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Analysis

Claude Giroux Enjoying Success With the Florida Panthers Should Come as No Surprise

Yes, Claude Giroux is no longer a part of the Philadelphia Flyers, but he still deserves another article with his recent play in Florida. The 1000-game veteran, longest tenured captain in franchise history, and the all-encompassing face of the team for well over a decade, was traded to the Florida Panthers ahead of the trade deadline near the end of March. It was a topic that ruled Philadelphia hockey all season, especially with how pitiful the Flyers looked from the early going.

His tenure in Philadelphia will always be contentious with part of the fanbase not too keen on his leadership qualities, as they call it “empty stats”, and his lack of playoff success; while the majority hold the notion that the Flyers’ management were never able to field a competitive team around Giroux and that it’s a team game at the end of the day. Whatever side you stand on, there’s a legitimate argument to be had. 

His early success in Florida has shown us a few things about the former captain: 1) he is still an elite producer, 2) when surrounded by a team he doesn’t shy away from producing, 3) with a properly assembled team around him, success follows. I believe there was a huge misconception during his time in Philadelphia that he was supposed to be the Flyers’ version of Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, or Patrick Kane. Giroux was never touted like them, Giroux was never supposed to be as elite as them, but he found a way to fit into the conversation with his impressive totals during the 2010s decade. 

It’s no slander or shame to say Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, and Patrick Kane are better players. Crosby is one of only a handful of generational talents in the history of the game, Ovechkin is arguably the best goal scorer of all-time as he sets his sights on Wayne Gretzky’s record, and Kane is arguably one of the best players in the history of the storied franchise that is the Chicago Blackhawks, as he sits second all-time behind the legend Stan Mikita with 1,180 points in 1,107 games. What those players had was something Giroux was never afforded the opportunity to relish in; a partner in crime. Crosby had Evgeni Malkin, who sits third all-time in Pittsburgh Penguins history in points, behind only Crosby and Mario Lemieux. Ovechkin had Nicklas Backstrom, who is second all-time in Washington behind only Ovechkin with 1,011 points. Kane had Jonathan Toews, who is 6th all-time in Blackhawks history. The best player Giroux had was Jakub Voracek, who was never used in the same sentence as either of the duos mentioned. 

Individually, Giroux stands above the rest of the Flyers in franchise history outside of Bobby Clarke. For a playmaker, he sits second in assists, second in points, and eighth in goals, while also eclipsing the Hall of Famer in power play points. He is remembered not for his achievements on the ice, but the unsuccessful seasons and playoff runs that muddied Philadelphia hockey after the Stanley Cup run in 2010. The alternating years of making and missing the playoffs for 10 straight years, the constant quarter-final defeats and not being able to make it past the first round for a decade, and being out-matched every single playoff series they found themselves in. It’s the sad reality of his tenure in Philadelphia as there will always be constant debate, arguments, and discussions about what he wasn’t able to accomplish, rather than what he was able to do on the ice with sub-par talent and teams. 

However, all that is in the past as he is now a member of the Florida Panthers and he is doing mighty fine as they look to fight back in their second round series against the Tampa Bay Lightning. In 18 regular season games with the Panthers, Giroux scored three goals and added 20 assists, while going point-less in only five of those games. The Panthers marched to the tune of 15 wins, including 13 in a row as they captured their first ever Presidents’ Trophy. As a point of reference to how well Giroux performed after the trade, Aleksander Barkov scored 13 goals and 26 points during that stretch and Jonathan Huberdeau scored 9 goals and 29 points. Giroux didn’t sit back and play a middling role, he produced at nearly the same tune as the two top players on the Panthers, one of whom could be argued as being a clear-cut MVP snub. 

Giroux also got a lot of flack for his lack of playoff production after scoring just two goals and 12 points in his last 28 playoff games for the Flyers. In his first taste of playoff hockey with the Panthers, Giroux scored 3 goals and 7 points in the six-game series win over the Washington Capitals, and played a pivotal role in the series-clinching game after he scored the game-tying goal and then assisted on the final two Florida goals of the game, including the primary assist on the game-winning goal in overtime by Carter Verhaeghe. 

On top of his success on the ice, head coach Andrew Brunette likened Giroux as “another coach” due to his experience and leadership qualities on and off the ice. Brunette said Giroux has fit in seamlessly, he is unselfish, and welcoming. He went ever further by saying “We don’t have any big egos and that comes from our captain. We are a very comfortable team to come into and I think G is an unassuming guy. He’s a superstar, but he’s like a little kid who loves to play hockey, loves to compete.” He finished it off by saying that “Giroux was just himself with the coaching staff and everyone in the organization. He is like another coach when he’s on the ice. He’s seen it all, played in all these different moments. His IQ and how he sees the game is off the charts”. These are the words of a head coach in the NHL who has had early success and is looking to win a Stanley Cup. 

The rhetoric around the league is that Giroux is a great leader, whether that’s from his current teammates, his former teammates, his former head coaches, and other teams as the Colorado Avalanche were very keen on Giroux’s services specifically because of his supposed leadership qualities. It’s not always easy to join a successful team after the trade deadline and seamlessly fit in right away. Some players fail to produce and make the acquisition a complete dud, but it seems like the Panthers might come out of this like gangbusters the way they’re playing. They only had to give up on a prospect who no longer fit their mold, a 2024 first-round pick, and a 2023 third-round pick.

Giroux was tasked to be the Barkov and Huberdeau of yesteryears past and with players like Valtteri Filppula and Jori Lehtera playing prominent roles, it was no secret or surprise that the Flyers were never going to be contenders. Sean Couturier was assigned to bottom-six duties until 2017-18, Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds were primarily power play players, and the defense was laughable on a yearly basis. Now that he is surrounded by talent, even outside of Barkov and Huberdeau, are we really surprised to see Giroux succeeding? He’s always had that capability, but just very rarely had the support around him.

Here’s to hoping the former captain of the Philadelphia Flyers gets to hoist Lord Stanley at the end of the playoffs and get that ring he needs to put the cherry on top of his career. 

Flyers fan born in the heart of Leafs nation, living in Guelph

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