Joffrey Lupul became the topic of discussion here when I noted in the last gameday recap that newcomer Maxim Lapierre found three more minutes of ice time than Anaheim's third-highest salaried forward. While some may have seen my observation as some throwaway comment, the topic of Lupul's ice time and rotation was the article of choice for Ducks.com's Matt Vevoda and the OCR's Curtis Zupke last night.
The articles explain Lupul getting the short end of the Carlyle shuffle as an issue of chemistry. And that's not too far off from what happened last year, when chemistry issues with Lupul and Selanne forced Joffrey up and down the lineup. Still, he received an adequate shot at the Top Six last year, playing a quarter of his limited shifts with Perry and Getzlaf and another quarter with Koivu and Selanne. That's a far cry from the revolving door (rarely matching him with two top six forwards) that he's experienced this year.
Robby you could argue that Lupul isn't playing well. And surely, somewhere beyond his three goals and three assists (versus Bobby Ryan's one goal and one assist) in limited ice time while bouncing around the lineup and never being sure of his linemates in the last ten games, one can find proof of that...uh...somewhere. But even if one were to unequivocally say Lupul isn't playing well, that says very little about why he hasn't received the shot he received last year or that other players have received this year.
It's not as though Lupul's current ice time is explained by his current performance. He wasn't receiving 20 minutes a game before he messed it up and they demoted him to 12. He started at 12, has been fairly productive in that role, but somehow hasn't earned the same right of a Jason Blake, who was insinuated into the top six as a multi-million dollar salary vet until a magnificent blunder got him scratched. Lupul went to Syracuse talking about getting back his stamina so he could jump right into the Anaheim lineup, thus intimating that his gameplan was to be the same 4.25M player that Carlyle was determined to utilize as a Top Six forward last year. That just hasn't been the case.
There are functional explanations (chemistry) and seemingly functional but false explanations (merit), but the truth is that while the trigger finger for the Carlyle Shuffle has gotten itchier this year, it's unclear why Lupul is different from a myriad of forwards who are presumed Top Six players in Carlyle's depth chart, including Jason Blake and last year's iteration of Lupul. One would expect that 15 games into his return, with 7 points to show for it, articles about Joffrey Lupul accepting a 12 minute third line role would be premature. But there they are, far ahead of schedule. Lupul, who spent much of last season being penciled into and perhaps, at times, forced into the Top Six has managed to play his way out of it in his first 15 games. And I totally missed it.