Vancouver Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo has long been penciled in as one of Team Canada’s goaltenders for the 2014 Winter Olympic games. Those plans may have to be rethought, however, as Luongo was injured on Saturday night when he was bumped by Los Angeles Kings winger Dustin Brown.
Luongo is listed as day-to-day for now, which would indicate that the injury isn’t too serious. However, Luongo will be evaluated further on Monday and Canucks General Manager Mike Gillis hinted that the severity of Luongo’s injury might be greater than his current listing signals…
TSN reporter Farhan Lalji grimly suggested on Sunday night that Luongo may be dealing with a high-ankle sprain. If that’s the case – and we’ll know more later on in the day on Monday – that’s bad news for team Canada.
High-ankle sprains, when sustained by NHL goaltenders, have a tendency to linger. For example: Ottawa Senators goaltender Craig Anderson missed 18 games as a result of a high-ankle sprain last season, while Lightning netminder Anders Lindback missed 14. The Vancouver Canucks play 16 games before the start of the Olympic break.
If Luongo’s injury is as severe as Lalji suggests it might be, there would seem to be a realistic possibility that the 2010 gold medalist would be unavailable to represent his country in Sochi this February.
With 7 Olympic starts under his belt, 23 total caps with Canada’s senior men’s team and 33 appearances for Team Canada if you include his U20 appearances; Luongo is the nation’s most experienced goaltender in International Play. He’s also been enormously successful on the international stage and owns an Olympic gold medal, two World Championship gold medals, and two silver medals (one from the World Junior Hockey Championships and another from the Worlds).
“I’ve been with him twice at world championships and in 2010 and he wins every time,” Team Canada coach Mike Babcock said of Luongo this past August. While there are a handful of Canadian goaltenders having excellent seasons – Jonathan Bernier and Josh Harding, for example - none of them come close to matching Luongo’s international experience.
If Canada is indeed bringing Carey Price to Sochi – and they surely will – do they turn to an experienced netminder to fill Luongo’s shoes? There aren’t too many options, and certainly none that can match Luongo’s mix of being a still highly capable netminder who has won multiple international tournaments…
Here’s a table featuring Team Canada’s leaders in save percentage since 2009-10 and their international resumes. The fact is that Luongo is a unique and virtually irreplaceable asset for the Canadian Olympic team: