awful Florida team and in his first year playing behind a heavily defense-orientated Canucks team, he wasn’t able to get them out of the second round.
I won’t use the Olympics argument here since I believe winning Olympic Gold is easier than a Stanley Cup. Yes, you play against an entire team of world class superstars but at the same time, your teammates aren’t slouches either. There are also far fewer games and it’s played at the mid-point in the NHL seasons rather than the end, when the grind of an entire year of hockey has worn everyone down. That isn’t to say the Olympics aren’t a huge deal because they are but the Stanley Cup is probably the hardest trophy to win in sports.
The fact is, Luongo came within a game of winning it all. Logically if people are going to use Luongo’s lack of Stanley Cup success against him, then that same argument would mean that Luongo was last year’s second best goalie after Cup winner Tim Thomas. I don’t know about you but second place isn’t a bad return on your investment considering there are more expensive goalies in the league who fell much earlier and should be subject to even more scorn. Look at Tuesday night’s hero Henrik Lundqvist, whose Rangers were bounced in 5 games in the first round last year by the Washington Capitals.
In case you didn’t know, Lundqvist has the NHL’s highest cap hit among goaltenders ($6.875 million) and has only won 1 playoff game in the last two years and 4 playoff games in the last three years. Does anyone in New York call King Henrik an overpaid bum?
In that same span of three years, Luongo has won 27 playoff games. Since coming over from Florida, he’s won 32 playoff games. Since the lockout, only Marc-Andre Fleury has won more playoff games (40) than Lou.
Luongo is overpaid. He’s the highest paid player on the team and needs to play like a $10m goalie.
Luongo is not a $10 million dollar goaltender by any definition this year. During the first year of his new 12-year contract last year, his take home pay was $10 million. This year, it’s $6.716 million. This year, the only goaltender being paid $10 million is Philadelphia’s Ilya Bryzgalov.
But either way, all of you armchair GMs out there calling for trades or demotions or buy-outs need to understand that Luongo is not a $10 million goaltender. He isn’t even a $6.716 million goaltender. He is a $5.33 million goaltender because that’s his cap hit.
I don’t know how much exactly Francesco Aquilini has in his savings account but his net worth has to be in the billions. He isn’t concerned about what the players are being paid each year as I’m sure GM Mike Gillis has the authority to make moves without financial restraints other than the salary cap. Therefore, the only number that matters is $5.33 million, which puts Luongo at no. 8 among all goaltenders in the league.
Last year, Luongo was tied for the most wins in the league (38 with Carey Price) with the second-lowest GAA (2.11). It’s safe to say that he’s in the same conversation as his fellow Vezina nominees Tim Thomas and Pekka Rinne as the best in the league. Thomas’ record-breaking GAA won him a Vezina and Rinne is an amazing goalie that would probably be even better on a better team, but for argument’s sake, even if we put Luongo at third best in the NHL, third best is still a solid return for the 8th-highest cap hit for a goaltender.
Luongo is just not a good goaltender. There are so many other goalies in the league that are better than him.
Oh here where it gets even better, Louie Haters!
Over the last three years, of the top-10 goalies in terms of cap hit (Luongo, Brodeur, Lundqvist, Ward, Kipprusoff, MA Fleury, Miller, Thomas, Bryzgalov and Backstrom) only Kipper has averaged more wins than Luongo per year (39 to 37). But also, Kipper averages 73 games played per year versus Luongo’s 60. That means of the top 10 goalies in the league (in terms of cap hit), Lou has the highest winning percentage of all of them in the last three years.
If you’re wondering, the only goalies outside of the top-10 cap hits to break into the top-10 in average wins over the last three seasons are Pekka Rinne ($3.4 million, 31 wins per year) and Jonathan Quick (who is a bargain at $1.8 million and 31 wins per year). However, they both average more losses and fewer shutouts, although Rinne’s GAA and save percentage are a hair better than Luongo.
Of the top-10, only Thomas and Brodeur have lower GAAs in the last three years, though both averaged few games and faced fewer shots than Luongo. In that period, each also had a record-breaking season and an absolute stinker of a season. Luongo’s “worst” season as a Canuck was in 2008/2009, when he was limited to 54 games and still won 33 games and posted 9 shutouts.
For his $5.33 million salary, Luongo is one of the best, if not the best, in the business… and it’s safe to say that his salary reflects his standing in the NHL as a premier goaltender. There may be a better goalie out there one year or one that costs much less but year after year, you’re not going to get much better puck stopping for your buck than in Roberto Luongo.
The numbers speak for themselves and they’re telling you that thinking of Luongo as a terrible goaltender who isn’t worth his insane salary is… and how can I put this nicely… wrong.
Great goalies don’t just grow on trees. Even if the Canucks were to trade Luongo, replacing him wouldn’t be easy. Argue for Cory Schneider all you want, but the most he’s played in a season is 25 games so we have no idea how he’d cope with playing 65 or more. We know how Luongo plays when he’s given 60-something games and that bar is set rather high.
Some may argue that Luongo’s numbers are strong only because the team around him is one of the best, if not the best, in the league. Oh, well isn’t that convenient. You can place all the blame on Luongo when the Canucks lose but refuse to give him any individual credit when he does well? The reality is that separating the two is impossible. We have no idea how Luongo would perform on another team at this point in his career or how this Canucks team would play with another keeper between the pipes but keep in mind that although the wins weren’t there, Luongo had relatively amazing stats when he was in Florida, playing behind a team that was never good enough to make the playoffs.
So calm down, Canucks fans. Stop calling into sports radio and ranting on about how Luongo should be traded. You’re just making yourself look silly.