Who exactly is Joffrey Lupul? I want to know.
It’s not just me. No, there are a number of people, including the Toronto Maple Leafs’ front office, who want to know what kind of player this guy really is. Is he the guitar-wielding left-winger who put up 67 points in 66 games a year ago or is he the journey-man-draft-bust who’s had trouble staying healthy for a full season?
Coming off a career year with the Leafs (albeit one cut short due to injury), Lupul has put general manager Brian Burke and Leaf fans in a tough spot with a lot of questions. Primarily, is the he the type of player you are willing to invest in for the future?
Lupul has already made a pretty strong case for himself since being acquired from the Anaheim Ducks back in February of 2011. In 94 games for the blue and white Lupul has potted 34 goals along with 51 assists and was named an assistant captain on last year’s all-star team. Exclusively for the Leafs, Lupul has been banging out .90 points per game. That is a pretty number.
He also happens to be a pretty good bargain for Burke and the boys. Of all the players who finished their 2011-2012 campaigns scoring above one point per game, only two players─Claude Giroux and James Neal─were making less then Lupul’s $4.25 million. According to Capgeek.com, Neal, who signed a six-year, $30 million dollar extension earlier this year, made $3.5 million and Giroux $2.75 million.
So, what do all these number mean? Well if Burke can’t, for some reason, work out a three-way deal that nets Neal and Giroux for Colton Orr and the ghost of Robert Reichel, Leaf fans will have to settle for a reborn Joffrey Lupul for now.
But let’s not forget that Lupul was taken as the seventh overall pick in the 2002 draft. Going back to his WHL days, the Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta native has always been viewed as premier scorer, which is exactly what Anaheim thought they had bagged. Unfortunately he never seemed to put it all together at the next level for various reasons and even though he has four 20+ goal season to his credit, Lupul has always been teetering on the precipice of being labelled a draft bust. Until now, that is.
Except how legit is Lupul 2.0? And how long will he stick around?
The original Lupul was almost half the player he’s been in T.O. Over the first six seasons of his NHL career (with the Ducks, Philadelphia Flyers and Edmonton Oilers), Lupul managed to collect 238 points in 421 games. If my math is correct, that is equal to .57 PPG, far below the output he’s achieved since coming to Toronto.
Lupul has also missed considerable time since the 2007-2008 season when he suffered a spinal contusion and sat out the first 26 games. From there, more complications with his back followed during his second stint in Anaheim. A serious blood infection had Lupul bed-ridden for months following minor surgery to repair a herniated disc, causing him to miss a total of 87 games from 2009 to early 2011. Although he’s been performing as a high calibre player since he was traded, Lupul did miss the final 16 games of last season with a separated shoulder.
With the possibility of a lockout threatening the entire season, it’s possible Burke might not get a chance to see Lupul play before his contract expires at the end of 2012-2013.
So I ask you, what Joffrey Lupul are you expecting to see the next time he hits the ice? At 29, has he finally found his niche here in Toronto? Or is he still a perennial NHL journeyman who’s never fulfilled his potential?
I guess there’s only one way to find out.