It still amazes me as to how a player this good and this dominant, and at a position of such importance, could be traded -- twice! -- for such awful returns.
When discussing Zdeno Chara and Jason Spezza in my top 50, I made mention of how then-Islanders general manager Mike Milbury traded the future Norris Trophy winning defenseman, and the pick that was used on Spezza for Alexei Yashin, and how infamously bad it ended up being. Not even that was bad enough to make up for the sting that was his June 24, 2000 deal that sent Luongo -- and Olli Jokinen -- to the Florida Panthers for Mark Parrish and Oleg Kvasha. Luongo, of course, blossomed into an elite goaltender for the Panthers, while Jokinen eventually developed into a consistent 30-goal scorer.
At the time, Milbury gave us one of his best quotes ever, saying: "We're rolling the dice here a little bit. Roberto Luongo is going to be an excellent goaltender in this league. He is a class act and a kid I know we would have been happy to ride with. But hell, I've gotta send him off."
After dealing Luongo, a fifth overall pick just three years earlier, Milbury then used the No. 1 overall pick in the draft on Rick Dipietro, who has had his promising career derailed by injuries -- the Islanders actually signed two free agent goaltenders this offseason (Dwayne Roloson and Martin Biron) despite having Dipietro signed through the 2020 season. Not a good sign.
Luongo spent five years playing for some bad Florida teams, and still managed to finish in the top-10 in save percentage every season despite being peppered by well over 30 shots per game. In his last two years with the Panthers, he faced, on average, 34 shots per game, and posted an impressive .922 save percentage in the process. Those two seasons, by the way, rank No's 1 and 2 all-time in terms of most shots faced by a goalie in a single season. Unable to work out a contract extension with their franchise goalie, the Panthers traded him, along with defenseman Lukas Krajicek and a draft pick, following the 2005-06 season for Todd Bertuzzi, Bryan Allen and Alex Auld. Just three years later, Allen is the only player that remains with the team.
Despite his success, the one thing people tend to point to is his lack of playoff experience (he's only played in the postseason twice) and how his team's have never played past the second round. Following Vancouver's Game 6 loss to Chicago in the Western Conference Semifinals, scribes in Vancouver flirted with the idea of moving their franchise goalie, while Stan Fischler of Max Hockey penned a column in June asking if Luongo is a fraud or a find.
Which brings me to the 2009 edition of Luongo and what he's all about. For real or fraud? Which is he? Roberto has been touted as The Man who can bring a Stanley Cup to British Columbia. So far he's brought only hopes, hype and a horrendous final playoff game against the Chicago Blackhawks last Spring. Stanley Cups are won with superior goaltending -- IN THE CLUTCH.Luongo has started 22 playoff games and currently holds an 11-11 record to go with a .920 save percentage. His first postseason appearance, during the 2006-07 season, saw the Canucks eliminate the Dallas Stars in seven games, and then fall to the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Anaheim Ducks in five games. Three of Vancouver's losses to Anaheim were one-goal decisions, including a pair of overtime losses in Games 4 and 5. The Canucks never scored more than two goals in a single game that series. Unless the expectation for your starting goaltender is to never surrender a goal in the postseason, it's hard to put much of that series on his shoulders.
After sweeping the St. Louis Blues this postseason, a series that included Luongo's first career playoff shutout, the Canucks were eliminated in six games by Chicago, including what was a disastrous third period performance by Luongo in the deciding game. Should that be reason to believe he can never help carry a team a Stanley Cup? Of course not. He's still only 29 years old and has plenty of hockey in front of him. Dominik Hasek, for example, is regarded as one of the greatest goalies to ever play the game, and it took him until he was 37 to get his first cup. Ed Belfour was 33.
He currently has the best career save percentage of any active goalie, owns 47 career shutouts, and is a three-time All-Star.
And now, for your obligatory YouTube video...