Its tough to pinpoint the exact moment in which things started to take on a downward spiral for Vancouver Canucks All Star goalie and perennial Vezina Trophy candidate, Roberto Luongo. For me, it started with six simple yet horribly timed words, “It’s an easy save for me”.
Luongo uttered those words in a press conference shortly after the Vancouver Canucks had defeated the Boston Bruins in game 5 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals. They won the game when Max Lapierre scored the game winner after Kevin Bieska purposely shot the puck wide just to have it careen off the end boards and back out front to Lapierre, who had a wide open net because of Bruins goalie Tim Thomas’ aggressive goaltending. After that game Luongo surrendered three goals less than nine minutes into game 6 and the Bruins cruised to a 5-2 win. The Bruins then went on to win game 7 rather easily in Vancouver – and the rest is history.
Luongo never fully recovered, yet I wouldn’t say he was terrible. The following season was a roller coaster season for Luongo that saw him look like a Vezina candidate in some games, while looking like swiss cheese in others.
Luongo posted solid numbers in the regular season however with 31 wins, a .919 save % and a 2.41 goals against average in 55 games. Not terrible numbers by any stretch of the imagination, but not exactly what you’re expecting from a goalie who has a cap hit of $5.3 million until the year 2022, yes, I said 2022.
Further complicating Luongo’s situation is the fact that not only does the man have a high cap hit for a long time but goalie Corey Schneider, once the backup and now the unofficial starter for the Canucks, performed well enough last season to earn a new 3 year, $12 million dollar deal. Last season in 33 games Schneider had 20 wins, a .937 save % and a 1.96 GAA.
Schneider is younger, cheaper and arguably better than Luongo. So the Canucks now have Luongo whom they no longer need, costing them a lot of money and he has a no trade clause (Luongo has said he will waive his NTC if the Canucks wish to trade him which they very much do).
With the CBA in flux and no time table set for the NHL season to begin there isn’t much rush to move Luongo, however the Canucks must be careful. They don’t want to do what the Columbus Blue Jackets did and wait too long to move a player just to end up with the short end of the stick. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think the Blue Jackets got hosed when trading superstar Rick Nash to the New York Rangers but I believe they could’ve gotten more had they pulled the trigger on a deal sooner. Also there seems to be a loss of interest in Luongo. With his cap hit, his up and down play, and the Canucks demands, the teams willing to trade for Luongo have apparently dwindled down to the Florida Panthers and Toronto Maple Leafs.
It will be interesting to see what happens to Luongo; I’m curious to see where he ends up and how he reacts. Will he return to Vezina candidate form or will he continue to crumble under the microscope he’s been under since saying, “It’s an easy save for me.” Whether he’s traded or kept as one of the league’s most expensive backup goaltenders remains to be seen. One thing is for sure, he gave us one of the greatest YouTube videos I’ve ever seen and you can watch it here.
UPDATE: EJ Hradek says Roberto Luongo, “Will be traded at some point, most likely to the Florida Panthers.” Details here.
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