Luongo

It will take months to dissect the bitter ending to a spectacular 2010-11 season for the Vancouver Canucks.  On the surface, Roberto Luongo hardly seems like the guy to blame for Vancouver’s loss against Boston. He received only eight goals of support in the seven game series, and two of his three wins were of the shutout variety. Upon closer look,a trend that has been developing over the past few years reared its ugly head once again – Luongo’s mercurial and moody off-ice personality having a negative effect on the team.

 

This isn’t a column with a purely fantasy hockey opinion. I have been tweeting my thoughts regarding Luongo over the past few days, but 140 characters of text does not give enough space to really expand on anything.

 

Luongo arrived in Vancouver in 2006 to a hero’s welcome. The Canucks finally had the goalie who would help them forget about Dan Cloutier, Garth Snow, Kevin Weekes, and Felix Potvin. Luongo’s first season as a Canuck was nothing short of sensational. He was a finalist for both the Vezina and the Hart Trophy, and he led the Canucks into the second round of the playoffs. The future of Luongo in Vancouver was looking extremely bright.

 

Since 2007, Luongo has seen his share of ups (Olympic Gold on home ice, multiple playoff visits, multiple Vezina nominations), and downs (losing the Captaincy, numerous playoff blowouts, waning fan/media confidence) in a Vancouver sweater. Many believe that he was given the captain’s C as a means of enticing him to take a long-term, cap-friendly contract (Luongo signed a 12 year deal that carries a cap hit of $5.33 million per season last summer). Luongo was never comfortable with the C on his mask. He seemed forced and uncomfortable in interviews with the typical responsibilites of a captain.

 

In a way, the 2011 playoff run was a fantastic microcosm for Luongo’s career in Vancouver. Highs and lows, and controveries both on and off the ice. Players being forced to defend their faith in him, Luongo being forced to defend himself against mounting fan and media pressure. He started out great with three straight wins against Chicago. Had Luongo finally defeated the team that had embarrassed him for two straight springs? Not so fast. Chicago came back and scored 12 goals in two games, prompting Vancouver to play backup Cory Schneider in a potential series clinching game. Luongo was forced back into duty due to injury in one of the most awkward situations you will ever see.

 

He had a great game seven to get the Canucks past Chicago, but the Blackhawks once again showed that his weaknesses could still be exposed. Luongo had a solid second round against Nashville, but he was significantly outplayed by his counterpart, Pekka Rinne. He also let in a number of weak goals in a series that was incredibly low scoring. Against San Jose, Luongo was pretty good through four games (for the most part), and fantastic in game five – easily his best game of the spring.

 

Against the Bruins, Luongo had two shutouts and a game in which he allowed only two goals. In the other four games, Luongo was ventilated for 21 goals. Vancouver was missing some personnel on the back end, which didn’t help things much.

 

After a strong game five, Luongo was speaking to the press. When questioned about the goal Tim Thomas allowed (a puck that bounced off the back boards), Luongo said, "It's not hard if you're playing in the paint. It's an easy save for me, but if you're wandering out and aggressive like he does, that's going to happen. He might make some saves that I won't, but in a case like that, we want to take advantage of a bounce like that and make sure we're in a good position to bury those."


In retrospect, Luongo’s misguided analysis was ill-timed at best, and idiotic at worst. It gave Thomas some motivation, it gave Boston bulletin board material, and it put Luongo’s game under the spotlight even more. He may have not meant what he said to sound like it did, but that is beside the point.

 

Luongo’s off-ice demenor over the past few years has been erratic. He seems forced with his humor and friendliness at times, and at others has shown an increasingly moody and mercurial side. All good goalies have to be confident in their own abilities, sure, but Luongo at times sounds like he is trying to convince himself of what he is saying. Fans do the same thing all the time – saying something over and over again doesn’t necessarily make it truth. Players on other teams always make it a point to say how Luongo is a world class goalie and how he is so hard to beat, but how long are we going to believe this? Does anyone really think Chicago (or Boston, now) is really afraid of facing Luongo, at all?

