When Randy Carlyle took over as head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs, he was tasked with turning a dismal team around, part of which included unusual player relations.
Slightly more than a year ago, Carlyle had lost all faith in Joffrey Lupul when the two clashed heads in Anaheim. As coach of the Ducks, he was unable to find Lupul a full-time position on his club after the winger returned from what looked to be career-ending surgery and sickness.
Lupul addressed the issue four months ago whilst speaking to the Toronto media about his turn-around season that he has been enjoying with the Leafs.
Now reunited in Toronto, Carlyle and Lupul will be forced to mend fences and make nice, but can they do it?
When asked of the situation upon his arrival, Carlyle said:
Lupes made a comment when we were in Anaheim, that he felt I didn’t use him correctly. And he was right. I made the mistake—and I said it at that time—we made the mistake of not putting Joffrey Lupul at left wing in our top six grouping. But you have to remember that he came back off of some pretty dramatic back surgery. He had a number of infections. We at one point thought he would never play again. That’s a mistake that we made and I made and I take responsibility for it.
Lupul too was adamant that he and Carlyle could move forward in Toronto. "Whatever happened in the past, which really wasn’t too much—we had a fine relationship for the most part—is the past," Lupul told reporters.
Can Carlyle and Lupul make nice?
Unfortunately for the Leafs, Lupul went down with an injury shortly after the reunion, so it remains to be seen whether or not he and Carlyle can actually make nice.
But do the two even have a choice?
Let's face it, at this point, Toronto is a sinking ship. GM Brian Burke has a daunting offseason ahead of him, to say the least. He needs to find an upgrade in goal, help on defense and desperately needs to acquire size and skill upfront.
Whether or not Burke has any success in filling these gaping voids in his roster remains to be seen. So going into next season, Toronto is going to need all the help it can get, which means Carlyle and Lupul have no choice but to coexist.
Lupul was a major part of Toronto’s offensive attack this year. Forming a dynamic duo with Phil Kessel, he was able to achieve a career high in points—25 goals and 42 assists in 66 games played (it is doubtful that he will return from injury prior to this season's end).
If he is able to find similar success next year, a once-shaky relationship may mend itself.
What say you? Will the questionable relationship between Carlyle and Lupul be a problem in Toronto going forward?
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