On Thursday night the Canucks will have a familiar face return to the ice at Rogers Arena. However this isn’t just the return of any former player, but the man who currently leads the franchise in wins and shutouts.
Roberto Luongo will take to the ice wearing the jersey that he wore before he was traded to the Canucks during 2006. Sound like a sideshow? Well that might sum up Luongo’s eight years with the franchise.
There is no doubt Luongo is a great goaltender. He is likely a Hall of Fame calibre goalie after he decides to retire. If he lives up to his contract, his retirement would come in the 2021-22 season. Luongo would be 42 years-old.
He spent the prime of his career, eight seasons, with the Vancouver Canucks. Within those eight years there were some unforgettable moments for Luongo when he donned the orca.
In his first career playoff game he came within one save of the NHL record for most saves in a game. He recorded 72 saves in a quadruple overtime win against the Dallas Stars.
He was also nominated for the Lester B. Pearson award, the Hart, and the Vezina trophy in his first season with the club.
In a time of mediocrity for the Canucks, he was the shining star. With the West Coast line extinct and the Sedins’ yet to be first-line NHL players, he was the MVP of the franchise.
As the careers’ of the Sedins’ and Kesler progressed, Luongo and the Canucks rose to dominance by the 2010-11 season. As we all know they went the distance before falling in game seven of the Stanley Cup Final.
Those seven games might have been the epitome of Luongo’s career with the club. There were some stellar performances where he stole games for the club. There were also some games where he looked like a shadow of himself in net.
Unfortunately what overshadows all of the great moments for Luongo with the Canucks were the sideshows that seemed to follow him during his whole tenure in Vancouver.
During that series he joked about how Tim Thomas hadn’t “pumped his tires” during the series. It wasn’t a joke when Thomas went on to win the next two games while Luongo let in six goals en route to losing the Cup.
While he was one of the top goalies in the league during his tenure in Vancouver, there always seemed to be something distracting him from reaching that final goal. The ghost of the Chicago Blackhawks hung over his head for three seasons until it was vanquished.
Some of the sideshows weren’t always his fault. How could he say no when the Canucks gifted him the Captaincy and $64 million over 12 years? While both of those turned out to be bad decisions (for the Canucks that is), you couldn’t pin that on Luongo. You also couldn’t blame Luongo for the emergence of Schneider and the atrocious mismanagement that drove him away from the city.
His compete level was never a question, even with Schneider nipping at his heels. Whenever he did not perform to the best of his abilities he was critical of himself. The emotion was written all over his face after the Canucks lost their first series to the Blackhawks back in 2009.
He left Canuck fans with many memories, and hopefully most remember him for his outstanding moments. He made some jaw-dropping saves in huge playoff games. He back-stopped the team to several successful seasons and multiple playoff appearances.
However his biggest moment with the Canucks is up for debate. Whether it is fair or not, the memory most may remember would be his game seven performance where he allowed three goals on twenty shots, and the Canucks stellar season came to a crashing halt.
Or maybe most will remember when he said his albatross of a contract sucked. One of the many sideshows Luongo created during his time as a Canuck.
The lasting legacy could be that Luongo was one of the greatest goalies in a pressure cooked hockey market, but he wasn’t able to get it done when it mattered most.
KPU Journalism Graduate. Trevor has been writing for The Hockey Writers since October 2014. He has contributed articles related to the Ottawa Senators, Vancouver Canucks, and other issues/stories regarding the game of hockey. Trevor currently lives in White Rock, B.C.