 

Does Luongo have a future in Vancouver? He didn’t cost the Canucks the cup. Tim Thomas, Boston’s offensive and defensive depth, and injuries were all probably bigger factors. But does it matter? Every loss, every season, and it seems like Luongo is questioned and analyzed under the spotlight. It can’t be a comfortable situation for him.

 

I don’t see how the team can sell him to the fans, to the media, and to his teammates for the next decade. His relationship with the previously mentioned parties has to be rocky, at best. His personality has never been one that Vancouver has embraced. His style of play has changed without improving. He seems to play his best when he is forced to make a lot of saves, and the Canucks aren’t a team that gives up a lot of shots (at least they weren’t during the regular season).

 

Are there any teams out there who would take on some baggage and an incredibly massive contract to secure one of the game’s best goaltenders? Does Vancouver even consider trading its former captain, a player who is extremely close with the team owners? Yes, and they should.

 

Luongo may very well bounce back and win the cup next season. Look at Thomas – at this point last year, the Bruins were quietly trying to find a way to ditch him and his $5 million contract, as they had Tuukka Rask more than ready to take over. Jason Botchford sums up the Luongo situation better very well.

 

“Here we go again and it's after a series in which the Canucks scored just eight goals. It's a remarkable feat, if you think about it. To get that close with the meekest seven-game goal-scoring total in Cup history. But Luongo is framed as the scapegoat and it's deja Lu. More concerning, it doesn't feel like this is ever going to change.


Instead, it feels both consuming and toxic. It's not healthy for the fans, and it can't be healthy for Luongo. He is regularly asked about things like the crowds in Rogers Arena who, it was reported, cheered when he was pulled from games in Boston. His teammates are regularly asked if they've lost faith in him.


Can he go through this year after year, playoffs after playoffs in Vancouver? Can the fans? Can his teammates? Can anyone??”


Cory Schneider is untested. He played great in a bunch of regular season games. He was the best goalie in the AHL for about two years before forcing his way up to the NHL. On the ice, he is like Luongo – big and positionally sound. He is a much better puck handler (as is the rest of the league). Off the ice, he is everything Luongo is not. Calm, steady, and genuine and confident in himself. Would it be an incredible risk to trade Luongo and give Schneider the reigns? Yes. Would it be an even greater risk to trade away a potential superstar goaltender in hopes that Luongo can find peace with himself and the city of Vancouver? You tell me.

 

 


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david said:

tripel
... "Every loss, every season, and it seems like Luongo is questioned and analyzed under the spotlight."
and this is different from every single goalie in the history of Vancouver hockey how??
i think this article side-steps the real issue of goalie graveyard rearing its ugly head again. Like a loser unlucky in love we convince ourselves that it will be different next time, with Schneider... please.
Luongo was again a Vezina finalist, a Jennings winner and up intil the final week of post season was in Conn Smyth contention. You said it yourself -- 8 goals in 7 games doesnt get it done. It was a team failure, regardless of the efforts of the pundits and the unfaithful to pin it on Luo, and the Sedins, for that matter...
June 20, 2011
Votes: +1

Ken Shultz said:

kshultz
Luongo or the Sedins? I'm not the first guy to point our that it takes a different kind of team to win in the post season, and this isn't the first team that didn't really have the physical guys to go all the way.

I'm sure the Sedins will score plenty of points in the regular season next year, but that's as deep as you can go--game 7 of the SC--with guys who Just Aren't That Physical.

I don't think the question is about Luongo specifically--but it is about his contract.

There are two questions to ask:

1) How cheap is it to replace Luongo with someone almost as good?

2) What kind of physical players can you get for the difference between what Luongo's making and the guy who's replacing him?

The answer to question 1?

The guy to replace Luongo is already in Vancouver, and his cap hit is about 900,000.

The answer to question 2?

The difference between Luongo's cap hit and the guy who will eventually replace him? Is almost 4.5 million!

I think Schneider is about as ready as Neimi or Neuvirth or a bunch of other guys who were successful when they moved up.

