Maple Leafs Lose Size, Skill and Leadership with the Loss of Joffrey Lupul

Dwight WakabayashiCorrespondent IIJanuary 24, 2013

MONTREAL, CANADA - JANUARY 19:  Joffrey Lupul #19 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates during the NHL game against the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre on January 19, 2013 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  The Maple Leafs defeated the Canadiens 2-1.  (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)
Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images

The Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Pittsburgh Penguins on the road last night for their second win in three games, but it came at a steep cost with the loss of veteran forward Joffrey Lupul.

Lupul was in front of the Penguins net in the second period when he took a rising Dion Phaneuf slap shot off the right forearm. It was immediately evident that the injury was significant by Lupul's reaction as he dropped his stick right away and jetted directly to the Leafs dressing room.

Lupul never returned and it was revealed after the game that he is out indefinitely with a fractured forearm. Lupul just signed a five-year, $26.5 million contract this past weekend and has a bit of a history of bad luck when it comes to injuries. This latest one may be the most frustrating of all as the puck seemed to have eyes and found a nice small space on his arm where no padding was there to protect him.

The Leafs have long been thin on size and skill up front and Lupul addressed that somewhat with his successful play last year. He is not afraid to go to the tough areas on the ice, and he has the ability to make a play when he comes up with the puck. His chemistry with Phil Kessel and Tyler Bozak is not to be ignored.

Aside from his size and skill, Lupul has become a valuable leader in the Maple Leafs dressing room and was recently named an assistant captain by Randy Carlyle and his coaching staff. Lupul is candid and a stand up guy with the Toronto media. The Leafs will miss his presence and leadership almost as much as his on-ice skill.

James van Riemsdyk had a breakout game last night with two goals and an assist in the win. If he can get comfortable quickly, he could step up and provide the type of game that Lupul brought on a consistent basis. JVR showed a willingness to go to the net last night on his first goal, and a quick release on his second one. 

You can also expect the Leafs to call up winger Matt Frattin from their AHL affiliate to get a chance to fill the gap. Frattin showed last season that he is an NHL-calibre player with eight goals and seven assists in 58 games. Frattin was also an offensive force in the Marlies' Calder Cup run last spring and was the Leafs' last cut out of training camp.

Look for JVR to slide in on the wing with Kessel and Bozak, and for Frattin to slot in with Nazem Kadri and Leo Komarov.


Dwight Wakabayashi is a contributor to Bleacher Report NHL Toronto Maple Leafs and a Featured Columnist with Bleacher Report UFC

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