When talking about the Leafs need for scoring from players other than Kessel and JVR, the name of Joffrey Lupul inevitably comes up. A point per game player in his first full year in Toronto, followed by a spectacular 11 goals in 16 games during the lockout and a solid 22 goals in 69 games last season even though three separate injuries kept him from ever really getting into a decent roll – Lupul’s solid contributions have been overclouded by the bordering on ridiculous number of injuries he has suffered.
Without even thinking about it, people are writing him off as a nice player who is too “injury prone” to be counted on. Like most readily accepted “facts” that seem to creep into the collective conscience, this one isn’t true either. Your blood is not blue before it hits the air, daddy long-legs are not poisonous but just missing the ability to bite you, and Joffrey Lupul is not injury prone.
He might be the unluckiest hockey player alive, but he isn’t injury prone.
For someone to be ‘injury prone’ they would have to be more susceptible to injury than another player. They would probably have an underlying condition, such as a chronic injury of sorts, and they would repeatedly be hurt by the same things in the same places. Lupul has none of these symptoms – he just get’s hurt a lot accidentally and randomly.
Hockey is a game where men way larger than the average person strap razor blades to their feet, step onto a slippery sheet of ice that is as hard as concrete and which is surrounded by what amounts to a cage; they carry aluminum sticks as long as they are tall, and move at high speed while intentionally trying to hurt each. On top of all that, they shoot a vulcanized rubber puck hard to enough to kill someone.
When you truly stop and think about what a dangerous set of circumstances a hockey game entails, it’s a wonder more people don’t get seriously hurt. We know from experience that people do get hurt. The laws of probability and averages suggest that while someone is bound to get hurt nearly every night in the NHL, that players don’t play long enough careers to fairly distribute games lost to injury. What I mean by this is that for every X amount of games played, a player can expect to miss X amount of games, on average, but in reality some guys will miss seasons at a time and others will never miss a game – that’s just how things work and there’s no rhyme or reason for it.
This brings me back to Lupul – he has gotten injured a ton, and has a reputation for being injury prone. I counter that he is just unlucky.
September 2007: During training camp after being acquired by the Flyers he breaks his wrist. More of a freak accident that can happen to any hockey player at any time than something he could be prone to. Prior to this he has suffered only concussions -which, while serious – are something every hockey player risks ever time he steps on the ice. In his previous three NHL seasons he missed barely any time.
January 2008 :While playing for the Flyers, he is hit by his own player accidentally and gets a concussion and a bruised spine. He misses 14 games. He returns only to sprain his ankle and miss another 12 games.
2009: he misses three games with an abdominal injury and then he hurts his back which causes him to need surgery where he gets an infection and then ends up missing a whole year. Upon recovering from the infection that cost him 30lbs and a year of his career, Lupul is traded to Toronto where he finishes out the 20010-11 season.
2011-12: Lupul breaks out for 25 goals and 67 points in 66 games, but misses the final few weeks of the season when a David Krecji hit from behind separates his shoulder.
2012-13: Most of his lockout shortened season is lost when a Dion Phaneuf slapshot breaks his arm. When he returns to the lineup he gets sandwiched by two Flyers players and hits his head twice, again concussed.
2013-14: Last season he bruised his foot blocking a shot, strained his groin and then needed knee surgery when he tore his meniscus, a very common hockey injury.
To sum up:
Lupul has missed time with: Several concussions, an abdominal injury, a separated shoulder, a bruised foot, a broken arm, a back injury, an infection, a broken wrist, a pulled groin and a torn meniscus. You could argue that with so many concussions that he is prone to those, but it’s not even known for sure if you can be prone to concussions since it’s unlikely you’d hit your head in a hockey game hard enough to give yourself a concussion but not hard enough to give a previously unconcussed person one. The rest of the injuries are just unlucky things that happen to hockey players – you can only play in the NHL so long before you hurt your back or your knee. In fact, the vast majority of his injuries have just been freak accidents. You can’t be prone to broken arms from Dion Phaneuf slapshots after-all.
Going forward, Lupul is as good a bet as anyone to play most of the games this season. Provided his surgically repaired knee is healed up 100% you almost have to figure the odds would be in his favor for avoiding any freaky accidents, and that he might just get to play a full season for the first time since 2008-09. If he can, then the Leafs will have three close-to-elite wingers who should be able score enough to make Toronto a playoff team.
Covering the Leafs for the Hockey Writers.