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I’m likely in a minority, but here’s why, if I was the Leaf GM, I wouldn’t go after Roberto Luongo

It was only a matter of time before the Roberto Luongo "decision" would be made public.  That came on Thursday, when newly re-signed Canuck head coach Alain Vigneault told a radio station that his former number-one goalkeeper really did want out of Vancouver after all.

Despite Luongo supposedly taking the high road in the days following the Canucks' early playoff exit- essentially saying he would do whatever was "best for the Canucks"- there is no surprise in the public announcement.  He wants out, and they want him gone.  But it does set up an interesting trading scenario for a number of NHL teams this summer.

I can absolutely understand why Maple Leaf fans, desperate for a genuine “solution” to goaltending problems that date back, really, to the end of the Curtis Joseph era (though an aging Belfour was fairly solid here for a couple of seasons)—would love to have a top-flight NHL goaltender between the pipes in 2012-’13 and beyond.

But for me, that guy is not Roberto Luongo.

I realize that we have all talked around the subject a bit here the last few weeks.  As some of you who visit here regularly may know, I have posed questions about what potential UFA’s or trade candidates you would like to see with the Leafs next season.  The Luongo discussion has been part of our discourse.  I also recognize that I am quite likely in a distinct minority on this one, but let me say it clearly: Luongo simply isn’t the goaltender I would be focused on if I was debating his potential availability as a member of the Maple Leaf inner sanctum. (By all means feel free to disagree vehemently; just try to be respectful, as always…)

My reasons are not based on advanced stats or any of the other neat stuff that likely “proves” the long-time netminder is actually one of the best in the business.  I know Luongo is one of the more talented goaltenders in hockey.  I’m aware he was the guy between the pipes when Canada won the Olympics in 2010.

I just don’t believe he is the right—or best—fit for the Maple Leafs right now.

Even if we set aside his gargantuan salary, which still has, what, ten years to go on it and at a really big number—I view him as damaged goods.

Why?

Well, he basically wanted out of Florida because they weren’t good enough for him.  He wanted to ply his trade with a contender.  (Doesn't everyone?)  He also wanted to be paid as the best goalie in the world, and the Canucks accommodated him.  He got his wish on both counts:  the best line-up in the world, or close to it.  And at the time, the best contract a goalie has ever signed.  But for me, he has not played like the best goalie in the world, or anywhere near that level, during his time in Vancouver- at least not when it mattered most.

How many playoff series has he won?  Yes, he was certainly instrumental in seeing the Canucks get all the way to the finals in the spring of 2011, but he was also instrumental in seeing them almost not get there.  (But for a funny bounce, they perhaps don’t even get past Chicago in Round 1, as I recall.)

Once again this spring, he had to be pulled at key times in the playoffs.  That's three seasons in a row that  Luongo could not win "the big one" at playoff time.  He desperately needed to step up in the spring of 2011, after  not delivering the year before.  And this spring, with maybe the best Canuck team ever, he had a chance to finally put to rest any notion that he wasn't up to the task when the heat was on.

He couldn't do it.

His supporters can spin it any way they’d like, but he was not able to carry the team to on his back the past handful of seasons at playoff time, much less carry them to a Cup—despite the Canucks having arguably the best talent in the NHL over that period.  Other goaltenders with less supposed "pedigree" and lesser talent around them have carried their teams further.

In fact, as good as we all want to believe Schneider is, he was a low-cost, largely unproven back-up goalie—and the Canuck brass decided they had a better chance to actually win with him in goal than the guy they had tried to build their franchise around.

Wow.  That tells me something.

And the organization made it clear (albeit not in so many words, perhaps) from the day the playoffs were over that moving Luongo was on the table.  And now it's confirmed that he wants out, as well.

Look, Luongo is a big, pretty athletic goalie who can make some eye-popping saves. We have all seen that.  He is an elite netminder, no question.  But we can all also name maybe fifteen other guys who I would argue are in the same league:  Kirprusoff, Price, Halak, Brodeur, Lundvquist, Thomas, Millar, Ward, Rinne, Lehtonen, Hiller (arguably) and of course Smith and Quick.  (You could throw in, this past season at least, Hotlby, Elliot and Anderson.)

Taking everything into consideration, I’m not sure I would trade Luongo for any of those guys right now.

Would he be an upgrade for the Leafs?  Assuming Reimer does not bounce back and play at his 2010-’11 levels—yes, for sure.

