Lupul’s Second Gear

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As things stand right now, Joffrey Lupul is turning out to be quite a coup by our general manager. Personally, this writer was always convinced that Lupul was more than just a throw in or a salary dump in the supposed “Gardiner-Beauchemin” deal. At the time of the deal I compared him to an expensive used car that came with a ton of cool additional features (Gardiner). If the car performed as expected, nobody would knock the car, regardless of the money it cost to buy it or the miles it had already logged. It would only get better when you put some miles on it and got used to how it runs.

I argued on his behalf on numerous hockey forums, twitter, etc., mostly because I believed a player with his talent and sublime shot deserved a better look than what he got with the Ducks after he came back from a blood infection incurred during back surgery. Just to jolt the memory, injuries limited Lupul to just 23 games during the 2009–10 season, as he missed the final 59 games along with the first 28 games of the next season due to the infection.

During his All Access interview at Real Sports a week or so after the trade, I asked (via twitter) how important it was for him to have Brian Burke’s support when the trade was made. A vote of confidence, faith and belief in Lupul’s abilities from Burke, expressed during the press conference announcing the deal, I knew must have meant a lot to a player who missed so many games and who was cast aside by his previous club. His answer:

“It felt good, especially when you come of a year with injuries and uncertainty about your future to have somebody say that they believe I’d be able to come back and play well, help this team definitely means a lot because after I came back from the injury I didn’t really get that impression in Anaheim. So, to hear that was pretty special and gave me a lot more confidence.”

That’s when I knew he was sold. Trust me, from a guy that knows how important it is to have somebody believe in you, this was big, even it might just seem like something anyone would say when asked a similar question after joining a new team. The “I didn’t get that impression in Anaheim” bit really tells the whole story.

What makes it even better, Burke and Wilson duly delivered on every promise made, something Cody Franson should keep in mind. They put him in a top six role, gave him a chance to thrive playing with Phil Kessel and right now, he’s making the most of that chance.

But regardless how this article looks as you’re reading this line, it isn’t about me being the world’s smartest hockey man. I am by no means remotely close to that. If anything, I was dead wrong; even in my wildest dreams, I couldn’t have imagined him actually playing up to his $4,250,000 cap hit, which is exactly what he’s doing right now.

Lupul always had every tool in the box to become a productive hockey player in this league. He has skill, good hands and a fantastic shot coupled with a fast release. Lupul has the size to be effective on a line with a scorer like Kessel, as he can not only score dirty goals and create traffic, but he can open up space for #81, an effective combination it’s proving to be. He is also an effective forechecker who doesn’t shy away from physical play, capable of providing an energy shift/game if asked. Much like Lombardi (who will be better next year), he just needed a full training camp and a period of offseason work to get back where he needed to be as a hockey player.

Joffrey Lupul has 8 goals and 8 assists (16 points) and is a whopping plus 10 in 13 games played. Beyond that, Joffrey Lupul is a feel good hockey story. He is proof that if your work hard enough, things you deserve have a way of sorting themselves out. If he were a car, only now could we judge him by looking beyond the fine leather seats, the power steering and the mileage. Now we truly begin to appreciate the horse power and precision handling he brings. And, we start appreciating the car because it’s our car, one with a lot of Blue and White mileage left.