Thursday, November 16, 2006

Joffrey Lupul: The Worst Oiler Thus Far

To whom more is given more is expected. And in Edmonton to whom more is paid more is demanded and less patience is show. But what about when you have a kid with local ties who's grandfather also happens to be one of the 789 owners? Just how much rope does that allow ? But wait just a second here. What if that guy's struggling overall and has just eight points overall, only four of them at ES points, and happens to be sitting at a whopping -7 just 18 games into the regular season? And what if this is a guy who's been getting arguably easier minutes than any other forward on the team?

It's one of the more interesting sidebars of the season to see just how long this kid struggles and just how long it takes for the fans to catch on to what has been an horrendous start.

I'm not about to get into the intelligence and/or hockey acumen of the Oilers season ticket holder or the guy who watches most of the games on TV and makes it to Rexall just four or five times a year. I never played organized hockey and I'm sure there are season ticket holders who have and who can pick out a designed player faster than Jagr can find something to complain about. But matchups are one thing I can observe and more specifically who's carrying the mail and who's back at the office sorting it. So I can say that as bad as Lupul's -7 is it would be a helluva lot worse if anyone gave him the keys to one of the vans.

There are guys that undoubtedly handle the tough mintues for the Oilers. Horcoff, Pisani, Smyth and Moreau, when healthy, are guys that have scantly seen a soft shift. You can throw Reasoner in there too on nights when the Oilers are protecting a lead and MacT will sub him in on the third line for Stoll. On the road the opposing coach is either running his best line at them in a power vs power test or he's throwing out units like the Marchant troika who won't score much but won't give you much either. I don't have to tell anyone reading this who the guys are that make or break this team at ES. Then there are guys like Hemsky, Sykora and Stoll who at one time or another have played tough minutes and swing in and out of that role. Right now on the road the opposing coaches are tearing their hair out in an effort to get their best out against the 71/83 combo. Then there are guys like Lupul and Torres who very rarely see the tough matchups and considering that A: we've already taken to skewering Torres on a daily basis and B: Lupul makes more money and sees considerably more PP time, well I've decided to decree that Joffrey Lupul is the worst player that Oilers money is buying right now. I'd also offer that he's the most wasteful in terms of what he's done with the cherry mintues he's been afforded.

The youngster started the year with 94-10 and in what was really a baptism by fire when you considered that role with the one he was asked to play in Ana. The message was he was considered one of the team's top players and was assigned a role accordingly. Of course it wasn't all sweat and toil for the Ft. Sask native because he also saw time on a talented PP that gave him a chance to pad stats that would otherwise be sullied by having to play some tough mintues. I can't say for sure when MacT broke up this line but I'd guess that the blender really came out in the middle of the Oilers loss in Phoenix and at that time Lupul moved alongside Sykora and Hemsky.

Lupul's first Horcoff and Smyth free game was vs the Caps and he sniped a goal and added an assist but both came on the PP. In the last seven games things certainly haven't gotten better despite the fact he's playing with Torres-Stoll and that line is seeing easier mintues than any unit other than Reasoner's fourth line crew. During this time former Duck has posted a less than mighty -4 and has just one goal. Combine that with the fact that his icetime's decreased thanks to MacT's shuffling of the PP units and Lupul's in real danger of getting lost in the shuffle.

Thing's couldn't get a whole lot easier right now in terms of quality of opposition faced and and as far as linemates go while it is true that Stoll's always built his points primarily on the PP the same can't be said of Torres. In any case both players are of quality and it's not like trying to put up points playing with Cam Janssen and Jordan Tootoo.

I can't speak for anyone else but my patience is wearing thin with #15. His effort isn't consistent and when a supposed goal scorer isn't piling up shots or creating scoring chances then there's not much chance he'll score. We always talk about MacT being pulled in the opposite directions of both trying to win and develop players at the same time and right now he's leaving Lupul alone when it comes to the latter but that's certainly doing nothing towards accomplishing the former.