The question marks are on the Canucks' second and third lines--is 4.5 million enough to start answering those big questions?

Hell yeah!
June 18, 2011
Votes: +0

Repent Tokyo said:

repenttokyo
to me, it reads like trash talk everyone is entitled to their opinion, of course, but there's very little difference between your piece and the anti-thomas pieces I had to read for a year.
June 18, 2011
Votes: +0

Jeff Angus said:

angus
... repent,

no one is trash talking Luongo (well, at least I am not). My point has nothing to do with his talent on the ice. I hope you got that from what I wrote.
June 18, 2011
Votes: -1

ktox said:

ktox
Fantasy vs Reality I rode Luongo and Daniel Sedin to fantasy victory, so it was interesting to see them underperform in the playoffs. Luongo is definitely taking a disproportionate amount of the blame here. I agree with most of the points about his mentality. The way the Canucks lost multiple goals in quick succession on several occasions, shows that he does not respond well to getting scored on.

However, IMO the Sedins should be getting just as much heat. In the playoffs you need your best players to be your best players. They were pretty much shut down by CHI, NAS and BOS. That's way short of good enough. Their pretty passing just doesn't work in the playoffs, and they are not physical enough on the forecheck or the back check. During the season they only take the ice in favourable situations, with Kesler and Malhotra doing the dirty work on the defensive faceoffs. They never crash the net or take people on one on one. They are essentially luxury players. The one image that I will remember most from this cup is Marchand punching Dainel. After being humiliated like that I think pretty much anyone else would have come out like a raging bull in game 7 to set the record straight, but Daniel played just like he played any other game. So while Luongo deserves scrutiny, I think the twins are just as much part of the problem.
June 18, 2011
Votes: +1

Repent Tokyo said:

repenttokyo
remember this when you trash talk luongo all i heard from the boston media 2 years ago was how terrible time thomas was, how his contract was an albatross and how he was an untalented, washed-up old man who would never have a starter job in the NHL again.

maybe you guys should remember how that turned out before you pile on Luongo just like everybody always loves to do. And I'm a Carolina Hurricanes, fan, by the way.
June 17, 2011
Votes: +1

Mr Sausage said:

Mr_Sausage
Mercurial and Moody "Luongo’s mercurial and moody off-ice personality having a negative effect on the team.

Being on the west coast I have seen this first hand for the last 3-4 seasons. When he was appointed captain a few seasons back I started calling him Captain Poopy Pants for the exact reasons you outline in this article. How many times, when a goal gets past him he slumps his shoulders and looks skyward? Far too often and that body language rubs off on his team.

He's never been readily accessible to the media and can be very curt and short while answering questions.

Yes....Captain Poopy Pants is a name that he has rightfully earned
June 17, 2011
Votes: -2

derek said:

buck0198
Lou I dont like Luongo. I think he is a prima donna but they were missing Hamhuis and Kesler was hurt. On top of all that, the Sedins did absolutely nothing.

I dont think Luongo deserves the blame but great players come up big in big situations and his lack of doing so makes him the goat.

I still think he was shakier than Ali in the Gold Medal game and had it not been for the real disparity in skill between the US and Canada then he woulda lost that too.

I will go on record and say Luongo will never win a cup because he just doesnt have it between his ears or in his chest. Only time will tell...
June 17, 2011
Votes: -1

paul faure said:

paul4
Dont forget It was a very good article. Great points and arguments.
However, I wouldn't throw Luongo under the bus just yet. As many others have pointed out, there are plenty of other factors which lead to the loss. But one thing that most people forget is that the team DID make it to the Game 7 of the cup finals. That in itself is a huge feat. Vancouver shouldn't hang their head in shame but instead should celebrate the fact that they got 4 really good rounds of playoff hockey. The excitement, the energy, the city wide passion which has existed during these 4 rounds is nothing to shake a stick at.

Ottawa went through the same thing in their long playoff run. Looking back, I dont remember the losses, but I do remember all the wins and the "where was I when they scored that winning goal" moments.

