“The Flyers go as the captain goes” has been a phrase long uttered in Philadelphia. Claude Giroux has single handedly put the team on his back more than a few times during his 15-year stint in orange and black, but as the 2022 NHL trade deadline looms and the Flyers are almost 20 points out of a playoff spot with Giroux’s contract coming to an end, some tough decisions are going to have to be made in the upcoming few months.
Take a stroll back in time to June 24, 2006. The Philadelphia Flyers’ front office heads up to the podium to make their first round selection in the 2006 draft at 22 overall. Bobby Clarke takes the stand and forgets the name of the player they are going to draft. Paul Holmgren yelled the name “Claude Giroux” across the stage and from that moment on, there was a feeling this was going to be a special pick.
Fast forward to the day after Christmas, December 26, 2008, when Giroux played in his third NHL game and his first as a full-time roster member. He took 10 games to score his first NHL goal, and and another seven before he scored his second. When he got into the swing of things in February of 2009 it was already clear just a dozen games into his career that he wasn’t going to be just another player.
As Giroux got acclimated to the NHL, something special was brewing elsewhere in the Flyers lineup. Mike Richards and Jeff Carter were highlighting a renaissance within the organization. When Chris Pronger was acquired by the Flyers during the 2009 offseason, they knew they were locked and loaded for a playoff run. Danny Briere, Simon Gagne, Scott Hartnell, Kimmo Timonen, and James Van Riemsdyk were other leading forces on the roster, and it gave Claude Giroux plenty of learning trees to sit under while he played second fiddle during their run to the Stanley Cup in 2010.
Within the following three seasons Richards, Carter, Gagne, and JVR were traded and Chris Pronger retired after a concussion. Claude Giroux was thrust into the leadership role with an entirely new group of players like Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds and Jake Voracek.
In 2012, he was flanked by Scott Hartnell and legend Jaromir Jagr as well as the veterans in Kimmo Timonen and Danny Briere. They were succeeded by Vincent Lecavalier and Mark Streit, who were both in the back-nine of their careers, and by the time 2016 rolled around, the “veterans” on the roster dropped in quality down to Nick Schultz and Valtteri Filppula. The team as a whole bottomed out and Giroux was at the helm by himself of a sinking ship.
By now it’s no secret that the Hextall era ultimately set the franchise up for failure. Ignoring the main roster and restocking the draft cabinet with low-ceiling players ultimately stalled any forward momentum the team might have had in the mid-2010’s.
Though through it all Claude Giroux’s individual production and effort level never wavered. In the last ten seasons Giroux has led the team in points seven times and been runner-up twice. It crescendoed in a 34-goal, 102-point season in 2017-18 that saw him finish in a questionable fourth place in Hart Trophy voting.
Yet after a career in orange and black that spanned nearly 15 years, what does Giroux have to show for it? A seven-time NHL All-Star, Three top five Hart Trophy finishes, a handful of Selke and Byng Trophy votes throughout the years, and chasing down multiple individual Flyers’ scoring records after already claiming others.
By no means is it Giroux’s fault the team didn’t have any success during his time in Philly. It’s not everyday a franchise icon falls into your lap. When you have a prestigious organization like the Flyers with 55 years of history and countless legendary players yet someone can still rise about the crowd and be a superstar, it’s something special. But the organization failed to put a competitive team in the ice to insulate him.
Whether Giroux leaves at the trade deadline, the offseason, or even if he re-signs and sticks around a few more years, the current state of the team is beyond repair and more than likely can’t be crafted into a Cup contending team before the sands of Giroux’s NHL hourglass run out. Unfortunately, there doesn’t appear to be a fairy tale ending in Philadelphia. Once he’s no longer in the picture, it seems unlikely anybody will be ready for the shockwaves that will hit the team. He’s the lifeblood of the offense and the heartbeat of the franchise. When he leaves, what’s left?
Claude Giroux will undoubtedly go down as one of the greatest Flyers of all time, and may be the most under-appreciated athlete to ever suit up in Philadelphia. Watching him leave is going to be a hard day, but the Flyers have no one but themselves to blame for wasting the career of one of the brightest stars the organization has ever seen.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: bettorsinsider.com