Claude Giroux

Forget the booing comment, Claude Giroux still has something to prove

Forget the booing comment, Claude Giroux still has something to prove

Claude Giroux sat there at his end-of-the-season news conference last week, answering question after question and periodically sipping from his Wawa 16 oz. coffee cup, because Giroux has been here for 10 years and that is what Philadelphians do.

Then came a pointed question that, in hindsight, Giroux could have handled better — with a little less truth and a bit more deceit.

Was this crowd tough on you, not just you but the whole team? 

“I do think so,” Giroux said. “I think when it’s not going very well, fans, they start booing us and stuff. That’s when we try to do too much after.”

And here we are. Giroux, after another disappointing playoff performance, is being painted as a whiner, and we’re from Philadelphia, and we don’t complain; some of us throw objects onto the ice in the postseason instead. Even after Giroux posted the Flyers’ first 100-point season in over 20 years, calls to break up the core have resurfaced.

Frustrations with the Flyers’ lack of playoff success are warranted; they haven’t won a series since 2012. Criticism of Giroux’s postseason play is fair. Since Peter Laviolette called him the “best player in the world” in 2012, Giroux has 13 points and a minus-14 rating in 23 playoff games. As the Flyers’ captain and one of the best players in franchise history, that just isn’t going to cut it. Giroux has to be better.

“You play the game to go as far as you can,” Giroux said. “Early in my career, I got a chance to go to the Cup, went to the second round a couple of times. For us to get in that position being able to play longer, I strongly believe we are [headed] in the right direction.”

The expectation placed on the Flyers by Ron Hextall has been to compete in the playoffs during the rebuild — and yes, we can use that “R” word. Last week, Hextall finally admitted what we knew all along, that “this is a bit of a slow process.” But the Flyers are getting younger and the clock is ticking on the Giroux era.

Now comes the question of whether the Flyers can still win with Giroux. Perhaps, though, the better question is, in what capacity will Giroux be when the Flyers are ready to contend again?

Giroux, 30, posted career highs across the board in 2017-18. He finished second in the NHL in scoring, with 102 points, and had his first 30-goal season (34), all while bouncing back from his worst 82-game season in 2016-17 since his first full year. But with four years left at $8.275 million per, Giroux put to rest the notion his contract would haunt the Flyers.

While Hextall enters his fifth offseason as GM, the first with any real cap space, the Flyers are still getting younger. Travis Konecny avoided the sophomore slump, while Nolan Patrick, after a bumpy start, established himself as the team’s No. 2 center. Oskar Lindblom played well, and there will likely be more kids here next season.

"I think it is good competition," Giroux said. "Look at Nolan Patrick and TK — they really took a step forward. They're going to deserve more ice time, more situations. For guys like us, you gotta keep going. At the end of the day, this game's a business. The best at the job will get the job. You have to be able to push yourself. We want those kids to do great."

In that lies the answer. Can the Flyers still win with Giroux? Sure. It’ll come down to whether he’s part of the core or here as part of the veteran presence when they’re ready to contend.

But to cherry-pick Giroux's honest response to a specific question is unfair. We're from Philadelphia, and captains are our punching bags. Fair or not.

Why Claude Giroux should've been a Hart Trophy finalist

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Why Claude Giroux should've been a Hart Trophy finalist

Claude Giroux will not be attending the NHL Awards Show in Las Vegas on June 20. 

But he should be.

The Flyers' captain was not a finalist for the Ted Lindsay Award as the “most outstanding player in the regular season” as determined by members of the NHL Players Association. Nor was he chosen as one of three finalists for the Hart Trophy awarded to the “player judged most valuable to his team” voted on by members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association.

Flyers Nation can only be left wondering why Giroux was overlooked by those who play the sport and those who cover it yet again after Taylor Hall, Anze Kopitar and Nathan McKinnon were announced as Hart Trophy finalists Friday night.

In 2012, Giroux finished third in scoring behind Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin and Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos and was passed over for both major awards in favor of Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. 

This season, Giroux built a much stronger case for inclusion. He finished with 102 points, second to Edmonton’s Connor McDavid, and the highest point total of any player whose team qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

In a Hart Trophy race that was more jam-packed than the Manhattan rush hour subway, how do you differentiate between eight to 10 legitimate candidates?

