Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Roberto Luongo treated "like garbage" by Vancouver? Not in the least.

Some questionable comments about Roberto Luongo and the Canucks on social media, stating that he was treated like garbage by the fans, the media, and the organization.  I'd have to dispute that.

Roberto Luongo was acquired in a great trade, and Vancouver thought it had its next great goalie, after Richard Brodeur and Kirk MacLean, a goaltender who would make everyone forget Dan Cloutier, the Achilles' heel to the great teams of Markus Naslund and Todd Bertuzzi.

Except Roberto never really 'settled' here.  His wife is a Florida native, and never took to Vancouver, ultimately deciding to stay in Florida during hockey seasons, with the rumours pointing to the weather, or the proximity of her family as the main reasons.

So when Roberto was approaching free agency, the Canucks made him an offer he couldn't refuse.  Sure, he could have waited out until his UFA summer and cashed in then, but he chose security with the Canucks instead, negating the risk of an injury, etc.

In the same vein, the Canucks could have had a real talk with Roberto, and figured out he'd be happier back in Florida or nearby, and worked out a trade to make the best of a bad situation, but instead trained a fire hose of money at him, much like the shlubby guy going out with a girl way too hot for him would buy a big house and propose with a honking big ring to seal the deal and keep her in the fold.

So now we have two parties who are not really happy married by circumstances.  It could still have worked if Roberto had performed at the same level he did in Florida, or even the first couple of early years in Vancouver.  Unfortunately, he had a couple of playoff collapses, against the Bruins notably, and the Blackhawks.  I still remember him doing the splits as he went post to post but, oddly, would also pitch forward while doing so and land on his stomach, leaving the top 2/3 of the net wide open.  It was eerie, no other goalie had done that before, and I've never seen it since, but Roberto would do it regularly.  Eventually, Corey Schneider was given a real shot and did well.

Roberto saw the handwriting on the wall, and he demanded a trade, but oddly, still invoked his No Trade Clause, so that the Canucks were handcuffed at first to trying to trade him to a small handful of teams.  As both parties grew more desperate, word is that he increased the number of teams he'd allow to be traded to, but that didn't keep pace with the steadily worsening conditions for his trade (cap hit, declining performance, advancing age, lockout, decreased salary cap,...).

So the organization has treated Roberto with fairness, signing him to a fabulous long-term deal, begging him to love Vancouver and stay forever.  They've tried to treat him decently and never 'Bobby Clarked' him, castigating him for his trade demands and diva behaviour.  They've tried to honour his trade request, but they painted themselves in a corner and couldn't get the deal done.

The fans have been very supportive of Roberto, as anyone who's watched Canucks game would know.  Whenever he'd make a big save, the whole arena would chant: "Luuuuuuuu...", it was kind of neat.

As far as the media, there's been some criticism of Roberto, but nothing that the Sedin brothers or Markus Naslund or Trevor Linden or Mark Messier or Pavel Bure didn't see when they were relied on to lead the team and wouldn't quite live up to expectations.

So again, Roberto Luongo was not treated like garbage in Vancouver, but rather like royalty or a favourite son, and everyone tried to make it work, but ultimately it didn't.  And now they have to live with each other anyway.

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