A cup final is something to be expected (by pure chance) once every 15 years. Luongo and Vancouver should be rewarded for getting them that far.

1 win away from the cup... if he is good enough to get you that close, he is good enough to get you to the finish line.
June 17, 2011
Votes: +1

Steffen said:

Steffen
Kudos! Mr Angus, perhaps the best article you've done. And the responses have been insightful and rewarding.

Whether or not one thinks Luongo shares a disproportionate amount of the blame for the Canucks failure to win the Stanley Cup, let's remember two things:
1) the Boston Bruins earned this win.
2) Roberto Luongo is a better than average goalie.
June 17, 2011
Votes: +0

Mark Moosier said:

Mark Moosier
Deserving Very true, Jeff. Pro sports is a harsh game, and not always fair to those involved (especially coaches!). I just think the media needs to realize that they are as much creating the environment that Luongo lives in as they are reflecting it. This is the fourth media report I've read since the final calling for Luongo's head. I haven't seen any that question whether the Sedins are capable of leading a team through 2 months of tight-checking playoff hockey that stifles their style of game. It's as if that's taken for granted, but Luongo needs to be publicly media-torched. Look at this blog...there are as many comments defending him as not. Why doesn't the media reflect that reality?

I'm from Edmonton, so nobody is happier to see Luongo lose than I. But the fact is that there are 14 other goalies out there who didn't get the playoff job done, either. If Vancouver decides that their relationship with "Looouu" is finished, so be it. But that will be a choice largely based on mob mentality and hair-splitting analysis over a very tight loss. If Chara had not saved his own give-away in Game 7, I doubt we would be having this conversation right now.

BTW, very well written column, even if I'm critical of the perspective.
June 17, 2011
Votes: +0

James Smith said:

jeamcasmith99
... I just read what Jason Botchford wrote:

"Luongo is big, imposing and effective when his team plays clean in front of him, limiting odd-man rushes and clearing rebounds. If the Canucks are defensively sound, he's great. But when things turn, when injuries mount, when breakdowns pile up, he's failing to make the acrobatic saves to turn the tide and change momentum. It repeated itself this year."

Read more: http://www.theprovince.com/spo...z1PZUQpSEE

What Botchford said is dead-on..... Luongo's weaknesses.... poor reflexes, lateral mobility, and rebound control..... necessarily requires great defense in front of him in order for Luongo to do well. He needs the team to help him clear those rebounds. He needs the team to limit odd-man rushes because he doesn't have the reflexes or mobility to make saves on dekes, snipes, or cross-ice two-on-one passes.

It's time we go with Schneider. He is much more mobile and reflexive than Luongo while being almost as big and imposing. You only lose 1 inch with Schneider. More importantly though, he's more calm, composed, and mentally together.
June 17, 2011
Votes: +1

JULES said:

itzjules
... I think he should get a mental preparation counselor. Every team some have personal motivation and focus coaches. Like other players, Luongo has problems with these things, which lead to the dreaded inconsistency tag that many fantasy players are scared to death of.

We've seen what Luongo is capable of doing, it's just giving him the right mindset to do it all the time, like he used to.
June 17, 2011
Votes: +1

James Smith said:

jeamcasmith99
... "Deserving"?? Luongo deserves to get traded.

His game right now has serious holes. His reflexes and lateral mobility are average at best. His rebound control is below average. Worst of all, though, his mental toughness is very questionable.

Unfortunately, for whatever reason.... some people can't bring themselves to acknowledge all of the above. They still want to think of Luongo as the same goalie he was 4-5 years ago. That Luongo has long gone. His game has deteriorated quite a bit since.
He's basically an average-to-decent goalie who looks like a great goalie at times because of the great team he gets to play in front of. But when that "great" team doesn't play well, Luongo gets exposed pretty badly in lopsided Boston/Chicago type games. And then fans will try to defend him with statements like "but the team didn't play well in front of him so you can't blame Luongo". Here's the thing.... great goalies have the ability to keep their teams in games they aren't playing well in..... Luongo unfortunately is no longer a great goalie. Put a great defensive game in front of him, sure.... most of the time he'll make the saves he should make and won't make a mistake (see the shutouts he put up against Boston). Put a poor defensive game in front of him, and you'll witness the reincarnation of Dan Cloutier.

