With Roberto Luongo retiring this offseason, some have begun to speculate (like my friend and colleague Austin Lee) that the Florida Panthers should retire the jersey number worn by the third-winningest goaltender of all time.
While I often agree on many points with Austin and do not contend that the Florida Panthers will not retire his jersey, there’s a strong case that the Panthers should not retire his jersey. There’s no doubt that Roberto Luongo has earned a seat in the Hall of Fame, but he falls shy of a jersey retirement with the Florida Panthers. Let me explain why.
First, it’s important to note that my opinion is based on the facts and stats surrounding Luongo’s career with the Panthers and not the player himself.
As noted, it takes a Hall of Fame-like career to achieve the third-most wins of all time. As my friend Austin Lee has pointed out, he also has an “I am Florida” brand going for him with his wife’s family being from South Florida, his terrific speech acknowledging the horrific incident at Stoneman Douglas High School, and a hilariously comedic twitter account.
With all that said, those aspects alone are not strong enough for jersey retirement when presented in the proper framework.
A proper and stringent framework is important here as this recognition, award, and honor is quite possibly the greatest accomplishment a player can receive.
The reason being, like the Hall of Fame, personal awards, and Stanley Cup, this honor memorializes you forever. However, this honor is different in that in no other player can accomplish said feat with the same jersey number once retired.
When the Stanley Cup is won, players remove the ability for other players, not associated with their team, to win the trophy, for that year only. The same goes for individual awards.
Every year, each award is obtainable by any player, with no impediment other than the competition of concurrent players.
The Hall of Fame is similar in that one person’s induction may stall another players’ induction, but ultimately, if worthy, the player can and will be inducted at a later date.
A jersey retirement, however, is unique in that there are limiting and restricting factors not applicable to other awards.
A jersey retirement is limited due to the set pool of numbers in which a franchise can retire, as players can typically only wear the numbers 1- 98 (Wayne Gretzky’s No. 99 is retired from all franchises).
The award is restricting in that once a number is retired, the number becomes unusable for future or current generations and thus the availability of the award diminishes. No matter how great a player is or possibly better during their time, this said player cannot use or retire a previous number.
For context, let’s use an example that depicts the gravitas of this honor. In 2010, Mike Modano, who could be debated as the greatest American forward or player of all time, decided to take a contract with the Detroit Red Wings for the final season of his career.
Once signed, there were many articles written speculating what number the future Hall of Famer would wear. The reason being was his usual No. 9 was already retired by legend Gordie Howe.
The usual de facto solution would be substituting for the No. 19. However, the No. 19 was also retired by Detroit great Steve Yzerman. Thus, Modano would dawn the No. 90 for his final season.
In this case, two phenomenal hometown legends had their jerseys retired and forced Modano, who again could be debated as the best American player all time, to change his jersey number, a number that he wore for the previous twenty years.
That is a remarkable achievement and something that should not be taken lightly.
An honor like this needs to have the proper framework for achievement in place. There are four criteria each team needs to use before honoring a player with a jersey retirement; tenure, personal achievements/stats, team achievements/stats, and personal branding with the team.
Individually, each category could have great players within them, but only taken together can the value of the honor be assessed.
An important aspect to be stressed is the framework needs to be assessed based on the players’ stats, achievements, and persona specifically while with the team in question.
The totality of the career needs to be assessed for an honor like the Hall of Fame, but a jersey retirement is honored by the team in question, not the league.
Fans and organizations care about what the player did for the team, not for all teams throughout their career. This is especially relevant here as most of the accomplishments achieved throughout Luongo’s career was made with Vancouver and not the Florida Panthers.
The reason the context needs to be refined in this parameter is that a lot of players succeed immensely with many teams throughout their career.
If not set to this parameter, the logical consistency allows for jersey retirements by great players with three, two or even only one season played with the team.
With the context and framework constrained, the honor can be determined from the objective manner needed due to the implications of the award.
Now, let’s assess Luongo’s career with Florida and see how it holds up.
Look at his tenure. Between both stints, Bobby Lu has played eleven seasons with the Panthers, combining for 572 games played.
While not the most in franchise history, definitely the most for a goaltender as the next closest is fan-favorite John Vanbiesbrouck with 268 games played.
As a portion of his career, his tenure with Florida totals to a little more than half of his career as the other nine seasons were spent with Vancouver (8) and the Islanders (1).
While the case for a jersey retirement would be much better if he was a Panther through and through, overall his tenure must be characterized in his favor with a dominant lead in games played at the position and more than ten seasons with the team.
Next, personal achievements and stats within the franchise. This is where it starts to go downhill for Luongo. Outside of All-Star selections, Luongo has not received a single award for personal achievements while with the Cats.
