Captain Claude Giroux
On June 24th, 2006 in Vancouver, British Columbia, the landscape of the NHL changed in a major way. The Florida Panthers traded goaltender Roberto Luongo to the Vancouver Canucks, the Toronto Maple Leafs traded Tuukka Rask to the Boston Bruins, and numerous future NHL All-Stars were selected in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft.
The players selected include franchise cornerstone caliber players, such as Jonathan Toews, Nicklas Backstrom, Phil Kessel, Brad Marchand and Jordan Staal. Some solid role players selected include Kyle Okposo, Milan Lucic, Derick Brassard, Michael Grabner, Nick Foligno, and Michael Frolik. A couple quality netminders were also selected, including Semyon Varlamov, Steve Mason, Michal Neuvirth, and Jonathan Bernier. I can go on and on with solid NHL players selected in this loaded 2006 Draft Class; but if there is one guy that seems to continuously get overlooked, it has to be none other than Claude Giroux.
The future Flyers Captain was selected with the 22nd overall pick in the first round and went on to sign his first NHL contract, an entry-level deal with the Flyers on July 23rd, 2007. Giroux made his Flyers debut in a game against the Ottawa Senators that following season on February 19th, 2008. While he failed to land himself on the scoresheet that night, he made a positive impression on the Flyers brass, as they seemed to know they had a future star on their hands. The following season, Giroux began the year in the AHL but found himself recalled by the Flyers in mid-December. He has been with the club ever since. Giroux finished his rookie year with 9 goals, 18 assists, and 27 points in 42 games, helping the Flyers return to the postseason where they fell to their rivals, the Pittsburgh Penguins, in 6 games. Giroux made a positive impact in the series, posting 5 points in 6 games.
The 2009-2010 season was a turning point in the young career of Giroux. Much like his teammates, Giroux was very inconsistent for much of the regular season; but boy did he step on the stage when his team needed him to most. Although Giroux spent much of the regular season as more of a role player, chipping in 16 goals, 31 assist and 47 points in all 82 Flyer games, he eventually exploded onto the national scene, beginning with his playoff-clinching shootout winner in the regular-season finale against the New York Rangers. From there, Giroux seemed like a man on a mission, helping the Flyers dismantle the higher-seeded New Jersey Devils in 5 games; then helping the Flyers achieve history and overcome a 3-0 series deficit to the Boston Bruins, and finally helping the Flyers knock out the 8th seeded Montreal Canadiens in 5 games and reach the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since the 1997-1998 season. Giroux then went on to score the overtime game-winning goal in Game 3 against the Chicago Blackhawks; a moment that will live on in Flyers lore forever. Although the Flyers went on to lose that Stanley Cup Final in 6 games to the Blackhawks, Giroux firmly cemented himself as a rising star in the NHL posting 10 goals, 11 assists, and 21 points in 23 playoff games. A star had been born.
“The Best Player in the World”
Giroux’s ascension to one of the best players in the NHL did not take long after that Stanley Cup Finals run. The following season saw Giroux post career highs in goals with 25, assists with 51 and points with 76. These career highs of course only last one season, as the following year the Flyers would move franchise cornerstones Mike Richards and Jeff Carter in two separate trades; which essentially pushed Giroux into being the number 1 center in the Flyers lineup. Giroux did not disappoint in the 2011-2012 season, officially arriving as a Superstar in the NHL, posting 28 Goals 65 Assists and 93 Points.
Giroux continued his dominance into the post-season, helping propel the Flyers to upset their higher-seeded rivals the Penguins in 6 games. In those 6 games, Claude made his presence felt. He posted a hat trick in game two, but he followed it up. He had about as good a first shift as you can imagine in the series-clinching game 6, starting the game off by levelling Penguins captain Sidney Crosby 5 seconds into the game, only to follow that up with a goal 27 seconds later to set the tempo for how game 6 was going to go. Following this victory, Flyers coach Peter Laviolette went on to dub Giroux as “the best player in the world.” While the Flyers ultimately fell in the second round to the Devils, Giroux had made his mark on the NHL, even landing himself on the cover of the official NHL Video Game NHL 13. The first Flyers player to do so since Eric Lindros back in 1999.