You can't afford to pay a goalie the money Luongo is making if that's all he'll give you. Most goalies can play well (or more like "look good") in front of great defenses. So Luongo is not offering anything that most other NHL goalies can't do.
June 17, 2011
Votes: +2

dodospice said:

dodospice
Lebrongo Roberto Lebrongo smilies/wink.gif
June 17, 2011
Votes: -1

Jeff Angus said:

angus
... Mark, sometimes "deserving" has nothing to do with it, unfortunately.
June 17, 2011
Votes: -1

mrgreer77 said:

mrgreer77
learn from this I think Luongo learns from this experience and from the way Thomas (who is 5 years older) treated the finals.
I also think if the puck hadn't bounced over Henrik's stick in those first few minutes of game 6...
June 17, 2011
Votes: +1

Mark Moosier said:

Mark Moosier
Media as Confusing as Luongo It's interesting how the media (and like it or not, Jeff, you are now part of the media)generally acknowledges that Luongo was one of many factors in the loss, but choose to focus on him and not those other factors (poor scoring, inconsistency on the road, etc). You're digging his grave for him while at the same time saying he doesn't deserve to die.
June 17, 2011
Votes: +1

david lynch said:

david_lynch74
blaming lou it's crazy to blame him. they should be turning to their captain who became more invisible as the pressure mounted. sedin has to be the weakest captain in the league right now. great talent but not a leader, kesler would be better suited...he was very visible and played injured.

there won't be any shortage of trade partners should canuck's management decide to move lou.
June 17, 2011
Votes: +0

David Goodburn said:

davidgoodburn
Expectations The expectations on Luongo are ridiculously high, partly his fault, partly because of the team. He is the highest paid goalie in the league which in most people's mind means he should be the best goalie in the league. Plus as has been stated Vancouver is expected to win.

I think he is a top 10 goalie for sure, maybe top 5 but he does struggle with consistency and has a tendency to "blow up" for a few games in a row. I think @andrewklassen is right its all a mental thing with him. He struggled against Chicago b/c they were in his head not becuase he suddenly became a bad goalie.

I've always thought that in a seven game series I'd take him over everyone but 3 or 4 goalies because he will steal you a game or two and you can live with him playing like crap for two games if you are the better team. In a one game tournament, like the Olympics, there are probably 10 or 15 other goalies I'd rather have because you never know which Luongo will show up.
June 17, 2011
Votes: +0

Andrew Klassen said:

andrewklassen
Between his ears This has been one of my favorite articles of yours Angus. Luongo was not the problem or reason VAN lost, but there is something about his demeanor and his psyche that makes me think he doesn't even believe in himself sometimes. I never got that impression from Thomas, but Thomas has been through the ringer more and has figured out what it takes mentally to be a G in the NHL. Maybe Luongo can still grow into this, but the questions are mounting.
June 17, 2011
Votes: +0

Jeremy Wark said:

jer_33
Big Lou 20+ teams in the league would be ecstatic to have a goalie that could take them to game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. Was it a tough loss? Sure. But you cannot discount his season, his Vezina nod, or the fact that he played some high-level hockey during these playoffs.

Boston may have been the WORST match-up for the Canucks, if it was a Canucks/Lightning Final I think the Canucks would have had a better series.

This will all blow over by training camp IMO, and everyone will still be chanting Louuu when he makes a save on home-ice.
June 17, 2011
Votes: -1

Repent Tokyo said:

repenttokyo
luongo can't do anything right he wins the gold, it's despite him. if he had won the cup, it would have been despite him. vancouver lost the cup because of him. it's ridiculous how much the media hates him and makes him a lightning rod for what is a team sport.

sorry angus, but you lost me with this article.
June 17, 2011
Votes: +1

mick said:

hawkdog
... I agree with Pengwin7.

