The Final Word On The Last Line Of Defense
When fans talk about the Canucks greatest goaltenders, there should only be three names that come to mind; Richard Brodeur, Kirk McLean and Roberto Luongo...some may feel that Cory Schneider will eventually join this list.
All three of these memorable Canucks netminders (for all reality Luongo will no longer be a Canuck once the season starts) have one way or another etched themselves a place in Vancouver hockey history and at the very least a place among the Ring Of Honor.
All three goalies have one thing in common, they all backstopped the Canucks to the Stanley Cup Finals and they all came up short of hoisting hockey’s holy grail.
So the question is asked, when you break down the elements, which netminder should be honored as the Vancouver Canucks all time best goalie?
Fortunately, I am at the age in which I can clearly remember the careers of all three.
You may or may not agree with my final verdict, so please feel free to add your two cents.
RICHARD BRODEUR (1980-1988)
A “butterfly” style goaltender, “King Richard” provided a franchise that at the time considered their star players to be; Tony Tanti, Stan Smyl and Thomas Gradin, a more than adequate netminder.
When you look back at Brodeur’s Canucks statistics (377 games, 126-173-62, 2.87 GAA) it must be taken into consideration the mediocre defensive talent that played in front of him.
Brodeur managed to tally only one winning season with the Canucks over the course of his seven years with the team.
During the unexpected playoff run of 1981-82, Brodeur finished with a personal best 3.35 GAA and an .891 SV% during the regular season before embarking on a seventeen game journey through Calgary, LA, Chicago and eventually New York.
In seven years, Brodeur and the Canucks qualified for the playoffs in five of seven seasons, including four straight years.
Unfortunately for Brodeur, only the 81-82 run was memorable, as he managed to win only one more playoff game in twelve attempts.
KIRK McLEAN (1987-1998)
Capt. Kirk despite receiving several league accolades and setting numerous team records, is still considered by some to be an underrated goalie. One of the few netminders that was successful with the “standup” approach, McLean played eleven seasons in Vancouver.
A two time member of the Western Conference All-Star Team and a spot on the All-NHL Second Team acknowledged the value that McLean had for his team.
Five winning seasons, including a 38-17-9 record in 91-92 and seven trips to the playoffs highlighted McLean’s resume with the Canucks.
Possessing nearly every Canucks goaltending honor (positive or negative) McLean, as Brodeur did twelve years prior (however Brodeur’s Canucks got swept by the Islanders), backstopped an underdog seventh seed to the classic seventh game in New York, this time falling to the Rangers.
McLean only made two more playoff runs with the Canucks (really it was two rounds in 94 and twenty minutes in 95/96) before he was traded in January 1998.
McLean’s career in Vancouver finished with a 516 games, 211-228-62 record with a 3.28 GAA and an .887 SV%, numbers that far exceeded his predecessor.
ROBERTO LUONGO (2006-present)
“Bobby Lu” may not have the longevity in Van City of the above two goaltenders, playing in only six seasons to date (which by all accounts, reports and trade rumors will be his final year), but in that short span he has managed to be one of the few to avoid the Canucks goalie graveyard.
In his first two years as a Canuck, one would have needed a fleet of Ford F150’s and a handful of Dodge Rams to pull Luongo from between the pipes, as he played in 76 and 73 regular season games.
Averaging 64 games a season over his six year span, Luongo’s play was twice rewarded with trips to the NHL All-Star Game and in back to back seasons (2006-2008) he was named to the All-NHL Second Team.
With 386 games, and a 224-115-41 record along with a 2.35 GAA and a .920SV%, Luongo is statistically ahead of his counterparts.
However as with Brodeur and McLean, Luongo was only able to lead the Canucks on one extended, well documented playoff journey that led to yet another game seven heart breaker for Vancouver fans.
So what does this all mean?
Well if you look at the numbers, Luongo comes out ahead of the pack, however, the numbers don’t in fact tell the entire story. If you take into consideration the Canucks top three offensive players in each era
- Brodeur = Tanti, Smyl and Gradin
- McLean = Trevor Linden, Pavel Bure and Geoff Courtnall
- Luongo = Markus Naslund, Sedin twins and Todd Bertuzzi) and then you also take into account their top defensive players
- Brodeur = Doug Halward, Rick Lanz and Doug Lidster.
- McLean = Jyrki Lumme, Dave Babych and Bret Hedican.
- Luongo = Kevin Bieksa, Sami Salo and Alex Edler
Bobby Lu has had a lot more talent in front of him than Brodeur and McLean ever did.
One must also take the difference in playing generations into consideration, by no means could Brodeur hack it in today’s NHL, the game would be far to fast for him. Could Luongo deal with the more smash mouth style of the 80’s, to me he seems far too emotional.
McLean fortunately found himself right in the middle of the two styles of play and by all accounts handled himself adequately, however the standup style would be troublesome in today’s game.
For the last couple of years, there have been nights in which Luongo should have been named first, second and third star of the game, bringing home the “W” pretty well single handed.
It is tough to say that McLean was able to do likewise. On the flip side, McLean took it to another level in the 94 playoffs, whereas Luongo had his struggles. If you were to take a look at the matchups each faced in their playoff runs, McLean faced a tougher road on his way to NY than Luongo did to Boston.
The question at hand was not who was the better regular season goalie, or who was the better playoff goalie, but who was the better one throughout his whole Vancouver career.
With all the factors taken into consideration, my vote goes to… Captain Kirk.