August 15, 2012
There’s no such thing as a one-man hockey team, but there are definitely some players who are a lot more valuable to their teams than others. For the Toronto Maple Leafs, one such player is left winger Joffrey Lupul. When the 28-year-old injured his shoulder last March 6 in a game against Boston, he missed the remainder of the NHL season the Toronto Maple Leafs more or less self destructed.
He was enjoying a career year at the time of his injury with 25 goals and 42 assists for 67 points and was proving to be one of the best wingers in the league. His confidence was also given a huge boost when he was selected to play in the NHL All-Star game in mid-season. He still ended up as the Leafs’ second-leading scorer even though he missed the last 16 games of the campaign.
Lupul, who was born in Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta, been recovering from his injury during the summer, but has made the sports headlines a couple of times for his off-ice endeavors. His name was mentioned in June in a social media scandal when a young woman claimed he had been asking her to send him provocative photos. He then made the headlines again a month later when it was revealed that he had been dating Cheryl Burke of the television show ‘Dancing with the Stars.’
Lupul’s roaring to go right now as he started skating on Aug. 7, but he realizes he may be waiting quite a long time before he suits up for another NHL game since there’s a good chance there will be a lockout this season. Looking back on last year, Lupul said he was mainly happy with his season, but the team’s goal was to make the playoffs and they failed to do so, which ultimately means it was unsatisfactory. He said that every player on the club has to take responsibility for the team’s 15th place Eastern Conference finish.
Lupul claimed that he’ll be expecting more of himself this season and the team also has to raise the bar if they hope to make the postseason for the first time in eight years. He added that this year’s Stanley Cup winners, the Los Angeles Kings, showed that anything can happen once you make the playoffs as Los Angeles were the eight-seeded team in the Western Conference and didn’t make the postseason until the last weekend of the season.
It’s obvious that for the Leafs to make the playoffs this season Lupul is going to have to pick up right where he left off last year and at least match his scoring numbers. If Lupul hadn’t separated his shoulder there’s a chance the Leafs could have finished in the top eight in their division and he may have even been selected to either the first or second NHL All-Star Teams. At the time of his injury he was the sixth-top scorer in the league. If he had played all 82 games his scoring stats would have projected to 31 goals and 52 assists for 83 points.
Hard work has been the name of the game for most of the summer with Lupul, when he hasn’t been out on his romantic escapades that is. He’s been working out with Anthony Belza, the Leafs strength and conditioning coach. Lupul said it was extremely frustrating to receive the injury especially since he wasn’t even hit very hard. He said he fell into the boards awkwardly and that’s just a part of the game. He claims the most frustrating thing about it was that the Leafs were still in the playoff hunt. Lupul said he’s in good shape at the moment and his shoulder doesn’t bother him, but now it’s a waiting game.
He was originally selected in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft by the Anaheim Ducks with the seventh overall pick. His best season with the Ducks came in 2005-06 as he scored 28 goals and 25 assists for 53 points. He played under coach Randy Carlyle in Anaheim and it was reported that he didn’t think Lupul had the skills and desire to be a top-six NHL forward. Lupul was shipped to the Edmonton Oilers in a deal that saw the Ducks land defenseman Chris Pronger trade.
After Edmonton, he also had a stint in Philadelphia and then found himself back in Anaheim. The Ducks traded him for a second time when he was dealt to Toronto with rookie blue liner Jake Gardiner in return for veteran defenseman Francois Beauchemin. Most hockey fans consider this to be the best trade that general manager Brian Burke has made since being hired by Toronto almost four years ago. When Lupul arrived in town he knew it was his last chance to prove that he was an elite player. He was placed on a line with right winger Phil Kessel and the two hit it off almost immediately and were one-two in team scoring.
However, Lupul played the majority of his games as a Leaf under former head coach Ron Wilson. After Wilson was canned, former Ducks boss Randy Carlyle took over and there were rumors that Lupul wasn’t too happy with the coaching change since Carlyle was critical of him when they were both in Anaheim. However, Lupul believes the past is the past and that there shouldn’t be any problems between him and the coach.
Lupul said that people evolve and both he and Carlyle are concerned about winning and making the playoffs, which gives them a common goal. He said that everybody has to be on the same page for the team to succeed and that means they’ll have to buy into Carlyle’s system. He added that he’s played for the coach before and he may be able to help his teammates adjust to Carlyle’s way of playing.
The left winger said the team has to improve a lot to make the playoffs, but they were still contenders at the All-Star break last season until the wheels fell off. He felt the team played some good hockey, but just wasn’t able to sustain it over the entire season. He thinks last year’s experience should help the players realize what it’s going to take to be a success this season…if there is one.