It is truly hard to pinpoint one reason why the Canucks will be on the outside looking in this spring. It would be unfair to blame their failures on one key thing. So I’m going to go ahead and name five.
It’s been an abysmal year for the Canucks and unless some youth is injected into the lineup next season, we may be in store for a few more. The core which seemed so indestructible just two short years ago is imploding and many of the veterans seem nonchalant and indifferent to the failures of this season. Injuries took their toll and the team’s plethora of “experience” is just starting to look like old age. Here’s hoping that management looks at this objectively and realizes that their window has closed and a new one in a different room needs to be opened. Tacky clichés aside, virtually everything that could go wrong did, so this should be pretty straight-forward.
5) Power Play Troubles: The power play struggles go back almost two years now. A huge reason why the Canucks have become one of the lowest-scoring teams in the league - the man advantage, serves as more of a momentum swing for the opposing team’s PK. Here’s a nice Hamhuis own goal I’m sure you all remember well.
4) Goaltending Fiasco: Whether it was the Schneider trade at the draft or the Luongo trade at the deadline, this year has been a mess when it comes to goaltending. The trades weren’t necessarily bad, but the distractions were too much for an already weakened squad.
3) Injuries, Injuries, Injuries: Coaches always say injuries are not an excuse but if that was the case we wouldn’t pay certain guys millions of dollars more than others. Simply put, when your best players are injured your team sucks more.
2) Coaching Decisions: John Torterella has had a rough year. Between over-playing players and storming opposing teams’ dressing rooms he’s certainly left his mark on this season. His future with the organization remains unclear.
1) SLUMPS: Scoreless droughts for a number of key-players making millions plagued the team. This culminated in an epic 35 game drought for Alex Burrows, a one-time 35 goal scorer.
Well, it seems like I’m not the only blogger who likes to write songs about Bobby Lu. Harrison Mooney of Pass it to Bulis penned a farewell song to Luongo to the tune of Adele’s mega-hit “Someone Like You.” Harrison contacted me to help him with the music and within 5 seconds we had agreed to invite Marie to join us.
The result is a powerful and emotional song, courtesy of Pass it to Canucks Hockey Blog.
The Vancouver Canucks will take on the Florida Panthers in a noon time matinee today. On this road trip so far, they’re 1-1-0, and finish off with a back-to-back today and tomorrow night against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
But despite every point being so crucial to the Canucks, despite every remaining game of the season being a make-or-break game – and you can throw every other cliche out here – today, forget everything else. All everyone wants to talk about is facing long-time face of the franchise and winningest goaltender in Canucks history, Roberto Luongo, since he was traded at the trade deadline.
It’s a huge game for us, it’ll be fun to see him again but we’re focused on getting the win – Henrik Sedin
Playing against Roberto in the first game is going to be a tough game. – Eddie Lack
What Lu can’t see, he can’t stop. – Alex Burrows
It’s going to be weird. I was in that locker room a week-and-a-half ago, so it’s the first time really I’ve been traded during the season. I don’t know how I’m going to feel but it’s definitely going to feel weird. – Roberto Luongo
Please don’t shut us out. Please don’t shut us out. Please don’t shut us out.
J.J.: Two memories stand out: The first was the moment Luongo was acquired by the Canucks. The second was Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals against the Boston Bruins. Both stood out because of the pure ecstacy I felt when it happend.
I still remember thinking my buddy was playing a joke on me when he called me to say that Luongo was a Canuck. With all due respect to Dan Cloutier and the others, for the first time in a long time, the team had a legitimate superstar goaltender. I still remember thinking the Canucks, with the likes of Markus Naslund and the Sedins up front, Mattias Ohlund and Sami Salo in the back end, would finally won the Cup.
I was at Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals against the Bruins. After Max Lapierre scored near the end of the third period – the only goal of the game – and Lu posted his second 1-0 shutout of the Finals – only the second time in NHL history someone had accomplished this feat.
Matt: Of all the Roberto Luongo moments it’s difficult to find just one which stands out above the rest. You could make a case for many: How about his very first playoff game as a Canuck, when he turned aside 72 shots (a playoff record!) against the Dallas Stars in Game 1 of the first rounds? Or how about the cajones it took for Bobby Lou when he painted a ‘C’ on his mask when he was named team captain?
For me, one of the best moments is when which few seldom remember. It was the first time Roberto tossed his stick over the glass to a young fan after he was named a game’s first star. Love him or hate him, Luongo inspired dozens of young fans with a simple gesture like that. And that’s something that none of his critics can ever take from him.
Clay: It was a great birthday present (albeit one day late) when Luongo was acquired by the Canucks on June 23, 2006. Luongo has had a stellar career in Vancouver (with six strong seasons and an Olympic gold medal) and he single-handedly ended the use of the term “goalie graveyard” in this city. Whereas some may remember him for playoff meltdowns, I prefer to remember him as the winning goalie for two of the most exciting hockey games ever played in this city (2010 Winter Olympic gold medal game and Game 7 vs. the Blackhawks in April 2011).
Victoria: My favorite Luongo moment was when he took over Martin Brodeur and won an Olympic gold medal for Canada. It isn’t exactly a Canucks-related moment, but the Olympics made me realize how proud I was to say he was a Canuck. “That’s my goalie!” I told all my friends around the world. And you know what? He’ll always be my goalie. I know it’s the right time for him to go, but I also know that he always gave the Canucks his all – I’ll always respect him for that. Good luck, Bobby Luuuuu!
