The Toronto Maple Leafs are good while being bad, but there have been a few surprises in this early portion of the season. For one, they have not been as awful as their record indicates. The second thing is they do have some goal scorers that could surprise.
Could one of those actually be Joffrey Lupul?
There is a laundry list of possible issues here, but injuries are probably the biggest concern when it comes to the forward. It always seemed like something happened or was going to happen. The last time the winger played more than 70 games was way back during the 2008-09 season for the Anaheim Ducks. That means a significant chunk of the year is being missed each year.
Joffrey Lupul has been working with an MMA/NFL performance coach, doing cryotherapy, intense training regime in hopes to avoid injuries.
— NHL EXPERT PICKS (@NHLexpertpicks) October 3, 2015
Who knows if this type of regimen will really help Lupul avoid injuries. The feeling that it will get him more in shape so far has been 100% correct. This is a winger who looks like he is in the best shape of his life. However, the whispers will always be there.
The 2015-16 campaign features their own problems besides the obvious. One of the biggest things is not the linemates but the pressure placed on them to score. Toronto almost always gives up the first goal. It has happened in a majority of games so far. Therefore, it places pressure on the top six and particularly Lupul’s line to score.
A third strike against Lupul is sustainability. He can put streaks together. A few years back, he had 11 goals in 16 games to start the year before injury struck. Before that these type of 10 goal in 18-20 game bursts had happened a few times and yet the forward had never hit 30 goals even once.
Also, he has never been much of a possession guy but there are some encouraging signs there and other places as well.
At the age of 32, the forward is enjoying one of the best starts of his career and if not for a few bad breaks, it might have been the best. He already has five goals and seven points in just 11 games. Lupul is playing at a speed and strength not seen in a few years. His ability to get in positions to create shots and/or better shot selection is very encouraging.
Furthermore, his shot attempts are back up to a close to normal pace that observers had seen in more productive seasons. Currently, he is at 4.2 shot attempts per game. That translates with about two thirds of the shots hitting net to be over 200 shots on goals by season’s end. This is a heck of a number to ask for on the surface but if you remember Lupul from his younger days, then you will quickly realize that there is definite potential here.
Though his most crookedly good starts have been where the highest shooting percentages have been, this is one that just seems to be the most sustainable. He is on pace for 35-40 goals on the year.
#WarriorPRO NHL Spotlight – @jlupul and @anisimov42 took care of business last night! https://t.co/2ObSF85PuM pic.twitter.com/qmJFzXdlv1
— Warrior Hockey (@WarriorHockey) November 3, 2015
The early impressions are that Lupul cannot only take care of himself but he is back to making his teammates better once more. His time on ice would be considered manageable at the current juncture. Now some will argue that the on ice save percentage of 93.7% might be a little unsustainable given what Toronto typically produces but that 8% shooting percentage is a little bit low too to be fair. A little bit of balancing probably keeps the numbers right about where they are.
The fact that the Maple Leafs are a below average team also helps. Many games will features chances for the team to catch up which plays a bit into Lupul’s hands. As long as he stays healthy, the forward should see first or even second line ice time. He is a 210-pound forward who finally has the durability of what a 210-pound forward could and should be. This is great news if it can continue throughout the season.
How many games will he be able to appear in though? One thing is for certain: even if the shooting percentage slides back a little, he is on a one goal every three contests pace. That means 20 goals are very likely, 25 goals is likely and 30 goals has to be considered a possibility. Keep in mind he is on pace for 37 goals. The assists should round into form also but even then the pace is 15 assists.
That would be at least a 50-point season.
Lupul could very well be a 30-20 type of player. That would likely sit well with everyone given all the things he has been through. The power play numbers are still somewhat dicey but 15-20 power play points might be a high end number and 10-15 on the lower ends. Either way, the probability of staying healthy for the Toronto forward is a lot better than it has been in previous years. That should be cause for celebration. So yes, turn on that red light!