But every spring, many Canuck fans have been afraid that Luongo would suffer another of his springtime meltdowns, and every spring, it has happened.  Oh, he had some wonderful playoff games, absolutely.  But he, I’ll say it again, never carried his team to a championship—the way a guy who thinks he’s the best and should be paid accordingly simply has to be able to do, at least once, in his NHL career.

No, while it’s an intriguing possibility for Toronto, it’s not one that, if I were in Brian Burke’s shoes, I would give up high-end assets for.  Luongo may help us in the regular-season, sure.  And maybe get us to the playoffs in the East.  But surely we haven’t reached a point where the bar in Leafland is so low that all that matters these days is just getting into the playoffs?

Because, and here’s the key measuring stick, Luongo has demonstrated, having watched him closely for many years, that he is not able to handle the pressure of playoff hockey.  He can’t take you to the summit.

If he couldn't do it in a Canadian market like Vancouver, with all that talent, what makes us think he would thrive in Toronto?

And ultimately, the Leafs should not be paying a guy more than 5 million dollars a season, five and more years from now, to watch some other, younger, better, capable, pressure-goalie take us where we want to go.  I’d rather go with what we have (Reimer and Scrivens, not that there is any guarantee there, I well realize…), sign a UFA or make a shrewd move for a lower-profile guy with legitimate potential.

But again, by all means have your say.  I’m just providing an honest opinion.

47 comments:

  1. I think I have said this before. Ben Scrivens could be the next Cory Schneider.

    Both played lots of games in the AHL and were allowed to mature properly with deep AHL playoff runs.

    Cory Schneider played 135 AHL games. Scrivens has 84 AHL games and might hit 90 before this playoff run is over.

    Scriven's AHL numbers look even better than Schneider's. In his last AHL season Schneider posted a save percentage of 0.919 over 60 games. Scrivens has given us 0.926 in 39 games and then increased his play in the next 12 playoff games with a 0.942 and 2 shutouts!

    Not even Carey Price with 41 NHL games under his belt did that well in an AHL playoff run.

    I only want a veteran goalie on a one year contract...and I'm not totally sure I want that.

    Lets see how Scrivens finishes before even thinking about Luongo.

    Ben Scrivens might chase Luongo out of town even faster than Cory Schneider.

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  2. Here's something else to consider. Scrivens has better AHL numbers than Jimmy Howard. They are also better than those of Tuukka Rask. His numbers are very comparable to Jonathan Bernier of LA

    Scrivens even has better AHL numbers than Pekka Rinne!

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  3. I didn't realize that. Good stuff. Thanks DP.

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  4. As a Leafs fan formerly stuck in Vancouver I take a special interest in this topic, and while I am no Luongo fan I would sign him to the Leafs in a minute if it weren't for that damned CONTRACT that ties up whoever signs him for the next decade, sending an awful message to any other netminders in the organization...but thinking back to game 7 last year it was the rest of the Canucks that let Luongo down, as it was in his start vs LA this year. I do however recall a goal that Luongo seemed to give up on, that Tim Thomas, and this year-Jonathan Quick, would never have let in...and perhaps it is for that reason that Luongo is best served by being dealt to an American market where the pressure is not there-perhaps a successor to Brodeur on a Devils team who don't draw flies but where the rebuild seems to be ahead of schedule?

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  5. The New Jersey notion is an intriguing one, Sean. I guess the problem there might be: is Brodeur ready to set off into the sunset just yet?

    Good post- thanks.

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  6. Here's my big hockey question:

    If the Marlies win the Calder Cup will Toronto have a parade?

    I think they should....you don't want to curse the Leafs. I think I remember a story about the curse of the Rangers.

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  7. Burkie.....are you listening? Do not do a Luongo deal. Unless of course, Vancouver will take Komo and Connelly and they throw in something really sprcial like a Burrows or Kessler.
    Did you hear that. Do not. Please listen to the faithful.

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  8. i'm with you all the way michael! some of the forum-trolls at PPP were ready to bite my head off when i suggested the leafs consider other goalies than luongo! that kind of 'tunnel-vision' mentality, if shared by management, can lead to bad decisions. my point was keeping his age/contract/mental-focus in perspective.

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  9. Anon...thanks for posting. Kessler would be nice, yes!

    I think we can assume, as you imply tongue-in-cheek, that Gillis is not interested in our lousy contracts...or in offering us some high-end forwards.

