Vancouver Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo is one of the top five goalies in the NHL.
He is also the most scrutinized player in hockey.
Luongo has played on the world's biggest stages since being traded from the Florida Panthers in 2006. The spotlight surrounding the goaltender for Canada's best team is bright enough to make any player sweat bullets.
Unfortunately for Luongo, the spotlight has led to unfair criticism despite top-notch play.
Let's take a closer look as to why unwarranted scrutiny should not put a damper on one of Canada's best players.
For those pundits who claim Roberto Luongo folds under pressure situations, please rewind your clocks back to the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
Is there any more pressure than winning an Olympic gold medal in your home country against the rival United States?
Oh, and in the same city that your NHL team calls home?
Luongo stopped 34 of 36 shots on net en route to defeating the United States 3-2 for the gold medal. This was a feat unmatched by fellow Canadian goalie Martin Brodeur, who lost to the same team 5-3 during round robin play.
Oh, and Luongo went 5-0 after replacing Brodeur in the 2010 Olympics.
More importantly, just imagine the negative publicity Luongo and Team Canada would have received had they lost to Team USA in the final game.
Now that's some pressure.
Much of the scrutiny surrounding Roberto Luongo is his poor NHL playoff performance.
Let's play the name game with career playoff statistics.
|Win Percentage||Save Percentage||Goals Against Average|
Player A is Martin Brodeur. Player B is Patrick Roy. Luongo is Player C, and his numbers are relatively competitive with two of the greatest playoff goaltenders of all time.
Sure, Luongo's sample size is much smaller. However, expect his numbers to only improve with more opportunities in the playoffs with a talented team such as the Vancouver Canucks.
Roberto Luongo's career regular-season stats eerily reflect his playoff numbers, dispelling the notion that Luongo performs worse in the postseason.
Luongo has a career goals against average of 2.53 with a save percentage of .919. Since joining the Canucks in 2006, Luongo has averaged 38.6 wins per season.
During the 2010-11 season, Luongo led the National Hockey League with 38 wins en route to leading his team to the Presidents' Trophy.
He is the ideal workhorse goaltender, playing no less than 54 games in every season since 2001.
Judging by numbers alone, there is no reasonable excuse for labeling Luongo as an underachiever.
Roberto Luongo led the Vancouver Canucks to the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1994.
Yes, 1994. Have you forgotten that detail, Luongo haters?
Moreover, Luongo went toe to toe with the 2010-11 Vezina Trophy winner Tim Thomas for seven games, making for one of the most intriguing Finals in recent memory.
Going into Game 7, the Canucks were 60 minutes from becoming the first Canadian team to win a Stanley Cup since 1993.
Oh, and 60 minutes from becoming the first Canucks team to win the Stanley Cup. EVER.
The guy deserves some slack, eh?
There is enormous pressure on all Canadian teams in the NHL to win a Stanley Cup as soon as possible. Frustration has been building since 1993 for our brothers to the North, watching as American team after American team wins the Cup.
Yes, that includes the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Consequently, pressure continues to build on the players on teams such as Vancouver and Montreal. Particularly Vancouver, since it has been the most viable contender for a championship in recent years.
Being the goalie on the Canucks draws even more weight on the shoulders. Luongo was traded from a Florida Panthers franchise that had virtually no pressure, to a Canucks franchise that places the entire expectations of a nation on its goaltender.
This is akin to going from the Kansas City Royals to the New York Yankees in Major League Baseball.
Given the circumstances, Luongo has performed admirably and therefore deserves some sympathy when he has the occasional rough outing.
The best player at a position in franchise history is usually lauded with praise and admiration.
For Roberto Luongo, that is hardly the case.
Luongo is by far the best goalie in Vancouver Canucks history. The next best options are Richard Brodeur and Kirk McLean. Their respective goals against averages were 3.87 and 3.28.
Not even close.
How about some respect? History shows that another one like Luongo may not come around to Vancouver for some time.
Playing the goalie position in the National Hockey League is akin to playing quarterback in the NFL.
The performance of the entire team is the responsibility of one player.
For Roberto Luongo, it's even worse. If the Vancouver Canucks win, it's because of the talent that exists on the roster.
If Vancouver loses, all of the blame falls on Luongo.
It's a lose-lose situation, and one that needs to change in order for Luongo to get the acclaim he deserves.
In 2009, Roberto Luongo signed a 12-year contract extension that would have him playing goalie for the Vancouver Canucks through the 2022 season.
Perhaps Luongo regrets signing the dotted line, considering the overbearing expectations that are placed on him yearly in Vancouver.
Pundits argue Luongo's contract as justification that his performance needs to improve. The aforementioned statistics, both regular season and playoffs, more than back up the paychecks that Luongo receives.
The Nashville Predators recently opened up their limited checkbook for the long-term services of Pekka Rinne, thus supporting the notion that goaltenders warrant top pay.
In Luongo, the Canucks have a top-notch netminder and consequently, he deserves to be paid like one.
Roberto Luongo will win a Stanley Cup before his career is said and done.
If the Canucks are wise, they will make sure Luongo is on their roster when that happens.
While the lack of a championship haunts Luongo's reputation as a great goaltender, his career has many seasons left. Luongo will have many opportunities in the future to get the elusive Stanley Cup.
Regardless, a career should never be defined by the lack of a championship. If a player puts up great numbers consistently, he or she should still be considered elite.
Look for Luongo's presence in many future Stanley Cup Finals.
All in all, Roberto Luongo has played in three NHL All-Star games and one Stanley Cup Final.
Luongo won a gold medal for Team Canada in the 2010 Winter Olympics.
He also won the 2010-11 William Jennings Trophy which is awarded to the netminder who allowed the fewest goals in a season.
Luongo has led the league in saves, wins, games played and goals against during various years in the NHL.
These are not the accomplishments of a goalie who merits the criticism that Luongo consistently receives. The hardware points to Luongo as one of the best goalies in the league and why he is undeserving of the "overrated" label.