One ring down, one ring to go.
Claude Giroux is enjoying a summer of marital bliss after tying the knot with fiancee Ryanne Breton.
When he returns to Philadelphia later this summer, he’ll begin his quest once again to earn that much more elusive championship ring. Of course, few people believe the Flyers are close to winning a Stanley Cup, but with the addition of James van Riemsdyk, they’re closer.
Maybe one more stud defenseman, Carter Hart in his prime, and switching the captain back to center?
Is it possible that after topping the 100-point plateau for the first time in his career, Giroux’s left wing conversion was just a one-year experiment?
General manager Ron Hextall stated a desire to sign a third-line center who would help kill penalties, but only signing one on his terms. The players that seemingly fit that role — Tyler Bozak, Riley Nash and Derek Ryan — all signed three-year contracts elsewhere, and the concern within the organization is eventually blocking Morgan Frost’s path to the NHL (see story).
So Hextall was asked on July 1 how the Flyers find that center they weren’t able to sign through free agency and the first answer that almost immediately came to mind was moving Giroux back to center.
I believe the Flyers' brass has already given the idea consideration, and if you move the pieces around on paper, the team looks considerably deeper with Giroux in the middle again.
Several elements stand out when you compare and contrast the different combinations.
1. The Flyers are considerably more balanced with Giroux at center, with three lines that can do offensive damage and create matchup problems for the opposition, especially at home with last change.
2. Konecny could be buried with Giroux at wing. He’s almost guaranteed a spot in the top six if Giroux switches back to center. During the first half of last season, Konecny was paired with players that didn’t have a similar skill set, and consequently, the super-skilled winger struggled to find any offensive rhythm.
3. While effective at times last season, Laughton doesn’t seem ready to jump into the role of a third-line center. The 2012 first-round pick played some of his best hockey late in the season on the left wing with Jori Lehtera at center.
If Dave Hakstol elects to make this change in the preseason, the biggest concern moving forward doesn’t necessarily involve Giroux’s move back to center, but rather can Couturier continue to excel by posting solid offensive numbers without Giroux on his wing? The two players were inseparable last season until the final two games of the Flyers' playoff series against Pittsburgh.
And it may be the best option to start next season.