Friday, December 09, 2005

Oh Roberto, Where Art Thou

It's hard to believe that as recent as last season, Florida Panthers' goalie Roberto Luongo was in the running for the Vezina Trophy, given to the top goaltender. What a difference a year off and turmoil off the ice can do to you. Now, it seems that everytime a goalie is called up from the minors, that team is going to be sending their number one to Florida to get Luongo. You usually don't hear about that when it comes to definitive number one goalies, but it seems to be more and more prevelent as the season wears on.

It's hard not to cheer for Luongo either. He's a great goalie who has a lot of skill and upside to his game. The troubling part of this whole ordeal is the fact that he has not be on the greatest of teams. Luongo has never been on a winning NHL team, but is always considered a candidate for the Vezina. How many subpar goalies can say that, right Kevin Weekes?? Luongo's numbers have always been consistent and has kept the Panthers in many games. Up until this year that is.

The beginning of the season wasn't good from the get-go. First, the Panthers took Luongo to arbitration claiming he didn't deserve the money he was getting because he was on a losing team and it didn't seem to get better. Luongo and his agent claimed if it was not for Luongo, the Panthers wouldn't have won the games they did. The Panthers won that battle, and so the bitterness between the Panthers and Luongo begun. Add that to the fact that they defense of the Panthers leaves something to be desired and you're asking for disaster. In a new game where everyone is getting better on both sides of the ice, you're asking for trouble when you don't bolster either in the off-season. But, so goes the Panthers onto their way against the SouthLeast Division.

It started good for Luongo, getting two shutouts to start the season, but then the slide began. It only has gotten worse as Luongo has been pulled in his last two starts and was sat during a recent game against San Jose. However, you can't really pin the woes of the Panthers strictly on the trials and tribulations on Luongo. If anything, it would be much, much worse if they didn't have him, surprisingly enough.

When you look at the goalie stats, Luongo may not have the wins or GAA, but he does have a lot of the intangibles that you wouldn't expect to have from other. Luongo is second behind Miikka Kiprusoff in minutes played (1,460m 02s), in first by far in saves (796), and has faced the most shots (877) and is well in front of second-place Rick DiPietro (706 shots against). It's not his fault that his team can't put the biscuit in the basket.

In the grand scheme of things, you almost hope for a guy like Roberto Luongo to get traded to a better team. If you look some of the recent big names who have been traded to new places, it seems to have worked out. Dany Heatley is one of the key players of the Senators and their big run this year and since Joe Thornton found his way to San Jose (bad, I know), Thornton and the Sharks have been tearing up the competition with no signs of letting up.

Luongo is one of the good guys in hockey. Even after the whole debacle with GM Mike Keenan and the arbitration deal, Luongo went about it in a professional way and tried to play through it. He's a great player for the game and a great model of how larger goalies should play the game. It's just a shame that the Panthers don't value him enough to make him happy or give him any support. However, if Luongo does get traded-- it's Florida's loss and the other team's huge gain.

This has been ScottyWazz. Take care of yourself and someone else. PEACE!!

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