Joffrey Lupul is only five points away from matching his entire 81-game output with the Edmonton Oilers last season.
Which tells you two things: that he’s off to a decent start with the Philadelphia Flyers this season (on pace for a career-high 67 points) and that last year (28 points) was forgettable to say the least.
“I’ve got a lot to prove,” Lupul told The Canadian Press on Wednesday. “It feels a lot like I’d been given up on by the Oilers. It would be nice to have a good year and have some success in the playoffs again.”
The playoffs are a realistic goal for the 16-10-2 Flyers, who host the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night. The 24-year-old Lupul is a key cog in a rebuilt Flyers team that means business this season after placing dead last in the NHL last season.
Lupul says he’s learned from a troubling year in his native Edmonton.
“There’s a lot you can learn about yourself as a player and as a person from a year like that,” said Lupul, the centrepiece of the blockbuster that sent Chris Pronger to Anaheim in July 2006. “It was a struggle the whole year. I mean, there was really no time last year where it was a lot of fun for me. You learn a lot about mental toughness.
“I was really excited to get into a gym and work this summer to try and put that year behind me.”
He never got the chance to make amends with Edmonton. He was dealt to Philadelphia on July 1 along with captain Jason Smith in exchange for defenceman Joni Pitkanen, winger Geoff Sanderson and a third-round pick in 2009.
“I’m sure if I was there this year I really think things would have worked out for me as well as it has in Philadelphia,” said Lupul. “I came into the year in a lot better condition and with a different mindset. But the trade was made and I’m pretty happy here in Philadelphia. We’ve got a great young core, a good team right now and a team I really believe is going to win a championship in the next five years.
“That’s a pretty good situation to be put in.”
He hopes to have finally found a home after beginning his NHL career in Anaheim in 2003-04 and making a brief pit stop in Edmonton.
“It makes you realize that it’s also a business,” said Lupul, Anaheim’s first pick, seventh overall, in the 2002 NHL entry draft. “The first time I was traded, I was devastated. I couldn’t believe it. I thought I was going to play my whole career there in Anaheim. When I got traded it was a pretty big shock. And then the second time, I was surprised but I didn’t have the same feeling from the first time.
“Now I’m at the point where I realize it can happen at any time. But I don’t really want to be a guy that moves around all the time. I’ve seen enough of the country now. I also played a year in (AHL) Cincinnati during the lockout. I’ve got four time zones under my belt and that’s enough. I’d like to stay here in Philly as long as I can.”
His career-high six points in Tuesday night’s 8-2 rout of Pittsburgh was one more point than what he registered in the final 25 games of the season with the Oilers last year. It is indeed a different year. Playing on a line with Mike Richards and R.J. Umberger, Lupul had three goals and three assists – the first Flyer to put up six points in a game since Eric Lindros in March 1997.
“I scored on my first shift and then again on either my second or third shift,” said Lupul. “After that I was thinking maybe it was going to be a special night.”
The phone calls were rolling in from Edmonton and nearby Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., where he grew up.
“I’ve been talking to a lot of friends and family,” he said with a laugh. “But it’s over. I don’t expect to ever get six points in a game again in my career. It’s back to the grind tomorrow night.”