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.
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.
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.
10. Worst: Andreas Lilja
Many of you probably remember him as the bottom-pairing blueliner who won a Stanley Cup championship with the Detroit Red Wings in 2008. Well, there’s a difference between playing on a team with Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Nicklas Lidstrom, Brian Rafalski, and Chris Osgood.
Andreas Lilja didn’t have the superstars to work with when he was a Florida Panther. He played with Luongo in the Sunshine State in both the 2002-03 and 2003-04 seasons. Lilja posted a respectable plus-eight rating in year one with Luongo as his goalie. The next year? It was a porous minus-eight. Lilja also had just seven total goals and 19 points throughout his two years as a Panther.
9. Best: Jay Bouwmeester
The third-overall pick from the 2002 NHL Entry Draft came as good as advertised. He was among the NHL’s top defencemen and played for Team Canada in the 2004 and 2016 World Cup of Hockey tournaments and at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. Jay Bouwmeester and Luongo played three seasons together in Florida. They were the only two bonafide stars the team had.
Though Bouwmeester posted a woeful minus-29 in his rookie year, he turned that into a minus-15 in 2003-04. Make no mistake: Those stats were not on him. He was playing for one of the NHL’s absolute worst teams during those days. Bouwmeester broke out in 2005-06 with five goals and 46 points.
8. Worst: Aaron Rome
Aaron Rome suited up four 49 games with the Vancouver Canucks in the 2009-10 season. News flash: He wasn’t exactly a great player. He had just four assists and posted a minus-four rating on a team that was known for playing incredibly well at its own end of the ice. Rome “improved,” the next season.
He had one goal and four assists with a plus-one rating in 56 games. But then he delivered an ugly hit to Nathan Horton in Game 3 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final. Boston rallied to win four of the next five, seemingly fueled to avenge Rome’s cheap shot. In Rome’s last year with the Canucks, he had four goals and 10 points but posted a terrible minus-four rating.
7. Best: Alexander Edler
Though he hasn’t been the same since John Tortorella was the head coach for the 2013-14 season, Alexander Edler enjoyed some days as the Vancouver Canucks’ top defencemen. He and Luongo were teammates from 2006-07 to 2013-14. Along the way, the Canucks only failed to make the playoffs just once with these two together.
And yes, both played pivotal roles in the trip to reaching the 2011 Stanley Cup Final. Edler had 37 points in 2008-09 with a plus-11 rating then followed it up with 42 points in 2009-10. The next season, he had eight goals and 33 points with a marvelous plus-13 rating. Edler had 49 points in the 2011-12 season.
Though he never reached superstar level, Edler was a slick two-way defenceman with the Canucks when Luongo was his goalie. It’s no coincidence his stats have taken a dip since Luongo was traded in 2014.
6. Worst: Shane O’Brien
Shane O’Brien spent two seasons with the Vancouver Canucks. He was traded before the 2010-11 season and was not happy about it. Probably because a great goalie like Luongo made him look better than he actually was. He was simply just a tough guy (6-3, 230 pounds), and wasn’t much of a force at either end of the ice.
O’Brien didn’t score at all in the 2008-09 season, but did post a plus-six rating. The next season, he scored two goals and eight points in 65 games. O’Brien posted an incredible plus-15 rating. But remember – that was with Luongo as his goalie. O’Brien never posted anything better than plus-two in a season after leaving Vancouver.
5. Best: Aaron Ekblad
Aaron Ekblad is only in his third NHL season. Though he’s easily going to go down as the best blueliner Roberto Luongo has ever had, it’s simply a bit unfair to put Ekblad ahead of two guys who played in front of Luongo for much longer periods. Still, Ekblad is so good that he’s able to take the number three spot on our list.
The first pick from the 2014 NHL Entry Draft scored 12 goals and 39 points with a plus-12 rating in his rookie season. Ekblad followed it up with 15 goals, 36 points and a plus-18 rating. Those are simply insanely good numbers. Ekblad and Luongo helped the Panthers win the Atlantic Division title last season, though they were sent home in the first round of the playoffs.
Ekblad is on his way to becoming the NHL’s top defenceman. Luongo turns 38 in April, so this partnership doesn’t have much time left. Still, Ekblad’s already done so much to help Luongo, and you know the stud netminder’s thrilled about having the kid play with him.
4. Worst: Nolan Baumgartner
It’s probably not fair to put Nolan Baumgartner this high. He and Luongo were only teammates during the 2009-10 season. Baumgartner only played in 12 games that season and finished with a goal, an assist and a plus-one rating. But he spent so much time between the Canucks and the minors, and really didn’t account for much of anything.
Baumgartner played for six teams in his career. With the exception of playing 70 games in 2005-06, he never played more than 12 games in a season. Baumgartner just didn’t have the skillset or mentality to be a quality NHL player. The Canucks just loved him and kept him around for far too long.
3. Best: Dan Hamhuis
Dan Hamhuis took a pay cut to join his home province team in the summer of 2010. Hamhuis was one of the NHL’s best defensive blueliners. In year one wearing a Canucks jersey, he helped the Canucks reach the 2011 Stanley Cup Final. Hamhuis posted incredible plus-29 ratings in his first two years as a Vancouver Canuck.
In the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, Hamhuis posted a plus-nine rating. In the disastrous 2013-14 season, he managed to go plus-13. That was with Luongo only around for about half the season before being shipped back to the Florida Panthers.
Few defencemen of this generation played with the edge and brains that Hamhuis did. The man knew where to be, and was one of Luongo’s most reliable defencemen. The only thing they couldn’t do together was win the Stanley Cup. They did everything else right, though.
2. Worst: Mike Weaver
I feel bad for posting Mike Weaver on here. Quite frankly, it’s never fun to post anybody at number one worst spot on this list. But Weaver was as unreliable as it got with the Vancouver Canucks. He played 55 games with them in the 2007-08 season and managed just one assist with a plus-one rating.
Though Weaver managed to play 13 seasons in the NHL, he definitely wasn’t one of Luongo’s favorite nor one of his best players. Weaver finished with a career minus-nine rating and had just 97 points in 633 career games. Weaver didn’t have great speed, couldn’t contribute to the scoresheet and was very mediocre in his own zone. Without a doubt, he wasn’t a guy Luongo wanted to have on the ice. It was just that much easier for opponents to score.
1. Best: Kevin Bieksa
Few Vancouver Canucks will ever be loved the way Kevin Bieksa was. He made his debut with the team in 2005-06, but found a full-time roster spot the following season. Bieksa and Luongo spent time together over eight seasons with the Canucks. 2010-11 was Bieksa’s best, as he finished with an insane plus-32 rating.
Even 2008-09 wasn’t so bad for Bieksa. He had 11 goals and 43 points, but did post a minus-four rating. Bieksa was incredibly tough on the puck and in his own end. He consistently went up against the league’s top forwards and still found ways to shut them down.
Sadly, Luongo’s best defencemen wasn’t part of the trade when the former went to Florida in 2014. Bieksa would be traded to the Anaheim Ducks in 2015, and the lethal partnership in Vancouver was over for good. But not before a remarkable tenure together that put the Canucks among the NHL’s elite.
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