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‘The talent was always there’ in Florida, says Luongo

Jul 28, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT

Vancouver Canucks v Florida Panthers Getty Images

The Panthers haven’t fared very well over the last two seasons — finishing 29th and 30th overall in consecutive years — but, according to veteran goalie Roberto Luongo, that lack of success wasn’t due to a lack of talent.

“I like it — the talent was always there,” Luongo said in previewing the upcoming campaign, per Vancouver’s Team 1040 radio. “We had a lot of good talent in the young kids, but we needed to surround them with some good veterans.”

Florida has been stockpiling talent for quite some time now, and should (theoretically) reap some of the rewards this season… even though all that talent is still remarkably young. Former Calder winner Jonathan Huberdeau, 21, is entering his third professional campaign, while Finnish center Aleksander Barkov — who is still just 18 years old — will embark on his sophomore year.

Big things are expected from another 18-year-old, Aaron Ekblad, the first overall pick at this year’s draft and it’s also worth noting that Nick Bjugstad, last year’s leading scorer, just turned 22 last week.

But as Luongo mentioned, veterans were in big demand to help these kids along. That’s partly why Florida GM Dale Tallon went on a summer spending spree, dropping more than $53 million to bring in the likes of Dave Bolland, Shawn Thornton, Jussi Jokinen and Luongo’s former teammate in Vancouver, Willie Mitchell. In Bolland, Thornton and Mitchell the Panthers inherited five Stanley Cup championships; they also brought aboard a veteran NHL coach in Gerard Gallant with the aim of providing stability after going through two coaches (Kevin Dineen and Peter Horachek) last season.

“I’ve heard a lot of great things about our new coach,” Luongo explained. “I think for our team, honestly, it’s a matter of making sure everything comes together at the beginning of the season with the new coaching staff.

“If we can stay healthy, I think we’ll be in the mix.”

  1. blomfeld - Jul 28, 2014 at 2:09 PM

    SURE, WHATEVER YOU SAY MISTER INTEGRITY …

    Had this come from anyone else, it wouldn’t even register. However coming from a guy who bailed on a 12 x year 64 million dollar contract not even ‘2 years in’ is truly loathe and utterly pathetic . The simple fact is that this jerk duped the people of Vancouver to the Nth degree and he did so with ‘unparalleled’ cunning and guile. And if that isn’t enough, the narcissistic and petulant little goof isn’t even a ‘top 20′ anymore ! LOL ! Unlike ‘real’ net minders such as Quick and Brodeur, Luongo without his ‘billboard-sized’ padding is like some lowly fish without water ! Anyway, as is usually the case with situations like this, given some time ‘justice’ will ultimately carry the day. So look for this ‘Nowhere Man’ to now fade away into ‘obscurity’ down there in the land of swamps, crocodiles and 100 degree ‘plus’ temps.

    • endusersolutions2013 - Jul 28, 2014 at 4:06 PM

      Stunt, or his response to being benched. And perhaps the ex-GM is also responsible.

      • salmon90 - Jul 28, 2014 at 7:54 PM

        Remember it was Luongo who initially asked out of Vancouver after Schneider succeeded him. And it was Luongo who essentially ‘Keslered’ the team into having Florida as the only option. Gillis botched it by trying to get more value for him early on and we all know how it went down after that. I’m a big Luongo fan and defended him a ton while he was in Van but this a two-sided narrative. Blaming only Gillis is missing the whole story.

    • bullwinkle88 - Jul 28, 2014 at 4:17 PM

      Thank you for the Beatles concert – always appreciated!

  2. i1theinternet - Jul 28, 2014 at 2:10 PM

    still a little thin on D. just miss the playoffs this year.

  3. hauger88 - Jul 28, 2014 at 2:26 PM

    He played some of his best hockey in Florida will less than desirable teams in front of him. He is the kind of goalie that needs that heavy workload to be productive

  4. Hard to BeLeaf - Jul 28, 2014 at 4:46 PM

    I think if Florida’s young guys have a break out year the Panthers could do some serious damage in the East. Barkov, Huberdeau, Pirri, Bjugstad, Ekblad, Kulikov, Gudbranson… are a pretty good core of guys to work with. Then they added Bolland, Jokinen, Thornton, Mitchell… Solid depth guys. Luongo with the lack of pressure could thrive too. I think the Cats will be in the race for the wildcard spots. Boston, Montreal and Tampa will probably take the top 3 in the division again, but after it’s wide open.

  5. 950003cups - Jul 28, 2014 at 4:52 PM

    I thought he would’ve said something along the lines of “We suck. But it’s a lot warmer than Vancouver, and nobody will notice if I win or lose anyway. My decrease in taxes will make this even sweeter. So….. Go Cats Go? Bwahaha!!”

  6. bleedrangerblue - Jul 28, 2014 at 7:04 PM

    All they need to do is put a rat in the locker room and invite Scott Mellanby. Thats it.

  7. canada2014gold - Jul 28, 2014 at 10:37 PM

    I think he is a character for sure but I don’t think he will be leading this team into the 3rd or 4th round. The above comment is correct. Luongo needs a lot of shots to get into his groove, teams that give up a lot of shots don’t go that far. If he doesn’t get peppered he let’s in a lot of softys. Plus he does it when it counts and it’s painful to watch.

  8. flyboystransport - Jul 29, 2014 at 9:03 AM

    “The talent was always there and the media isn’t so when I play bad I can hide and not have to talk” is what he meant

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