Vancouver Sun


PASS IT TO BULIS: Roberto Luongo will be at Rogers Arena Thursday with his Panther posse.


Ten months ago, the Canucks traded away the best goaltender in franchise history, sending him to Florida. For the first time since the trade, Roberto Luongo will be back in Rogers Arena, facing the Canucks on Thursday. Luongo holds the franchise records for wins with 252 and shutouts with 38, nearly twice as many as the next best goaltender on the list, Kirk McLean. He’s not just the best goaltender in franchise history, he’s one of the greatest players in franchise history, period. With that in mind, it will be interestin­g to see what the Canucks as an organizati­on do with the return of Luongo. He’s certainly worth honouring with a pre-game video and the fans should respond with a standing ovation. While Luongo may have wanted out and asked for a trade, it’s certainly understand­able why, and there should not be any bad blood. Quite frankly, if not for John Tortorella, Luongo would probably still be a Canuck. But let’s try to forget the brief, disastrous Tortorella era and remember the good times. That first season, when Luongo put the team on his back and carried them into the playoffs. The 40 wins and Olympic gold in the 2009-10 season. The back-to-back Presidents’ Trophies in 2011 and 2012. The four shutouts in the 2011 playoffs, ignoring the final result of those playoffs. His hilarious Twitter account. The return of Luongo alone would be enough to make their meeting the most noteworthy game of the week, but the Panthers are also an intriguing team. Despite their record, the Panthers are a positive possession team, with a 52.2 Corsi percentage, good for ninth in the NHL. Combine that with Luongo, who’s playing some of the best hockey of his career, and you should have a successful team. They’re sitting outside the playoffs, however, and it’s not difficult to figure out why: they lack offensive firepower. Nick Bjugstad is their leading scorer with 21 points in 35 games. They have two players in double digits in goals — Bjugstad and Jimmy Hayes — but their goal scoring falls off a cliff after that. Luongo’s standing on his head and isn’t getting any goal support. That doesn’t sound familiar at all. To top it all off, Luongo is bringing another former fan-favourite with him, and a local boy at that: Willie Mitchell. The long-sticked defenceman is the Panthers’ captain and should receive a warm welcome back, particular­ly now that he’s not wearing a Kings jersey.

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