What Do You ‘C’?: Giroux’s Legacy Still Cloudy After Career Year
April was quite a month for Claude Giroux.
It started with the Flyers captain putting the finishing touches on the best regular season of his career, setting career highs in goals and points, surpassing 100 points for the first time in his career, and finishing the regular season with a hat trick to get the Flyers into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
In a six-game series against the Penguins, Giroux had just three points and was held quiet in multiples games, bringing his leadership into question again among the fan base.
Three of the losses in the series came on home ice. Giroux commented in his exit interview that the Flyers may be trying too hard when they fall behind on home ice and that their shortcomings can cause the fans to start booing. The next day, those comments were translated to saying that the Flyers didn’t win at home because the fans booed them.
To cap it all off, Giroux and his 102-point regular season -- second in the NHL -- was not among the finalists for the Hart Trophy as the league’s MVP.
There are certainly varying opinions of the Flyers captain across the spectrum of the league. Even after posting the best season of his career at age 30, making the switch to the wing and essentially carrying the Flyers into the playoffs down the stretch, Giroux’s legacy remains cloudy.
Let’s start with the regular season. Giroux was as consistent as any forward in the league. He scored six goals in October and had 11 goals and 28 points by the end of November. Despite that, he faced criticism as the Flyers were looking at another lost season, mired in a 10-game losing streak as December began.
The Flyers started to turn things around as Giroux provided more assists than goals. In December and January, Giroux had just three goals, but had 26 assists in that time.
Giroux really closed the season as well as anybody in the league. In the final three months, a total of 32 games, Giroux scored 20 goals and had 45 points.
The 34-goal, 102-point season wasn’t just a career year for Giroux. It was quite the resurgence after a season where the Flyers captain posted just 14 goals and 58 points.
But that’s the regular season. When the ultimate goal is not only reaching the playoffs but making a run at the Stanley Cup, anything short is not acceptable. Since taking over as Flyers captain, Giroux and the Flyers have made the playoffs three times. In each appearance, they lost in the first round.
Giroux had six points in the seven-game series against the Rangers in 2014, one assist in six games against the Capitals in 2016 and three points in the first-round series against the Penguins this postseason.
For so many, playoff success is about what has happened lately, not in the past. Many people look and see the four total playoff points in the last 12 games. Many that do tend to forget that Giroux was a big reason for why the Flyers even had playoff appearances to begin with in those years.
When the Flyers season came to an end after another failed series, Giroux was once again at the forefront of criticism, for more reasons than one. Not only did Giroux struggle to produce in the six-game series, but his comments at his exit interview were left open to interpretation and not received well.
"I think when it's not going very well, fans, they can get a little...start booing us and stuff. That's when we try to do too much," Giroux said.
"I think sometimes -- I'm not saying every game -- but some games, at home, it wasn't going our way. And sometimes it can happen like that. You can have a bad start. You can be down, 1- or 2-0. You keep going the same way you planned on playing the game. That wasn't the case. We kind of changed our game. We tried to do a little too much. Trying to do somebody else's job instead of going out there and playing the game."
What Giroux was actually saying was that the team struggled at home to refocus and stick to a gameplan when things didn’t go their way. And perhaps he was mainly focusing on the 10-game losing streak and the playoff series against Pittsburgh -- the Flyers lost five of the 10 games on the losing streak on home ice and lost all three home games to Pittsburgh in the playoffs.
Many took it a different way. It was seen as “the fans booed, so we didn’t play well because that hurt us.”
It was hardly what the captain was trying to say, but that didn’t matter, especially after another season where the Flyers managed to reach the playoffs without getting much playoff success.
Interestingly enough, there was a wave of support for Giroux in the days that followed when he was snubbed as a finalist for the Hart Trophy, despite finishing second in the NHL in points and essentially carrying his team into the playoffs.
If anything, the entire month showed both the appreciation and frustration fans have around the Flyers captain. Giroux deserved some form of recognition, even if he was only a finalist, in the Hart Trophy race. He just put together a career season at age 30 after so many had written him off following a 58-point season a year earlier.
At the same time, Giroux is the captain of the Philadelphia Flyers. His harshest critic is the fans. And when you’ve been the leader wearing the ‘C’ for six seasons and haven’t made it out of the first round of the playoffs in that time, there’s going to be frustration.
So Giroux’s legacy remains incomplete and cloudy. He’s been one of the best players in franchise history by the numbers. As Giroux’s career season progressed, he continued to climb up the lists of all-time goals, assists and points in Flyers history.
But in Philadelphia, playoff success carries a lot of weight and it’s the one thing Giroux really hasn’t had. He had a few great years of point production early in his career, when the Flyers had much more offensive depth. As the captain of the team, not only has the team not succeeded, he has not individually.
What this essentially means is that Giroux enters his 11th season with the Flyers in 2018-19 with things left to prove. Every year, the Flyers veteran group gets a little smaller and younger talent starts to make the transition to the NHL.
As the team gets better, Giroux needs to be that leader not only in the most important games of the regular season but in the playoffs too. Until the Flyers can start to emerge from this build and become a more serious contender in the playoffs, Giroux’s legacy will continue to be a mixed bag.