A section of the Philadelphia Flyers fanbase has been vocal about trading Claude Giroux. Heading into a decade of Flyers captaincy, it still makes no sense.
Claude Giroux is the longest-running, uninterrupted Philadelphia Flyers captain in franchise history.
The key term is “uninterrupted.” Bob Clarke was a captain for seven years before Mel Bridgman accepted the honor. Two years later, Clarke would have another run as the Flyers team captain. Overall, he has the longest cumulative reign in franchise history.
Giroux is approaching a decade, uninterrupted. The magic number is 147 to become the all-time leader in games played as the captain in Philadelphia. Including playoffs, Clarke played 792 games as the captain of the Flyers. Currently, Giroux sits at 645. The change of the guard could take place during the 2022-2023 season.
To achieve that, Giroux must play almost every game in 2021-2022. Then, Chuck Fletcher would need to offer an extension. If Giroux remains the captain after accepting an extension when his contract expires, it’s almost a sure bet he passes Clarke.
Why doesn’t Giroux get the respect he deserves? Not from the national media, but Philadelphia.
There’s a portion of the fanbase who want a rebuild. At the top of the priority list for that portion of the fanbase is trading Giroux. It’s astonishing once you review his production. Aside from his rookie season, he has never escaped the top five in team scoring. Giroux has been atop of the team scoring list in seven of his nine seasons as Flyers captain.
Fletcher is a general manager who loves his veteran players. For evidence, look at how he approached the defense this offseason. Veteran leadership goes a long way with the current front office. Giroux will likely receive the aforementioned extension after 2021-2022.
Throughout his era as captain, Philadelphia has been less than stellar in the playoffs. The indictment that falls unfairly on Giroux is the 1-4 playoff series record since he branded the “C.” Despite playing for five different coaches, Giroux has remained consistent during the regular season.
About That Playoff Record
Claude Giroux has expressed his frustration in not performing better as a team in the playoffs. He’s showing the urgency in his attitude that the Stanley Cup window could be closing for him.
The 1-4 playoff series record is a tough pill to swallow but consider the competition.
Firstly, the New York Rangers in 2013-2014 represented the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup Finals. It took seven games for them to defeat the Philadelphia Flyers. Next is 2015-2016, where the Washington Capitals defeated Philadelphia in six games, only to be defeated by the eventual Stanley Cup champions. Then, in 2017-2018, the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Flyers in six games, only to have the favor returned by the Capitals on the way to a Stanley Cup championship of their own. To this point, that’s 0-3 in the postseason under Giroux watch.
Every team that beat Philadephia in the playoffs linked directly to a Stanley Cup Finals participant or lost to the eventual champions. These teams included Henrik Lundqvist, Sidney Crosby, and Alexander Ovechkin in their primes.
Finally, as the Flyers turned into the hottest team in the NHL, Giroux rallied Philadelphia to their first playoff series victory alongside stellar goaltending from Carter Hart. In 2019-2020, once hockey resumed amidst a pandemic, the Flyers defeated the Montreal Canadiens. Then, they matched against their kryptonite in the New York Islanders.
Philadelphia nearly won two straight playoff series to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals but lost to the Islanders in seven games. You guessed it; New York would eventually lose to the Tampa Bay Lightning in their first of back-to-back Stanley Cup championship victories.
Peter Laviolette won a Stanley Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes before taking the bench with the Philadelphia Flyers. Soon after his start with the Flyers, he called Claude Giroux “the best player in the world.” Then, a season later, Laviolette would be replaced by Craig Berube.
Laviolette and his compliment act as a double-edged sword. In one way, it instilled confidence between player and coach. He moved Giroux into the neighborhood with Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby, which elevated his popularity in the league as a superstar. In another way, he put a lot of unwarranted pressure on Giroux. At the time, Laviolette cannot be blamed for his choice of words while Giroux and Crosby feuded on ice.
While Giroux was captain, Laviolette coached him through one lockout-shortened season before exiting after three games in 2013-2014. Berube didn’t last more than two seasons but tasted the postseason in the series loss to the New York Rangers. Years later, Berube would secure his first Stanley Cup as the coach of the St. Louis Blues while Jordan Binnington acted as a brick wall between the pipes. Four coaches (including Scott Gordon’s interim stint) came and went before Alain Vigneault arrived in Philadelphia, but Berube may have been the best fit of all of them for Giroux.
Under the guidance of Dave Hakstol, who replaced Berube, the team lost their physical identity. Hakstol tried to bring finesse to the Flyers but ran goaltenders into the ground as a troubling replacement to Berube, who won a Stanley Cup just a season after leaving Philadelphia.
Now, Alain Vigneault is the coach who shared the playoff success with Giroux during his tenure as the Flyers captain.
Claude Giroux Remains Valuable to Philadelphia
No, I don’t mean as a trade asset. Claude Giroux is required for the Philadelphia Flyers to still be in “win now” mode. Now that he’s felt what it’s like to win a playoff series, he may be most dangerous with Alain Vigneault.
Understandably, Giroux is no longer the future of the team as he was when Peter Laviolette coached. He’s the veteran leader who helps a core that includes Sean Couturier, Travis Konecny, and Joel Farabee. Anyone reflecting too harshly on 2020-2021 should heed Chuck Fletcher’s advice to not over-analyze it. After the offseason Fletcher put together, it’s not a hot take to say the Flyers will be a team who recovers. The return to the status quo will now be dramatic because of the flat cap more than the pandemic, which is a step in the right direction of the state of hockey narrative.
The flexibility to play left-wing or center helps Philadelphia craft different lineups if Vigneault felt it was appropriate. It allows for his production to continue while Farabee or Oskar Lindblom receive more opportunities to develop. In the 2019-2020 playoffs, Giroux played in the middle-six or bottom-six at times. That recipe to shock the system resulted in a playoff series victory.
If that is all his Flyers captaincy is about, revisit that chapter of the playoffs and evolve.
Whatever happens after 2021-2022, Giroux is one of the best players to ever wear the Orange and Black. It’s happening right before your eyes, and when it’s over, he’ll be in the NHL Hall of Fame with numbers comparable to Eric Lindros.
Photo Credit: Alex McIntyre