Lupul bulks up, sets sights on comeback season

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Even in the context of the Leafs’ brutal 2014-15 campaign, Joffrey Lupul is coming off of a particularly rough season, but he has reason to hope history won’t repeat itself.

Looking to change direction, the 32-year-old forward hired a new trainer over the summer and showed up to camp with 10 extra pounds of muscle.

“I added a little bit of size and more strength,” Lupul told the Toronto Sun. “Hopefully that turns into some more speed and explosiveness on the ice. I had worked with the same guy for a long time and just felt like I needed a change.

“I needed a new program, something to get me excited about training again.”

This season offers Lupul with an odd combination of fresh starts and reminders of his past. When the Maple Leafs hired Mike Babcock to serve as their head coach, they were reuniting Lupul with the man who oversaw him as a 20-year-old rookie with the Anaheim Ducks in 2003-04. Until now that had been Lupul’s only campaign under Babcock, but he credits the bench boss with helping him develop over that first year.

Since then, Lupul has enjoyed considerable highs, with the most noteworthy being his 67-point campaign in 2011-12, but he’s been plagued by injuries in recent years and struggled to produce even when he could play last season.

“When you work as hard as he did off the ice this summer, you’re way more likely to get more (good) fortune injury-wise,” Babcock said. “He’s tenacious. He works. He looks like a hockey player to me.”

While no one player is likely to single-handedly fill the offensive void left by the Phil Kessel trade, the Maple Leafs can certainly hope to lighten the loss through several players making moderate gains. A bounce back campaign by Lupul would ideally be part of the solution in Toronto.

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