“Can We Retire One Number for Two Players?” Making the case for the McLean/Luongo Jersey Retirement

Here’s a fun, yet kinda depressing trivia question for you;  How many Canucks goaltenders, in the 52 year history of the franchise, have won a playoff round?  I’ll give you a minute.

The answer is five.  Dan Cloutier bested the St. Louis Blues in seven games in 2003.  Jacob Markstrom, who was sensational for Vancouver in the 2020 “Bubble” playoffs in Edmonton, bounced the Minnesota Wild three games to one in the “Play-In” round, before he and the Canucks bounced the defending Stanley Cup Champion Blues in six games in the Western Conference Quarter Finals.  “King” Richard Broduer carried an underachieving Canucks team all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1982, brushing aside the Calgary Flames, Los Angeles Kings, and Chicago Blackhawks along the way, before suffering a four game sweep from the New York Islanders dynasty.

Three of the five goaltenders in Canucks history who have won a round did it in a single year.  Then, there’s Kirk McLean and Roberto Luongo.  The respective backbones of the two most successful periods in franchise history.

Kirk McLean was acquired by GM Pat Quinn in September of 1987, along with forward Greg Adams, from the New Jersey Devils for Patrick Sundstrom.  McLean’s rookie season behind one of the numerous poor 1980s Canucks squads was not pretty on the stat line for the young netminder, but it became the birth of a legend who could give the team a chance to win any game they were in, a luxury the team had rarely been afforded in it’s seventeen year history, up to that point.  The following year, the tandem of Kirk McLean and Steve Weekes, carried a middling Canucks team into the Stanley Cup Playoffs, a close loss in seven games against the powerhouse Calgary Flames.  After another year in the basement, Vancouver would bounce back with, at the time, their best finish in franchise history, 42-26-12, with McLean in net for 38 of those victories.  McLean was named to the All-Star game, and came second in voting for the Vezina Trophy for the NHL’s best goaltender.  This season saw the first of back to back Playoff defeats of the Winnipeg Jets, first in seven games, and in six games the following year in 1993.  Then comes the fabled run of 1994…

“Kirk McLean.  Give him a kiss boys, because he saved your life tonight.” – Harry Neale, Hockey Night In Canada

776 saves in 24 games, a 2.29 Goals Against Average, .928% Save Percentage, Four Shutouts, the NHL record for most saves by a goaltender in a single Playoff year, second in voting for Playoff MVP, would have handily won the trophy if Vancouver won the Stanley Cup.  The impact of Kirk McLean on that 1994 Stanley Cup Finalist Canucks squad can never be overstated.  Ever.  He was the reason they got out of Round One against Calgary.  He was SPECTACULAR in Round Two against Dallas.  Had a shutout streak that stretched across four games against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Western Conference Finals.  Fifty Two Saves in Game One of the Stanley Cup Finals against the Rangers.  The list keeps going.  It’s simply put, one of the most impressive goaltending runs in Playoff history.

McLean picked up one more series win in 1995, a seven game defeat of the St. Louis Blues, before “Captain” Kirk entered the back nine of his playing career, eventually being traded to Carolina along with Martin Gelinas for Sean Burke and Geoff Sanderson in January of 1998.  The Canucks wouldn’t see consistent goaltending for another eight years, as the era of the Vancouver “Goalie Graveyard” began, which saw fourteen goaltenders dawn the Canucks sweater between the pipes, all with little to no success.  Enter Roberto Luongo.

Luongo’s first year in Vancouver is the best goaltending from any goalie to ever wear a Canucks sweater, bar none.  In 76 games, Roberto Luongo won 47 of them, played every single game the team had on home ice (41/41 home games), was named to the All-Star game, shattered numerous team records, set an NHL record for most saves in a single Playoff game with 72 (Record has since been broken), and bounced the Dallas Stars in seven games.  Following this, Luongo continued to put up quality numbers for the Vancouver Canucks for the next seven years, setting multiple records for things such as “Most Shutouts in a Season”, and “Longest Continuous Shutout Streak in Franchise History”, winning the William Jennings Trophy in 2011, along with Cory Schneider, for least goals allowed in a season, was named to the All-Star game a few more times, won five division titles, two Presidents Trophies, and led the Canucks to the Stanley Cup Finals, before being delt back to the Florida Panthers in 2014.

Why am I talking about this?  Simply put, Kirk McLean and Roberto Luongo are pound for pound the two most important Vancouver Canucks in franchise history.  They were the catalysts for their respective teams to become contenders, and they should both be honoured as such.  Although both wore #1 with Vancouver, I think it would be appropriate to honour both netminders by having their names hung in the rafters along with Smyl, Linden, Bure, Naslund, and the Sedin Twins.  Their respective impacts on Vancouver, both on and off the ice, are monumental, and this is 100% an option the Canucks should consider exploring.  And now, following Roberto’s induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame, there seems to be no better time to do it than right now, or at the very least, within the next few seasons. It basically markets itself.

Two Great Goaltenders. Two Banners. One Incredible Night.

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