Anze Kopitar

Claude Giroux's final Hart Trophy voting unveiled — and it should hurt

Claude Giroux's final Hart Trophy voting unveiled — and it should hurt

When the Hart Memorial Trophy finalists were unveiled in late April and Claude Giroux's name was nowhere to be found, there was noticeable outrage across the Delaware Valley — and understandably so.

Giroux, in his age 30 season, tied for the league lead in assists at 68 and finished second in points with 102, behind only Connor McDavid (108). He also recorded a better plus/minus at plus-28 than the three finalists — Anze Kopitar (plus-21), Taylor Hall (plus-14) and Nathan MacKinnon (plus-11).

Not only that, Giroux also emphatically rebounded from one of his worst seasons as a pro with career bests across the board — again, at age 30.

2016-17: 82 games, 14 goals, 44 assists, 58 points, minus-15

2017-18: 82 games, 34 goals, 68 assists, 102 points, plus-28

So when Giroux was not voted a Hart Trophy finalist, it led to the burning and lingering question of how ridiculous was the omission?

Giroux was already considered snubbed, but imagine if the Flyers' captain finished outside, say, the top five or six of the final voting? All hell would have broken loose in Philadelphia.

Turns out, Giroux did get some respect, finishing fourth in the final tally, which was released Wednesday night at the NHL Awards in Las Vegas, where Hall won the Hart Trophy.

At least Giroux received his share of love, but in a way, it stings even more for his supporters given the fact he fell only five points shy of being a finalist.

Nonetheless, Giroux's 2017-18 season will never be forgotten, hardware or not. He punctuated the first 100-point campaign in Flyers history since Eric Lindros in 1995-96 by delivering a hat trick in Game 82 of the regular season to clinch the Flyers a playoff berth at the Wells Fargo Center.

Fans chanted MVP.

And that will have to do.

Other NHL Awards tidbits

• Shayne Gostisbehere finished 10th in the James Norris Memorial Trophy voting for best defenseman. Victor Hedman won the award.

• Ron Hextall came in eighth for General Manager of the Year while also notching a first-place vote. Dave Hakstol slotted in at 14th for the Jack Adams Award (NHL Coach of the Year). The Golden Knights swept the categories with GM George McPhee and head coach Gerard Gallant taking home the honors.

More on the Flyers

Was Couturier snubbed for Selke Trophy?

Simmonds narrowly misses out on Flyers history

Sean Couturier finishes 2nd to Anze Kopitar for Selke Trophy

Sean Couturier finishes 2nd to Anze Kopitar for Selke Trophy

Flyers center Sean Couturier finished second to Kings center Anze Kopitar for the Frank J. Selke Trophy as the NHL’s top defensive forward presented Wednesday night in Las Vegas. 

Couturier was looking to become the third Flyer to win the award after Dave Poulin in 1987 and Bobby Clarke in 1983.  

The Flyers' top center was edged out by Kopitar, who also won the award in 2016. Four-time Selke winner Patrice Bergeron was third after missing a significant time with a broken foot.

Kopitar finished with 1,152 points with 70 first-place votes to Couturier’s 976 and 37 first-place votes.

Couturier elevated his game in 2017-18, proving to be one of the best all-around centers in the league, scoring 31 goals with 76 points while also finishing third in the NHL with a plus-34 rating.

Kopitar and Couturier also finished 1-2 in minutes played among forwards.

More on the Flyers

Kings coach John Stevens reflects on Flyers' tenure, growth as leader

Kings coach John Stevens reflects on Flyers' tenure, growth as leader

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — When John Stevens steps behind the bench tonight for the Kings' home opener against the Flyers, it will be 2,862 days since the last time he found himself in this same position (without the interim tag) in the National Hockey League … with the Flyers, no less.

“It’s been so long now,” the 51-year-old Stevens said Thursday. “Seven years have passed since I coached there. I spent a long time in Philadelphia. I have an enormous amount of respect for the organization. It’s always an exciting matchup because it’s a historic franchise. We’re looking forward to it.”

Perhaps there’s a sense of irony that Stevens' first game back will come against the organization who relieved him of his duties on Dec. 4, 2009, following a 3-0 loss to the Vancouver Canucks on home ice. That was a Flyers team struggling to find an identity — with a 13-11-1 record at the time of Stevens' firing — following the offseason acquisition of defenseman Chris Pronger. Optimism was high as then-general manager Paul Holmgren assembled a team he believed could dethrone the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference, and Stevens was well aware of the expectations.