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  10. Alex C....we may be in a minority, I realize. I respect people's views if they truly believe Luongo is a good fit here, but from my perspective, he isn't.

    Is he good? of course.

    Has he been good enough in the clutch- while he has been in the prime years of his career surrounded by a great team? To me, no.

    Thanks Alex. Now we can both duck....

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  11. I am thinking that to bring in Lou would be a mistake unless we can off load some bad contracts in the process. Army and Komi on the way out. It gives the Canucks some added toughness. If a deal like that could be had then it would be time to move Reimer out unfortunately, but that could be good in the sense that he could likely net a decent return especially at the draft ( Blue Jackets I'm looking at you). Lou and Scrivens to start next year sounds good.

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  12. I'm not sure I agree with your take here. Luongo takes a lot of heat for not winning the cup single handedly, but I seem to remember an entire Vancouver Canucks team not showing up for a few games against Chicago or Boston last year during their run to the cup. Let's keep in mind that hockey is a team sport. Lou might not have won them the cup, but he definitely gave Vancouver a shot, and unfortunately the Nuck's as a whole weren't very "clutch" when it mattered.

    Lou's a great goalie. We should be happy to have league average goaltending, let alone one of the premier goalies in the league.

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  13. Ray Bourque went to 2 Cup Finals and 2 ECF with the Bruins in the 1980's. Three of those were as team captain. Is it really his fault that they couldn't reach the summit?

    Pointing fingers at Luongo because he couldn't single-handedly win them the cup is foolish. He had the two poor games against Chicago and the one 8-1 loss against the Bruins in the finals, yet no one ever mentions how solid he was against Nashville, San Jose, or the other games against the Hawks and Bruins. Luongo had two shutouts in the Finals last year.

    This, of course, also ignores that the Canucks two leading goal scorers, Daniel Sedin and Ryan Kesler, combined for one goal in the entire 7 game series.


    Winning and losing in hockey is a team effort. Suggesting that one player is the main reason a team won or lost is a gratuitous over-simplification.

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  14. Johnerstonrex...I hear you. I guess we just look at his performance record differently. But thanks for chiming in on this one.

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  15. Hey Birky....you're hammering me pretty good on this one. I certainly recognize hockey is one of the ultimate team games. My point is very simple: is he a top goalie (as I tried to make clear in the post)? Of course he is.

    But I've watched him meltdown at various points three years in a row in the playoffs, behind a very good, if imperfect, team. When your big-money goalie has to be pulled in successive season at playoff time because the pressure is too much, for me it's a red flag if you're going to play in Toronto.

    While you think my view on this one is simplistic, I respect your thoughts. I knew when I wrote this piece some people would be upset, or be highly critical of my views. But we shouldn't be afraid to express our opinions in Leafland (the views are based on my own personal observations, so to that extent they are valid, even if you disagree) or what's the point of having these forums if we're just going to bash one another?

    We'd all be the Stepford Wives, speaking with one voice.

    I'm glad you took the time to visit and comment. Thanks Birky.

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  16. I couldn't agree more with this. Contract aside, which is a reason in itself to disregard, Luongo is not the goalie for Toronto, nor is Toronto the ideal destination for Roberto. At age 33, Luongo is a goalie that is a fit for a team that is a true contender, looking to get over that hump and into the Finals. That team is not Toronto.
    I propose Tomas Vokoun.
    Here is a man who got Nashville from an expansion team into an annual playoff team and was a top tier goalie there. One can draw many similarities between Nashville then and Toronto now.
    I still consider him to be in the top tier of goalies. He is the most overlooked goalie in the league. With the emergence of Holtby, Vokoun is needed no longer. He is entering the free agency market with, virtually, no attention. He was only on the Caps for $1.5 mil and is undoubtedly a fair price for a talent like him.
    At age 35, Vokoun is not a highly sought after goaltender, is a perfect short term solution and long term beneficent to the young Leaf goaltenders.
    I just started out as a writer for FanSided.com for the Leafs at editorinleaf.com ... please check it out, thanks guys!

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  17. Interesting thought on Vokoun, Kurtis. He will definitely be a free-agent this summer. He took a one-year deal last summer at, as you note, a very modest salary. His injuries did not help his bargaining position, so he will likely be looking at another short-term deal.

    If (and it's a big if, of course) the organization believe one of Scrivens or Reimer is still long-term answer, then someone like Vokoun may well make a lot of sense.

