Flyers

Is it important for Claude Giroux to finish his career with Flyers?

Is it important for Claude Giroux to finish his career with Flyers?

Claude Giroux has made it known he wants to plays into his 40s.

He could even become the franchise’s all-time leading scorer.

However, does the longest-tenured captain next to Bobby Clarke see himself as a lifelong Flyer?

Recently, Giroux sat down with NBC’s Jeremy Roenick for a 1-on-1 interview that explored a number of topics, including some of those grade-school challenges you might ask a sibling on a long car ride. 

For example, Roenick pondered, “Would you be unable to chew with your mouth closed for the rest of your life or be unable to breathe through your nose?”

However, J.R. also explored Giroux’s long-term outlook and where his career might lead.

Roenick: “Ten years from now, where do you want Claude Giroux’s life to be? How do you want people to remember you when you’re done with this game and you’re … where’s Claude Giroux in 10 years?”

Giroux: “In 10 years? Uh, hopefully playing my last year.”

Roenick: “Good.”

Giroux: “You know, I understand it’s not easy, not a lot of players get a chance to play when they’re 40. But if you put the time in I think you can do it and after that, I don’t know. We’ll see … we’ll see where it takes me. I know I’ve been in Philly for a long time now, so … I can see staying there, but you know it’s … I've got other things to focus on.”

Other things to focus on? 

Giroux didn’t elaborate on that last point. We know he’ll become a father for the first time in August, and as players enter the latter stages of their careers, family life certainly takes priority. However, you would also think for Giroux, who began his career in 2008, and hasn’t advanced in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2012, that the desire to bring Philadelphia its first Stanley Cup championship since 1975 would be a way to cement his Flyers legacy.

Interestingly, Roenick followed up with a question that Giroux could have answered accordingly.

Roenick: "And how important is it for you to stay in Philly and finish off what you started there?"

Giroux: “Well, you know, I got lucky enough to have a chance to play in the NHL with Philly and it’s an intense, I mean, it’s an intense city. They love their sports. You play bad, they’re gonna let you know. You play good, they’ll let you know. You’re not gonna go home one night and think I wonder how they feel. You know how they feel, so it’s good.”

Huh? A very noncommittal answer to which, once again, Giroux could have reaffirmed his desire to bring the city a championship. 

How does the intensity of playing in a passionate sports town figure into that equation?

Perhaps, Giroux is looking beyond the 2021-22 season, the final year of his current eight-year contract, when he’ll be 34, having played 14 seasons in orange and black. At that time, he will have earned the right to test free agency if that’s what he elects to do.  

Then again, if Chuck Fletcher doesn’t make significant upgrades over the summer, Giroux might be the final piece to some other team’s championship puzzle.

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The Jakub Voracek balance doesn't have to be so complicated

The Jakub Voracek balance doesn't have to be so complicated

VOORHEES, N.J. — Jakub Voracek has the NHL’s seventh-most assists since the 2013-14 season.

His job description as a playmaker comes with a double-edged sword. Throughout his career, he has been tasked with creating offense. To do so, it requires pushing the envelope — taking risks, making bang-bang decisions and playing instinctually.

Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

When a facilitator like Voracek tries to make plays at a prolific clip, he’s bound to make mistakes. It’s no coincidence the year Voracek set career highs in assists (65) and points (85), he also had his most giveaways (65). That was 2017-18, the Flyers’ best season (42 wins, 98 points) since 2011-12, when the franchise last won a playoff series.

Voracek is in a new system with a new head coach. He and Alain Vigneault are still getting to know each other — from the player’s tendencies to the coach’s style. 

In the third game of the relationship, Voracek was demoted from the first line to the fourth unit during the third period and played his fewest minutes (14:30) since 2015-16. In the fifth game, Voracek climbed from the third line to the second unit alongside Kevin Hayes and Oskar Lindblom after scoring a goal during the first period. He ended up with two goals and an assist during the 6-3 loss to the Oilers, although his final two points came late in the third when the game was out of reach.

“That’s why I made that quick change after the first period where I put him with Haysey and Oskar,” Vigneault said Friday following practice. “I thought his first period was good. He had good vibes, good energy. He was protecting the puck well. For the most part, that for him was a step in the right direction.”

