October 24 2013 11:04AM
So, three tidbits from practice on Wednesday. The obvious start is Joffrey Lupul, who blocked a Paul Ranger shot and is going for X-rays. we may have an update a little later in the day, or tomorrow.
The timing is bad, obviously, since the rest of the Leafs are getting healthy or coming off suspension. We've all been waiting to see the Lupul and Nazem Kadri duo play with David Clarkson on the other wing, and it could be another couple of games before we see that. Some terrible injury luck early on this season in Toronto.
The other reason the timing is bad is because I was planning on putting up a post about the huge improvement we've seen in Lupul. Check his puck-possession and shot rate numbers over the last four seasons:
So far this year, Lupul leads the Leafs in goals with 6 and is second in shots with 33. He's shooting enough pucks at the net that even if his shooting percentage falls back to his career norm, he's still going to be a very high goal-scorer. I can only speak anecdotally because I haven't tallied up zone entry numbers through the first 10 games, but it appears as if he's the second most active Leaf in the neutral zone as far as skating the puck in with speed and control, second only to Phil Kessel.
Also, seven drawn penalties this season (all situations).
This, along with an incident in training camp, is the second time Lupul has been hurt in practice so far this season. Hasn't cost him any games yet, but Lupul has unfortunately been attracted to injuries for the past several years. He's missed 46 games as a Maple Leaf and has played 110 (suspended for 2) meaning he's missed close to 30% games the Leafs have played. It's one of the reasons I isolated his big contract as a huge risk, but Lupul has really improved as a hockey player since signing that deal.
UPDATE - Maybe this isn't so bad...
Lupul's foot might not be hurt too badly. Just saw him walking normally out of the arena, wearing dress shoes.— Michael Traikos (@Michael_Traikos) October 24, 2013
FRAZER MCLAREN TO RETURN
Carlyle says McLaren is cleared to return to lineup.— David Alter (@DavidAlter590) October 24, 2013
Why? Why? Why?
The Leafs are fighting less than they did last season and have two comeback victories so far on the year, neither of them "sparked" by a mid-game fight that rallied the troops. They haven't fought since October 10 against Nashville when David Broll scrapped with Matt Hendricks, and have fought just five times outside the opening game.
There's no good reason to have Frazer McLaren in the lineup for anything other than fighting, and there's no reason to have a specified fighter in the lineup. Carter Ashton, David Broll, Josh Leivo and Troy Bodie have all been pretty impressive in their limited time on the ice this season as a collection of players filling in on the bottom six. Those fill-ins have been pretty positive additions thus far, and while I agree with "nobody should lose a job due to injury" I still think McLaren ought to be waived. Maybe Boston will take him. A top-line forward for the Bruins got popped by John Scott last night and the Bruins could probably use some size or a fighter to deter violence against their players. It seems to be happening a lot to the Bruins lately.
UPDATE - Maybe this isn't so bad...
Both McLaren + Kulemin will make trip to Columbus, but Carlyle says "to say they'll play would be a stretch.". #Leafs— Mike Zeisberger (@Zeisberger) October 24, 2013
MORGAN RIELLY TO STAY UP
Mixed feelings about this news. I think Rielly has been a fine defenceman and I can understand the Leafs hesitancy to send him down to a reeling Western Hockey League club that may not be committed to trading him.
That said, entry-level deals and extra restricted free agency years are things that have become quite valuable now that we've seen a crop of players drafted prior to the institution of the salary cap system stick around. The Rielly-Franson pairing hasn't exactly been the Leafs best so far this season, playing second pairing minutes but buried deep within their own zone (a sigh for the way Carlyle's system in Toronto has messed with the team's puck-possession numbers).
Still, Rielly is third on the Leafs in quality of competition and has a couple of assists to his name. He hasn't been great, but he's looked like an NHL defenceman through 8 games in his young career. The eventual worry is what happens when Mark Fraser comes back, since Fraser's injury was what gave Rielly his spot in the lineup. There's the chance somebody else gets hurt, but didn't the Leafs put pressure on Franson this offseason by suggesting that the team had a lot of defensive depth?
It seems like the prudent move would be to send him back down.
BON JOVI'S NUMBER TO BE RETIRED
Huh? From Pension Plan Puppets, who have details and the clipping of a Toronto Star article. This is absolutely ludicrous.