The Roberto Luongo Era in Vancouver

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Rewind to the 2005-06 season; The West CoastExpress line of Naslund, Morrison and Bertuzzi is on the decline, the Sedintwins are rising and taking Anson Carter along with them, Canuck regulars suchas Kevin Bieksa, Alex Burrows and Ryan Kesler are just poking their heads intothe NHL and Alex Auld is failing to take grasp of becoming a #1 NHL goalie.

TheCanucks would finish three points out of a playoff spot, allowing the EdmontonOilers to make the playoffs and make their way behind Fernando Pisani to theStanley Cup Finals, only to lose to rookie sensation Cam Ward and the CarolinaHurricanes. It was a time for change in Vancouver, as the superstars that onceled the team were no longer able to carry the team to greater heights.

26-year-old Roberto Luongo was shining inFlorida despite a losing record. Luongo faced over forty shots almost everygame, his save percentage and goals against average was amongst the best in theleague despite losing twice the amount of games he won. Florida knew they had asuperstar on their hands that couldn’t win them games, and a full-blown rebuildwas needed in Florida, without Luongo’s services. Dave Nonis contacted thePanthers GM Mike Keenan and was able to strike a deal to land the then 27-year-oldstar netminder, acquiring Luongo along with Lucas Krajicek for Todd Bertuzzi,Bryan Allen and Alex Auld. At the time, this was a great hockey trade for bothsides. Despite dealing with the Steve Moore incident, Bertuzzi hadn’t nosedivedin
Luongo wearing the Canucks jersey for the 1st time.

production yet Alex Auld was still a promising young goalie that thePanthers believed would carry the Panthers just as Luongo did, and Bryan Allenshowed great defensive play in his tenure in Vancouver. It wasn’t untilBertuzzi, Auld and Allen finally played in Florida that it was known that theCanucks ran away with this trade. Bertuzzi was never the same once he leftVancouver, Allen was probably the sturdiest player the Panthers got in thedeal, as Alex Auld crumbled in Florida just like Bertuzzi did. Luongo andKrajicek headed to Vancouver, with the expectations of turning a team that wasmidway in their re-tooling into a playoff contender.


There had been 18 goaltenders that filled thenet since Kirk McLean left the team in 1998, dubbing the team a “goaliegraveyard”. Luongo would change all of that, and he
Luongo in 2007 w/ Vancouver.

proved it in his veryfirst game against the Detroit Red Wings. October 5th, 2006, significant nightin many ways. Niklas Lidstrom officially takes over as the captain of the team,succeeding Steve Yzerman. This was also Allain Vigneault’s first game behindthe Canucks’ bench. Luongo backstops the Canucks with a 27 save performance toa 3-1 victory over a team that had always schooled the Canucks (see the 2002playoffs, Niklas Lidstrom from center ring a bell?), the Red Wings. The gamewas highlighted with a miraculous point blank glove save on a young HenrikZetterberg to keep the Canucks in the game. Sami Salo would pot a pair andTrevor Linden would add another as the Canucks win their first game with AVbehind the bench and Luongo between the pipes.


Luongo would backstop the Canucks to theplayoffs, as expected, nearly setting the single season NHL record for mostwins in a season with 47 (Brodeur got 48 the same year) and carrying theCanucks to a 2nd round exit to the eventual Stanley cup champions, the AnaheimDucks. Luongo’s first playoff stint was highlighted by an epic first round duelwith Marty Turco and the Dallas Stars, most notably Game 1, which went to 4OTbefore Henrik Sedin ended it. Luongo would have bathroom troubles in the 2ndround, as Luongo was nowhere to be found for the start of overtime. DanySabourin was called upon to start in the overtime frame, as fans across thecountry were clueless to Luongo’s whereabouts. As it turns out, Luongo had somebladder issues and had to spend some extra time on the can. Sabourin would makesome good saves before Luongo rushed out of the hallway to relieve the backupof his duties. The Canucks would lose the series, but Luongo had lived up tothe hype, and Canuck fans couldn’t wait for more.
The next season was the first season that theydonned the new Reebok Edge jerseys, the ones that Luongo would wear for therest of his tenure in Vancouver. The Canucks didn’t have a season to remember,but it wasn’t Luongo’s fault. It was very apparent that Markus Naslund wasnowhere near his 2004 form, and he barely cracked 50 points. The Sedin twinslead the way for the Canucks, while Naslund and Morrison failed to produce andcontribute. It was time for a change of leadership in Vancouver.