Lupul can't win big faceoffs, he doesn't kill penalties and I'd make a guess that he can't check the other team's top line to a near standstill. If he's not scoring then he's an anchor and if he's not scoring and he's beginning to make real money then the target on his back will become clearer and clearer.


Blogger PDO said...

I yell at him.

A lot.

I doubt he hears me from my basement... but man. I didn't like adding this guy 4 or 5 months ago, and I don't like it any better today. If anything, I'm actually even less-impressed than I was before.

He does have some nice tools. His release and his passing are both great. He's a better skater than I thought he was, and he's not even afraid to throw the occasional hit.

The problem? He's a pussy. He's cut corners to score his entire life.. and now he's cutting corners and not scoring. That's a big problem. That needs to be fixed. Now.

I suppose the only thing we can feel good about is that most scorers are streaky, and that he couldn't have fallen ass-backwards into a better hockey situation if he tried. He gets a coach who has consistently turned crappy ES players into at the very least passable ES players, an assistant coach who's probably a pretty good mentor in Simpson, he's on a deep team where he can learn slowly AND he's in a place where he's going to be focused on hockey.

And for some reason I think he's gonna blow it.


11/16/2006 12:27 pm  
Blogger Scarlett said...

I also was not impressed when they traded for him. He's flown under the radar so far because there are so many other underachievers from last year's team.

He's blown his chances. He got his chance to play with the big boys (our top 2 lines), and has shown he is not ready.

Apparently, he had around 300 shots on net last year. He's on pace for under 200 this year. That says it all.

11/16/2006 2:02 pm  
Blogger Steven said...

I really don't know about Lupul. It's fairly obvious he has the skills as he is a good skater, good shooter and an underrated passer. But then I watch the games and he's just invisible. Just completely invisible.

I think the main problem with him is he needs someone to set him up to score goals. I watched a youtube clip of his highlight goals and at least 3/4 of them were Selanne or someone setting him up for a great opportunity in front of the net. I hate to say it but he reminds me of a younger version of Anson Carter.

I hope he turns out to be nothing like Carter but it's heading that way. In all fairness to him he's only 22 and should get better. But like PDO I've got a feeling he's going to turn out to be the next AC.

11/16/2006 2:06 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

I'm of two minds on Lupul. At most times he seems more willing to battle for the puck than I was expecting, and for all the lack of results he has had his chances. He has a track record of being able to finish, so I think he'll start to score more. Thing is, Lupul just always seems to be playing on a line that's struggling, even though he never looks worse than his linemates at the time.

And with the fourth line playing so well they'll be scooping up more of the type of icetime that the Torres/Stoll/Lupul trio would normally get. (i.e. offensive zone faceoffs and shifts against players whose names are unknown outside of their teammates and families)

I would guess that we will see the Horcoff line and Smith D tandem against Tkachuk's line tonight. And Sykora's line and the Staios D pair against Weight when MacTavish can get it. So Stoll's line will get Stempniak type icetime and they'll be out there against unknown D as well. If they can't create three scoring chances for every one they surrender ... then something's wrong. I think they'll deliver tonight though.

I'm expecting Lupul to turn it around. Still, Steven's Anson Carter comparison has a frightening quality about it.

11/16/2006 4:51 pm  
Blogger RiversQ said...

I think he's already shown more try than Anson did when he was here. (I actually didn't mind Carter too much, surprisingly enough. Of course I hated Guerin, so I guess his replacement had nowhere to go but up.)

Lupul's been terrible, but I was impressed with his first few games so I'm hoping he'll have a return to form.

I think scarlett mentioned the shooting issue though and I don't think that can be overstated - he's on pace for barely half the shots he took last year. That needs to change.

BTW, is that picture great or what? I think Lupul even managed to miss that high five.

11/16/2006 4:59 pm  
Blogger Dennis-IOF said...