    Thanks Kurtis. And best wishes in your work at FanSided and editorinleaf.

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  18. Thanks Michael! I really believe in Scrivens, and like you mentioned, Vokoun's injuries this season will certainly narrow his list of suitors. I can't imagine him being signed for anymore than 1.5 as a result.
    Short-term deal, low price, for a seasoned veteran sounds like a good deal for me! It also allows more flexibility to get other major assets.

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  19. To me there's no doubt Vokoun will be of interest to some teams. We don't know whether the Leafs are looking elsewhere, but he's certainly worth a discussion. Thanks Kurtis.

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  20. By the way, I agree with the first two commenters.. Scrivens is 25 and has had an experienced run in the AHL. Great comparisons to some of the best in the NHL today!
    Also on the Luongo topic, New Jersey would be more of an ideal place for him. Though, New Jersey is always struggling with the cap, Parise looks to on the market (praying to God Toronto can unload some contracts and pick him up) that will free up some space in order to acquire Luongo. New Jersey is a good hockey town with minimal media pressure, so it seems, and the Devils are not appearing to rebuild in any way. This makes Luongo a high priority for New Jersey.

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  21. The way I look at it, we really only have three options this offseason in terms of trying to solidify our goaltending posisiton. Below is the order I would persue these options:

    1. Trade for Luongo. It would have to be a trade where someone like Komi (preferably) or Lombardi is going back as a dump. Probably a B prospect or 2-3 round pick would have to be going to Vancouver as well. Otherwise, don't bother. We need to fix our goalie problems but Vancouver is the team that needs to make a move and there doesn't look like there are as many suitors for Luongo as originally thought (with TB out now)

    2. Sign Vokoun. This would be a great option considering his consistency, longevity thus far (other than last year really) and career statistics. The only real negative here is the fact that I think he only wants to play for a contender, hence the cheap signing with Washington last summer. For him to come to a team like Toronto we may have to pony up and pay him $5 million a year, obviously not for the same term that Luongo got though.

    3. Go with a Scrivens/Reimer tandem and annoint the #1 position to whichever plays better. I think this option has lots of merit and I can see either one of these guys breaking out in a big way next year. The problem here lies in does Burke really risk his job on two unproven goalies? Sure, both of them could break out, but both could be busts as well *knocks on wood*

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  22. BlueSasquatch

    Good post.

    I'm not quite convinced TB is out, but maybe you're right. For some reason I just can't picture Vancouver giving up a top goalie and also taking on bad contracts. I have to believe their fan base wants something substantial in return. It can't just be, for them, about dumping Luongo's salary.

    The Vokoun option is an interesting one for sure, as Kurtis also alluded to above.

    The third option, as you mention, is a low-cost risk-reward approach.

    Appreciate your perspective- thanks BlueSasquatch

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  23. My issue with analysis of Leaf goaltending over the past six months has to do with perception of goal as an individual position, when goaltending is, without question, a team position. Analysts who try to build arguments primarily based on save percentages are using sleight of hand, not because of they are disingenuous, but because they have probably never played between the pipes. As any goaltender knows, success in that position results from a symbiosis with your defensemen and forwards. Of course, save percentage is, in some ways, an individual stat. However, in my opinion, the save percentage stat reflects team play in goal more than individual play of the goaltender. That said, a goaltender performing poorly will not be capable of high save percentage numbers, as in the case of Ben Scrivens, who should now be considered a blue chip prospect based on long term performance as a college and pro player.

    We will never understand why Ron Wilson insisted on playing Reimer when Jonas Gustavsson was running with a 70% win percentage. It seemed clear, even then that Reimer was playing hurt, and could not perform to his capacity amply demonstrated in 2011, not only with the Leafs, but at the World Championships as well, where he won every game he played. Gustavsson’s mental focus never recovered from Wilson’s bizarre goaltending management. And let’s face it, the team stunk. Personally, I would love to see Jonas succeed elsewhere, if only to see some justice arise from his shabby treatment in TO. Assuming that Reimer will recover from his neck/head injury and return to form, I too am comfortable with a Reimer-Scrivens combo. In fact, I have never been sold on the need for a veteran goaltender. Nor do I believe that a vet could have done much with the 2011-2012 Leaf mess. Again, goal is a team, not individual position.