Lou takes way to much heat, how can you expect him not to be moody at interviews? you are whipping a dead pig.
June 17, 2011
Votes: +0

Pengwin7 said:

Pengwin7
Great Expectations In 2009, the Boston Bruins finished with the best record in the East.
Tim Thomas and the Bruins were EXPECTED to get to the Stanley Cup, but lost 2nd round to Carolina.

Expectations can be a killer.
No position in any sport is a mental strain like being a goalie that is EXPECTED to win.

IMO, I'm cutting Luongo some slack.
I think he can get it done - but it might be a little easier in a season where Vancouver doesn't have all this pressure. It might be a fortunate thing if Vancouver finishes #2 or #3 in the West next year.
June 17, 2011
Votes: +2

lcbtd said:

germant
Schneider a better puck handler? Great article Angus. Always like reading your work.

One question - of the Vancouver games I've seen (admittedly not as many as you) Schneider is an absolute (mis)adventure when handling the puck. Granted Luongo isn't great either but he makes the very safe, simple play better than Schneider who seems to try to do too much with the puck.

Great article though.
June 17, 2011
Votes: +0

Shao said:

Shao
... Great article. I don't see how a team can win with 7 goals for in a 7 game series, so its not all his fault.

I would imagine that Lu feels like Rob Burgundy after being fired.

"It's so damn hot... milk was a bad choice."

I don't see how Lu doesn't drink himself into oblivion. The mental stress and the constant, constant questions his team face, like you mentioned. It's too much.
June 17, 2011
Votes: +0

Steffen said:

Steffen
BANG ON. Angus, GREAT analysis, even if a little harsh in its timing. (and this from Angus, an acknowledged, and sometimes vilified for it, Canucks fan)

It would seem that Roberto has been over-rated all along. Yes, he's often a great goalie. Yes, he's played on poorer teams than these Canucks (which is why we all thought he'd elevate them).

The Canucks faced a deeper, better coached, team with a more effective goalie. That's why the Canucks lost, not because Roberto wasn't superhuman. A team needs goals for, at least a few, for the average goalie (what, 2.80?) to succeed.

Claude Julien deserves the trophy that Tim Thomas (my hero) hoisted Wednesday night.

Roberto will unfairly take the blame for the Canucks failure to win. Maybe he can be traded (and the fan base would likely support that) but it wouldn't be fair to lay all the blame at his feet/glove side.

Watch: teams will now eschew technically trained goalies for Hasek/Thomas athletic types. Goldie?

I lurked all through these playoffs, and I promise to share my worthless opinions more often now...
June 17, 2011
Votes: +1

Johnny Boston said:

J8ME5
... Great article. Always appreciate your insight. I've never had reason to cheer for Luongo, being an American and Hawks fan. Yet, I kinda feel sorry for him. So much hype/pressure placed upon him and he was adequate at the best of times and terrible at the worst. In no way does he deserve all the blame, but his confidence must be the lowest in the league. I don't think any team would take a chance on him. In one-year leagues, I would avoid him, and hope he drops a few rounds. He'll probably get good stats with the team in front of him, he could also be a train wreck.
June 17, 2011
Votes: +0

DuklaNation said:

DuklaNation
... He didnt play well at times in the finals but it was his teammates who lost the cup for that team. Poor PP, injuries, lack of depth all over the lineup.
June 17, 2011
Votes: +0

angelofharlem said:

angelofharlem
... Great analysis Angus. A big factor is the no-trade clause. Many of the teams that can afford to take on his contract aren't exactly contenders. Which teams do you see as the best fit - not just in terms of need and salary cap status, but who would also entice Lou to waive his NTC? Or do you think he desperately wants out now?
June 17, 2011
Votes: +0

Alex McDonald, Age 11 said:

Alex McDonald, Age 11
... It doesn't matter who the goalie is for the Canucks, the fans and media will always end up turning on him. Nothing would be different with Schneider as the #1 goalie.

Vancouver fans and media are the absolute worst in the league when it comes to goalies, even worse than Montreal.
June 17, 2011
Votes: +4
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