“I think just incorporating everybody there, getting them on the same page and just dealing with the whole leadership issue is something I may have tackled a little differently, but if you look back, we got off to a great start that year, we had some injuries, and then we let it slip away after that great start," Stevens said. "Clearly, I didn’t do enough to get that ship righted when we had such a good start."

Stevens was tasked with plugging holes during the shipwreck of 2006-07 when general manager Bob Clarke stepped down and Ken Hitchcock was fired on the same Sunday morning just nine days into the regular season. Stevens was given the head coaching job on an interim basis and proceeded to navigate his way through that tumultuous year as the Flyers finished with just 56 points, a whopping 45-point decline from the previous season.

Beginning Thursday night, Stevens takes over a situation with a Kings organization looking for a similar turnaround after missing the playoffs two of the last three seasons. Despite winning two Stanley Cup championships under Darryl Sutter, the Kings' players are embracing Stevens after the relationship between the players and their former coach had developed such animosity that at one point the Kings' players reportedly locked Sutter out of the dressing room.

“It’s definitely refreshing to hear his voice behind the bench,” Kings captain Anze Kopitar said of Stevens.

“He was my positional coach for a long time,” defenseman Drew Doughty said. “When he first came in, we had a few bumping head issues, me and him, but ever since those issues got smoothed out, it’s been smooth sailing from then on. He’s taught me a lot about being a professional and being a leader on the team. He’s also helped me a lot with my on-ice stuff, too. He’s a very smart hockey mind. He knows a lot about the game and he cares a lot about his players, and he wants the best for everyone.”

For a coach that has been just as attached to X’s and O’s as a giddy high school couple, Stevens has also exuded leadership throughout his hockey career. He captained the Phantoms to the Calder Cup in 1997, coached them to a championship in 2005, and has passed down that leadership skill set to his two sons: John Stevens Jr. and Nolan Stevens, both of whom have worn the “C” at Northeastern University in Boston.

But what Doughty and the Stevens' boys have imparted to John is a personal element that comes into coaching that perhaps wasn’t nearly as evident during his days with the Flyers.

“Relationships have always been important," Stevens said. "I’ve been a captain on every team I’ve played on, so I think that you’re a coach within the locker room. But seeing my kids play at a high level, you see how important feedback is to them. I think it’s really brought it more so to my attention. I think through my experiences of successes and failures, I maybe delve into those relationships, especially with older players, more so than I did before. I think all players appreciate being coached and all players appreciate feedback.”

Derailing the 'Wayne Train'
Wayne Simmonds got the best of reigning Norris Trophy-winning defenseman Brent Burns Wednesday night. Simmonds gets a crack at another one of the league’s top blueliners in Doughty, who won the Norris Trophy in 2016. Doughty is well aware of the problems Simmonds presents.  

“He does his magic around the net, and he definitely makes his living in front of the net,” Doughty said. “There’s not much you can do on a power play besides block shots or get under his stick. They've got a good power play and he’s a big reason to that. You've just got to play him hard because you know how hard he’s going to play every night. He’s a competitive guy. You've got to battle him hard. It’s going to be a tough job, but he’s not going to hat trick tonight.”

Tragedy ... again
The Los Angeles Kings organization was devastated once again when 22-year-old Christina Duarte, a native of nearby Redondo Beach, California, was one of nearly 60 people killed at the country music festival across from the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas on Sunday. Duarte had recently graduated from college and was working her first full-time job — as a fan service associate with the organization.

Duarte’s death comes 16 years after the Kings organization tragically lost “Ace” Bailey who was flying aboard United flight 175, which crashed into the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. Bailey served as the team’s director of pro scouting. 

The Kings' players will wear a heart-shaped “CD” sticker on the back of their helmets and the team’s personnel will wear a pin to honor Duarte’s memory. 

“For sure, it’s going to be emotional,” Kopitar said. “Obviously, it’s very sad times. We'll use that as a positive energy.”

The Kings are donating their 50/50 raffle from Thursday’s game against the Flyers to the Las Vegas Victims’ Fund.