    The only way a Luongo trade makes sense would be with salary going elsewhere and no top level prospects or draft choices going to Vancouver. As I stated here before, it would have to be something like Komisarek/Armstrong, Gustavsson and (possibly) a second round choice, with a third or fourth round Vancouver pick coming back to Toronto. I have heard the comment that Gillis would not accept such a trade, but the reality could be that the market for Luongo and his albatross contract could be non-existent. Consequently, he is between a rock and a hard place. Above all, he will not want to go into the season with a Fuhr-Potvin like situation on his hands. Therefore, I am not sure that I would even include the second round pick. Really, there is no reason to. Gillis will have to take what he can get. If not, so what? A free agent or the status quo could turn out to be the better move anyway.

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  24. A thoughtful overview as always, Bobby C.

    I realize my analysis of Luongo is not much of an "analysis" at all. I am relying solely on watching him play the past few seasons in the playoffs, when he has wavered between excellent and awful. And unfortunately, the "awful" moments have occurred just enough that Vigneault had to go with someone much less proven at crucial times the last two springs. I guess I expect a lot more from a goalie with his type of contract- and reputation.

    That said, I concede that goaltending is a team position, also. I am perhaps disproportionately blaming Luongo for the playoff failures of the Canucks, but I do think he has let them down at some crucial moments the last three seasons. When he absolutely had to be "the man", he too often wasn't.

    You know my views on The Monster. I don't know how he could have other than hated his time here, the way he was handled by management. I also hope he thrives elsewhere.

    I could live with Reimer and Scrivens, as you and others have noted here today. Nothing is ever guaranteed, but both have certainly shown they can play.

    Bobby, you may be right that Gillis will be backed into a corner. I guess we'll see!

    Either way, as you say, the Leafs can live without Luongo, if a deal can't be made.

    Thanks Bobby. I always look forward to your perspective here.

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  25. Michael, I enjoyed your free-form analysis of Luongo’s performance, which raises legitimate questions about his ability to deliver the goods, especially in the context of an onerous contract. My criticism about analysts has to do with those critics with an overreliance on supposedly individual stats, when they are in reality, individual/team stats. I find this practice to be highly deceptive, and very unfair to the athletes who are treated as if they are playing within a fantasy world of science-fiction like bubbles that provide equal working conditions. To call this analytical approach utopian is to flatter it.

    I suspect that the same people who were clamouring to be rid of Jean-Sébastien Giguère last season, are many of the same who are now calling for a “veteran presence”. The reason that they are muddled has a lot to do with confusing a team position for an individual one. To paraphrase Viktor Tikhonov subtly dismissing unrealistic and excessive praise for his goaltender: “Tonight, our team played well in net.” To borrow a page from this book, last season the Leaf team did not play well in net.

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  26. Forget Bobby, the guy to get is Lindback from Nashville bar-none.......

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  27. I think we share very similar thoughts here, Bobby. While stats have their place (I'm not always sure what it is, but I concede there is some analytical value therein- to a degree...) in certain statistical breakdowns, I'm not a big fan of stats in isolation- though I'm sure I've used some basic "stats" here from time to time to try and make a point.

    Save percentage is one I think people hang their hat on too much, but it has become the bible for goalies, it seems. I mean, in any individual game, or even over a series of games, a goaltender may face a disproportionate number of shots that are barely shots, or conversely, face particularly difficult shots. All shots can't carry the same "weight", surely.

    Conversely, you may only face five difficult shots in a game, but make a key save late to "save" a victory.

    How do we really gauge those as "stats" and differentiate from a night where you face, say, 20 very difficult shots and make 16 saves out of those 20? Are you a bum?

    At the same time, as you mention above, so much has to do with what's going on around the goalie. He is part of the whole, as you often have made a point of stressing here. Yes, a particularly atrocious goal may be laid at the foot of a goalie, but by and large a Jonathan Quick is not only playing brilliantly, but his LA teammates are working feverishly to support and enhance his efforts. They work in unison- not something we saw often enough in Toronto this past season.

    Sorry for the ling response, but great to chat again Bobby.

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  28. Lindback instead of Bobby Lu, Anon? Interesting. I know his name has come up a few times in this space before, as we have been tossing around names heading into the summer season.

    Do we have enough of a sample size to feel comfortable that he is the guy?

    He clearly is talented, as we have seen when he has had a chance to play in Nashville.

