Yesterday, head coach Peter Horachek confirmed something that we seemingly get confirmed to us every couple of sleeps – Joffrey Lupul is going to be out of the lineup for a couple of games because something is bugging his body. Specifically, he’s expected to miss at least the next three games with a lower-body injury similar to the one he just came back from.
Out of curiosity, I stitched together something. Not Joffrey Lupul, that would be too easy, but a bit of a timeline of the past couple of years.
|Injury Start||Injury End||Injury Type||Games||Days|
Yep, there’s a lot of them. This will be the tenth time that Lupul disappears from the lineup due to an injury since joining the Leafs and the ninth since he signed a five-year extension during the 2012/13 season (which means it’s actually in year two right now).
The Games He’s Played
|In Lineup Start||In Lineup End||Games||Days|
On the bright side, he, uhh, still plays hockey sometimes! In his defence, he’s pretty good at it. Always has been, and as long as he’s still standing, probably will be for quite some time. Since making his Leafs debut in February of 2012, Lupul is third on the team in 5-on-5 goals and points per sixty minutes, and has one of the highest shooting percentages (which with a 197 game sample, is genuinely impressive). His relative possession numbers aren’t particularly impressive (even with score adjustment), but playing with Nazem Kadri has given them a boost in recent times.
Overall, a healthy Lupul exemplifies a lot of qualities that the fanbase loves. He produces points, always appears to be putting a ton of effort into his play, shows relative fearlessness, and goes to the dirty areas. What’s not to like?
The Glaring Issue
This leaves us with this:
Joffrey Lupul is almost never in the Leafs lineup. It’s one thing to call him injury prone, it’s another thing to see just how much time he’s missed. Everybody thought that his injury issues were behind him once he came to Toronto, and for 94 games, it looked like that was the case. But ever since then, he’s missed 36% of the potential games played.
It’s not like it’s just been a case of one or two long injuries, either. Between his shoulder injury in 2012 and his return from his strained groin in late 2013, Lupul never spent more than four consecutive weeks as an available selection in the Leafs lineup without getting hurt. Three times in that span did he find himself missing time (once due to a suspension) within five games of returning to the lineup. Things looked okay again when he played 46 games in a row from December 10th, 2013 to April Fools Day 2014, but again, he hasn’t played more than seventeen since.
Since arriving to Toronto, Lupul has averaged about eighteen games between each lineup disappearance; or just eleven since the shoulder injury. By contrast, he’s averaged nine games missed per injury that he’s suffered. If the stars align in all the wrong ways on this one, he could get dangerously close to 50/50.
Is It Changing His Play?
This is just a short note, because I feel like something like this requires more research. War-On-Ice added scoring chances at the start of this year, and I felt like it was a very useful addition to the site. It’s based around shot location, rebounds, and rush shots; a wet dream for somebody like Lupul, who thrives on shots in high percentage areas, particularly off the rush and via rebounds. A full explanation can be found here.
I figure a good way to see if Lupul is confident with his body is to see how many of his shot attempts come in scoring chance situations. My guess was that his numbers would rise as he started in Toronto and got used to his back being in good shape, but I had no idea how they’d look beyond that. Here’s what I found:
The original increase that I expected to see did, in fact, happen, and progressed even after his shoulder injury and his forearm injury (which was suffered in front of the net). We’ve definitely seen a dip over the past couple of years, which means he’s taking more of his attempts from outside. I wonder if this has a connection to the injury, or if there’s a strategical reasoning behind it. My original hypothesis was that it may be due to playing with David Clarkson, who usually ends up in front of the net when they’re together, but they’re not together at even strength very much.
Whatever the case, it may be something worth looking into.