Roberto Luongo on the Panthers playoff hopes: 'If we can stay healthy, we'll be in the mix'
For the first summer in recent memory, Florida Panthers goaltender Roberto Luongo is fielding questions about hockey in the offseason. Actually he was mostly talking soccer, but the former Vancouver Canucks goaltender did offer some thoughts on the upcoming season in an interview with Mike Martignago of Vancouver Sports talk radio station the Team 1040 over the weekend.
"We had a lot of good talent in the young kids," Luongo said of Florida's recent struggles since making the postseason during the 2011-12 campaign via Mike Halford of Pro Hockey Talk. "But we needed to surround them with some good veterans."
That Panthers general manager Dale Tallon has acquired significant veteran talent in recent months, Luongo included, is beyond doubt. In free agency, the Panthers signed veteran forwards Shawn Thornton, Jussi Jokinen and Dave Bolland, veteran defender Willie Mitchell and veteran backup goaltender Al Montoya (who intends on pushing Luongo for starts).
The Panthers also hired a new head coach in Gerard Gallant who most recently served as an assistant coach with the Montreal Canadiens. Luongo, at least, is excited to work the new bench boss, who will be his fourth head coach in the past 12 months.
"I've heard a lot of great things about our new coach," Luongo said. "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."
For all of the many changes the Panthers have made over the past year - new ownership, new coach, tonnes of new faces on the roster - a full season of Luongo might have the biggest impact on the Panthers playoff hopes. Florida's goaltenders managed a brutal .897 save percentage last season, good for 29th in the league. Luongo has his critics, but one thing that's beyond doubt is his ability to stop an above average number of pucks year in and year out.
"If we can stay healthy, I think we’ll be in the mix," said Luongo, handicapping his new team's playoff chances.
[H/T Pro Hockey Talk]