I didn't think Lupul's ready to play in this market because it's his hometown and it's hockey first and it seems like he was suited to play in SoCal or other less pressure filled climes

So..from today's Journal I submit this quote as more grist for the "Lupul isn't cut out to play here" mill:

"It's tough not to be replaying things right now," he said, "and I've had a lot of people calling to ask what's wrong ... I didn't even have my phone on for the road trip.

"So it's tough not to think about it. In Anaheim, if you're struggling you can forget about it. Here you have people reminding you of it all day. It's different."

Yes it is really is;)

I have to admit that I didn't like this deal in the first place. First we took on Smid and who knows how long it's gonna be before he's someone you can seriously depend on. Then Lowe "accepts" Lupul when he should've taken Getzlaf...or at least IMO. Plus it was a rebuild deal and that left a sour taste in my mouth. I basically thought that Lowe was getting taken from all sides and I also thought that Lupul was a super pussy.

It turns out he's not a super pussy...he's just kind of a pussy, but he's not conisistent either. He couldn't click with 10-94 and then he couldn't snipe with 71/83 and now he's with 14-16 on the Sheltered Line. And like Vic says...he just has a way of slowing down the production of every line he's with.

There HAS to be something to that, no?

11/16/2006 5:14 pm  
Blogger Lowetide said...

Lupul is a scorer and they struggle, especially when they're young. If you buy that a team can win with 23 guys who do the same thing then that's great but it's always nice to have a few skill guys hanging around.

Oilers have some Toffee-soft forwards and when the blueline is green acres then those fellows are going to be exposed. Especially a guy like Lupul who may not have had to do too much real work without the puck in his Garry-Unger-in-St.-Louis msds days in SoCal.

He's got some work to do, but if you're asking me to write him off no thankyou. In fact, I'll bet someone a 2-4 that this very blog has comments like "I didn't like Lupul at the beginning and buddy took forever to get it together but he's popping them at a pretty nice clip when it counts" by season's end.

I'm going to go ahead and give him a full season before adding anything to the line that says he scored 28 goals at age 22. This while getting 16:37 a night (4.5 on the PP) and I don't recall him hitting between Ruth and DiMaggio either.

Making these kinds of sweeping statements before game 20 on a guy who popped 28 a year ago is an interesting take, but I'd counter with "even if he pops 35 are you every going to really like him?"

Take it wide, Bucky. Some folks miss you.

11/16/2006 6:08 pm  
Blogger Dennis-IOF said...

I dunno LT...those are close to fighting words;) and especially if you're Bucky comment was a stab at me. Did I like old #16? Damn right. But I know you need guys with touch as well and I know that 15's one of them.

BUT...what is it you can actually argue with regarding my conclusion after the first 18 games of his Oilers career? If you wanna say it's a small sample size and the numbers are in your favour that he'll come around then I'll agree with that. But just remember that I didn't say he'll suck for the whole year. But I did say that after 18 games and considering his role, what he's making and who he plays against that he's been teh least valuable Oiler.

Tell me someone who's been worse?

11/16/2006 9:19 pm  
Blogger Lowetide said...

Actually reading it back it does read a little pissy, sorry about that.

Let me put it another way: I think Lupul could play exactly as he has with the same linemates and score 12 in the same span and I still think you may not like him.

I think the things you notice now are always going to be there, at least a little bit.

So it comes down to can you stand to have a highly skilled guy who is not close to being a distant relative of Buchberger in terms of style and content?

I'm not sure a lot of Oilers fans can. It's a working town and Lupul is not exactly from the mean streets.

He's a sniper. Pure skill. He has some try but it isn't like he's Forsberg or anything.

He is what he is, a shooter from the Mike Bossy family. He's going to score a bunch of NHL goals but I'm not convinced it'll be in Edmonton.

11/16/2006 9:49 pm  
Blogger Dennis-IOF said...

