Florida Panthers: Roberto Luongo can be key to salvaging Bobrovsky’s career in Sunrise

Goaltender Roberto Luongo #1 of the Florida Panthers. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
Goaltender Roberto Luongo #1 of the Florida Panthers. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images) /

Roberto Luongo could once again bail out the Florida Panthers when it comes to goaltending.

It was announced on Tuesday that Roberto Luongo will oversee a brand new Goaltending Excellence Department for the Florida Panthers, and it could mean a revival for the franchise’s current big star between the pipes.

Luongo, who will go down as one of the best to have put on the pads, is currently serving as Special Adviser to Panthers General Manager Bill Zito, and the former goalie will now be responsible for overseeing the progress and the development of all goalies in the system.

There will be considerable help for Luongo, too, with long-time NHL goalie coach and three-time Stanley Cup Champion Francois Allaire named as a consultant, while Florida Panthers goaltending coach Rob Tallas and Leo Luongo, the younger brother of Roberto and the goaltending coach of the Charlotte Checkers in the American Hockey League, will also be a part of the Department.

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Designed to help develop, nurture and improve goalies in the Panthers system, as well as evaluate future talent, this star-studded Department could really help to spark a new era of elite goaltending in Sunrise, especially when you consider that high-end netminder Spencer Knight is currently in the Florida pipeline after being taken 13th overall in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.

However, while the long-term health of goaltending in Florida will be of utmost importance for the Goaltending Excellence Department, the current No. 1 starter for the Panthers will no doubt be a high-priority project for Luongo and Allaire.

Yes, we are talking about Sergei Bobrovsky.

One of the most naturally-gifted goaltenders of the modern era, Bobrovsky’s stellar resume speaks for itself with nearly 300 career NHL regular season wins and two Vezina Trophies in 2012-13 and 2016-17 respectively.

He is exactly the type of cold-blooded assassin you want on your side with the game on the line, and there’s a reason the 32-year-old was one of the biggest prizes available once Free Agency opened in 2019.

Therefore, it wasn’t a surprise that a team was willing to offer big bucks for Bobrovsky’s highly sought-after services, but it was a surprise that the Florida Panthers were willing to sign a goalie a couple of year into his 30’s to a seven-year, $70 million contract.

Seen as a huge risk by many straightaway, Bobrovsky hardly did much to silence the doubters after putting together a shaky and hugely disappointing debut year for the Panthers, as we looked at here.

In 48 starts, and 50 games overall, during the 2019-20 regular season, Bobrovsky had just one shutout with a .900 Save Percentage and a 3.23 Goals Above Average.

Those are underwhelming stats hardly befitting of a above-average goaltender in the NHL, let alone one who is meant to be a superstar, and especially one who is getting paid $70 million.

It was hardly any better when you went by just the eye test too, leaving some to wonder what a big, ugly mess the Panthers had gotten themselves into.

Granted, one year is a small sample size and it may be that it just took Bobrovsky a while to adapt to his new surroundings, while he hardly played behind a good defense with the Panthers blueline ranking 29th in Goals Against Per Game in 2019-20 (3.25).

Plus, you always start to worry about regression, natural decline and wear and tear on the body once a goalie hits his 30’s, so there’s a lot to worry about for Florida Panthers fans when it comes to Sergei Bobrovsky and his remaining six-years in Sunrise.

Sergei Bobrovsky (72)
Sergei Bobrovsky #72 of the Florida Panthers. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images) /

There is now hope, though.

Thanks to this newly-established Goaltending Excellence Department, coupled with the presence of both Roberto Luongo and Francois Allaire, considerable help will be on hand for Bobrovsky.

After all, Luongo is a probable future Hall of Famer having racked up 19 seasons in the National Hockey League, including 11 for the Panthers, with his 489 wins ranking third in NHL history behind the greats of the game in Martin Brodeur (691) and Patrick Roy (551).

Boasting 77 career shutouts in the regular season, a 2.52 Goals Against Average and a .919 Save Percentage, Luongo knows a thing or two about being a successful goaltender in the NHL and in Florida.

Then there is Allaire who has a wealth of experience when it comes to spotting and developing goalie talent in the NHL, while his three Stanley Cups and knowledge of how to get it done in the postseason will be invaluable to Bobrovsky, who is notorious for his struggles and alarming drop of play in the Playoffs.

Not to mention the fact that Allaire has worked with some of the game’s very best, including Luongo, Patrick Roy and Jean-Sebastien Giguere, so he knows a thing or two about maximising elite talent and producing greatness between the pipes.

While the likes of Spencer Knight, who is clearly the long-term future between the pipes for the Florida Panthers, will be of particular interest to both Luongo and Allaire, so too will Sergei Bobrovsky who needs to dramatically improve and then play consistently well if this struggling franchise in a stagnant market can enjoy somewhat of a rebirth.

They have a proven Head Coach in Joel Quenneville, they have the makings of a pretty elite core, but the Panthers need consistent and superb goaltending from their undisputed star and big ticket in Bobrovsky.

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And, it could well be that the organization’s last great goaltender in Roberto Luongo is the one to really get the best out of Sergei Bobrovsky in Sunrise and ensure that the Florida Panthers enjoy another era of golden goaltending before the baton is handed over to Spencer Knight.

If Luongo is able to solve the Bobrovsky problem in Florida, then it will also only serve to strengthen his overall legacy with the Panthers and beyond.