What if Joffrey Lupul stayed healthy as a Toronto Maple Leaf?

Josh Elliott
Toronto Maple Leafs' Joffrey Lupul

Back injury. Blood infection. Separated shoulder. Head injury. Arm injury. Lower body injury.

It’s never one thing with Joffrey Lupul – it’s everything. He’s not a banging, crashing, fighting kind of player, yet the 31-year-old Maple Leaf gets injured like he has glass for bones.

That’s not to knock Lupul’s dedication, fitness or work ethic. The guy tries hard. He’s got to hate being injured so often. He’s been a Masterton Trophy finalist, and at the rate he’s going, you could pencil him in as the Leafs’ nominee for the award every year.

But he’s also been one of the more effective points-per-game producers on the Toronto Maple Leafs since he was acquired by the team in 2011, and that begs the question: what could the former seventh overall pick be if he wasn’t always hurt?
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Punchless Maple Leafs can’t even score their way out of trouble now

Josh Elliott
Toronto Maple Leafs Nazem Kadri

Forget the process, the promise of progress and the pleas for patience. How many more games will it take for Toronto Maple Leafs management to realize their squad is broken?

The offensively powerful Maple Leafs have wilted since Peter Horachek took over as coach, averaging just 1.33 goals per game in a season during which they’ve been much closer to scoring three a night.

They were shut out for the third time in four games on Saturday in a 3-0 loss to the St. Louis Blues. James van Riemsdyk led the team with a minus-3, while linemates Phil Kessel and Tyler Bozak were each minus-2. Morgan Rielly was the only defender who didn’t get tagged with a minus.

The streaky Leafs are streaking in the wrong direction, repeating their annual tradition of driving the 18-wheeler off a cliff to ruin all hope of a playoff berth.

Saturday was the end of a nightmare road trip that saw the Leafs score just one goal in games against the Blues, Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks. Their lone goal came against the Sharks, by the way, who are the weakest of the four killer Western Conference teams.

But quality of competition is an excuse, not a reason for the Leafs’ failures.

The truth is they’ve been losing to everybody, from the lowly Carolina Hurricanes to the mighty Chicago Blackhawks, to teams who are fighting them for positioning like Florida and Washington.

The Leafs have now lost four straight, 12 of their last 15 and five of six games under new coach Peter Horachek.

Much has been made about the Leafs reducing the number of shots against per game, but they bounced back to their season average on Saturday in surrendering 33 to the Blues. And it doesn’t matter how many shots they prevent if they can’t put one past the opposing netminder.

They’re not getting better. They’re getting worse.

It’s a sign that the Leafs just don’t have the psychological fortitude to pull themselves out of these slumps. They can ride the roller coaster to the top of the hill, but all they do is throw their arms up and let it go crashing down on the other side each time.

And rumours of a Ryan O’Reilly trade won’t do anything to fix the Leafs this season. The guy’s a 23-year-old two-way forward with leadership ability, but he can’t be expected to fix this deeply flawed team on his own.

Horachek must be feeling the awful temptation to let go of his defensive demands with the hope that his players will score their way back to mediocrity again. Doing so could cost him control of the locker room, and put him in the same position as predecessor Randy Carlyle: shouting orders at the classroom while the kids continue to blow spit balls at each other.

Horachek loses either way, and in the long term, so does the franchise.

Something’s got to give here, and it won’t be the coach again.

The Leafs’ colossal skid started with a loss to Carolina last December, and they’ll get a chance at redemption against the Canes when they return to Toronto for a game on Monday.

Maybe they’ll find redemption. Or maybe they’ll see how far down this abyss goes.

Coaching insanity led Maple Leafs to NHL’s most miraculous comeback

Syl Apps (HHOF Images)

It never happened before, nor has it happened since. And it very likely never will happen again.

Coached by Clarence ‘Hap’ Day, the 1941-42 Toronto Maple Leafs remain the only team to overcome a 3-0 deficit in the Stanley Cup final. They accomplished that feat because Day went totally against the coaching grain, and then some. Read more

Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Brad Ross suspended 20 games for violating performance enhancing substance policy

Jared Clinton
(David Cooper/Getty Images)

The AHL announced today that Toronto Maple Leafs prospect and Toronto Marlies winger Brad Ross has been suspended for 20 games for violating the AHL/PHPA Performance Enhancing Substances Program.

“I truly want to apologize to the entire Toronto Maple Leafs organization, my teammates, friends, family, and fans for violating the terms of the AHL/PHPA Performance Enhancing Substances Program,” Ross said in a statement released through the PHPA. Read more

Rumor Roundup: Kessel, Phaneuf could be traded in off-season

Kessel-Phaneuf (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)

In the week since the Toronto Maple Leafs replaced coach Randy Carlyle on an interim basis with Peter Horachek, trade rumors continue to dog the club. Much of it centers upon Leafs star Phil Kessel, whose critics were out in full force last week.

During the Kessel-bashing fest, Sportsnet’s Luke Fox noted Nashville Predators GM David Poile appeared on TSN radio to defend the 27-year-old winger. Poile was the architect of the 2014 Men’s Olympic hockey team and Kessel was part of the lineup. Fox claims Poile’s comments “raised eyebrows”, pointing out the Predators GM expressed interest in trading for Kessel in 2009 before the winger was dealt by the Boston Bruins to the Leafs. Read more

Drew Doughty blows up Mike Santorelli with open ice hit

Jared Clinton
(Photo by David E. Klutho /Sports Illustrated/Getty Images)

While it may not end up taking home the nod as hit of the year, Drew Doughty’s open-ice check on Mike Santorelli will certainly be one the Maple Leafs center remembers for the rest of the season.

Midway through the first period of Monday night’s tilt between Toronto and Los Angeles, Kings defenseman Doughty charged hard across the ice to reach Santorelli just as he received a pass from Toronto blueliner Morgan Rielly. Read more