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  29. Vancouver's painted themselves into a corner with Luongo's huge contract and their RFA Schneider's soon-to-be-big contract. Meanwhile, I think Larry Tanenbaum's letter to Leaf fans this spring was a shot across Burke's bow....it's the playoffs next year or he's gone, so there's no window of opportunity left to hope that the Leafs young goalie prospects, or even a current "promising backup" like Lindback or Bernier or Harding are going to pan out. So it's back to short-term decision making, and Luongo is, of the "available" goalies out there, definitely the most likely to deliver the Leafs to the playoffs. Forget Luongo's playoff record; as long as the Leafs are in the 2013 playoffs ANY result will do....all of us are desperate! For the medium term, Luongo's NTC clause does create opportunities to deal him down the road, and as long as his play is decent (a big "if" of course), he will get progressively easier to move as his contract winds down. The odd playoff screwup notwithstanding, Luongo's overall play hasn't slipped much, he's healthy, loves the big stage, and he's an enormous upgrade over what the Leafs have now. Given that both Reimer and Scrivens will be subject to waivers this year, ANY new goalie in town is going to force the Leafs to deal one of those guys away, so there's even less margin for error, and a one-year deal with a new guy would leave the Leafs perilously thin a year from now; the new guy would be gone, and so would either Reimer or Scrivens. Vokoun is getting older, wants to go to a contender, and has now developed groin problems...I'd steer well clear. Luongo's $$ means that Van will likely have to accept a big and/or bad contract back in return, so I don't think the price will necessarily be all that high for him. Dumping Komi, Lombardi or Armstrong on Vancouver is wishful thinking, but maybe they'd accept Schenn ($3.6m cap hit for the next 4 years) plus a 2nd/3rd rounder or something.

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  30. A lot to consider in your post today, hammer 22.

    If we're talking about just making the playoffs, then yes, I can support the notion that, in the short term, he would likely help achieve that.

    And I tend to agree the Leafs would have to do more than dump salary back to net Luongo in a trade. But who knows what Toronto is potentially willing to part with, and what Gillis would accept?

    I hear you on Vokoun, though as others have stated here today, if healthy, he can still play and would not cost much, presumably.

    Interesting thought on Reimer or Scrivens being lost on waivers at some point, in any event, if another goalie arrives.

    Thanks hammer22....

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  31. I think it boils down to one simple fact. He stops pucks. The Leafs haven't had that since 2004, and i'm getting a bit tired of going with unproven experiments every single year. Yeah, he hasn't won a cup, but the Leafs need to focus on making the playoffs first. There's really nobody else that makes sense either, so he should be the main target this offseason.

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  32. Thanks for chiming in on this one, Killer Sundin....

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  33. I don't think Tampa wants Luongo. Tampa has their own blue chip prospect. His name is Dustin Tokarski and will probably battle Scrivens in the next round.

    Dustin Tokarski posted a 0.913 in the regular season and he gets better for important games. He is 0.939 in this year's playoffs and was 0.924 last year.

    Dustin Tokarski? Does that name sound familiar?

    Backstopped Team Canada to a gold medal at the 2009 World Junior Championships…Backstopped the Spokane Chiefs (WHL) to the 2008 Memorial Cup Championship.

    A great prospect...maturing like he should.

    Why would Tampa want Luongo? They want a veteran filler for a year or two just like us.

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  34. Interesting thought, DP. That may be one of the reasons why Yzerman may not feel compelled to take a run at Luongo....

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  35. Luongo SupporterMay 25, 2012 at 7:03 PM

    I don't understand all the hate for Luongo. Since being traded to Vancouver, his playoff numbers have been almost identical to his regular season numbers:

    Regular Season:
    ES SV%: .930
    PP SV%: .880

    Playoffs:
    ES SV%: .933
    PP SV%: .872

    Even this year he had a .951 even strength save percentage. His PP SV% was only .833, but the difference between that and his career numbers is literally just 1 goal.

    Luongo might have a reputation as a playoff choker, but the facts show that he has been an elite goaltender both in the regular season and in the playoffs.

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  36. Marlies are just starting...happy time!

    Watch it if you can.

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  37. I don't see it as hate. Those that like Luongo, that's great; that's why we are all fans. We get to cheer for whoever we like. And we get to agree and disagree respectfully when we evaluate a player's performance.

    I know the numbers, but I also know what I saw. I saw a goalie that needed to be pulled at critical times in the playoffs two seasons in a row. There were no injuries, no excuses, just poor play at key times when his team needed it. He has been with the Canucks for years and they have been an outstanding team during most of his tenure there.