During a lockout-shortened season, Giroux went overseas to play with teammate Danny Briere in the German Deutsche Eishockey Liga (DEL). After being injured overseas, Giroux eventually returned home and went on to be named the 19th captain in Flyers history on January 15th, 2013. He had officially become the face of the Flyers Franchise. Although the Flyers went on to miss the playoffs for the first time in Giroux’s career (first time since 2006-2007), Giroux’s strong play continued, as he posted 13 goals, 35 assists, and 48 points in all 48 games; good for a point per game.
The next couple of seasons saw a bit of a decline in Giroux’s play, and a lot of inconsistencies from the Flyers teams overall. While Claude still was playing a strong game; his points continued to dip each season before bottoming out at 58 points in the 2016-2017 season. The Flyers saw a lot of up and down through these years as well; flip-flopping playoff appearances with missing the playoffs all together; qualifying in 2012, missing in 2013, getting there in 2014, missing in 2015, getting there in 2016, missing in 2017, getting there in 2018, and once again missing the playoffs in 2019. This inconsistent play had seemed like it may have been the end of a nice run from Giroux as a player. While he was still productive, his play was nowhere near the superstar status he had reached only just a few years earlier.
The 2017-2018 season saw Giroux turn back the clock a bit, as he exploded back onto the NHL map. With a move from center to the wing, Giroux’s play seemed to be as good as it had ever been. Now skating with teammate Sean Couturier, Giroux was able to post the first 100 point season for a Flyers player since Eric Lindros did so back in the 1995-1996 season. Giroux did this by posting career highs in all 3 major categories; 34 goals, 68 assists and 102 points. This return to stardom saw Giroux lead the Flyers back to the postseason, where they would fall in the first round to the Penguins. Giroux also made his 5th All-Star team during this season, making him the first Flyer to reach 5 All-Star games since John LeClair and Eric Lindros. He was also very controversially was not named a finalist for the Hart Trophy, despite having more points, assists, and a better plus-minus than all 3 finalists. Giroux went on to finish 4th overall in the Hart Trophy voting; his third career top 4 Hart Trophy finish.
Jason Myrtetus’ Thoughts
Giroux’s return to form has lasted the last couple seasons as well, I recently got to sit down and talk with a well-known Flyers advocate and radio host from the Philadelphia area, Jason Myrtetus. When I asked Jason if he thought the move to the wing had saved Claude Giroux’s career, he gave what I found to be a very interesting and insightful answer, especially to a lot of common fans out there.
Myrtetus went on to say “It was very smart, and a lot of people don’t give Dave Hakstol the credit he deserves for making that move. Giroux was their best face-off guy and their best center. Kudos to Giroux for accepting the role, a lot of guys ego would get in the way. I don’t think it necessarily saved him, I more so think he got healthy. He was able to spend that whole summer training for the season as opposed to having to rehab an injury like he was forced to do a few times in his career.”
When asked if he believed Claude Giroux needed to win a Stanley Cup to make it to the NHL Hall of Fame, Myrtetus quickly and firmly responded with “No.” He went on to say “When all is said and done, he will be a top 4 or top 5 Flyer of all time. I do think he will be an NHL Hall of Famer regardless if he wins a cup or not.” Ultimately, the thing that stood out to be most about my interview with Jason was his comments on the kind of teammate Claude Giroux is.
Myrtetus went on to say “Giroux is very well respected by his teammates. He is not one of those ‘rah rah’ guys who screams and yells, but he holds his teammates accountable. He is more of a lead by example type of player. Claude holds himself to such a high standard, and I believe it really weighed on him the past couple of years as he continuously battled injuries and what appeared to be declining play.”
I found it interesting to get more of an inside look in how Giroux leads, more as a lead by example type player. It has really worked well in his career, and now fully healthy we are getting to experience it all come full circle on the ice and in the locker room.
In conclusion, Claude Giroux has carved out an extremely impressive, arguably Hall of Fame level career while wearing the Flyers orange sweater. It has been easy to overlook Giroux considering he came out in the same draft class as numerous NHL Stars, but with his return to star level play and the Flyers continued return to relevance this season; it feels like its only a matter of time until Giroux finally gets the recognition he deserves. Currently 3rd all time in games played in Flyers history at 856, Giroux would need to play another couple healthy seasons to surpass the Franchise’s all time leader Bobby Clarkes 1144 games played as a Flyer. While it remains to be seen if Giroux is able to chase down Clarkes record, let’s hope that he can do something else Clarke was able to do, and that’s lead the Flyers to another Stanley Cup.
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