April 24, 2012
Leafs' Lupul finalist for Masterton
By LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency
TORONTO - Joffrey Lupul's career year, one of the few highlights for the Maple Leafs, could see him become one of the few Toronto players in recent seasons to win a major NHL award.
Lupul has been named a finalist for the Bill Masterton Trophy for "perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey."
The other contenders are from Canadian teams in the Northeast Division, Ottawa's Daniel Alfredsson for his veteran role in steadying the young Senators and Max Pacioretty of the Canadiens, who came back from last year's horrific collision with a post near the Habs bench to have a strong 2011-12 campaign.
But neither endured Lupul's experience, starting with a back-spine injury while playing in Anaheim a couple of years ago. Complications and infection worsened the situation and there were fears he would not walk again.
"That's an eye-opening experience to put it mildly," Lupul told the Toronto Sun's Mike Zeisberger in March when first nominated for the Masterton by the Toronto chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association.
"You don't know if you'll ever play again, even be able to lead a normal life again."
Lupul lost around 30 pounds and a chunk of playing tIme.
But after being traded to the Leafs late in 2010-11, Lupul not only showed his body could take the strain, he seized a first-line left wing role and held it.
This season, he didn't go more than one game without a point from opening night until early January. Playing through various injuries until separating his shoulder he remained in the top 10 of NHL scoring with 67 points in 66 games. He played a mentor role with the team and helped Phil Kessel and Tyler Bozak to huge years.
The Masterton was the last major award won by a Leaf, with Jason Blake dealing with a leukemia scare in 2007-08. Before that, Doug Gilmour won the Frank Selke for top defensive forward and Pat Burns the Jack Adams for coach of the year, both in 1992-93.
All award winners will be announced in June during the televised show from Las Vegas.