Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - It's been easy to pile on the Toronto
Maple Leafs in recent years.
After all, the storied franchise is in the midst of the longest playoff
drought in club history and mismanagement by Toronto's turbulent front office
has had more than a little to do with that downturn.
After hearing the news of Joffrey Lupul's fractured forearm, however, it's
hard not to feel a twinge of sympathy for the Maple Leafs. While it's true many
of Toronto's recent problems have been the result of poor decision making in
the board room, what happened to Lupul and the Leafs on Wednesday night was
just plain bad luck.
Less than a week after signing a five-year, $26.25 million extension with the
Leafs, Lupul will be forced to miss a hefty chunk of the lockout-shortened
season. Head coach Randy Carlyle's initial estimation on Thursday suggested
Lupul will miss six weeks, a span that could amount to him sitting out nearly
half of this year's 48-game regular season.
The injury happened midway through the second period of Wednesday's impressive
5-2 victory in Pittsburgh. While the Leafs were on the way to spoiling the
Penguins' home opener, however, Lupul was hit by a slap shot from the stick of
teammate Dion Phaneuf.
Lupul grabbed his arm in pain and immediately skated off the ice and
disappeared into locker room. The hope now is that Lupul didn't take
Toronto's playoff chances with him.
Even though he failed to register a point in his first three games of this
season, as the team's top-line left wing the Leafs rely heavily on Lupul for
offense. Last season, Lupul finished second on the team to Phil Kessel in
points even though he missed 16 games due to injury.
Kessel had 82 points in 2011-12, Lupul finished with 67 and the next-best
Toronto scorer was Mikhail Grabovski with 51. So, scoring depth was a major
issue for this team before Lupul went down and his injury only magnifies the
Of course, Lupul's absence will give other Toronto players a chance to step up
and fill the scoring void, but it's no sure thing anybody on the current roster
is up to the task.
The first option is James van Riemsdyk, the young power forward Toronto
acquired in a trade with Philadelphia at last year's draft. Van Riemsdyk, a
former second overall pick who was obtained for defenseman Luke Schenn, did
break out with his first points of the season in a two-goal, one-assist
performance on Wednesday, but that was only after Carlyle talked with JVR about
"It's always nice when you have a conversation with a player and he comes out
and scores two goals and has a three-point night," Carlyle said. "It wasn't to
criticize the player, he understood it. It's not like he's been terrible, it's
just that he needed to step up his game."
With Lupul out for an extended period, Carlyle shouldn't need to have
anymore of those conversations with van Riemsdyk. It should be evident that
Toronto is counting on his best effort every night.
The injury also presents an opportunity for Nazem Kadri, the seventh overall
pick of the 2009 draft who has recorded a point in his first three games of
the season. Of course, a breakout year from the 22-year-old Ontario native
would help Kessel and van Riemsdyk shoulder the offensive load.
We were warned how injuries could play a major role in this truncated season,
but that was supposed to be due to the increased frequency of games, which
could lead to more muscle pulls and less time to recover from the usual bumps
Broken limbs, however, are not part of that equation, but the fact that this
campaign is much shorter means those type of injuries can have an even bigger
impact on a team's season.
Having Lupul go down for such a big portion of the season right out of the
chute has to be a tough pill to swallow for Maple Leafs fans. They have
watched their beloved team miss the playoffs for seven straight seasons and
losing Lupul isn't a good omen the trend is about end.
They say sometimes all you need to get over the hump is a little bit of good
luck. The Leafs probably needed more than a little luck to get back to the
playoffs this season, but with Lupul out, they may need something closer to a
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