Luongo and DiPietro – Two Degrees of Separation

On a day like today, it was somewhat surprising to see Rick DiPietro, after posting a very uninspired 0-3 record this season, go on waivers. Perhaps this move was long overdue.

However, it was not surprising to see Vancouver Canucks “backup” goaltender Roberto Luongo make an impressive 23-saves in tonight’s 1-0 victory over the Nashville Predators.

Both Roberto Luongo and Rick DiPietro share three common themes: They’re both hot & cold goaltenders, both carry long-term contracts, and both started their NHL careers with the New York Islanders. (Luongo was drafted fourth overall in 1997 and DiPietro first overall in 2000.)

Roberto Luongo : MAR 05 Canucks at Kings

The Islander Management Team affectionately known as The Three Stooges (Mike Milbury, Garth Snow and Charles Wang) had put both goalies on very different paths. The Islanders have produced season after season of futility beginning with Milbury taking over the coaching and managerial reigns. He did one thing right in drafting Luongo, but was so quick to trade him away to the Florida Panthers on the same day he drafted DiPietro (over draft-eligible Dany Heatley and Marian Gaborik.)

Milbury’s reason? DiPietro is (or now was) the future of the New York Islanders.

Hello??? What does that say about Luongo?

Did Lou just run out of time on the island? If that’s true, then he fared better in sunny Florida and progressed even further in Vancouver. “DiPs” meanwhile struggled out of the gate, posting a 3-15 record in his rookie season, followed by mediocre seasons in the minors. Then came the stunner – DiPs signed a 15-year, $67.5 million contract. The signing came during a very tumultuous time in Islander Management lore when the first stooge (Milbury) stepped down to become the second stooge’s (Wang) VP, forcing the inexperienced third stooge (Snow) to retire from goaltending and take over as GM from Neil Smith who lasted just one month – are you following this episode? At that time, DiPietro’s signing was one of the longest in professional sports history but one that offered plenty of unanswered questions. Why this guy, and what had he done to deserve that long-term contract?

Depending on who you ask, Luongo’s own long-term contract situation could be a blessing or a curse for the Canucks. Coming off a disappointing 2011 Stanley Cup Final, and an early first round exit in 2012, criticism was raised about Luongo’s long term value in Vancouver and how it could hamper the Canucks’ progression going forward. During the lockout period, Cory Schneider was touted to be the number one goalie, and Lou would be shopped to any team that needed help in net. As of tonight, he’s still “backing up” Schneider while earning his fifth win in Nashville.

This season, Luongo’s record is 5-0-3 with a 1.45 goals against average and .941 save percentage.

DiPietro’s? 0-3-0 with a 4.10 GAA and .855.

Ouch. Money well spent there.

You have to feel for the average Islander fan. DiPietro’s waiver placement and subsequent demotion to the minors (if no one picks him up) could spell the end of the Islanders’ losing ways. As long as two-thirds of the Stooges remain in control however, that could be a very long wait.

As for the Canucks, GM Mike Gillis knows that he’ll have to tread carefully when it comes to his goaltending situation. Both Luongo and Schneider have put up impressive numbers in this shortened season so far. It would be a wise move to just let things stay status-quo and see how far the Canucks could go.

It’s a perplexing perspective that both men who started in the same organization left under varying degrees of success. So after everything that Lou and DiPs have been through in their goaltending careers, who would you rather put in net?

You already know the answer to that question.

Peter Chau


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