The Leafs’ offseason hasn’t been all that eventful so far, but one story that will continue to simmer in the background will be that of Joffrey Lupul and whether he’ll have a place in the lineup come October. All signs so far point to no. But if he doesn’t, the big question becomes “What can the Leafs do with him?”
According to Lupul himself, he believes he has some miles left on his career, and doesn’t appear to be ready for Robidas Island. But given his laundry list of injuries and a blatant reduction in his effectiveness on the ice, is there really any chance he bounces back? Let’s take a look at where his numbers have been at since things started spiraling.
Oh man. pic.twitter.com/Di7QW7Rvhv
— Ryan (@ryanfancey) October 3, 2015
At times last season it really felt like Lupul’s standing as an NHL player was in question. We’re talking sub-replacement-level. While there have always been knocks on his defensive game, and grumbling about his cap hit isn’t new, I think this past year was the first time it felt like he really couldn’t help the team at all. That’s sad, because as a fan it’s clear to see he leaves it all out there, maybe even to a fault.
Using Dominic Galimini’s HERO chart tool, which weighs previous years’ performances in a number of areas to predict how a player might contribute going forward, we can see Lupul projects most likely to a fourth liner next season. Even more alarming is that his possession game is nearly as likely to be along the lines of a run of the mill call-up as it is to be that of a third line player. It goes without saying his days as a top six are toast.
It’s pretty easy to see why the Leafs are trying to move on from Lupul and his final two years at 5.25-million, whether it’s through trade or injured reserve. At this point the expectation for him would realistically be a 10-15 goal scorer (in a full season) who’s likely to continue being a major drag on possession. And I think there’s a good chance he’s an AHL player before these last two years are up, if he isn’t dangerously close to that already.
fascinating info from @reporterchris on Steve Dangle podcast- Joffrey Lupul lost his stall to Brooks Laich, not in recent team photo
— THE BEEF CHIEF (@GoddTill) April 15, 2016
Lupul’s possession game did look a little better in general this past season with Babcock on board, compared to the Carlyle years, but relative to his teammates he’s still been below water and getting worse.
Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a hit piece on Lupul. He’s been as good as we ever could have expected since the trade to Toronto happened back in 2011. Even beyond his scoring touch I’ve always appreciated his willingness to engage and fire things up a bit. It’s just he’s been bogged down by injuries so much in recent years and is now the victim of his own cap hit when/if healthy. Combine that with the fact he’s 33-years-old by the season opener this fall, and yeah, it’s tough to argue for any type of bounce-back happening here.
I’d love to be wrong though. I really don’t see Lamoriello being able to find a way out of the remainder of Lupul’s contract, and given he’s going to fight to play and keep his career alive, it’d be nice if he could help in a meaningful way. But I just don’t see it given his already weak numbers trending down hard at a well past-prime age. The Leafs are going to have to get creative.