Lizz: My all-time favorite Luongo memory was the Christmas I surprised my little brother by getting his favorite jersey autographed by his favorite goalie so I let him help me pick our favourite LUOOOOO moment.
We settled on the 2011 Chicago series.
Personally, I was partial to a game 2 save he made against Brian Campbell, where he needed every inch of his ridiculously large size 13 feet to stop the puck.
But we eventually agreed on the game 7 OT stop on Patrick Sharp, because without it, my boy Alex Burrows would have never had the chance to slay the dragon.
Caylie: What’s most disappointing for me this season isn’t the lockout, but instead is the departure of Roberto Luongo. Luo has meant a great deal to this city. I know the drama and trade speculation of the last few months overshadowed a lot of the bright moments we witnessed during his tenure, but I’ll always remember his Vezina nominations, the Stanley Cup run, his 47-win season, and becoming the franchise leader in wins.
Ed: Younger fans might not remember the absolute misery the Canucks had in goal after Kirk McLean stood between the pipes. With a cast that included Garth Snow, Kevin Weekes, Martin Brochu and Alfie Michaud, among others, I’m not kidding when I say that my favorite goalie during that era was Bob Essensa. Roberto Luongo was the franchise’s first superstar goaltender. Make your case for Captain Kirk or even King Richard Brodeur, but in Luongo, despite all the haters, for the first time the Canucks could make a case for having the best goalie in the league. He’s the best we’ve ever had and it’s too bad he got treated and run out-of-town by some like he’s Felix Potvin.
Chris: Much like Ed, it pains me to see Roberto being shown the “Un-Welcome to the City of Vancouver” sign. I’ve always looked upon Roberto as the Canucks version of Grant Fuhr. I understood that he was never going to be the guy we saw suit up in the 2006/07 season – a goaltender with a chip on his shoulder that carried a mediocre hockey team. Whether it was his stellar play against Dallas in the 2006 Stanley Cup Playoffs (I was at Game 1. You know.. THAT Game 1) or his more recent forays in to social media, that’s the Luongo I’ll choose to remember.
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.”
Eddie Lack and Roberto Luongo after the 2nd period
Much has been made of Roberto Luongo’s plight here in Vancouver in recent years. Starting with the Stanley Cup Finals in June 2011, it’s been two and a half years of turmoil, tension, and drama.
The Luongo saga took yet another fascinating turn this past weekend when Eddie Lack was named the starter for Sunday’s Heritage Classic game at BC Place versus the Ottawa Senators.
Lack played the first game coming out of the Olympic break, shutting out the St. Louis Blues 1-0 on Wednesday night. Made sense given that Luongo returned to Vancouver from Sochi just a couple of days prior.
Lack was also given the next start, a tight 2-1 shoot-out loss to the Minnesota Wild. Although Lack played very well, the loss – albeit a close one – opened the door for a Luongo start on Sunday.
As word broke on Saturday that Luongo would not be starting, Twitter erupted with people arguing both sides.
For what it’s worth, I tweeted: “Backup goalie is supposed to play well (which Lack has) and ensure no significant drop off. Lack has done his job, let Lu do his tomorrow.”
Many people cited Lack’s strong play of late as giving the Canucks the best chance to win. And I get that we’re in a dog fight to make the playoffs.
I said it before the game and I’ve said it since: the Canucks needed to look at the “bigger picture” here. The bigger picture to me says that Luongo was not treated fairly last year (losing his job to Schneider before watching Schneider – and not him – get traded) and was deserving of the Heritage Classic start. This doesn’t have anything to do with emotions; Luongo’s last start was a solid shutout victory in the Olympics.
And just as there was no drop-off going from Luongo to Lack, there certainly was no drop-off going from Lack to Luongo. Luongo needed to start. Truthfully, I would be saying the same thing if the Canucks had won the game, or even if Lack had pitched another shutout.
So there I was on Sunday afternoon with my son Sean, soaking in the sights and sounds of the world’s largest indoor hockey game. I was able to snap some pretty good pictures (see them all here) including one of poor Roberto Luongo sitting on his own at the end of the bench.
After Ottawa took a 3-2 lead in the second period, an audible “We Want Lu!” chant broke out in the stadium. It was quite a surreal moment, magnified by the fact that there were 35,000 more fans than usual watching the game live and millions watching on TV across the country. It was a tense and awkward few seconds.
It reminded me of the feeling that I got watching the first game of the lockout-shortened 2013 season. In the home opener on January 19, 2013, Cory Schneider got the start as the newly-anointed starting Canucks goalie. The Canucks lost that game 7-3 to the visiting Anaheim Ducks, and Schneider was pulled early in the second period after allowing 5 goals on only 14 shots, including goals on 3 straight shots.
I vividly remember the mood in the crowd that evening: the fans were desperate for hockey and excited to see the Canucks back in action. But as each shot got past Schneider, the mood in the building became more and more tense, culminating in a tense buzz as Luongo skated out to replace Schneider (start at the 2:23 mark in the video below).
The same sort of tense buzz I felt at the Heritage Classic this past weekend. And as you’ll hear my friend Mike exclaim in my Clay’s Canucks Commentary at the 2:53 mark: