Toronto Maple Leafs forward Joffrey Lupul proved to be one of the best NHL acquisitions of the year, when he came over in a trade from the Anaheim Ducks in February of 2011. On a young team trying to get back into the playoffs for the first team since 2003-04, he will be crucial to the Leafs' success moving forward.
After a hot start to last season, including an appearance in the NHL All-Star game, Lupul went down with a shoulder injury that effectively ended his season. During his absence, the Maple Leafs' slide out of playoff contention continued, and they were not able to rebound.
Expected to be fully recovered from the injury, whenever the NHL season does start, Joffrey Lupul will be as key as any player to the Maple Leafs' success. Having him on the ice is valuable in several ways.
In his first full season with the Leafs in 2011-12, Joffrey Lupul easily had his best season as a pro. Despite missing 15 games down the stretch, he scored 25 goals and 42 assists, good for a total of 67 points. The assist and point totals were easily his career highs, while the goal total was not far off.
His flourishing in blue and white can be expected to continue this season, and even more so if he is healthy throughout. Lupul brings the Leafs both an ability to set up his teammates as well as to finish plays himself by finding the back of the net.
Not only is that production key to his role with the Leafs' top line, but with the power play unit as well. Lupul finished last season with the second highest team totals of both goals and assists on the power play.
There is no doubt that, since coming over from Anaheim, Lupul has taken to his new role and team in a big way. If the Leafs can get similar production to that of last season from him, he will continue to become one of their most valuable players on the offensive end.
From the beginning of the 2011-12 season, the Maple Leafs' top line was among the most productive in the NHL. Joffrey Lupul, Phil Kessel and Tyler Bozak all seemed to be on the same page, making for quite an effective unit.
Playing with Lupul for the majority of the season, both Kessel and Bozak finished with career highs in goals and assists. When Lupul was lost for the season in early march, their production effectively took a hit as well.
In the 15 games following Lupul's injury, Kessel amassed just four goals and eight assists, clearly having slowed at least his scoring pace established earlier in the season. Bozak finished those games with a total of four goals and six assists, also down from his prior pace.
The top line in Toronto worked extremely well together last season, and Lupul clearly played a huge part in that. If he can both return and remain fully healthy, that unit's chances of reaching its full potential only continue to increase.
Like with every team in every sport, veteran leaders are essential to have in the locker room. Lupul, entering his 10th season in the NHL at 29 years old, can be considered just that.
For a team like the Toronto Maple Leafs, being one of the youngest overall in the NHL, that kind of veteran presence becomes even more crucial. In his second full season with the team, expect Joffrey Lupul to emerge as one of the team's unquestioned leaders both on and off the ice.
After experiencing some injury issues and struggles on the ice in years past, Joffrey Lupul has restored his career in Toronto. It seems as though he is indeed beginning to reach his potential, and that timing could not have worked out better for the Leafs.
Not only does he bring his own impressive production in his play, but Lupul seems to raise the play of those around him as well. If he can return and stay full healthy for this season, we will no doubt continue see how valuable his play and presence is to the success of the Toronto Maple Leafs.