Yesterday when I wrote that the Leafs’ recent extension of PTOs to Brad Boyes and Curtis Glencross was a sign the team was moving in the right direction, I mentioned offhand while promoting the article that I thought Brad Boyes was a better player than Joffrey Lupul.
I thought this was a pretty obvious thing, but my various social media feeds exploded with people telling me I was crazy for uttering such blasphemy. Now, I realize that people’s feelings toward hockey players often have nothing to do with actual stats they put up (see Gardiner, Jake) but I was honestly surprised the level of love people have for Lupul, whose albatross contract and penchant for injuries are surpassed, in terms of being a detriment to the team, only by his complete lack of defensive acumen.
Now Lupul has a big contract and a secure job, and Boyes is just a walk-on tryout, so I can definitely see how people might have the perception that Lupul is better. But I also think this means a statistical analysis is in order, so let’s do one and see if we can convince anyone that Boyes is the superior player.
Age and Contract:
Boyes is 33-years old and Lupul will turn 32 this month, so only a year separates the two players. Lupul makes $5.25 million for each of the next three seasons while Boyes (PTO), if he makes the team, will have a negligible cap-hit. Edge: Boyes
In 55 games, Lupul scored 10 goals and 21 points (17 5v5) during an injury-plagued season, while Boyes scored 14 goals and 38 points (28 5v5) in 78 games with the Panthers. Not that I think plus/minus is a very good stat, but Lupul was minus-10 while Boyes was plus-11. If we contextualize these stats a bit, we see that Boyes – who played on a far better team – got slightly more ice time than Lupul at even strength, and that he had a lower shooting percentage and PDO, suggesting that Lupul was the luckier player. Boyes also scored a slightly higher amount of points-per 60 minutes (1.66 to 1.47).
The real difference between the two players is seen in their possession stats. Boyes posted an excellent 51.65 percent while Lupul posted a very bad 44.05 percent. The fact is, when Lupul was on the ice, the Leafs were getting heavily outshot, and when Boyes skated for the Panthers, his team came out on top. This disparity is likely due to Boyes being a far superior defensive player.
As we can see, though it’s not a far gap, Boyes had the better season in virtually all statistical categories and utterly destroyed Lupul in possession, while being the far more durable player. Therefore, it’s an easy call.
In his career, which began in 2003-04, Lupul has 194 goals and 406 points in 655 games. Boyes, who began his career the same season, has played in 762 games, scoring 203 goals and 481 points. Obviously, Lupul (100 or so less games) has had injury trouble and been less durable, but he has averaged a respectable .62 points per game for his career. Boyes, on the other hand, has averaged .63 points per game. So, basically a wash as far as career offense goes, although Boyes once scored 43 goals (including a whopping 30 at even strength) in a single season. Lupul’s career high for a single season is 28.
Once again, the difference in the two players comes down to defense, because they both offer decent to elite point scoring at various points of their careers and in general are reliable offensive guys. But, Lupul has only posted a positive possession rating twice in his career, both of which were just over 50 percent, and occurred during his first two seasons in the NHL.
On the other hand, Boyes only has two seasons where he wasn’t a positive possession player and both of those seasons found him just below the 50 percent mark. In one of them, he made up for it by scoring 43 goals.
Charts and Conclusion
As you can see from the charts I have embedded throughout this piece, Lupul pales in comparison to Boyes in virtually all aspects of the game. Lupul’s Impact on Linemates chart shows that when he is on the ice, his team plays an average offensive game with worse defense, ostensibly because playing Lupul means you’re going to be outshot badly. While Boyes’ chart shows a player who causes his team to possess the puck and has a generally positive impact on his teammates.
From the HERO charts, we can see that Lupul provides nearly first-line scoring, but that he is a terrible drain on possession, which means he has to get lucky and have a crazy-high shooting percentage to be a positive impact player. His possession stats are barely better than an enforcer-level, and this isn’t good. Boyes scores slightly less, but his team plays better overall when he’s around.
What you have is two players who score roughly at the same rates, but one of these players provides you with a steady game when he isn’t scoring. Lupul is exposed here as a one-dimensional player who drains his team’s possession of the puck and provides a negative value overall. The Leafs are literally a better team when he’s injured. As for Boyes, despite being a year older, he had a better season last year and there is no reason to expect any less from him because he is so competent when he isn’t scoring.
Verdict: Boyes is by far the better player. The Leafs would be smart to create roster space for Boyes by getting whatever they can for Lupul (virtually anything short of paying another team to take his contract would be a coupe on par with moving David Clarkson’s contract), and then taking advantage of Boyes’ skills for 3/4 of a season and moving him at the deadline for another pick.
Stats: waronice.com Charts: ownthepuck.blogspot.ca
Covering the Leafs for the Hockey Writers.