In part five of his 12 Burning Questions series, Derek Harmsworth takes a look at whether Joffrey Lupul can finally find a long-term fit with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
On February 9th, 2011 Brian Burke did exactly what Brian Burke does. Â He made a shrewd business move, trading a veteran player who simply wasn’t finding a fit with the team for two young talented players and a conditional draft pick. Â And in typical Burke fashion, it pretty much came out of nowhere.
That aforementioned defenseman was Francois Beauchemin, a good skating, hard hitting defender with a hard shot from the point. Â After Burke brought him to Anaheim and he played an integral part in their Stanley Cup run, he signed him as a free agent with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
But for whatever reason, it didn’t work out exactly as planned.
Beauchemin’s time in Toronto is a tough evaluation to make. He played big minutes against top opposition while on some bad teams – in front of worse goaltenders – and advanced statistics always indicated he was doing pretty well in a bad situation. What was more obvious to observers were the giveaways that dominated the discussion perhaps a little unjustly. Then, when Beauchemin was traded, it was just as Reimer was really putting his stamp on the Toronto goal.
Label Beauchemin’s stay in Toronto a case of bad timing, then.Â Perhaps equal parts getting the best deal, and equal parts feeling familiarity for all involved, Burke shipped Beauchemin back to the Anaheim Ducks, and received players in return that he no question had good intel on.
Jake Gardiner, an American born defenseman was part of the deal, and for most Leafs fans he is assumed to be the gem of the deal. Â A young defender who shows good poise, world class wheels and who looks to be on the cusp of the big show, Gardiner has garnered close attention since coming to the organization.
The other part of the deal was Joffrey Lupul, a 27 year old winger from Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta.
Lupul, as to his part in this quasi six degrees of Brian Burke game was traded by Burke to Edmonton in the deal that saw the Ducks land Chris Pronger, a deal authored by Burke. Â As an interesting sidebar, Lupul would later be re-acquired by the Ducks (Burke had since left for Toronto) in a deal that saw Chris Pronger traded from Anaheim to Philadelphia.
A top ten pick in his draft class, Joffrey Lupul came out of junior very much looking like a player who had all the tools to make a smooth, seamless transition into the National Hockey League. Â In 191 Western Hockey League games, he amassed 240 points, including 127 goals.
Standing at a respectable 6’1″, Lupul also had good speed and could play a physical game.
Catching on with the Ducks took a few years, but once he did, Lupul put up good numbers with the club. Â His first year with the Ducks saw him total 34 points in 75 games. Â Following the lockout, Lupul returned to the NHL and posted his best career numbers to date, tallying 28 goals and adding 25 assists, good for 53 points.
The following season was his first in Edmonton, and although suiting up for the Oilers represented a homecoming of sorts, his on ice play was far from someone feeling the comfort of home.
Lupul finished his first season in Edmonton with just 28 points, a 25 point drop off from the season prior. Â Even scarier was his paltry plus/minus rating of -29.
After one season with Edmonton, Lupul’s homecoming was done, traded on July 1st of 2007 to the Flyers. Â The trade not only provided for a change of scenery for the struggling winger, but represented a borderline rebirth.
Lupul appeared in only 56 games his first year with the Philadelphia, but managed to still register 20 goals and 46 points. Â The following year, a much healthier year, Lupul suited up for 79 games and tallied 25 goals and 25 assists. Â While his time with the Flyers marked improvements in the points departments injuries, which would become a common theme for Lupul shortly, began to rear their ugly head.
During his time in the city of brotherly love, he missed time with injuries relating to concussions, a broken right ankle, a broken wrist, and an abdominal injury.
Unfortunately for Lupul, these injuries were merely a precursor of something far worse coming over the horizon.
After being re-acquired by Anaheim, Lupul was ready to return to the team that drafted him and continue his ascent towards the realization of the lofty potential scouts predicted for him back in 2002 when he was selected by the Ducks 7th overall.
November 21, 2009 was a first. Â Although Joffrey Lupul had run into a rash of injuries during his tenure with the Flyers, it’s safe to say that this was something never experienced by the winger.
He was listed as “day-to-day” with a back injury, but it became more apparent as time went on that it wasn’t a self-correcting problem.
Lupul went under the knife a few weeks later, effectively ending his season. Â He played just 23 games for the Ducks in his return, sitting on the sidelines for 52.
Following his road to recovery, Lupul was loaned to Syracuse, the Ducks AHL affiliate last year where he notched 4 points in 3 games, but another round of back surgery, combined with a blood infection as a result of the surgery, and once again the momentum Lupul had began to pile up was halted dead in its tracks.
He would miss the opening 28 games of the regular season last year, but eventually returned to the lineup for Anaheim, and figure in rather well for someone had missed so much of the game in recent seasons. Â Lupul tallied 13 points in 26 games with the Ducks before the deal went down that saw him shipped to Toronto.
In 28 games with the Leafs last season Lupul was able to compile a 9-9-18 stats line. Â He scored two powerplay goals, had one game winner, and seemed to find chemistry alongside Phil Kessel as the season came towards its conclusion.
Now, entering his first full year with the Maple Leafs, Lupul appears healthy, hungry, and motivated to carve his niche into the lineup, to establish himself as the top six forward many thought he could and would be when he was drafted. Â Simply sticking with a team, for whatever reason, has been challenging for Lupul, but the winger is hoping he now has a permanent fit with the Maple Leafs.
Pencilled in by most pundits to start on the Maple Leafs top line alongside Tim Connolly and Phil Kessel, big things will be expected of Lupul. Â After scoring 31 points in 54 games combined between Anaheim and Toronto last season, there is optimism that a full season, and perhaps more importantly a full healthy off-season of training and preparation, combined with the potential of chemistry with linemates Connolly and Kessel, will serve Lupul well coming into the 2011-2012 NHL season.
Lupul, like his teammates, will be striving to end the Leafs’ lengthy playoff drought. Â And hey, having to go two years without paying for a moving company wouldn’t be such a bad thing either.