To say that Roberto Luongo is a scrutinized hockey player is to say it rains a lot in Vancouver. In other words, it doesn’t need to be said.
Ever since the night that Patrick Kane scored a hat trick on Luongo and the Chicago Blackhawks eliminated the Vancouver Canucks from the 2009 Stanley Cup playoffs, Luongo’s legitimacy as a star goalie has been put into question.
It doesn’t matter what kind of statistics he puts up, there are fans that will always disrespect him. In fact, I came up with a list of the five most unfairly disrespected star athletes of our generation a few months ago and Luongo was among those five.
However, the microscope on Mr. Luongo has never been at a higher power than it is right now, so it’s as good a time as ever to remind you that he’s easily the best goalie in Canucks history.
In no particular order, here are seven quick reminders as to why Bobby Lou is the best Canuck ever between the pipes:
The spring of 2007 might seem like a long time ago, and you could argue that one season doesn’t make a great goalie. But the fact remains that no one else in Canucks history has ever come close to the type of heroics that Luongo displayed during the 2006-07 season.
If it wasn’t for him, the Canucks wouldn’t have stood a chance at even making the playoffs. However, with Luongo in net they won their division and made it to the NHL’s elite eight that season as the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference. Luongo’s 47 wins that season still stand as a franchise record and will likely stand for a long time with Cory Schneider getting more and more starts these days.
It’s not a secret that the list of goaltenders in the Canucks' 40-year history isn’t going to impress any hockey historian. In fact, it won’t really impress anyone.
Aside from the two others goalies that led Vancouver to the Stanley Cup Finals, the next best the Canucks have to offer includes names like Dan Cloutier, Gary Smith, Garth Snow, Glen Hanlon and Felix Potvin. Of course, there’s Cory Schneider as well, but we can’t include him in the discussion until there’s a bigger sample size on which to judge him.
The bottom line is that Richard Brodeur and Kirk McLean are the only two goalies in the same league as Luongo and even then the stats aren’t that comparable.
The question is: How close are they statistically?
Roberto Luongo is statistically dominant to both of his closest competitors for the all-time Canucks goaltender crown in every category.
Luongo’s goals against average as a Canuck is a very solid 2.36 compared to McLean’s 3.28 GAA and Brodeur’s 3.87 GAA. He also has a far superior save percentage to McLean and Brodeur, and while I realize that these two goalies played in an era where scoring was more prominent, I feel that Luongo’s stats are so far better that it doesn’t matter. Besides, it’s not as if Luongo’s time spent in Vancouver coincided with the dead-puck era of the mid ‘90s up until the lockout in 2004.
Furthermore, Luongo has more shutouts as a Canuck than both McLean and Brodeur combined and he’s done it in fewer games than both of them.
The only statistical category that Luongo doesn’t rule among Canucks goaltenders is in the wins category, but that’s only because he’s spent much less time in a Canucks uniform than Kirk McLean did. In 10 seasons and 516 games played with the Canucks, McLean has 211 career regular season wins, while Luongo has 198 wins in just 341 games and a little over five seasons as a Canuck. Considering the two goalies are separated by just 13 wins right now, Luongo should easily pass McLean’s all-time Canucks win total before this season is finished.
The playoffs are when heroes are made and stars are born. It’s also when the Luongo detractors are at their most vocal. They are quick to point to some of his poor performances at the most pivotal moments of the season. This is something that can’t really be argued, but if you look at Luongo’s overall playoff numbers, they are still superior to any other goalie in Canucks history.
In 59 playoff games, Bobby Lou has a 2.50 GAA and a .917 save percentage. These numbers are also much better than the numbers of the other two Canucks playoff heroes between the pipes.
McLean might have two more playoff wins and one more playoff shutout, but he’s also played in nine more playoff games than Luongo has.
At the end of the day, Luongo has had some playoff performances he’d like to forget. However, his spectacular playoff performances have always outweighed the poor ones. It’s a lot like his play on a nightly basis. He might let in the occasional soft goal, but he usually makes up for it by making twice as many spectacular saves.
In the period between when Kirk McLean left the Canucks organization in 1998 and the time that Luongo took over in 2006, the Canucks went through a lot of subpar goaltenders who just couldn’t take the scrutiny of playing in a market like Vancouver.
Admittedly, the media is tough on goaltenders here. However, there hasn’t been any goalie in Canucks history that has even come close to receiving the type of criticism that Luongo has. To his credit, the Canucks current No. 1 goaltender has bent, but he hasn’t been broken.
Click here for a story that NBC did about him in the playoffs that addresses the mental demons that he has had to overcome during his time in Vancouver.
The 2009-10 season was not a good one by Luongo’s lofty standards. Statistically, it was his worst as a Canuck, but he still put up extremely solid numbers. By comparison, his 2.57 GAA, his .913 save percentage and his 40 wins are still better than the average season of both McLean and Brodeur.
In other words, even when he’s at his worst, Roberto Luongo is not as bad as you might think.
The saves in this video tell the story. If you’ve watched enough Canucks games you know there’s plenty more where that came from when it comes to Luongo highlight-reel saves. As I stated earlier, he might let in a bad goal every now and then, but he’ll usually make up for it in a big way. This is why he is, without a doubt, the greatest goaltender in the history of the Vancouver Canucks.
This article also appears on Bottom Line Hockey