Ask Matty: Joffrey Lupul, Edmonton Oilers simply didn’t turn out
Pressure, youth, bad start prescription for failure in 2006-07 for current Toronto Maple Leafs star
Q: What happened to Joffrey Lupul as an Oiler? He’s a driving force with the Toronto Maple Leafs and he was a good player with the Philadelphia Flyers and the Anaheim Ducks. What was wrong here?
A: The weight of being the focal point of the big Chris Pronger trade in 2006 and playing in the area where he grew up didn’t help Lupul. He was also just 23 then. There was a lot of pressure. He got off to a poor start, it snowballed, and he suffered through a miserable 28-point (16 goals) season in 2006-07. At season’s end, I believe he was only too grateful to be traded to the Flyers for Joni Pitkanen. He’s played here, in Anaheim twice, in Philly and now Toronto. He’s 30 in September, and after surviving the bad scare with the infection in his back in Anaheim, he’s flourishing with the Leafs. He’s got an ‘A’ on his jersey and is very solid for the Leafs. I don’t think the Oilers tried to make him into something he wasn’t here. It just didn’t turn out. Again, he was a lot younger then. To be honest, the Oilers have had a few players who came here for a short time and it didn’t work. Erik Cole wasn’t very effective here, either. Neither was Patrick O’Sullivan, but then he didn’t play very well anywhere else after he left here. He was last seen playing for IFK in Helsinki, but he was released a month into the Finnish League season in 2012-2013.
Q: I just watched Canada at the world hockey championship and it’s hard not to dream of Matt Duchene as an Oiler. Beautiful skater, speed to burn, excellent hockey sense. Putting Duchene with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins would give the Oilers a dynamic duo. Taking nothing away from Sam Gagner, but could the Oilers offer Gagner, Magnus Paajarvi and their No. 7 draft pick and get Duchene from Colorado? That would be a bold move.
(Derek Stoddart, Halifax, long-distance Oiler fan who doesn’t get to many games but buys their merchandise and shops at Daryl Katz’s drugstore).
A: It’s an interesting thought, but I don’t see the Avalanche doing it, no matter who is running their team, either GM Greg Sherman, whose contract is up at the end of June, or Joe Sakic, who is rumoured to be taking over in an NFL Denver Broncos’ John Elway-type role as the guy in charge of hockey decisions there. The Avs do have three centres — Duchene, Ryan O’Reilly and Paul Stastny — but the one they would like to move is Stastny, who has a year left at $6.6 million. Duchene, only 21, is their best forward — he had 43 points in 46 games this year. Stastny had 24.
I feel badly for Gagner, whose name keeps coming up in every trade conversation, not because of what he can’t do but because of how marketable he is right now at 23, coming off a 38-point season. New GM Craig MacTavish likes Gagner and says they have started to talk on a new contract — Gagner, who’s played six NHL seasons, is one year from unrestricted free agency status. MacTavish is talking like Gagner’s a core player, but I suspect teams will be calling on him. As for Paajarvi, I do think he’s trade bait. His game was much better this year than last, but of all the young first-round draft pick forwards, Paajarvi, I believe, is in the most tenuous position trade-wise if they want to have a different look for their bottom six forwards. The No. 7 draft pick is definitely in play. But Duchene as an Oiler? Forget it.
Q: Craig MacTavish used to like players like Marty Reasoner, Toby Peterson and Liam Reddox, players who were responsible defensively. Do you think he is recruiting those same sort of players now? Do you think Reasoner and Reddox could still play for the Oilers?
A: MacTavish wants to rebuild his bottom six, with presumably bigger and feistier role players, but they also have to have to some offensive pop. Would he be looking at Reasoner and Reddox? No. Reasoner, an immensely likable pro, is running out of gas as an NHLer. He’s 36, and this past season, he was a healthy scratch the last 10 New York Islanders games. He played 31 games and had five assists. In his last 92 games, he has 11 points. Reddox, who played exactly 100 Oilers games, has played the last two years in Sweden for the Elite League team Vaxjo (111 games, 43 points). The 27-year-old forward was a dogged worker and a good forechecker, but he couldn’t find a regular spot in the lineup. I suspect he’ll be staying over in Europe. The Oilers could be looking at guys like Cal Clutterbuck, Viktor Stalberg or Bryan Bickell, either in a trade or by signing them as free agents.
Q: I looked at the NHL Guide and Record Book and I see that Georges Laraque is not retired yet. Do you think he could be an enforcer here again? Maybe he could stage a comeback, if Craig MacTavish gave him a phone call. I don’t think Mike Brown is much of an enforcer. Nobody is going to challenge Georges, certainly not Tim Jackman.
A: I don’t think Georges has filed his retirement papers, unless I missed it. But his chances of returning to an NHL lineup aren’t great. He hasn’t played in three seasons, and he’s 36 now. Brown is one of the NHL’s most willing scrappers and he often steps up in weight class, an admirable trait. He had 12 fights this season. True, he’s not a real heavyweight, but he looks after his teammates. Could they use somebody bigger to drop the mitts. Yes. Will they go out and get one? I doubt it? As for Tim Jackman, I like him. He can play some, he’s got an abrasive demeanour. He’s actually what the Oilers should be looking for, but he’s got another year on his Calgary contract. You must not be a Flames’ fan.
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