Florida Panthers star netminder Roberto Luongo is on his way to the Hockey Hall of Fame. The two-time Olympic gold medalist has everything except a Vezina Trophy and Stanley Cup ring. But unlike many star goalies (hello, Carey Price), Luongo has had the beneficiary of playing with so many great defencemen in front of him.
During his first stint with the Florida Panthers, Luongo got to play with a future Olympic gold medalist. During his seven years with the Vancouver Canucks, Bobby Lou got to play with a large handful of top-notch blueliners. Ever since he was traded back to Florida in 2014, he got to work with a number of stud blueliners in front of him.
In short, it’s been hard for Luongo to complain about life, given the great defencemen he’s had in front of him. On the other end, some defencemen just made his life so difficult. Here are the eight best and seven worst defencemen to play with Luongo.
15. Best: Christian Ehrhoff
The Vancouver Canucks acquired Christian Ehrhoff in the summer of 2009 for little to nothing. The San Jose Sharks traded for Dany Heatley and needed to clear cap space, so Ehrhoff was made a Vancouver Canuck.
He gave the team their first puck-moving blueliner since losing Ed Jovanovski. In his two seasons with the Canucks, Ehrhoff scored 28 goals and 94 points. He was an ideal fit with the Sedin twins on the power play, and carried the Canucks to a pair of Northwest Division titles. The Canucks reached the Stanley Cup Final in 2011, but fell to the Boston Bruins in seven games.
Ehrhoff wasn’t a superstar, but he was one of the slickest puck-moving defencemen in the league during his days with the Canucks. No doubt Roberto Luongo had relaxing while Ehrhoff carried the attack the other way.
14. Worst: Jason Garrison
Jason Garrison scored 16 goals and 33 points for the Florida Panthers during the 2011-12 season and signed a six-year deal worth $27.6 million. Garrison didn’t pan out with the Canucks, and certainly couldn’t have pleased Luongo much during his time here.
In his first season with the Canucks, Garrison has eight goals and 16 points. That was one good year. The next season, he had seven goals and 33 points but posted a porous minus-five rating. He was shipped to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the offseason after the team decided to begin a minor rebuild.
Vancouver paid Garrison a lot of money for one good season. They were really just paying for his big slap shot, and he was a major liability at his own end of the ice.
13. Best: Sami Salo
Sami Salo was never quite a Norris Trophy-caliber defenceman, but he was everything the Vancouver Canucks wanted. He provided them with a guy who had a booming slap shot – a huge weapon on the powerplay. Salo was also as reliable as it came in his own end of the ice. He and Luongo spent six seasons together in Vancouver, with the Canucks winning the division all but one year during that span.
During Luongo’s first year in Vancouver in 2006-07, Salo had 14 goals and 37 points with a ridiculous plus-21 rating. Salo posted a total plus-52 rating during his time with Luongo as a teammate. Salo was a key part in guiding the Canucks to the Stanley Cup Final in 2011, though they fell just short of winning it all.
Salo made everything easier for Luongo during their six years together. It’s a shame they never won a championship together, because this partnership worked out quite well to say the least.
12. Worst: Lukas Krajicek
Lukas Krajicek and Luongo spent time together in both Florida and Vancouver. They were involved in the blockbuster that sent Bobby Lou to the Canucks with Todd Bertuzzi headed the other way.
Even though Krajicek was a solid skater and had a lethal wrist shot from the point, he wasn’t that great of a defenceman in front of Luongo. During the two seasons he spent with Luongo in the Sunshine State, he only had three goals and 23 points. During his two seasons in Vancouver, his numbers didn’t get much better.
Krajicek only had three goals and 16 points in his first season with the Canucks with a minus-four rating. The next season, he was limited to 39 games and only had 11 points. Krajicek was a bottom-pairing blueliner that didn’t have a lot of upside. He certainly didn’t fit the bill when it came to helping Luongo.
11. Best: Willie Mitchell
Willie Mitchell was the ideal stay-at-home defenceman who protected his team’s end of the ice like it was his own child. That’s right – Mitchell was almost a protective father of Luongo on the ice. In a way.
The two played together in Vancouver for four seasons (from 2006-07 to 2009-10). The Canucks won the Northwest Division in three of those seasons. In 2008-09, Mitchell posted a ridiculous plus-29 rating. He finished with a total plus-49 rating during his time with the Canucks.
These two were reunited in Florida for two seasons. Mitchell battled injuries and was well past his prime at this point. But during his time in Vancouver, Mitchell gave Luongo an ideal defenceman that was so reliable, tough and capable of standing his ground.