    I think he's a fine goalie. I just don't think he's the guy for Toronto.

    I respect your view. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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  38. KiwiLeaf has left a new comment on your post "I’m likely in a minority, but here’s why, if I was...":

    I have a few points I'd like to add here, one of which will no doubt make me less popular than you on this topic.

    First, I agree with you on the issue of Luongo insofar that he wouldn't be my first choice to court this summer. I thought the playoff run last season was a study in which goalies really have it in the two top inches: Thomas showed that he did, Luongo didn't. But here's the rub and the main reason why Luongo deserves some support. Luongo failed to prove that he can psychologically out-duel another goalie to win the Stanley Cup. What he DIDN'T do was prove that he can't. And I doubt that any of us who have breached that point would argue that we didn't do plenty of maturing after the age of, what? 33?

    My second thought, which is the point where I am preparing for being made a pariah, is that I think we are all massively overrating James Reimer. My opinion is that he has become such a darling - the clean-cut, Christian boy, arriving out of the Marianas Trench of our depth chart to wow we faithful with a handful of good games and a sack-full of hometown humility - that we have totally overblown his current value. We latched on to him like flotsam as we felt ourselves begin to drown in another disappointing Leafs season and haven't been able to let go. Maybe he'll be great - man I hope so - but Reimer-Scrivens for next year gives me little hope of making the playoffs.

    Put those two things together and I'm a supporter of Vokoun on a 2 year contract or Thomas if he has any tendency to work well with his understudies (I have no idea, but am sceptical, he looks too focused) before I go Luongo. Definitely not someone half-assed like Lindback or Harding: let's try and win the whole damn thing.

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  39. Frattin...your new AHL goal leader 0 - 1 for Marlies.

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  40. Kiwi Leaf...somehow your comment was eliminated, but I have pasted it in here.

    You certainly shouldn't be made a pariah for your views on Reimer. I like Reimer, and still think he may be a good goalie here, but I also think you make a very fair observation. He has presented as a very humble young guy, and I admit, it's a trait I do admire. Maybe it has even influenced my opinion,. We'll see how it all plays out.

    On Luongo, I will concede he has not proven that he "can't" get it done, as you say. But my view is he won't get a better chance- ever - than he had the last few seasons with Vancouver. And it didn't happen.

    Thanks Kiwi Leaf. Great post.

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  41. With regards to Luongo I think if the Leafs aren't giving up bluechip assets then you have to make the deal. The lack of competent goaltending has crippled this team (and its ability to move forward) for too long.

    Is he truly 'carry the team on his back' elite? No. But realistically, a goalie of Luongo's calibre only becomes available if he comes with some fine print.

    I'll readily consent that he hasn't been perfect in the last three playoffs. But he remains a career .919 goaltender and if we can get one of those at a reasonable price, thanks in no small part to the fact that he was part of a team that scored 8 goals in 5 games, I say go for it.

    However soon as that price involves true bluechips going the other way I'm all aboard the 'No Luongo' bandwagon haha.

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  42. Fair comments, Ben B. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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  43. Just to finish my long winded comment...

    That list of great goalies you made also have another thing in common, none of them are available and want to come to Toronto. Luongo is and he does. Look, there are reasons to be wary of Luongo. Do you think he can last the five to six years it will take before his salary drops down and his contract becomes an easy and almost pain free buyout? Do you worry that the next CBA will eliminate that option? Do you worry about how he will play behind the Leafs' defence? But in the short term, more than any other player available, Luongo is the one addition who gives the Leafs the best chance of making the playoffs. More than Parise, Suter or Vokoun. He would be the first proven, reliable goaltender the Leafs have had since Belfour and Joseph. And although Luongo wants to be a starter, he has shown the last few seasons with Schneider that he can help mentor and befriend a talented young goalie prospect below him, even if that means eventually losing his spot, which Luongo has publicly done with class.

    To see some Leaf fans turn their nose at Luongo over some moderate blemishes on a pretty good playoff record is like seeing a starving man turn down a steak because it was well done instead of medium. The Leafs shouldn't be worrying about if Luongo will blow up in game three of the Stanley Cup finals, at this phase of the Toronto rebuild they should be worrying about finding a goalie who can be counted on to play 60 quality regular season games and get them into the playoffs as an eight or seventh seed. Luongo, more than anyone else available, can be that guy.

