By now, fans have seen this horse beaten to death, and then some. The topic won’t go away, but it should, and I’m here to put it to rest.
Claude Giroux belongs on the wing. Period.
Giroux as a center was great. From burying the overtime winner in game 3 of the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals against Chicago, to posting a then career high 93 points in 2011-12, to levelling Sidney Crosby and setting the tone during game 6 of that year’s Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, Giroux quickly became one of Philadelphia’s most beloved athletes.
Giroux went from having fans clamor about stripping him of the captaincy, to putting up 102 points and getting snubbed from the Hart Trophy contention, all in one season. The adversity facing Captain Claude made him stronger, and moving him to wing helped more than just him.
Better Numbers, for Everyone Involved
Giroux’s best statistical season came during the aforementioned 2011-12 season, where he posted 28 goals and 65 assists for a total of 93 points. 41% of those points came on the powerplay, but the majority of the other 59% of those points came while centering Jake Voracek and Jaromir Jagr.
Neither linemate had their best season while playing around Giroux, but Giroux definitely had one of his best while centering both Jagr and Voracek.
Fast forward to 2017-18, and Giroux finds himself on the wing, complementing Travis Konecny for a majority of the season, and being centered by Sean Couturier. Couturier had himself his best year yet, posting 31 goals and 45 assists. Travis Konecny continued to blossom, almost doubling his point production with 47 points.
Without Giroux, Jagr and Voracek combined for 103 points during the 2010-11 season. Couturier and Konecny combined for 123 points this past season. Adding Giroux’s points, the 2010-11 top line put up 196 points. The 2017-18 top line posted 225.
Not only did Giroux’s linemates this past season post more points than in 2010-11, but they also experienced the best year of their respective careers, whereas the same cannot be said for Jakub Voracek and Jaromir Jagr.
Better Linemates, More Opportunity
To piggyback off of the previous topic, Giroux had incredible linemates in 2010-11, at least on paper. Jaromir Jagr is a future hall of famer, hands down. Voracek will go down as one of the most talented players to ever lace up his skates for the Flyers. Statistically speaking, they didn’t have tremendous years by any means.
Travis Konecny posted similar numbers to Voracek and Jagr, but is also much younger than Jagr and Voracek were when they were centered by Giroux. Sean Couturier far surpassed expectations, and settled into his 1C role quickly, while posting career numbers.
The top line thrived, but it also opened up opportunities for other players as well. Nolan Patrick saw his time as the 2C, and he played at a much higher level once promoted from the third line. Scott Laughton was bumped up to the third line from the fourth, and started producing more than just the fourth line role he was accustomed to.
Sure, moving Giroux from an already deep center position bumps another winger down the pecking order, but it also gave guys like Scott Laughton, Jordan Weal, and Nolan Patrick a chance to prove their worth at their natural positions. The Flyers found out their true depth at center when Giroux was moved to the wing, and they should be pleasantly surprised, especially with the amount of talent they have at the position within their pool of prospects.
Developing Couturier and Konecny
Perhaps the biggest advantages of keeping Giroux on the wings rests with the other two thirds of the top line.
Sean Couturier was drafted as a center, and quickly developed into a shutdown defensive stalwart, stymying the likes of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin all before he was legally of age to drink. It wasn’t until this past year that fans saw the offensive upside that Flyers brass saw when they took him 8th overall in 2011.
Moving to the top line, and surrounding him with higher-caliber talent is a main contributor, and the same can be said for Travis Konecny.
Konecny saw most of his ice time spent down on the third line for his rookie season. He amassed 28 points in that role. Although he didn’t spend all year on the top line, he still managed to almost double his 2016-17 season’s numbers, putting up 47 points this past season, and excelling in his role at the top line winger.
What moving Giroux to the wing did was opened up the ability to put other players in a position to succeed. He didn’t just help out his linemates, he helped out, again, guys like Nolan Patrick and Scott Laughton.
Even the Flyers top defensive pairing, Ivan Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere, saw themselves have their best years ever. Provorov improved by 11 points from 30 to 41, while Gostisbehere had his best season ever in a Flyers uniform, posting 13 goals, 52 assists for a total of 65 points. The impact Giroux had wasn’t just felt on the offensive side of the puck, but on the blue line as well.
Captain Claude moving to the wing had a ripple effect on the rest of the roster. Linemates were putting up better stats, so was the top defensive pairing. Travis Konecny, Sean Couturier, Shayne Gostisbehere, and Ivan Provorov all had the best year stat-wise of their careers. Career years for Sean Couturier and Travis Konecny not only proved that moving Giroux to the wing was a great idea, but it also proved that Coots and Konecny are just as much the offensive threats that fans and management alike viewed them as.
Giroux belongs on the wing. There’s no argument to be made against it. Giroux himself had a career year, and unlocked Couturier’s offensive upside in the process. He proved to be every bit the catalyst for breakout years for numerous Flyers, and allowed the Flyers to show their depth down the middle of their lineup.
Moving Giroux off the wing is boneheaded, there’s no two ways about it. Moving him back to center would not only relegate Couturier to the third line, but would also move Laughton down to 4C, where he has been floundering for the better part of two years. When centering the third line, Laughton looked at home.
Giroux staying at left wing on the top line makes the most sense considering the current state of the roster. With JVR seemingly slotting into the second line winger role opposite of Voracek, the Flyers would have an immense amount of depth, and a lethal top 6 with Giroux on the wing with Couturier and Konecny.
If the Flyers want to prove that their top 6 is as lethal as many are saying it is, then keeping Claude Giroux on the wing is the best way to do it.
Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports