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It's hard to believe that the New York Islanders drafted Roberto Luongo in 1997 4th overall. At the time Luongo was the highest goalie selected in NHL history, at least until those very same Islanders decided to draft Rick Dipietro 1st overall in 2000. The Isles traded Luongo and he made sure that they would regret it. Luongo in his only season with the Islanders won only seven games in 24 games.
Luongo was the starter in Florida the next season, and while he only won 12 games in 47 starts wins don't tell the whole story. His G.A.A was under 2.50 and his save percentage was an impressive .920. Despite the Panthers looking like a pile of garbage, Luongo showed flashes of brilliance. The Panthers only won 22 games that year. Their offence only produced 200 goals that year and their superstar Pavel Bure was the only player on that team to score more than 20 goals, winning the Maurice Rocket Richard trophy with a whopping 59 goals that year.
The next few seasons in Florida the Panthers couldn't build a complete team around Bobby Lou. Luongo was playing well on a below average team at best. Pavel Bure was gone and the Panthers were now relying on Olli Jokinen and Viktor Kozlov to provide the offence, while young prospect Jay Boumeester was trying to get his feet wet in the NHL. Luongo helped the Panthers get better as they improved every season he was there, he got his first All-Star appearance in 2004, and also faced and saved the most shots in NHL history that same year. Luongo won 35 games in his last season in Florida, as the team finished 11th in the Eastern Conference, during the off-season Luongo was traded to the Vancouver Canucks.
Roberto Luongo got a fresh new start in Vancouver, more help and a bigger market to play in. The one thing the Canucks were missing was an elite goalie between the pipes and Lou made an instant impact. In his first season as a Canuck Luongo beat his personal record in wins and finally got a taste of playoff hockey. The Canucks fell to the eventual Stanley Cup champions Anaheim Ducks but Luongo had a good showing, he posted a goals against average of 1.77 in 12 starts, while his save percentage just eclipsed .941. That season Luongo was nominated for the Hart, Vezina and the Lester B. Pearson (which is now the Ted Lindsay award). The Next few seasons the Luongo continued to play solid hockey but struggled to be considered a "big time" goalie, that was until 2011. Luongo and the Canucks broke through made their first Stanley Cup Finals in 17 seasons, though Luongo was outplayed by Tim Thomas. In the seasons following the Canucks started playing hot potato between Luongo and up and coming netminder Corey Schneider, and eventually, they chose the ladder as they shipped Lou back to Florida. Luongo would put up great numbers for the rest of his time in Vancouver, but the Canucks couldn’t replicate their cup final run.
Luongo was getting older but the Panthers were trying to be a playoff contender. In 2016 Luongo brought the Panthers to the playoffs but would lose game 7 against the Islanders in the East Quarterfinals. The next few seasons Luongo would have some injuries but put up some decent numbers when healthy. He has become an integral part of the community in South Beach. After the Parkland shooting on Valentine's Day 2018, Luongo delivered a powerful and emotional speech in front of the Florida crowd before their game against the Washington Capitals. A year later he wore a mask to honour the one year anniversary of the Stoneman Douglas shootings.
It's a head-scratcher that Bobby Lou never won a Vezina nor a Stanley Cup. He won a Jennings in 2011 and is regarded as one of the best goalies of his generation. He's 3rd all-time in wins (489) and second in games played (1044), and has set numerous franchise records for both the Panthers and Canucks. Not only are we saying goodbye to a great goalie but one of the best personalities in the NHL, Luongo will be missed by millions of hockey fans. Even though he fell short of winning a Stanley Cup, he still gave us many memories including winning back to back gold medals for team Canada at the Olympics. Thanks Bobby Lou on a great career, next stop the Hockey Hall of Fame!