In the case of MacKinnon (Avalanche), Hall (Devils), Kopitar (Kings) and Giroux (Flyers), all four of their teams secured a playoff spot over the final week of the regular season. Had the Avalanche failed to beat the Blues in Game 82, MacKinnon wouldn’t be on this list. Failing to reach the postseason tarnishes value. Otherwise, McDavid would be the runaway favorite.

Which is why the final 10 games of the regular season should be weighted more heavily, as a majority of teams were in playoff mode looking to secure a spot. Giroux’s 19 points were better than Hall (17), Kopitar (12) and MacKinnon (8). Giroux also went on a goal-scoring tear with eight goals — including a hat trick in the season finale — in those final 10 games compared to just one for MacKinnon.  

However, Giroux’s value and importance even extended over the entire 82-game schedule, as he played a role in 41.3% of the goals the Flyers scored — better than Kopitar (39.5), Hall (39.1) and even MacKinnon (38.3) in this category.

There's an argument to be made that if the Devils didn’t have Hall, who was 41 points better than Jersey’s second-leading scorer, Nico Hischier, they’re nowhere near a playoff team. As valid as that point may be, you can also take a much different view through the Hart Trophy prism.

Which of the aforementioned players elevated the performance of their linemates/teammates? Who made the players around him better? In the case of MacKinnon, there was Mikko Rantanen, who went from 38 points a season ago to 84. Kopitar helped bring Dustin Brown’s game back to life with a career-high 61 points in L.A., and even Nikita Kucherov can be credited for Steven Stamkos’ comeback year.

Which is why Giroux’s move to left wing is that much more valuable. The captain helped catapult Sean Couturier and elevate him into the role as a No. 1 center. Couturier jumped from 34 points in 2016-17 to 76 points this season, and he simply doesn’t have his breakout season without playing all 82 games with Giroux on the same line.

If that’s not all-Hart worthy, it’s hard to quantify exactly what is.

How I would have voted 
1. Claude Giroux
2. Nathan MacKinnon
3. Anze Kopitar
4. Nikita Kucherov
5. Taylor Hall
6. Evgeni Malkin

Flyers' forward grades and outlook for next season — Part 1

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Flyers' forward grades and outlook for next season — Part 1

Over the next several days, we’ll evaluate the Flyers at each position, give a regular season and postseason grade and provide an outlook for their roster status for the 2018-19 season. Next up, Part 1 of the forwards:

After evaluating goaltending and the defense, we turn our attention to the Flyers’ forwards, one of the deepest groups under coach Dave Hakstol and a group that produced nine double-digit scorers in 2017-18.

Claude Giroux

Regular Season:
 A+

Playoffs: D                 

As tremendous as Giroux was during the regular season, he was that much of a disappointment in the playoffs. Giroux finished with a career high in points and goals. The manner in which he carried the team on his back over the final month was some of the best hockey he’s ever played. However, Giroux was a minus-11 in Pittsburgh’s four playoff wins and the Flyers desperately needed their superstar against the Crosby-led Penguins. 

2018-19 outlook: Giroux has four more years at $8.275 million remaining on his eight-year contract. If he can replicate 2017-18, then he’ll prove to be more productive at left wing over the second half of his contract than the first four years. He can solidify his place as one of the franchise greats. 

Sean Couturier

Regular Season:
 A+ 
   
Playoffs: A-

There’s really not much else Couturier could have done this season as one of the best two-way forwards in the NHL. Perhaps the only criticism was his lack of goal scoring in the final two-plus months of the season (five goals over his final 32 games). Couturier racked up nine points in the five playoff games, and outside of a dismal Game 1, he was a plus-5 in the remainder of the series. Arguably, the most important and indispensable forward on the Flyers.          

2018-19 outlook: Couturier has four years remaining on his six-year, $26 million dollar deal he signed in 2015, which may be the biggest bargain in the NHL right now considering Coots has elevated himself as a No. 1 center and is comparable to Boston’s Patrice Bergeron. 

Jori Lehtera

Regular Season: 
D

Playoffs: D+

Spent the entire season in the Flyers’ bottom six playing mostly on the wing and finished with a career-low eight points in 62 games. Lehtera’s instincts and smart, veteran play just couldn’t compensate for his lack of foot speed. He did develop a chemistry playing alongside Filppula on the penalty kill and together they contributed a pair of shorthanded goals. 

2018-19 outlook: Has one season remaining at $4.7 million. GM Ron Hextall stated he doesn’t expect to buy out the final year of Lehtera’s contract.