Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
The city of Vancouver has been labelled a goalie graveyard over the years. It’s a place where, throughout history, many goaltenders of the Vancouver Canucks have struggled and been run out of town by the fans and media.
Even superstar goaltenders aren’t safe from criticism in Vancouver, especially Roberto Luongo.
When Luongo arrived in Vancouver in 2006, he brought a level of excitement to Canucks fans. They believed the Canucks finally had an All-Star goalie that was far too good to receive the same criticism as the franchise's previous goalies.
But even then, there were critics who believed that Luongo was overrated because he had never made the NHL playoffs, even though he had played his entire career to date on horrible teams.
The same critics reared their ugly heads after Luongo single-handedly led the Canucks to a division title and the second round of the playoffs in 2007. This was due to a soft goal he gave up in double-overtime that eliminated the Canucks from the playoffs. It’s funny how those critics didn’t talk about the 56 saves he made in the same game.
This would be a small sign of things to come over the next four years for the Canucks netminder.
Luongo has continued to play like an All-Star on most nights for the Canucks, but you wouldn’t know it by how disrespected he is by the fans, the media and even some of his fellow NHL peers.
In 2010, ESPN did a small players poll that asked who the most overrated player in the league was. Guess who led the way in voting. The four-time All-Star, three-time Vezina Trophy nominee, and Olympic gold medalist named Roberto Luongo.
It seems like whenever Luongo’s teams are successful, the praise goes to the skaters in front of him. However, when the team struggles, it’s always his fault. No one gave him any credit for backstopping Team Canada to Olympic gold in 2010, even though the team failed to win both of the two games he didn’t play in.
This year for the Canucks, Luongo put up tremendous statistics and was again nominated for the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s top goaltender. But it seemed as though all the focus of the Canucks' success was on the Sedin twins and Ryan Kesler.
But none of the unfair criticism and disrespect that Luongo had received throughout his career even came close to the venom spit his way during the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs.
Luongo was brilliant during the vast majority of games. He posted four shutouts and was one of the best players on the Canucks during their run to the Stanley Cup Finals. But all he received was hate.
There were comments on Twitter from several other NHL players mocking his play in the finals against the Boston Bruins. It also seemed as though every time he let in a goal, let alone lost a game, the media would ask if the team's backup would get the next start.
While Luongo's inconsistency during that series definitely hurt the Canucks, his overall performance in the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs was still very good. However, he was still treated with a general disdain by most fans and members of the media throughout the Canucks' playoff run. In my opinion, this cemented his place as one of the most unfairly criticised star athletes of our generation.