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  44. Trevor has left a new comment on your post "I’m likely in a minority, but here’s why, if I was...":

    This idea that Luongo "can't handle the heat" of big games is a fallacy. Has he had a few blowups in playoff games? Yes. He's also won a ton of high pressure games, in the playoffs and away from them. He's won a gold medal in the Olympics, playing not A but solid B+ hockey in the most pressure filled situation imaginable. Two seasons ago after having two bad games against Chicago in the playoffs, he's pulled for game six, he starts game seven with the spectre of one of the biggest collapses in hockey history hanging over his head. That is a heated situation if there ever was one. He won and played great. He loses two blow outs to Boston in the finals, comes back in game five with the world doubting him. A lot of pressure, no? Played great, got a shutout. In fact, people forget that going into game seven of the Stanley Cup finals that all the pundits were saying if the Canucks won, Luongo was likely to win the Conn Smythe. Going into game seven, the Canucks had given him eight goals in six games to work with, he gave them two shutouts and three wins. I think that's carrying a team. Yes, Luongo has had a few blow ups in the playoffs, notably to Chicago and Boston. He also played a 72 save quadruple overtime playoff win over the Stars, a 56 save loss playoff loss against the Ducks. He won a championship with his QMJHL team and was a Team Canada all star at the world juniors. All high pressure games. Luongo may give up a blowup a little more often than you'd like in the playoffs, but more often than not, he plays very well when it matters most.

    It's also misleading to include this year's playoff defeat to the Kings into part of this narrative that "Luongo blows up in the playoffs". Luongo was Vancouver's best player in game one and prevented it from being a blowout and not great, but good, in game two. He was pulled for game three not because he played poorly, but because going into game three on the road down 2-0 in the series, putting Schneider in was the only shake up card the Canucks had to play. Schneider stayed because as good as Luongo played, Schneider played better. Yes, he may have lost his job to Schneider but he is more than the "largely unproven back-up goalie" you describe him as. A former first round pick, AHL goalie of the year, Schneider is as blue chip a goalie prospect as can exist. He's a guy who played 33 games during the season and posted a save percentage second only to Brian Elliott. Luongo losing his job to him, a goalie who may be slightly better, cheaper and many years younger, is no great shame.

    Is Luongo the best or even in the top three of NHL goaltenders? No. Has he quite lived up to the "Best goaltending prospect of a generation" hype he received when he was drafted? Not quite. But ironically, his biggest strength, despite his typical slow starts in December, despite his occasional blowup, is his consistency, the thing the Leafs need most. In your article you write an impressive list of NHL goalies who are on or above Luongo's level. They all have something in common. Not one of them has posted 12 straight seasons of .913 or better save percentage hockey. Not Brodeur, not Lundvquist, not Thomas, not Kirprusoff, not Miller, not Voukon, only Luongo. He has done this with good Canucks teams and horrible Canucks and Panther teams. Through all sorts of controversies, bad games, injuries and media spotlight in a hockey market that is only a small step less insane than Toronto, one that had just as big a goalie graveyard as Toronto currently has. Luongo is not the league's best goaltender, but there may be no one else as reliable when it comes to giving a team 60 plus games of great play at the position, year in and year out.

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  45. Trevor, for some reason your first comment did not get through, but I've pasted it in here...your wrap-up comment is just above.

    I hear everything you're saying. And it's a point well made.

    I just know that Vancouver, a team ready to win the up for a few seasons, couldn't with him in goal. (There were many factors, I well realize, but Luongo was certainly one, in my view...) Importantly, the Canucks obviously don't (and didn't, or he would not have been puled at the times he was) think they can win with him now.

    Most of the "big-game" goalies I've followed over the past 50 + years would have demanded to play in the "return" match-up in Boston this past season. He sat while Schneider played.

    Is he an elite goalie? I've said, yes, absolutely.

    Could he help the Leafs? Of course.

    Some Leaf fans want him. Some don't.

    The fun of being a fan.

    Thanks Trevor.

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  46. I agree. Great article. One other point to add to the "He can’t take you to the summit" argument that no one ever seems to mention. Speaking as a Leaf fan who now lives in BC and still bleeds blue. In the 2010 Olympic gold medal game, he was the guy who let in the game tying goal at 19:35. Sure they had the extra attacker, but a great goalie would have been a brick wall, especially with 25 seconds left.

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  47. Thanks Anon. I appreciate your thoughts....

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