The Toronto Maple Leafs need to score more in order to secure a playoff spot this spring. It seems to me that they will have to do better than the 2.61 goals per game that they currently post, which is good for 17th in the NHL. Toronto needs to find new ways to score, and they also need to be able to count on balanced scoring, which is something which they have lacked thus far.
Most of the offense that the team produces is basically the product of two men, Phil Kessel and James Van Riemsdyk. Kessel and Van Riemsdyk are the Leaf players who have the best scoring touch around the net and are able to convert chance that are generated by others. Kessel has 38 points (20 goals, 18 assists), while Van Riemsdyk has 31 points (15 goals, 16 assists).
Mason Raymond has also chipped in with 27 points (12 goals, 15 assists). After that, we have Nazem Kadri with 25 points (11 goals, 14 assists). Then, fifth in team scoring, we have the skilled Joffrey Lupul with 23 points (13 goals, 10 assists).
Lupul’s 23 points this year are just simply not acceptable for a player of his caliber/skill level. To me, he should be producing around 30 points in the 35 games that he has played so far this year. Any time that he sees on the PP should just be a bonus for him from a point scoring perspective on a team that has the fifth-ranked unit in the league.
I think that the Leafs could greatly benefit from Lupul becoming a legitimate weapon once again in the way that he was in 2011-12 when he produced 67 points in 66 games. Lupul still has the hands and shot to be able to produce at roughly the 65-70 point per season rate.
Last night’s goal was a good example of what Lupul can do. He deflected a Kadri drive out of midair on goal past Kevin Poulin for a goal. He was skating better and generated a few legitimate scoring chances. I am hopeful that he can continue this solid play for the remainder of the season.
Lupul was the large incentive for the Leafs in the Feb. 2011 deal for Francois Beauchemin. Jake Gardiner was also a part of that deal, but Lupul was truly the most valuable piece for the Leafs in that trade.
At 30 years old, Lupul looks as if he is hitting his prime and is ready to help to lead a team at this point in his career. If he, Kessel and JVR were all locked in at the same time, then secondary threats like Raymond, Kadri and even Franson, Phaneuf or Bozak would be that much more dangerous.
In addition to putting up more offensive numbers, he needs to become a smarter two-way skater. Right now, he is sitting at a -12, which is the worst rating on the team. To me, that indicates that he needs to be smarter with his puck decisions as he looks to improve his game without the puck.
Having Lupul engaged could be the difference in trying to improve the Maple Leafs’ goal per game rating to put them into the top 10 in the NHL.
If Lupul can do that for them than Toronto will be one of the most dangerous teams in the East so don’t wait and get your Maple Leafs tickets now.