The only award he received in his career was a Jennings Trophy with Vancouver in 2011; the award given for least amount of goals scored against a team during the regular season.
Throughout the accumulation of wins in his career, only 230 of his 489 were won with Florida. Luongo does rank first in wins for the franchise by a large margin with Beezer trailing him in second with 106.
In addition to wins, Luongo ranks first in shutouts at 38 with Tomas Vokoun trailing narrowly with 23. While Luongo does rank first in wins and shutouts for the Panthers, when put into perspective, the feat is less inspiring.
During this offseason, the Panthers signed notable marquis goaltender, Sergei Bobrovsky, to a seven-year contract carrying ten million dollars a year.
With the allocated cap space given to one player, it’s highly unlikely Bobrovsky will not be the No. 1 goaltender during the entire span of his contract, with the exception of an unlikely trade or buyout.
Over the last three seasons, Bobvrosky has averaged 38 wins of on average 63 games played during that time.
With Montembeault and the new selected first-round pick, Spencer Knight, in need of seasoning, there is no reason to expect those numbers will be reduced, barring injuries throughout the seven seasons under contract.
If his averages should stay the same over the span of seven seasons, although we hope to see 40 or even 50-win seasons for Bob, Bob will have accumulated 266 wins during his tenure with Florida. A full 36 more than Roberto Luongo.
Moreover, not only will Bob eclipse Luongo in wins as a Panther, but he will surpass Luongo in total wins, combining with his already 255 wins amassed for a total of 521. The facts get bleaker for Luongo moving on to team accomplishments with the Panthers.
Luongo’s stints with the Panthers came between 2000-2006 and from the end of 2014-2019. During those eleven seasons affiliated with the Panthers, the team made the playoffs one time.
The only playoff appearance was in 2016, where the team lost the series to the Islanders 4-2. Luongo has a grand total of two playoff game wins with the Panthers.
That same year was the only time the Panthers won their division with Luongo on the team. No other team success was derived with Luongo.
The last category of the framework to review is his brand with the team. This is by far his strongest asset in terms of consideration for a jersey retirement.
There are not enough strong and complimentary words that can be said about Luongo. His fun personality can be seen on social media via twitter and his compassion and kind heart can be heard during his speech regarding the tragedy at Stoneman Douglas High School.
He’s a fantastic personality to have as a part of your team and no character flaws can be said about Luongo during his career with Florida. He was a true professional through the bad and good.
After reviewing his eleven-year tenure, the analysis of Luongo’s can be summed up as a great guy and good goalie that, by consequence of low franchise records, amassed the most games played, wins and shutouts by a goalie.
While this may seem like an oversimplification of his time with Florida, the facts can be presented no other way objectively.
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His greatest achievements all come either with or in consequence of playing with the Vancouver Canucks. With Vancouver, he became the first goalie to be named captain since 1948, won a majority of his 489 wins (252), won the Jennings Trophy with fellow goaltender Cory Schneider, won the Presidents Trophy as the league’s best regular-season team in two consecutive years in 2011 and 2012, and carried Vancouver one win shy of the Stanley Cup in 2011. All of those great achievements were not done in a Florida Panthers uniform.
While the analysis through my framework has been expounded, I’d like to offer one more perspective that should be considered, in isolation with the Florida Panthers, when contemplating a jersey retirement.
The perspective is, the Florida Panthers have stunk for most of their history. By most of their history, I mean nearly all of their history, as the Panthers have only been to the playoffs five times in their twenty-five-year history.
To make matters worse, the Panthers have, however, placed in the bottom five at the end of a season eight times during their twenty-five-year history.
But wait, there’s more!
The Panthers have won a playoff series only once out of those five playoff appearances, which occurred in the 1996 drive to the Stanley Cup Finals.
The standards remain low for recognizable achievements. Luongo’s mediocre achievements within his time with the Panthers franchise should not be exceedingly highlighted simply because of the team’s overall mediocrity.
Luongo’s jersey retirement would be just that. Luongo is a great person and a great player. There’s a strong argument to be made that Vancouver should retire his jersey and that he should be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
While he may have capped off some individual milestones while in a Panther uniform over the years, my season has been over nearly every year in May whether Luongo was on the team or not.
The one thing the Panthers have done right over the years has been keeping the rafters open and ready for true Panther accomplishments to be hung.
As far as I’m concerned, the 1999 Eastern Conference Championship Banner, The Huizenga Banner, and The Torrey Banner are the only banners worthy of acknowledgment.
The team finally has players that look primed to break league renown milestones and possibly win the Stanley Cup. I would like to set the standard of what we want to be going forward instead of what we were in the past. As it stands now, the first number we should be considering for retirement is No. 16.