The following season, with the departure ofNaslund and Morrison, Luongo was named the captain of the team, the firstgoalie captain in nearly a century. The season
Luongo wearing the “C”.

was shadowed by the passing ofLuc Bourdon in the summer, a key loss to the Canucks organization, as he wasset to become one of the league’s premier two-way defencemen when he passedaway in a terrible motorcycle accident. Luongo would backstop the Canucks toanother playoff berth, as Luongo and the Canucks would sweep the St. LouisBlues in the first round to play the young and upcoming Chicago Blackhawks inthe 2nd round. The Canucks and Hawks played to a bitter end, but Patrick Kane’shat trick in Game 6 would prove to be the backbreaker as the Blackhawks wouldmove onto the Conference Finals to take on the Red Wings, while the rumblingsof Luongo being a “choke artist” in Vancouver began to rumble.


The next season would only add to the power ofthe Canucks, as Alex Burrows would have a monster 35-goal season, while theSedins continued to climb, highlighted by an Art Ross and Hart Trophyperformance from Henrik Sedin. The Canucks would improve their record onceagain, becoming solidified “cup contenders” heading into the 2010 post-season.The Canucks would battle the young LA Kings team, highlighted by a hugewindmill glove save on Ryan Smyth that was determined to be a sure goal. Luongoand the Canucks would go on to defeat Quick and the Kings in 6 games, to setupa rematch against the hated Blackhawks. The Dustin Byfuglien / Roberto Luongofeud began early into the series, as Quenville parked Byfuglien right in frontof Bobby Lou and made his life a living hell. The 6’3, 250 pounder got underLuongo’s skin, and the Hawks took advantage. The Blackhawks would defeat theCanucks in 6 games and move on to win the Stanley Cup.

Luongo would step downas captain after the collapse in the 2010 series against the Blackhawks,handing the reigns to Henrik Sedin to lead the way for the most dominant
Luongo during the 2010-11 season.

seasonin Canucks history. The Canucks added Dan Hamhuis and Christian Ehrhoff tosolidify their defence as the best in the league with Luongo behind them toback them up. The Canucks were by far the best team in the league that year,going 54-19-9 in the regular season, good enough to be the best team in theleague (by far) and give them a seemingly perfect route to the Cup. DanielSedin would lead the team in scoring with 104 points, while Henrik Sedin wasright behind his brother. Ryan Kesler scored 43 goals and Burrows was theperfect match for the Sedin twins. Luongo and Schneider were considered thebest tandem in hockey. The Canucks had all of the pieces to win the cup for thefirst time in franchise history.


The first speed bump inthe memorable 2011 run was the Chicago Blackhawks, a team that barely squeakedinto the playoffs after unloading the majority of their core due to cap issuesand change of scenery. The Canucks looked in control, as they took a 3-1 serieslead over the defending cup champs. Luongo would get rattled in game 5, shell-shockedin a 5-0 loss. Cory Schneider would get the call in Game 6, which is where theLuongo/Schneider dilemma all began. Schneider would pull his groin on a MichalFrolik penalty shot goal, leaving Luongo to go in cold for OT. Ben Smith wouldscore the OT winner on a flopping Luongo to force Game 7 in Vancouver.

Game 7 was a huge gamefor the entire organization. If they lose that game,
Luongo and Burrows celebrate the Game 7 win.

Vigneault gets fired,Gillis gets canned and many of the Canucks core gets blown up before nextseason. However, Alex Burrows saves the day, scoring both goals including theiconic overtime winner as the Canucks “slay the dragon” and defeat theBlackhawks in seven games.


The second round serieswas against the Nashville Predators, where Luongo thrived and stopped a teamthat was carried by a red hot Ryan Kesler, who played the best hockey he willever play in that six game stretch. Luongo and Kesler would carry the Canuckspast the Predators and onto the conference finals.

The Western ConferenceFinals were all Vancouver. Every bounce went in the Canucks favor, and theCanucks’ power play leaded the Canucks to victory. Luongo was great, and theSedins took over where Kesler lead off. Kesler got injured in the San Joseseries and never played to the same form as he did against the Predators. KevinBieksa would score the infamous double overtime winner that fooled everyone andthe Canucks, for the third time in franchise history, were headed to theStanley Cup Final.

Despite some slip-ups,Luongo had held his own through the playoffs thus far and lead the Canucks tothis point. Luongo would be stellar in the first two games, recording
Marchand beats a desperate Luongo in Boston.

a shutoutin game 1 and leading the Canucks to a 3-2 win in game 2. It was Game 3 and 4in Boston that changed Luongo’s image in Vancouver forever. Luongo would getshelled in Boston all series, Never allowing less than four goals. Despite avaliant effort, the Canucks were too beat up to take down the Bruins, as theBruins would fly out of the commotion in Vancouver with the Stanley Cup. Thiswas the turning point in Luongo’s tenure in Vancouver.


