Without self-confidence we are as babes in the cradles. – Virginia Woolf, 1929.
If you haven’t seen it, there’s yet another puff piece on Philadelphia Flyers forward Joffrey Lupul, this one at CBC.ca. Here are some of the highlights:
“Sometimes my confidence can get shaken a little… sometimes when things aren’t going well you wait a little bit for someone else to do [the work]. That’s something in my game I’d like to fix. I’d like to try to keep that confidence at a high level all the time but it’s a long season and it’s tough.”
That’s right Nation – it’s a simple matter of confidence (just like last year). CBC writer Doug Harrison notes that “quite often, when Lupul has lost his confidence, there has been a drastic dip in his production offensively” and cites Lupul’s lost season in Edmonton. He quotes Lupul as saying that he “never found a spot in the lineup” during his time in Edmonton, and that Lupul learned to work harder over the summer as a result.
Harrison talks about how Lupul “is comfortable in a checking role on a winning team”, and notes that a recent lineup shift will mean that Lupul “can expect to see about 19 minutes of ice time, a substantial increase from the 12 to 14 minutes he has played most of the season. His power-play minutes might also rise” (for the record, Lupul’s averaging over 15 minutes a night.)
All of this, and I mean all of it, is fantasy. We can look at what statistical analysis tells us, or what the scouting tells us, because they tell us the exact same thing.
Let’s look at this so-called checking line that Lupul was placed on – who did Lupul play with and against?
In the last six games the Flyers have played, Lupul has lined up against good opponents twice – once with Briere and Hartnell, and once with Carter and Hartnell. The games that he spent on the third line were with Glen Metropolit and one of Scottie Upshall or Andreas Nodl – and he wasn’t being used in a checking role there, because he wasn’t checking anybody. The best offensive player he lined up against during that time period was Matt Cullen – and the Hurricanes generally run their lines with Staal centering the top unit, Brind’Amour the second, and Matt Cullen the third.
In Lupul’s time on the third line with Glen Metropolit, the duo has been outscored 4-2 by the nobodies (despite outshooting them 104-102). For the season as a whole, he’s been outscored 19-12 and outshot 304-297, with the significant drop off likely caused by playing with better linemates against better players.
All along the way, the numbers have told us that Joffrey Lupul can’t handle top-caliber opposition at the NHL level. He’s a good, if streaky, scorer against lesser opposition and as long as he has legitimate line-mates, but that’s it. Bottom line – it isn’t a question of confidence; it’s a question of ability.
Of course, we really don’t need the numbers to tell us that – the image of Joffrey Lupul lazily coasting back into the defensive zone after a goal against is perhaps the image that best sums up the 2006-07 Oilers’ season.