Ultimately, Voracek needs to be himself. The Flyers are better when he’s himself. Over the past five seasons, the Flyers went 59-18-10 when Voracek had a multi-point game. When he’s himself, he’s not overthinking, he’s playing freely — and, yes, he’s playing harder and smarter. Voracek understands there must be a balance between aggressiveness and conservativeness with his playmaking.

And he knows fans might struggle to grasp the intricacies of that balance.

Prior to his three-point effort against Edmonton, Voracek had gone scoreless through the first four games of the season for the first time in his career.

If I play good defense, nobody is going to see that because I don’t produce offensively. If I produce offensively and I still make a couple of mistakes, they’re going to say I’m sh---y defensively. It’s a no-win situation. 

But I think defensively, I was pretty good when you look at those games. But it’s not good enough for me and for the team. I expect more out of myself offensively. And that’s what it takes sometimes, you have to … not take chances, but you have to create more. Obviously with creating more, being on the puck more, there’s a bigger chance you’re going to f--- it up sometimes.

With me right now, I’m 30 years old, I think we’re focusing on helping the team to win the game. If it’s scoring goals, getting an assist, making a good defensive play, focusing on playing good defense — it doesn’t matter as long as we find a way to win.

Confidence often drives Voracek. An important play or big goal can lead to points in bunches from the winger. He has mentioned that word a lot in his time here. Vigneault, Voracek and the Flyers will have to find ways to boost confidence together.

“A lot of it has to do with confidence,” Voracek said. “If you go in, if you don’t produce and if you are careful, it’s hard to gain something. I could still end up with four of five points in the first four games, the chances were there — passing, couple of chances, but it didn’t. If it did, it would be a different story. If you get the goal, if you get an assist, that builds up your confidence little bit.

"Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t good [in those games], either. Especially during the seasons in the past, you can’t have four or five games and end up with one point [and say] your game could be at the top level.

"The funny thing is, when you play well, it’s easy to find the balance because you have confidence.”

As Voracek makes plays, he will also make mistakes.

Is it frustrating when the fans or media only see the mistakes?

“Obviously from upstairs, you see the different perspective of the ice,” Voracek said. “There are different lanes when you have the puck, you see different things. I got here the way I played before and the way I was, I think, doing the right things. But sometimes it’s hard to satisfy everybody, you know what I mean? Especially today, it’s really hard to satisfy everyone. It’s almost impossible in today’s society.”

That’s why Voracek just needs to be himself. There is no perfect balance.

Overthinking in search of it won’t help Voracek or the Flyers.

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Flyers loan Connor Bunnaman to Phantoms; is Nolan Patrick nearing a return?

Flyers loan Connor Bunnaman to Phantoms; is Nolan Patrick nearing a return?

Updated: 2:52 p.m.

VOORHEES, N.J. — The Flyers on Friday loaned forward Connor Bunnaman to AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley.

The move could mean center Nolan Patrick, who has been week to week with a migraine disorder, is nearing a return.

When Patrick does come back, there will be an odd man out of the lineup. Bunnaman, a 21-year-old rookie, was the likely candidate. Instead of having him sit and watch, the team signed veteran Chris Stewart, who can be the 13th forward, as Bunnaman continues his development with the Phantoms.

"We want the kid to play," Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault said after practice Friday. "I really think we’ve got a good, young player there. 

"He’s a 21-year-old player that got 19 goals last year in the American League, that’s pretty good. He needs to play, he needs to get some minutes, and then when he comes back here at some point, he’ll be a better player for us."

Stewart will play Saturday against the Stars at the Wells Fargo Center (7 p.m./NBCSP).

With Patrick not quite back yet, the Flyers could call up a forward from Lehigh Valley for some added offense. The candidates are Joel Farabee, German Rubtsov, Mikhail Vorobyev, Nicolas Aube-Kubel or possibly a veteran like Andy Andreoff. The Flyers currently have only 12 forwards and the roster is at 21 players. It can be at a maximum 23.

Patrick did more solo work Friday and took part in practice wearing a non-contact jersey.

"I see Nolan around, I really would tell you that when there’s feedback as far as where he is, I get it from our medical staff," Vigneault said. "I have been told that he’s been making some progress. Today I think was his longest practice, it was almost 30 minutes with us. So I think he’s on the right track."

The 21-year-old missed all of training camp and the preseason.

"We consulted a lot of different people and I think we feel we're in a good place medically," Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher said Sept. 26. "We'll hope for the best."

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