DETROIT, MI — Roberto Luongo made all of the saves Friday.
But he didn’t make any jokes. How is he ever going to get traded acting like that?
Presumably, he’s saving the one-liners for his twitter account which, if you’re to believe Nick Kypreos, he’s using to sway other general managers to go all in on a Luongo trade.
Of course he is. It’s always the funny guys who can perform at a high level into their late 30s. Who cares that he’s won a gold medal, been a Hart Trophy finalist, and taken a team to the brink of winning a Stanley Cup? Who cares that at age 33 he may be better than he’s ever been?
What owners really want is a player who has the potential to pass Paul Bissonette in twitter followers one day.
By the way, what then is Bissonnette worth on the open market? With his charisma, probably Nazem Kadri and Tyler Bozak.
According to Kypreos, Luongo is not a big phony. Not quite. Instead, apparently desperate to be traded, Luongo has turned into a salesman. He overhauled his public image to try and pitch NHL executives, working to convince them that he’s really “a good guy.” You see the difference?
Doesn’t matter, it’s all nonsense. There are many reasons Luongo hasn’t been traded. His character is not among them.
“If I really wanted to be traded that bad, I could have done other things, and I would have been gone a long time ago,” Luongo said. “I don’t think I need to sell myself. I’m just being me. I’m just going with it.”
Luongo is no phony. During his seven years in Vancouver, he has been accused of being too emotional, too egotistical, too guarded, and too often unaccountable. Some of it was fair, and some of it was not. But he’s never been a fake.
Phonies don’t weep at the end of a playoff series. They don’t put the team’s agenda ahead of their own. Phonies are not beloved by their teammates. Players see right through it. And they don’t inspire smart men to make questionable decisions, like making a goalie a captain.
It’s almost like Kypreos has never met Luongo.
“I don’t know him. I’ve met him maybe once or twice in my life,” Luongo said. “I don’t think he knows what he’s saying.”
Kypreos did get one thing right. Luongo’s image has changed. But there was no euphoric, watershed moment. Like most things, it’s been an evolution which has taken years, not months.
There is an inherent shyness to Luongo, something he touched on in what was really the first time he opened up about his twitter account, and that was with The Province in October.
“It’s funny,” Luongo explained then. “I feel more comfortable doing it that way (expressing himself online) than in person. I guess in that way, it’s because I still have my distance, but I can be myself. I don’t even know how it makes any sense in reality.”
It actually does. And it helps explain why he started his twitter account, which was long before he ever thought he was going to be traded.
He wanted to be himself more often.
In the early years in Vancouver, Luongo was protective, and cautious. It hurt his image. In part it was because he was shy, but it was also about guarding his ego. He’s hardly the first goalie to have a substantial one. But because of it, it was difficult for him to say “my bad.”
This was exacerbated in a city which eventually lost its desire to hesitate before putting Luongo under siege. He tried to use the same humour you see now to deflect, but people didn’t know how to take it. Generally, it bombed.
But he did eventually understand what few athletes ever do — humility is the best way to defuse public pressure.
What do you do when Luongo mocks his own slow reaction and huge five-hole on that ridiculous shootout goal TJ Oshie scored against him like he did last week? You laugh.
One of the turning points for Luongo, turns out, was the Tim Thomas “pumping tires” saga. Luongo talked openly in the summer of 2011 about regretting it. If it feels fresh to hear him anguish over it now, just imagine what it was like back then.
It was a lesson, and part of this evolution to the engaging, sympathetic, more-free and funny-as-all hell guy people are embracing now. And don’t forget humble. There is nothing more endearing than seeing a star use self-deprecating humour, something Luongo has mastered online.
The humility has been genuine. Part of it was accelerated by Cory Schneider becoming his equal. Part of it was being benched in the playoffs. Part of it was this past summer when there was no bidding war like he thought there may be when he was put on the trading block. Part of it was Florida, where he really wanted to go, failing to ever make a reasonable play for him.
But, mostly, it’s just Luongo exposing more of his real self to you. And that’s all it is, not some master plan.
This is who he always was.
“I’m the same guy, but maybe some other people haven’t seen this side of me,” Luongo said. “It’s funny, but sometimes perception changes a lot of things.”
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