Lupul says Leafs are no longer a ‘three-line team’

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It’s no secret that Toronto Maple Leafs forward Joffrey Lupul isn’t a fan of the type of stats that his team is now embracing, whether you call them “advanced” or “fancy.” His comments to the Globe & Mail’s James Mirtle still emphasize the changes the Buds are making, even if there’s an undercurrent of resistance running through some of the quotes.

Lupul said that no one’s really throwing Corsi and Fenwick around on a day-to-day basis, yet the points of emphasis argue that the culture is changing, semantics or not.

“We’ve talked a lot about puck possession,” Lupul said. “That’s the one thing we’re going to try and change. Not to turn over pucks. And there’s been a change in [that] we’re going to try and hold onto the puck in our end as well.

“Obviously you want to do that in the opposition’s end. But in our end, it’s not that old mentality of the defenceman gets it, and it’s just get it out of your end. Off the glass and out of the zone. We’re going to try and possess the puck in our own zone and exit as a unit and go with speed.”

(If you hearing weeping, it might actually be the joyful sobbing of long-frustrated, stat-leaning Maple Leafs fans. Just act natural.)

The 31-year-old also spotlighted another potential area of improvement: trotting out better depth players.

That’s promising, but one wonders if key members of the organization might waver if there aren’t big overnight changes.

Frankly, it’s not exactly a guarded secret that NHL teams are waking up to the importance of puck possession, suiting up as many useful players as possible and reducing the amount of times they needlessly dump the puck. It’s debatable if the Maple Leafs boast the kind of players who can drive play even if head coach Randy Carlyle bows to altered organizational pressures.

Lupul’s own numbers are up and down in that area, although the expanded emphasis on a variety of contextual factors – such as noting his rather high amount of defensive zone starts last season – implies that a guy like Lupul (and maybe a team like Toronto) can turn the corner.

If nothing else, the Maple Leafs remain an expensive and fascinating “lab experiment” for many of these stats-based arguments, even if guys like Lupul probably just roll their eyes when they overhear such slap-fights.