2012 would become thebeginning of the decline for Luongo’s popularity in Vancouver, as CorySchneider became the new fan favourite between the pipes due to his moretechnically sound game. The Canucks would trade away young center Cody Hodgsonfor Zack Kassian, pickup David Booth’s ugly contract and let Christian Ehrhoffgo. The Canucks would split the net between both Luongo and Schneider, butSchneider’s

Cory Schneider emerged as the new #1 in 2012.

numbers were miles ahead of Luongo’s. Luongo would play 55 games, winning31 with a GAA of 2.41 and a SV% of .919, while Schneider would play 33, winning20 and posting a spectacular 1.96 GAA and.937 SV%. Luongo would start the series, but after dropping the firsttwo games, Cory Schneider would take over as the starter for the remainder ofthe series. Despite winning the President’s Trophy for the second straightyear, the Canucks would lose to the Kings in 5 games, who would eventually goon to win the Stanley Cup.


Trade rumors wouldswirl after the 2012 playoff exit with Luongo on the bench, as many teamsinquired on the star netminder. Luongo’s contract would be the major focalpoint, as he is signed through 2021-2022 and will be over 40 years old by thetime his contract expires. The Toronto Maple Leafs were interested in Luongo atthe time, but Gillis wanted Kadri in return, so the Leafs declined andcontinued their search for a #1 goalie.

The 2012-13 season wasshortened to just 48 games, crammed into just four months of hockey. CorySchneider was the new sheriff in town, as he played 30 games that
Luongo spent most of 2013 on the bench.

season, withLuongo playing in 20. Schneider’s numbers were again superior to Luongo’s asthe team headed into the playoffs, but a lower body injury would sidelineSchneider for the start of the postseason. Luongo would get the call for theseries opener against the Sharks, only to lose 3-1, then drop Game 2 by a scoreof 3-2 in overtime. Cory Schneider would return to start in Game 3, but theteam failed to win the next two games, as the Sharks would sweep the Canucks infour games.


After Luongo wasn’tmoved at the trade deadline, there was much speculation that the 2013 NHL Draftin New Jersey would determine Luongo’s future and where he’ll be headed. Atthis point, everyone expected Luongo to be dealt by the time the draft wasover. Gary Bettman would announce a trade during New Jersey’s 9thoverall selection, stating that “Vancouver trades goaltender…” and at thatpoint, everyone thought Luongo was dealt out of Vancouver, but that wasn’t thecase. Bettman continued “Cory Schneider to New Jersey for the 9thOverall Pick.” The entire hockey world stood in shock. The Canucks dealtSchneider over Luongo, eventually for Bo Horvat, and after a full season ofexpecting to be traded, Luongo now had to return to Vancouver to take on the #1role once again.

That takes us to the2013-14 season, as Eddie Lack is the new backup of the Canucks, coming off hipsurgery and a lot of controversy that he’ll never be able to be an NHL starter.However, Lack would have a successful backup job behind Luongo. Luongo washaving one of the best seasons since his arrival in Vancouver, and if it
Roberto Luongo in 2014, weeks before his departure.

weren’t for the team’s shabby offense and lack of scoring, the Canucks would’vewon more games with Luongo between the pipes. Heading into the Trade Deadline,The Canucks sat at 28-26-10, on the outside looking in. Speculation ofsomething stirring up was at the Heritage Classic, where Eddie Lack got thestart over Luongo. The Canucks would lose the game 4-2 and travel to Phoenixfor a game the day before trade deadline. Luongo was pronounced the starter forthat game, and told the media he was excited to get back in the crease. Luongowent for his pre-game nap, only to be awoken later and told he was dealt to theFlorida Panthers. This was a shock to Luongo and the rest of Canucks nation;just when it seemed the Canucks had resolved the Luongo dilemma, he getstraded. Coming back in return for Luongo, the Canucks get 24-year old Swedishgoalie Jacob Markstrom and center Shawn Matthias. It’s the end of an era inVancouver.


In his 8-year tenure,Luongo holds the franchise record in nearly every single goalie stat there is.Luongo won 252 games for the Canucks in his 8-year tenure, and was the backboneof the team for every season he was in Vancouver. Now, it will be Eddie Lack

and Jacob Markstrom looking to fill the shoes of the most scrutinized positionin all of hockey. Luongo will forever be remembered in Vancouver as the bestgoalie in franchise history, and the goalie that was one win away from makinghistory. Luongo may not have always been appreciated for what he did during histime with the Canucks, but over time, he will be praised for his character, hisdetermination and his heart. It will feel empty when there is no “Luuuuuuuuu”chants in Rogers Arena once our #1 makes the big save. So long to the greatestgoalie the Canucks have ever had. Thank you, Lu.

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