Roberto Luongo is one of the most beloved and hated players to ever play for the Vancouver Canucks. He’s the best goalie the team has ever had (with apologies to Kirk McLean and Richard Brodeur), has been a Vezina finalist, a Hart Trophy finalist, won a gold medal and almost won a Stanley Cup in his 5+ seasons in Vancouver. Last year might have been his best season statistically, and yet, he’s hated now more than ever. If you weren’t already familiar with Luongo’s situation in Vancouver, this wouldn’t make any sense. But if you do, strangely it makes perfect sense. So why does everyone hate Luongo?
To clarify, not everyone hates Luongo, but there’s a whole lot that do. I’m kind of on the fence with him. He’s not as great as I thought he was/would be, but he’s still a top ten goalie in the league. But ask your local yahoo at Rogers Arena these days and you’d think Peter Skudra had made a comeback with the Canucks.
People hate Luongo for a few reasons, but only some of those reasons are legitimate. Lets investigate:
A lot of fans think that Roberto Luongo is overpaid. How many times have you heard Luongo haters remind everyone of the fact that he made $10 million last season? The fact of the matter is that the only number that should matter to everyone not named Francesco Aquilini is $5.3 million, the amount that counts towards the salary cap. Luongo has the seventh highest cap number among NHL goaltenders, which is appropriate.
Luongo, fairly or unfairly, is classified as a bit of a jerk by fans. For me, it’s hard to argue this point. He doesn’t seem like the nicest guy in the world. When players like that are playing well, nobody cares what their personality is like, but when they’re playing poorly, it doesn’t help their cause. Kirk McLean (often seen as a nice guy) in his final couple of years with the team was downright terrible (considerably worse than Luongo has ever been), yet he never felt the wrath of the fans like Luongo is right now.
Fans hate Luongo because they perceive him as a choker. They think that when times get tough, that Luongo can’t deliver. And when he does deliver, they say that the team win in spite of his goaltending, not because of it. There’s an element of truth behind this, but it’s vastly exaggerated. Luongo has had some spectacular moments in the postseason, but has also had some forgettable moments. His struggles against the Chicago Blackhawks are well publicized, but how quickly we forget that he stole a playoff series in 2007 against the Dallas Stars (the Canucks were shutout in three games but still won the series in seven games). He was out-dueled by Tim Thomas in last year’s playoffs, yet still posted two shutouts in the finals. Luongo isn’t a choker, but he has been inconsistent in recent years, which is frustrating to fans.
The real reason why fans hate Roberto Luongo is the fact that he hasn’t lived up to the hype. Luongo burst onto the scene in 2006-07, leading a very poor Canuck team (that team had Jan Bulis on the second line and Josh Green on the third line) to a Northwest Division championship. Luongo was spectacular that season and was the only reason the Canucks accomplished anything. Luongo could do no wrong in his first few seasons in Vancouver, but he’s now a victim of his early success and the hype that surrounded him. Now Luongo is seen as overrated and everything is exaggerated.
Everyone in Vancouver for the moment needs to take a deep breathe and realize what Luongo is. He’s an excellent goalie, but he’s not without fault. He will have slumps and he will have moments of brilliance.
So I’m a little different than a lot of people in Vancouver. A lot of people think he’s great, a lot think he’s terrible. For me, he’s ehhhh pretty good.