Back in 2010, the Flyers threw a party. That party was the Claude Giroux coming out party. He stepped into the spotlight during game three of the Stanley Cup Finals against Chicago when he buried the game winner in overtime to win their first game of the series. Since then, he has taken the league by storm. Posting seasons of 76 points in 2010-11, 86 points in 2013-14, and even a season of 93 points in 2011-2012, he is widely regarded as one of the elite centermen in the league. However, with that being said, it would seem that the most recent installment of NHL.com’s Top 20 Centers has a glaring omission among its list.
From top to bottom, the list includes some of the biggest names in the NHL. Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews, Steven Stamkos, even, yes, Sidney Crosby, grace the list. Interestingly enough, Claude Giroux’s name does not appear in the top 20. Why? Why is it that someone so talented, so naturally gifted, gets omitted from a list of players, such as himself?
Well for starters, Giroux flat out hasn’t been himself. Maybe he has reached that point in his career where he is starting to statistically regress. All players reach that point (Unless you’re Jaromir Jagr and you just don’t care what father time has to say). Giroux is 29 thought. How is it that a 29 year old is already reaching that point in his career? This last season was Giroux’s worst season statistically since 2009-10 when he was a rookie. He tallied 58 points in 82 games. While these numbers aren’t terrible, they aren’t what a top tier player like Giroux should be putting out.
Maybe it’s his injuries that have been plaguing him since he complained about his wrist after the playoff series vs. the Pittsburgh Penguins (Thanks Sid). Since then, he has had problems with his hip, abdomen, and even had surgery to repair those, along with a sports hernia. Now, coming back from an injury too soon always spells trouble. Maybe Giroux came back from these injuries too soon. Maybe, just maybe, he needed a little more time to make sure that everything healed properly and he was 100% when he returned. Giroux always seems to have some sort of injury nagging him, but it’s more of a testament to how tough he is. Giroux seems to be battling through and injury more than he is on the sidelines with one. As time dwindles down on his career, maybe taking that approach isn’t the wisest of decisions.
The most realistic reason as to why Claude Giroux has been left off of the top 20 centers list is that he just isn’t a top 20 center any more. Looking at this list, many teams aren’t represented. You have Carolina, Minnesota, New Jersey, even the New York Rangers that don’t have any players on that list. It’s not like the Flyers need someone on this list, let alone a website to validate the talent they have on the team. The list has some absolutely outstanding talent. It’s not like the last few are just a bunch of shmucks that have people clamoring, “why isn’t my center better than him!?” The bottom five (Ryan Johansen, Aleksander Barkov, Jeff Carter, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and Sean Monahan) are all very talented forwards. They belong in the conversation for sure.
If we are looking at stats here, you can argue that Giroux is better than a few of these players. Giroux outscored both Patrice Bergeron, 11, and Anze Kopitar, 13. He also had the same amount of points as Jonathan Toews, 12, and Sean Monahan, 20. In that regard, sure he belongs on that list over a few of them. Looking at the right here, right now approach, Giroux doesn’t fare too well.
In a world of “what have you done for me recently” mentalities, Giroux doesn’t have that great of an argument. As mentioned before, his 58 points this season are a career low if you discount his rookie campaign. He isn’t playing up to his capabilities at all, and it is definitely showing in the success of the team as a whole. The Flyers missed the playoffs this past year. If Giroux had been at 100% the entire year, who’s to say the Flyers could have snuck into the playoffs and made a little bit of noise? We will never know, because the NHL doesn’t work in hypotheticals. The NHL works in success, and the Flyers haven’t experienced much of that lately.
What we are experiencing here is a coming to terms moment. What this list describes is the top 20 centers in the game at this exact point in time. People will have a hard time coming to terms with the fact that at this point in time, Claude Giroux is not a top 20 center. Maybe he is 21, even 22. Maybe he is 40, who knows. The point being is that right now in the NHL, there are at least 20 guys better at what they do than Claude Giroux. Talent in the NHL is getting better and better, and at an alarming pace. We are in a day and age where rookies can come into the game and make an immediate impact, as exemplified by Auston Matthews coming into the league and putting up 69 points during his rookie year.
Players are getting bigger, stronger, faster. It’s a constantly changing game. Giroux seems to be lost in the shuffle at this point. If he can regain his form circa 2012, you can expect to see next years list consist of none other than G himself. Until then, get used to seeing, or not seeing, lists like these put out by any kind of website, magazine, etc… with Giroux’s name being omitted once again.
Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports