On Friday night, Owen Tippett scored his first career hat trick against the Buffalo Sabres. Until this year, he had never scored more than one goal in a game. This year, he has three multi-score games for the Flyers. Overall, he has set career highs with 21 goals with 18 assists. There are also 13 games left to go this season; so he is not done yet.
Whether it is fair or unfair, Tippett will always be compared with Claude Giroux; the legend he was traded for. But if you look at their careers, there are some marked differences. However, the two players aren’t all that different after all.
While a member of the Florida Panthers, Tippett played parts of three seasons, playing in 94 games and scoring just 14 goals with 19 assists. In 84 games since joining the Flyers last year, he has appeared in 85 games and scored 25 goals with 21 assists. He was buried behind top-tier talent on the bottom lines. When promoted to the top lines, he didn’t get much time to shine. In some ways, you could say he was Florida’s version of Morgan Frost; never getting much consistency to show what he could do. He bounced around from line to line before Florida gave up on him.
In comparison, Giroux scored 16 goals with 31 assists in his first full year as a 22-year-old in 2009-10 as the Flyers went to the Stanley Cup. He was a young, rising star surrounded by talented players like Simon Gagne, Jeff Carter, Michael Richards, Scott Hartnell, and newly minted general manager Daniel Briere. Two years later, Giroux scored 28 goals with 65 assists. He was always seen as the player of the future and the guy who became the captain in 2013 at the age of 26 after Chris Pronger had to retire.
Tippett may not be a leader on this team yet. He is still getting his legs on the ice here in Philly. Unlike Giroux, who started off with a confident team with a demanding coach surrounded by good players, Tippett is starting off with a team that is floundering with a demanding coach surrounded by young players, role players, and injured players. Giroux had a leg up on Tippett, but Tippett is one of the few shining spots on a bad team.
While Tippett won’t get a hat trick every night, not even Wayne Gretzky could do that, you have to wonder about how much more he can improve. If he can consistently be a 20+ goal scorer with a healthy Travis Konecny, a bounced-back Joel Farabee, and other improved players, Tippett could end up being one of the go-to guys on this team. For this team to move forward in a positive direction he needs to keep developing and improving.
Giroux hasn’t lost a step this season. He’s scored 28 goals with 38 assists for the Ottawa Senators. He’s also won almost 60% of his faceoffs. No current Flyer with over 100 faceoff attempts is close to 50%, though Scott Laughton is close at 47.12%. He’s having his best season in several years. The Flyers could’ve used his skill set had they been able to keep him.
As a kid in 1989, I remember seeing a commercial for the Phillies with Charlie Hayes saying that he “Wasn’t going to be the next Mike Schmidt, but he wanted to be the first Charlie Hayes.” Tippett isn’t going to be Giroux. He may be better or he may not be. Either way, he’s starting to come out of Giroux’s shadow and become his own player. That in itself is an important step.
Whatever path Tippett’s career may take, this is an important step forward. Let’s hope this is the first of several hat tricks along the way. Or, at least let this be the beginning of the next wonderful career here with the Flyers.