This article isn’t going to be like most long-winded sports opinion pieces you will often see posted by media outlets.
Well, OK, it absolutely is in a number of ways. But we’ll spare you the hemming and hawing about which way we’re leaning on the question at hand, even as we present the arguments.
As the title indicates, yes, we think the Vancouver Canucks should retire the number 1 in honour of Roberto Luongo.
Of course, this matter is always going to be somewhat subjective when it comes to any player. And we’ll be the first to admit that circumstances like age and personal fandom get in the way of debates like this, because there’s really no absolute criteria for numbers being retired.
But with the Florida Panthers retiring Roberto Luongo’s jersey number on Saturday night (the first player to have their number retired in that franchise’s history) and the subsequent debates that followed it on social media, we thought it would be a good idea to talk about all the supposed reasons why Luongo shouldn’t have his number retired by the Canucks.
And why they’re all bad arguments.
Here we go.
1. He never won anything with Vancouver
One of the major arguments against his number being retired in Vancouver that seems to be popping up is that Luongo didn’t win much of substance with the Canucks.
Those people are of course talking about the team’s lack of a Stanley Cup during his tenure (he did share a William Jennings Trophy with Cory Schneider, but no one seems to care about that). Of course, there were 30 teams during Luongo’s tenure with the Canucks and many, many great players will end their careers without hoisting the Cup.
And it’s not like the netminder didn’t get close to the NHL’s holy grail. (Though we don’t have to get into that.)
The NHL has been in an era for awhile now where Hall of Fame players don’t have to win the Stanley Cup (and that’s okay).
But how about his actual stats as a Canuck?
Luongo was remarkably consistent during his time in Vancouver, finishing in the top three in Vezina Trophy voting twice (and coming fourth once), plus a second-place Hart Trophy finish.
He only had a sub-.913 save percentage once with the Canucks (the lockout shortened 2012-13 year where he posted a .907 mark).
It (hopefully) doesn’t even need to be said that Luongo is the best Canuck goaltender of all time.
2. He’s more of a Florida Panther than a Vancouver Canuck
This is apparently a complaint from some people that don’t believe a player should have his jersey number retired by two different teams, and that he’s more suited to just being retired by the Panthers.
As far as the latter point goes, it’s admittedly hard to judge that from Vancouver. Yes, Luongo played more games with Florida, it’s where he lives, where he first established himself as a star and where he retired.
But where have the most memorable moments of Luongo’s career come from?
Well, the obvious top two occurred in Vancouver—the 2011 Stanley Cup run and the 2010 Olympic Gold Medal win.
And though he played more games with Florida, Luongo had more regular season wins with Vancouver than with the Panthers. He also only made the playoffs once in Sunrise, playing in six contests. (64 playoff games with Vancouver, 32 of which were wins to go with a 9.16 save percentage for the record.)
So the question of whether he’s “more” of a Panther or a Canuck is at least somewhat up for debate.
But the other part of this argument assumes that players can (or should) only get their numbers retired by one team.
Whatever your opinion on Ray Bourque’s jersey being retired by the Colorado Avalanche, that’s a real thing that happened.
Sure, Bourque aside, it’s somewhat rare in the NHL (it’s happened eight other times). But Luongo split his time with the franchises fairly equally, and had (much) higher highs with Vancouver.
3. He demanded a trade/ the cap recapture thing
Let’s lump these two together, since they both have to do with Luongo’s lasting legacy in Vancouver.
As for the trade, can we just say that wanting to be with your family, trying to get playing time and get the heck away from John Tortorella have to be among the top five more rational reasons in which to ask for a trade? Luongo had all three going for (against?) him.
Plus, Pavel Bure’s request to get out of Dodge didn’t exactly keep his jersey off the rafters.
When it comes to the recapture, it’s somewhat fair for Canucks fans to be annoyed that Luongo’s cap penalty is hurting them when every other player with a gargantuan cap hit that retires early gets placed on long-term injured reserve instead.
But if Luongo wasn’t actually injured when he retired—and it didn’t really seem like he was at the time—the ball’s not necessarily in his court.
It also seems as if there was more going with that situation than was made public.
4. There are too many Canucks with retired numbers
The Vancouver Canucks recently turned 50 years old (depending on who you believe). And, after raising numbers 22 and 33 to the rafters earlier this season, there are now six Canucks with their jersey numbers retired.
Each represent a different era of Canucks hockey, and including Luongo in there would obviously change that, as he played his entire Vancouver tenure with the Sedins.
But the argument that seven would suddenly be too many for a franchise that’s never won the Cup rings hollow.
For example, the Buffalo Sabres came into the NHL at the same time as the Vancouver Canucks and have also not won a Stanley Cup. But they have retired seven numbers.
The St. Louis Blues came into the league in 1967 and hadn’t won the Cup until last season. But they currently have retired seven numbers and recently announced plans to retire an eighth (Chris Pronger’s number 44).
If all of that doesn’t convince you, how about the fact that the Ottawa Senators recently retired Chris Phillips’ number 4?
Anyway, please inform us of any rock solid arguments we missed. Or, you know, just accept that Luongo deserves the honour.
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