VOORHEES, N.J. — Former Flyer Jeremy Roenick provided some interesting insight into the psychology of Claude Giroux this summer.
On CSN's July 14 edition of Philly Sports Talk, Roenick said, "The reason why Claude Giroux doesn't get success is [because] he lets everything get into his mind and he looks for other things to blame it on.”
What those “other things” are Roenick didn’t elaborate, but Giroux has been resilient in his refusal to use injuries as an excuse. Roenick’s assessment came back in July at the American Century Celebrity Golf Championships in Lake Tahoe, and on Wednesday, Giroux agreed completely that he experiences this mental overload.
“Yeah, I did [agree],” Giroux said, “and I don’t think there was anything negative about that. It was just about me proving who I am. He’s been in that position before and he knows how it feels. He said what I think.
"I’m actually close with Jeremy. Jeremy’s a guy that when he played, he had a chip on his shoulder. He wanted to prove every game that he was better than everybody else. It’s about having that mentality.”
A mentality no one questioned during Giroux’s ascension as one of the best players in the world. A talent that has earned him four All-Star Game appearances and helped him finish top five in voting for the Hart Trophy award as the league's MVP in 2011-12.
Since putting up 28 goals and 86 points in 2013-14, Giroux has seen his offensive production decline in each of the past three years, as he finished with just 14 goals and 58 points this past season.
Roenick referred to Giroux’s 2016-17 season as “a bad-luck situation,” one that can be remedied if he blocks out distractions.
“Put it back together,” Roenick said in July. “Show everybody why you're one of the best competitors in the game and get back up into that top-scoring aspect. And don't worry about slumps and don't worry about what people think of you, just be Claude Giroux. And if he does that, this team is going to prosper."
When I spoke to Giroux on Wednesday for the first time regarding his offseason and Roenick’s comments, I could sense some tension, which led to this awkward exchange …
Me: Do you look at this season as proving some of the doubters and critics wrong that your game is in decline?
Giroux: “Yeah, I read your stuff, so it's kind of motivation.”
My only mention of Giroux this summer was part of an “End-to-End” column in which the CSNPhilly staff takes a topic and breaks it down.
Me: “What did I say exactly?”
Giroux: “Not positive, that’s for sure. But that’s how the business is and for me, it's to prove what kind of player I am and what I can do. The first thing I look at is that our team is looking very good right now. When the team goes well, individually, it’s a lot easier. You can see the mentality of guys coming to camp right now. It’s a different feel right now. I think guys just want more.”
Giroux’s response was a considerably different tone from the last time the media spoke with the captain, which came during the Flyers' cleanout day in April.
"I'm probably the toughest person to judge myself,” Giroux said then. "I'm really hard on myself. What you guys write and say, it doesn't really bother me."
Clearly what bothers Giroux mentally seems to be a little tougher to analyze than what he has endured physically.
A year ago, Giroux was overcoming hip/abdominal surgery and he wasn’t able to prepare for the regular season like he normally would have, as he joined Team Canada at the World Cup of Hockey tournament.
“Every summer is about finding new ways to get better,” Giroux said Wednesday of his offseason training in his native Ottawa. “This summer, I didn’t have to rehab all summer, so I actually had a chance to work out and do what I used to do.
"It was more getting back to explosive stuff, getting stronger, getting faster. I think it’s pretty much the same story for every player — find ways to get better. That’s what we did all summer.”
As he approaches his 30th birthday — he'll turn 30 on Jan. 12 — it’s almost inconceivable to think Giroux and the Flyers haven’t advanced in the playoffs since beating the Penguins in 2012 when the captain was just 24 years old. Those are prime years of a career you can’t get back. Some will say those are wasted years, while others believe you’re wasting time just thinking about it in those terms.
With training camp officially beginning next Friday, Giroux offered up one piece of self-advice Wednesday that will likely serve him best — not only for this season but for the rest of his career.
"It's about going out there and playing hockey," Giroux said. "That's what I know to do best is play hockey. Thinking about other things is not going to change anything how I play on the ice."