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Here’s Why Joffrey Lupul’s Instagram Comments Could Change How The NHL Evaluates Injured Players

Photo by Graig Abel, Getty Images file photo

The Toronto Maple Leafs forward’s crack at his team might lead to larger repercussions than he imagined.

Toronto Maple Leafs forward Joffrey Lupul is under heavy scrutiny by the National Hockey League recently for his comments regarding his failed health physical, and the impact of the 13-year veteran’s remarks may have ramifications that spread throughout the league. 

The 34-year-old forward sat out the 2016-2017 season to recuperate from a hernia surgery, but Toronto reported that he had failed his physical during training camp for the upcoming 2017-2018 season, rendering him unable to play for another year. Lupul, responded on his personal Instagram account two weeks ago, “Haha failed physical? They cheat, everyone lets them,” and later added to the situation by writing that he was “ready” and “just awaiting the call” to play. These captions have since been deleted.

Lupul later apologized via Twitter for his comment , calling them “inappropriate” and expressed remorse for the “unneeded distraction.”

However, if the Maple Leafs planned on putting him on Long-Term Injured Reserve (LTIR), it wouldn’t be the first time the team has found a conniving way to get rid of an injured player.

Defenseman Jared Cowen, acquired by Toronto in a 2016 trade with the Ottawa Senators, was bought out and waived by the club without having played a game for them. In an interview with BSNDenver.com, Cowen proclaimed that the Maple Leafs “got me, figured out that I was hurt, they didn’t want to deal with it, and they got rid of me.” After being bought out, he signed a Professional Tryout Offer (PTO) with the Colorado Avalanche, and described his departure from the Maple Leafs as “a joke of a process.”

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(Jared Cowen; photo by Doug Pensinger, Getty Images North America)

Lupul indicated in his Twitter apology that he wouldn’t seek out a second opinion from an independent doctor regarding his ability to play in the upcoming season, although apparently the NHL has other ideas. Multiple sources, including The Athletic and Sportsnet, reported that the league is planning for Lupul to partake in another evaluation.

If this second look reveals that Lupul is in fact too injured to play, despite his Instagram comments affirming his health, then the Maple Leafs will be allowed to put him on their LTIR. If not, then the NHL may force the team to have Lupul suit up for them. 

The forward’s accusations may end up affecting other teams as well, most notably the Chicago Blackhawks. The Blackhawks revealed in June that because of a skin condition brought about by his equipment, 38-year-old forward Marian Hossa would sit out the 2017-2018 season. Since Hossa was going to be paid only $1 million this season, a dip from last year in which he received $4 million in payment, some suspicion was raised that the Blackhawks were going to use Hossa’s placement on the LTIR to garner some salary cap relief. 

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(Marian Hossa; photo by Kamil Krzaczynski, USA Today Sports)

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly informed the Chicago Sun-Times on September 22 that the league was looking into Hossa’s “proper status.” This entails, like in Lupul’s situation, requiring him to meet with an independent doctor to evaluate his potential playing status.

However, considering the three-month gap between when Hossa announced his decision and when he was put through independent testing, and with said testing occurring a mere five days after Lupul accused the Maple Leafs of gaming the system through LTIR placement, it’s quite possible, though far from confirmed, that the only reason Hossa’s case is being so thoroughly investigated is because of Lupul’s remarks.

The primary benefit for putting players on the injured reserve is to free up cap space, and although the Blackhawks certainly need the buffer Hossa’s contract would provide, the Maple Leafs aren’t in such dire straits. Lupul’s health status has been inconsistent, having never played a full 82 games in a season due to frequent injuries, but he still put up a respectable 14 points in 46 games in the 2015-16 campaign. Toronto does have a slew of rookie wingers, including Kasperi Kapanen and Frederik Gauthier, who might be ready to make the jump to the NHL level this year, so this might be a case of wanting to elevate the younger players into more permanent roles. 

Regardless, there are two scenarios for this affair to play out. Either Lupul overestimated his health, or the Maple Leafs are deliberately trying to get him to not play. If the latter is the case, and Lupul was correct, this could lead to punishments being doled upon Toronto.

Ultimately, Lupul’s comments could lead to the NHL taking a closer look at why certain players are added to the LTIR. If teams are trying to circumvent the salary cap, or intentionally forcing some players to sit out to make room for others, the league might have to enact a full rule change into how long-term injuries are handled.


Edited by Kat Johansen, Vincent Choy.

SQuiz
Which of the following defunct NHL teams played in the league for the longest amount of time?
Created 9/24/17
  1. Hartford Whalers
  2. Atlanta Thrashers
  3. Quebec Nordiques
  4. Minnesota North Stars

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