August 08 2012 09:59AM
As a first line winger, I've begrudgingly accepted Joffrey Lupul as somewhat valuable and completely immovable. This is the summer after Lupul has scored a near career-high 31.1 goals per 82 games. He scored 25 in his 66 games with the Leafs this season.
This is exactly why the Toronto Maple Leafs ought to trade him. If there is any way for the Leafs to salvage the fact that they traded François Beauchemin, it comes with what happens with Joffrey Lupul.
Lupul has one more year left on his deal. He'll make $4.25M according to Capgeek. His cap hit is identical to his salary, and should the Leafs wait until the deadline to take any parts for Lupul, they won't get as good of a package. Even coming off an injury, Lupul is at his most valuable as a trading piece right now.
There are two major worrisome parts about Joffrey Lupul headed into this season. The first is that hockey is not a game of raw numbers, but a game of ratios. If somebody asks you the score of last night's Leafs game, and you replied with "4", what does that mean? The Leafs scored four goals, sure, but was that enough to win?
A team wins a hockey game when they score 50% +1 of the goals in a contest. If you win a game 4-2, you've scored 67% of the goals and you've won. If you lose a game 5-4, you've scored 44% of the goals, and you've lost.
It's true that Joffrey Lupul has scored a good amount of goals over his career, and his season offensively was very good. 31 goals isn't a number to sneeze at or criticize, the issue is that there's no guarantee with Lupul that you aren't giving up the same number of goals up at the other end when he is on the ice.
Lupul has never been very good defensively. In no season since more in-depth stats have been recorded has Lupul ever had a positive Corsi number, which means that his team maintained more puck possession than the other team when he was on the ice.
Let's look at it this way: with Joffrey Lupul on the ice, the team scored 3.59 goals per 60 minutes, which was the highest on the Leafs last season. However, the Leafs also gave up a remarkably 3.77 goals against. Whatever good Lupul does in the offensive zone is quashed by what he does in the neutral and defensive zones. He simply doesn't drive the play forward for (or with) Phil Kessel, and I think that our friend Eric T. has done a very good job explaining the importance of neutral-zone play.
The Leafs need to win games 4-2 more often. Lupul is a primary reason why they lose 5-4.
Joffrey Lupul last season scored 31.1 goals per 82 games on a shooting percentage of 13.1%. His 2.89 shots per game was a career best since the 2008 season, and this was the third time in his career he broke 25 goals.
But it likely won't happen again.
It's one thing to argue a player's defensive contribution, as I did above (and as @draglikepull did here at Pension Plan Puppets). Corsi numbers are new and generally not accepted among the hockey community. What I can do here is show you what happens when players shoot more than 13%, and what happens a season later.
In the 2010-11 season, 24 players had both 175 shots and a shooting percentage of above 13%. Here they are, with their games played, goals, shots and shooting percentage totals:
My thesis was that, in 2011-2012 (every player played), that these players would have a much lower shooting percentage in the next season. This turned out to be correct:
On average, these players did a little worse. They lost nearly eight goals each and about 2.5% off their shooting rate, and that's including players like Steven Stamkos, Scott Hartnell, Corey Perry and Matt Moulson, players who were in the Top 10 in goal scoring in 2012.
For those counting, just five players improved their shooting percentage. 19 saw decreases. Only Moulson and Nathan Horton increased their shooting percentage by more than 20% (and Horton played only half a year) while 12 saw their percentage decrease by 20% or more.
If Lupul can hit 25 again, I'll be surprised. If he maintains his career average of 64 games played per season and his career shooting rate of 11.1%, his 2.83 shots per game with the Leafs would yield 20.2 goals. That's not much better than first liners in hockey. A first line winger must score about 28 goals a season to be above the average players at that position, and I don't think we can reasonably expect Lupul to best that total.
Trade him. Brian Burke ought to trade Joffrey Lupul while his value is high. Trade him after his career offensive year, and get a centreman or a top four defenceman for him. We may be looking at an upcoming season where Lupul's gawdy offensive totals are brought up more as more of a player who is harming than helping the Leafs.
Think what Nikolay Kulemin did last season with seven goals. This is the sort of thing that could happen with Lupul.