A lot has been made about Joffrey Lupul’s “career year” this year and some Leaf fans are even suggesting that now is the time to trade him while his value is at an all-time high. While it is true that he is on pace for career high in goals and points I would like to suggest that this is not because he is having a ‘career year’ but that he is being given greater opportunity. He has always been this good and there is no reason to expect that he cannot repeat this years performance next season.
When I analyze a player I like to look at “on-ice” stats because I believe a player can contribute to a teams success without generating individual goals and assists. But, since on-ice stats are teammate dependent I like to look at how his teammates do with and without the player on the ice with him. So, let’s look at some of Lupul’s linemates 5v5 close faceoff adjusted goals for per 20 minutes with and without Lupul over the past 5 seasons.
|Year||Teammate||Together||TM w/o Lupul||% Inc w/ Lupul|
The above table includes all players Lupul has played 100 minutes of 5v5 close ice time with over the past 5 seasons including their GF20 together and Lupul’s teammates GF20 when not playing with Lupul. The final column is how much better the teammates GF20 is playing with Lupul compared to without Lupul. As you can see, in every single season Lupul has made his linemates significantly better offensively. This is a good thing.
So, why are Lupul’s individual offensive numbers so much better this year? A lot of it has to do with greater opportunity and the most important factor in opportunity is ice time. Let’s take a look at Lupul’s even strength goal production over the past 5 seasons and compare it to his even strength ice time.
|Year||ES TOI||ES G||Min. bt goals|
The “Min. bt goals” column is the average number of minutes that he spent on the ice at even strength between his even strength goals. As you can see, this season is pretty much on par with what he has done in the past.
Another interesting thing to look at is his on-ice shooting percentage in 5v5 close zone start adjusted situations. Over the past 5 seasons, starting with 2007-08, they are 14.04%, 12.05%, 9.09%, 11.64%, and 13.73%. These are exceptional numbers, and among the best in the league. I know not everyone believes in shooting percentages but I believe they are an integral component of producing offense. As a result, a corsi-based analysis of Lupul will fail to show his true offensive value.
So, in conclusion, Lupul’s offensive production this season is not an anomaly, it is his ice time that is the anomaly. He has almost as much even strength ice time this year than he has ever had and he has capitalized on it at more or less the same rate as he has in the past. He is on pace for 32 goals this season and there is no reason to believe that he can’t be a 30 goal scorer next year as well. The Leafs shouldn’t be considering trading Lupul this summer but rather they should be re-signing him to a long-term deal before his value really sky rockets in 2013 after putting up back to back 30+ goal, 70+ point seasons.