Joffrey Lupul claimed he holds no grudge against the Anaheim Ducks.
“Maybe put a dinner or something up on the board for the boys if they can pull off (a win),” Lupul said of his Maple Leafs teammates. “I’m not playing to make Anaheim look bad or prove anything to them. I’m playing for myself and for the guys in this room.”
On Sunday night when the Leafs play the Ducks at the Honda Center, it will mark the first time Lupul faces the team that traded him, along with defenceman Jake Gardiner, to Toronto last February. Defenceman Francois Beauchemin was sent west by the Leafs in the deal.
Lupul, to the surprise of many, has been one of the most consistent forwards in the National Hockey League this season, scoring 11 goals and recording 16 assists in 23 games. At any given time, the Leafs’ top line of Lupul, centre Tyler Bozak and Phil Kessel is a threat to score.
To say Lupul has zero feeling of bitterness toward the Ducks would be wrong. He had serious back trouble when he was with the Ducks the past two seasons, and remains perturbed the Ducks traded him not long after he returned to the lineup a year ago.
Does he have a chip on his shoulder?
“A little bit,” Lupul, who was drafted seventh overall by the Ducks in 2002, said. “I think I let it be known last year I was not happy with how quickly I was let go after coming back from an injury. Now that I think about it, that’s the way things go. They thought they had guys in the room who could do a better job than I did, and the move has turned out great for me.”
Though it may have washed away somewhat, there remains some resentment toward Ducks coach Randy Carlyle.
“I know the opportunity I’m getting in Toronto, I never would have had in Anaheim,” Lupul said. “Randy Carlyle just did not see me as that type of player.”
The opportunity includes an integral role on the top line and first-unit power-play minutes.
“If we erred, we probably erred in that we did not play him consistently enough at left wing,” Carlyle said. “He loves the left side.
“Players make comments, and it’s not up to the coaches or management to throw any dirt. He was a good soldier here. I don’t have any comments on his negative comments.”
No matter, the Leafs certainly are thrilled with both Lupul and Gardiner. Leafs general manager Brian Burke insisted that Lupul was not forced on the Leafs by the Ducks, leaving them no choice but to take him.
“That’s simply not true,” Burke said. “I know what Joffrey Lupul can do. The year I traded him to get (Chris) Pronger (in 2009), he was our best forward in the playoffs.
“I’m not surprised. This is what I thought we were getting when we traded for him, provided he could make a full comeback, which he has.
“Joffrey went through a lot of adversity. People think pro athletes have a charmed life, make a lot of money. But for a player to battle through the weight loss and infection (in his back) like he did, I feel good for him and I’m glad he is playing the way he is.”
Lupul, who owns a home along the Pacific Ocean in nearby Newport Beach and was planning to stay a night or two there this weekend, is sure he will settle in southern California when his NHL career is over.
For now, there are pressing matters, such as beating the Ducks.
“They made a choice,” Lupul said. “It’s not like I’m holding a grudge.
“It will be a little more fun going back in there, with having success this year, than if I was having a tough year and having to answer questions about health and things like that. I have put all of those questions behind me.”