Roberto Luongo is undoubtedly the greatest goaltender in Vancouver Canucks history. He should be given more consideration as the greatest player in franchise history, too.
Of course, the previous statement is also every bit as accurate if we change the change to the Florida Panthers.
Through his eight seasons with the Canucks, Luongo left a lasting legacy for the city of Vancouver — mostly good but some bad.
The veteran netminder is the Canucks’ all-time leader in wins and shutouts. He also poked fun at his own contract when the team couldn’t trade him at the 2013 trade deadline, and is known for a zany sense of humour on his popular Twitter account.
Luongo began his tenure with the Canucks after being acquired from the Panthers on June 23, 2006. With this blockbuster move - the Canucks sent beleaguered Todd Bertuzzi the other way - a new era of hope arrived in Vancouver.
Luongo came in as a savior. He was this spectacular goalie, constantly on highlight reels but always on poor teams. In New York. In Florida. Probably ever since he was a kid. Even in Vancouver when he first arrived, he gave poor teams chances to win games, and in doing so he provided hope.
The early part of the 2008-09 season saw Luongo at his regular-season best. During a three-game stretch against the Predators, Coyotes and Wild, Luongo registered three straight shutouts. His overall shutout streak lasted 242:36 minutes, eclipsing the team record he set the previous year.
More than two years later the Canucks made the unconventional move of naming their goalie the team’s 12th captain in history. It was short lived but there was no denying the always popular Lou was the team’s best player.
The 2010 season provided Luongo financial security and the chance of a lifetime. On Sept. 2, he signed a 12-year, $64-million US contract. The year would get significantly better. After being named to Canada’s Olympic team for the Vancouver Winter Games, Luongo replaced Martin Brodeur during the tournament. His steady play helped Canada in its run to a memorable Olympic gold medal, winning four straight elimination games under the most intense circumstances perhaps ever faced.
After several disappointing playoff seasons, the Canucks finally broke through in 2011. They got a scare in the first round against the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks. Vancouver took the first three games, only to lose the next three.
It took a Game 7 overtime win to get by Chicago, but the Canucks advanced all the way to the Stanley Cup final. Vancouver appeared on the verge of capturing the city’s first title as it took a 3-2 series lead over the Boston Bruins. However, a brutal Game 6 loss in Boston brought the series back to Vancouver for a seventh and deciding game. The battered and bruised Canucks were then overwhelmed in a devastating 3-0 loss, leaving a bitter taste in fans mouths to this day.
By the time the 2013 trade deadline rolled around, Luongo saw the writing on the wall. The team seemed poised to move on with upstart Cory Schneider, but there was one small problem. The Canucks couldn’t unload Luongo and his fat contract at the deadline. In an interview that went viral, Luongo gave his blunt reasoning as to why he wasn’t dealt. “My contract sucks,” he memorably proclaimed.
Luongo was eventually traded back to the Florida Panthers — where he is also the greatest goalie in that franchise’s history — one day before the 2014 trade deadline. Canucks GM Mike Gillis, who completely botched the goaltending situation by also trading Schneider at the 2013 NHL draft, was fired after the team failed to make the playoffs a month later.
Luongo retired in 2019 after 1,044 games, 489 wins (third all time), 77 shutouts and 19 campaigns in the big leagues. He is also a two-time QMJHL champion, has two World Championship golds, one World Cup gold and the famous Olympic gold in Vancouver. He is undoubtedly bound for the Hockey Hall of Fame as soon as 2022.