Justin Bonhard | June 14th, 2020
For two decades, Roberto Luongo was a household name for all NHL fans. He could be considered as a pioneer for the game of hockey. Luongo bridged the gap from the way goaltenders used to play the game, to the modern era. Two of the three franchises he played for were forever changed once #1 was in-between the pipes.
Tenure: New York Islanders – One season, 1999-2000 / Florida Panthers – 11 seasons, 2000-2006 and 2014-2019 / Vancouver Canucks – Eight seasons, 2006-2014
All-Star Appearances: Five Times (2004, 2007, 2009, 2015, 2016)
Awards: 2010-11 William M. Jennings Trophy
Luongo’s legendary career did not start out that way. The New York Islanders drafted him fourth overall in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft. He finally got his chance during the 1999-2000 season. As the back-up to another legendary goaltender, Felix Potvin, Luongo made his NHL debut and collected his first win on November 28, 1999, against the Boston Bruins.
At the end of his rookie campaign, he held a record of 7-14-1 in 24 appearances with a 3.25 Goals Against Average. He also recorded the first shutout of his career against the aforementioned Bruins on December 27, 1999. With a less-than-stellar record, as well as the first-overall selection of Rick DiPietro in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft, Luongo found himself on a plane to Florida before the 2000-2001 season.
The deal on June 24, 2000, was to send Luongo and center Olli Jokinen to the Florida Panthers for right-winger Mark Parrish and left-winger Oleg Kvasha. This wouldn’t be the only time he was traded to the Sunshine State, but we will get into that later. Over the next five seasons, Luongo appeared in 317 games and held a record of 108-154-41.
The best season Luongo had in his first stint with Florida was in 2003-2004, just before the NHL lockout of the 2004-2005 season. He did not have a winning record, with 25-33-14, but he did set a plethora of career-highs. He faced the most shots of his career with 2475, and saved 2303 of them, again a career-best. That also meant he had a .931 Save Percentage, which was the highest of his 19-year career. Luongo also made his first appearance in the All-Star game.
Finding Stride In Vancouver
After the 2005-2006 NHL season, Luongo found himself on the trading block once again, and this time it was with a Western Conference team. The Vancouver Canucks acquired him and defenseman Lukas Krajicek and a sixth-round pick in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. On the flip side, Florida gained right-winger Todd Bertuzzi, defenseman Bryan Allen, and goaltender Alex Auld.
What would come after that trade, would change the Canucks franchise forever. Over the next eight seasons, Luongo led his team to six Stanley Cup playoff appearances, and one win away from lifting the trophy. With a record of 252-137-50, he holds multiple franchise-bests under his belt. He has the most career wins (252) in the club’s 49-year history, as well as most career shutouts with 50.
The first six seasons while Luongo was in net with the Canucks, they made it into the Stanley Cup playoffs. Additionally, he won more than 30+ games per season. Only four goaltenders accomplished the feat during that time period, and that was Henrik Lundqvist, Mikka Kiprusoff, and Ryan Miller. Interesting enough, of the four, Luongo was the only one to not win a Vezina Trophy for most valuable goaltender.
On September 30, 2008, Vancouver went against the NHL rule-book and named Luongo as the 12th captain in their franchise history. That was the first time since goaltender Bill Durnan was named the Montreal Canadiens captain during the 1947-48 season. For Luongo, he could not wear the traditional “C” on his chest, and defenseman Willie Mitchell was the official on-ice captain for discussions with referees. After only two seasons with the title, he gave up the honor to Henrik Sedin for the 2010-11 season.
Over his 19-year career, Luongo did not get a chance to have his name etched into the Stanley Cup. His closest chance was in the 2010-2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs. After getting past the Chicago Blackhawks, Nashville Predators and San Jose Sharks, the Boston Bruins were the last team standing in the way. The final match-up was an exhilarating one, with the Canucks taking the first two games at home 3-2 and 1-0, respectively. Then, Boston exploded with an 8-1 rout over Vancouver and then a 4-0 win at their home arena. After Vancouver won Game five, 1-0, they lost the final two games, 5-2 in game six and 4-0, in game seven.
Return to Florida and End of Career
On March 4, 2014, Luongo was sent back to the Sunshine State with left-wing Steven Anthony for goaltender Jacob Markstrom and left-wing Shawn Matthias. After having a so-so performance in Florida at the beginning of his career, he would end his career better.
His final notable season came during the 2015-16 season as he led the Florida Panthers to a playoff birth at the age of 36. He finished the regular season with a record of 35-19-6 in 60 starts, with a GAA of 2.35 and a save percentage of .922. His performance in net was good enough to lead the Panthers to just their second playoff birth since the 1999-2000 season. Unfortunately, Luongo would not a chance to win the ever-looming Stanley Cup as his team fell to the New York Islanders in the first round.
Over the next three seasons, Luongo split goaltending duty with James Reimer. They played nearly an equal amount, 112-110, in favor of Luongo. After the 2018-19 season, he took to Twitter to formally announce his retirement from the NHL.
I’ve decided to take my talents to a South Beach retirement home ✌🏼 pic.twitter.com/BTuZIo8XT8— Strombone (@strombone1) June 26, 2019
Impact on the Game
Luongo had an everlasting impact on the game of hockey. He is one of three goaltenders with 1000+ games played, in-between Martin Brodeur and Patrick Roy, with 1044. Although he never got the chance to lift the Stanley Cup, he holds several goaltending records. Additionally, he holds several franchise records, including most career wins for both the Vancouver Canucks and Florida Panthers. Luongo finished his career with a stat-line of 489-392-124.
On March 7, 2019, Luongo was honored by having his #1 jersey retired by the Florida Panthers. If his number was also retired in Vancouver, he would join legendary players like Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Hull, Gordie Howe, Ray Bourque, Mark Messier, Tim Horton, Red Kelly, Scott Niedermayer, and Patrick Roy.
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Main Credit Image: Embed from Getty Images