Claude Giroux‘s ascension to the top of the NHL’s points leader boards this season was not something the Flyers brass didn’t see coming. They planned for it. Claude was buried in the Flyers deep forward talent for the past 3 years. Management wasn’t unable to unleash him, but they knew they had something special on their hands and I believe much of the fan base did as well. When he was finally given more of a prominent role in the offense in the 2010-2011 season his true point scoring and toughness started to show. His natural ability to control the pace of the game if he wants to was showcased that season. He had a points line of 25/51/76 in 82 games played. That was his highest total to that date as before the 2010-2011 season his highest point total at the NHL level was 47. That was just a taste of G we hadn’t got the whole thing yet. At that juncture in his career management of the Flyers made the drastic trades of Richards and Carter and all but handed the keys to the Flyers over to G. Every season in which Giroux was given more responsibility he has responded by posting higher numbers (he went from 47 points in ’09-’10 to 76 points in ’10-’11 to 93 points in’11-’12) and playing solid defensively (he is now one of our best penalty killing forwards along with Talbot and Couturier).
Giroux this season blew away his career high in points this with 93 which was good for third this year in the NHL scoring race. His points split was 28/65/93. His 65 assists were good for 2nd best in the NHL behind Henrik Sedin (he had 67). He’s clearly a playmaker and looks to be evolving into one of the best. He has a Forsberg-esque touch on his passes and has some good goal scoring punch too. He almost had 30 this year. I expect he will probably top out at around a 30 goal scorer on any given seas0n for most of his career. His assists however will probably be around the number he achieved this year or slightly more. As long as he has people around him that get pot some goals he can definitely flirt with the 70-75 range of assists season in and season out. I won’t sell him short because he is clearly one of the best players in the NHL today. His potential is sky high when it comes to points production and he also has good leadership ability to boot. What is really impressive about Giroux is his playoff numbers. In 4 playoff runs with the Flyers he has managed to keep just about a point per game pace. In last year’s playoff run he had 17 points in 10 games played. That’s coming through in the clutch. Guys like Danny Briere are revered in the NHL because of their playoff production. Every player gets a little more fired up for the playoffs, but not many perform well under the pressure and the spotlight. So far in Giroux’s career he has shown that he can be as, if not more, productive come playoff time.
Giroux would have most likely had this breakout year no matter what circumstances happened regarding free agency and trades this offseason as long as he was given the added responsibility. I do however believe that Jaromir Jagr played a part in G’s emergence both from helping him on the ice and guiding him off the ice. As I said in my article about Jagr earlier this month the things that a guy like him brings to a team are both tangible and intangible. Jagr gave Giroux a lot of confidence. He called him “Little Mario” repeatedly this season. That’s got to mean a lot to G. Jagr and G also had some great chemistry on the ice and along with Birddog they formed a terrific offensive combination this year. At the end of the season interviews that each player has with management it was said that a lot of players mentioned that they would like to see Jagr back in the orange and black next season. You can bet G was one of those players.
On a side note it was sad to see Lappy officially retire. He’s a huge what could of been type player for the Flyers. His leadership and die-hard attitude exemplified Flyer hockey. His Flyer career was very short (82 regular season games and 13 playoff games) but that’s just another testament to how much of a statement he made with his play while he was here. He is one of the true great grinder players. He was a player who would wear out opposing teams players. He did the dirty work the hard work that’s what he was about. He also was an excellent penalty killer. Never fearing a blocked shot. A unsung hero for sure and his presence in the league will be missed.
- John LaMarra
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