It's really hard for me NOT to get on him, and chide you a little as well:) when you bring out that Bossy comparison:)

If 15 has scored 12 goals in the same timespan then I wouldn't have any problems with him. If he can play tough min then I'll expect less from him but if he's getting soft min then I'll expect a lot more from him.

11/16/2006 10:29 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

I caught a few bits and pieces of The Team drive time show yesterday. Entertaining stuff. Spector was really winding Stauffer up about his Lupul bias, of course Spector is buds with MacTavish so they are going to be at loggerheads when finding someone to blame for Oiler mediocrity. Both made some good points though I think.

Anyhow, I caught a bit later in the show and Bob was talking to a caller and said something along the lines of how he wasn't saying MacTavish was a "bad" coach, just that he would be better without his bias against highly skilled players like Hemsky and Lupul in favour of grinders like Horcoff and Pisani.

The caller had a snappy answer though, something very roughly along the lines of .... "Yeah maybe. And maybe you'd be a better talk show host if you didn't have a bias towards Lupul." Good answer. And in fairness to Stauffer he took it in stride and kept talking to the guy. Wouldn't see that from a lot of radio hosts.

Anyhow, I think this wound him up a bit, because he said something really interesting after that, very loosely here and just by memory (people with better powers of recollection should feel free to correct me).

[again not a direct quote, just to the best of my memory]
"On the road trip Pisani and Horcoff were getting the sugar minutes. And believe me that was noticed in the Oilers room. Trust me on that!"

Hmmm. Wonder who Stauffer's player source is? I don't recall him ever having this sort of dressing room insight before this season. The mind boggles. ;)

I assume that "sugar minutes" means PP time in this instance, but I really don't know. Or maybe playing with Smyth is sugary? Because if you look at 5on5 and the head-to-head icetimes ... the ivetime doesn't get much more sugary than Lupul's. minutes.

11/17/2006 9:51 am  
Blogger Dennis-IOF said...

Vic..I wish you hadn't told me that. I'm trying to like Lupul here and on shifts when he grits it out or blocks shots then I have faith that he'll really buy in...but if I even think for a second that he's "mole"ing for someone in the media then I'd just as well get rid of him now.

It wouldn't take much digging to find out when MacT went to the Horc line as his primary up front PP unit and I'm thinking it was late in the game in Det. So I'd imagine that Lupul or whomever sees this as the sugar time and really don't give much thought to the ES matchups. The boys look at the fact that you make your paper with the counting stats and you can't build those unless you get the PP time. Of course on the Oil guys like 10 and 34 made their bones by playing the tough min and doing a good job with them. Same goes for Moreau who's getting close to Martin Lapointe territory in terms of being overpaid in regards to counting stats.

Anyway..MacT was back to using two five man units last night and it worked so I'd expect to see Staios and Tarnqvist on the PP until at least the game vs the Ducks;)

11/17/2006 12:10 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

Ya, me too, Dennis. And really I think he is playing a pretty honest game, and he's just a young guy. His even strength counting numbers are terrible so far according to bank shot, which imo means little more than the fact that he'll surely improve on that count. Same goes for Pisani and Horcoff.

The questions about character that surround Lupul are the same ones that surrounded Comrie. From the decision very early on to go on holiday in Mexico rather than join Anaheim for the playoff run, to the obvious disagreements in philosophy between him and Babcock. I dunno.

When he was acquired I remember Stauffer saying that Lupul received very little 5on3 powerplay time from Carlyle, and not as much 1st unit PP as he should have, otherwise his stats would be better. Does Stauffer have access to that level of stat? The guy loves using numbers to support arguments, and those are good numbers to use, I've just never seen him quote those before.

