Is It Time For The Maple Leafs To Give Up On Joffrey Lupul?
With news hitting the airways that Toronto Maple Leafs’ forward Joffrey Lupul will be out of the lineup with a grade two groin strain, it appears as if, once again, the Maple Leafs will be without one of their best forwards for an undetermined amount of time (probably 3-10 days).
When Lupul is in the lineup he is one of Toronto’s most productive players, registering 118 points in 132 games played with the Maple Leafs, or just under a point per game.
As great as those numbers are, Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Dave Nonis has a tough decision to make— does he continue to run with Lupul despite his penchant (or bad luck) for getting injured, or does he finally pull the plug on what has become a very unreliable player.
When Lupul is on his game he is arguably the Maple Leafs’ best forward. Lupul’s chemistry with sniper Phil Kessel is well documented and he has played well alongside Nzaem Kadri and whoever else head coach Randy Carlyle lines him up with.
Beyond the numbers, Lupul brings great leadership abilities and, by all accounts, looks to be a positive presence on and off the ice.
Originally drafted in the first round (seventh overall) of the 2002 NHL Entry Draft by the Anaheim Ducks, Lupul started his career with the Ducks before being traded to the Edmonton Oilers. After the 2005–06 season, Lupul was traded to the Edmonton Oilers along with Ladislav Šmíd and draft picks for Chris Pronger on July 4, 2006.
Lupul’s stay in Philadelphia was short lived as, on July 1st, 2007, Lupul was traded along with Jason Smith to the Philadelphia Flyers for Joni Pitkänen, Geoff Sanderson, and a third round draft pick in 2007.
On June 26th, 2009, Joffrey was traded by the Flyers to the Anaheim. Injuries limited him to just 23 games that season as Lupul missed the final 59 games. Lupul would miss the first 28 games of the next season as the result of a blood infection, which was a complication of his back surgery.
On February 9th, 2011, Lupul was traded by the Ducks along with prospect Jake Gardiner and a conditional 2013 draft pick to the Maple Leafs for veteran defenseman Francois Beauchemin.
Lupul’s injury woes followed him to Toronto, where he has missed numerous games due to a variety of injuries, including a separated shoulder suffered against the Boston Bruins on March 6th, 2012, sidelining Lupul for 16 games.
On January 23rd, 2013, after taking a Dion Phaneuf slap shot to his right arm, Lupul would suffer a fracture, causing him to miss most of last season, limiting him to just 16 games played.
Call him snake bit, unlucky, or just plain fragile, Joffrey Lupul’s penchant for falling to the injury bug is costing the Maple Leafs games.
If Nonis is serious about his teams’ playoff chances, he must address the Lupul “situation”. No longer can Nonis rely on Lupul to remain healthy for long stretches, no longer can he hold on to the belief that dressing Lupul in the lineup is sustainable.
They say in order to predict the future we need only to look to the past. There is plenty of evidence that Lupul will continue to fall victim to injury. It’s not a question of “if” Lupul will be injured, it’s only a question of “when” and “how long” he will be out of the lineup.
With his team falling in the standings, the time is now for Nonis to make a substantial trade acquisition. In a salary cap dominated League, the pickings might be slim for Nonis, but if he can package Lupul out of town, he should do it, if only to free up cap space.
Which team would be interested in Lupul? Given his substantial injury history, it is hard to tell. That said, they say a sucker is born every second— perhaps Nonis can find one of the NHL’s other 29 teams to believe in Lupul?
With Lupul out of the way, Nonis should focus his efforts on bringing in another forward. Mike Cammalleri of the Calgary Flames (who is a UFA this summer), or maybe even the likes of Jiri Hudler (currently with the Flames) would both be decent options.
Both Hudler and Cammalleri could be had for the right price. Nonis has a good relationship with Brian Burke and the Flames organization (who are said to be looking for a puck moving defenseman and a third line centre), so maybe there could be a fit?
One thing is for certain, Lupul is a time bomb, who appears to be incapable of staying healthy. Is that the player you want to tie your success to, or is it time to move on and end the Lupul era in Toronto? It says here Nonis has no choice, in the interest of the Maple Leafs, sadly, he must move on from Lupul.