Roberto Luongo will make his return to Rogers Arena Thursday night for the first time since the Vancouver Canucks traded him to the Florida Panthers one day before the 2014 NHL trade deadline.
Through his eight seasons with the Canucks, Luongo left a lasting legacy for the city of Vancouver — mostly good but some bad.
The veteran netminder, known for a zany sense of humour on his popular Twitter account, is the Canucks’ all-time leader in wins and shutouts. He also poked fun at his own contract when the team couldn’t trade him at the 2013 NHL trade deadline.
Here’s a look at some of the highs and lows with the Canucks:
Luongo began his tenure with the Canucks after being acquired from the Panthers on June 23, 2006. More than two years later, Sept. 30, 2008 to be exact, the Canucks made the unconventional move of naming Luongo the team’s 12th captain in history. Heck, it had never been done before. Always the comedian, Luongo put a humourous spin on the announcement.
The early part of the 2008-09 season saw Luongo at his regular-season best. During a three-game stretch against the Predators, Coyotes and Wild, Luongo registered three straight shutouts. His overall shutout streak lasted 242:36 minutes, eclipsing the team record he set the previous year.
The 2010 season provided Luongo financial security and the chance of a lifetime. On Sept. 2, he signed a 12-year, $64-million US contract. The year would get significantly better. After being named to Canada’s Olympic team for the Vancouver Winter Games, Luongo replaced Martin Brodeur during the tournament. His steady play helped Canada in its run to a memorable Olympic gold medal.
Stanley Cup disappointment
After several disappointing playoff seasons, the Canucks finally broke through in 2011. They got a scare in the first round against the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks. Vancouver took the first three games, only to lose the next three.
It took a Game 7 overtime win to get by Chicago, but the Canucks advanced all the way to the Stanley Cup final. Vancouver appeared on the verge of capturing the city’s first title as it took a 3-2 series lead over the Boston Bruins. However, a brutal Game 6 loss in Boston brought the series back to Vancouver for a seventh-and-deciding game. The Canucks were then overwhelmed in a devastating 3-0 loss.
‘My contract sucks’
By the time the 2013 trade deadline rolled around, Luongo saw the writing on the wall. The team seemed poised to move on with upstart Cory Schneider, but there was one small problem. The Canucks couldn’t unload Luongo and his fat contract at the deadline. In an interview that went viral, Luongo gave his blunt reasoning as to why he wasn’t dealt.
The trade and Heritage Classic snub
Luongo was eventually traded to the Florida Panthers — his second stint with the team — one day before the 2014 trade deadline. Canucks GM Mike Gillis, who completely botched the goaltending situation by also trading Schneider at the 2013 NHL draft, was fired after the team failed to make the playoffs a month later.
On Tuesday, two days before he is to square off against the Canucks, Luongo caught reporters off guard by suggesting he still might be playing for Vancouver had then-coach John Tortorella not started backup Eddie Lack over the veteran goaltender in the Heritage Classic game against the Ottawa Senators on March 2. Vancouver lost the game 4-2 to the Senators.