In the bit of radio I heard yesterday Spector was railing on Lupul, pointed to the lack of points and the plus-minus. It was in wind-up-Bob fashion, and funny. Bobo was quick to point out that three of those minuses came off of own zone faceoffs where the centre cleanly lost the draw. Gosh, it's just never Joff's fault. And now he's playing for his third coach in his young NHL career, and guess what ... nuther asshole! Poor Joff, kid can't catch a break. :)

I'm going to stop listening to that drive time show. Stauffer will completely poison me on the kid if I keep listening to it.

Back to point: On the ice Lupul has played better at 5on5 than the numbers show IMO. He's not a guy you want out there against Modano. He's not the guy you want out there for D zone draws against quality opposition. He is a very young player who has shown that he can score goals at the NHL level, and he will continue to get better. And he's playing for a coach and GM who have a history of not taking too much crap from this kind of player, if indeed he is "this kind of player".

11/17/2006 12:38 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

Edit to above: I usually don't correct typos or spelling and syntax errors, but the "Bobo" above should read "Bob".

11/17/2006 12:41 pm  
Blogger Dennis-IOF said...

What's the Mexico story Vic? I haven't heard that one.

My first exposure to Lupul was when the Oilers apparently wanted him in return for Comrie and of course Lupul was one of the 1000 NHLers who the Oilers wanted to draft but just couldn't move up to get him dadgummit!!! Every now and then Matheson will write a column where the Oilers wanted guys like Pitkanen, Jay Bo and even Lupul!! And I swear to god that just before the Oilers went to Mtl I was gonna write a little blurb predicting that it would "leak" to the edm media that they wanted Higgins back in the year they had to settle for Niinimakki. And sure enough Matty went on to write that. Rediculous stuff really...the Oilers are seemingly always fucked by their draft position in the first round because otherwise they'd always be money!!!


So then Lupul made a nice splash in his rookie season and had a good '06 campaign and scored four goals in a game at col but was a total pussy in the edm series. then the Oilers pick him up and he stays in SoCal until the absolute last minute and he says about playing in edm, 'it's not the kind of place you'd want to go out for a beer if you lost 5-0 to the flames." That told me right off the bat he wasn't ready.

Going back to the sugar time comment...if you're MacT then you WANT to ride the PP stuff out of 83-71-15 because then you come back with at least 10-34 for that ultra important first shift after the PP's expiration when the other coach is throwing out his Thornton's, Modano's and Sakic's. So it's not like MacT's out to get Lupul or Hemsky or any of those's just like he felt he had to make a change. One thing RQ and MC both said to me was you lose skill by putting out 10-34 on the PP but they're also a helluva lot better at puck recovery and we know that matters. That being said I think you can take anyone else but Hemsky off the PP...he's just so talented and creative that I think he should be exempt from PP benchings.

Anyway...all that being said if yes another head coach butts heads with 15, and we're nowhere near that as far as I know, then it's not the coaches fault. 15 tagline is gonna be if he's playing tough min than I won't be looking at his ES counting stats as much as I will his +/- BUT if he keeps getting the cherry min then the counting stats is really all he has.

11/17/2006 4:39 pm  
Blogger mudcrutch79 said...

When he was acquired I remember Stauffer saying that Lupul received very little 5on3 powerplay time from Carlyle, and not as much 1st unit PP as he should have, otherwise his stats would be better. Does Stauffer have access to that level of stat? The guy loves using numbers to support arguments, and those are good numbers to use, I've just never seen him quote those before.

I can't believe he has access to that, unless he's got access to statistical reports produced directly by the team. You said that Stauffer's tight with the Lupul fam or something? My guess would be some observational data.

As for guys running down Horc and Pisani for getting the PP cherry time...I agree with Dennis that Hemsky needs to be out there (and arguably Sykora) but after that it's open to debate. I really liked the look of the units that they had the other night though. Lupul with Hemsky gives them the ability to cycle in the corner with two guys on their off wing, making the play to the front of the net easier. Pisani and Horcoff give you the other thing on the other side. It just seems like logical pairings to me because it gives them the down low play.

11/18/2006 9:39 am  

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