This is what I want for Claude Giroux before he retires:
I want him to be a Flyer for life. I want him to lead a deep run into the Stanley Cup playoffs as captain. I want him to earn a Hall of Fame plaque.
Two out of three wouldn’t be bad. One out of three seems more likely.
Giroux will turn 32 in January. It’s fair to assume he has two more years of prime production, then maybe three more of significant value. Considering where he is today, and where the franchise is today, the only probable satisfaction of my desire is that he never leaves the 215.
The Hall seems too much to ask. It is reserved for dominant players; for winners. The perception of Giroux is that he’s perennially the best player on a perennially disappointing team. He’s been captain of that team for 6 1/2 seasons, which only amplifies the perceived shortcomings.
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It’s not for lack of effort, or, talent, for that matter. "G" plays tirelessly, with speed and skill and instinct and a genius that draws your eye to wherever he skates. He has been the victim of a ruthlessly mismanaged franchise whose desperation always has been its undoing.
Unfortunately, that’s the sort of nuance usually ignored by Hall of Fame voters, regardless of sport. Stats are not ignored, and, of course, winning isn’t, either. He doesn’t have enough of either, and he probably won’t.
Giroux has been a steady scorer, in the top 10 four times, but he’s 93rd all-time in points per game. Worse, the Flyers haven’t won a playoff series since Giroux became captain. He has scored three goals and has 10 total points in 19 playoff games since 2013-14.
Which brings us to the present. The Flyers are only about 80 percent through a rebuild that has dragged into a sixth season, so I can’t see him winning a Cup if he finishes his career in Philadelphia. And I can’t see him in the Hall without a Cup, or at least without getting close a couple more times.
Without becoming a playoff fixture, he would need an MVP award, and his best shot at the Hart Trophy came in 2018, his only 100-point season. With Alex Ovechkin in Washington, with Sidney Crosby in Pittsburgh, with Nikita Kucherov in Tampa Bay, and, of course, with 22-year-old Connor McDavid in Edmonton, will Giroux even have another chance?
He has three years and about $20 million left on the 8-year, $66 million contract extension that took effect in 2014, and he’ll be 34 when that ends. He’s averaged about 73 points in his 10 full seasons, so, assuming good health and decent support, he’ll have 981 points. Maybe more, considering he’s averaged more than 93 the past two seasons, since he moved from center to wing. So, say 1,000 points by the end of the deal, but that doesn’t put him in the Hall.
Say he signs an extension that locks him in for two more years and ends when he’s 36. So, max, about 1,200 points; more likely, 1,000. That won’t do it. There are plenty of players with great stats who aren’t in the Hall. Ask Sabres draftees Pierre Turgeon and Alexander Mogilny.
Maybe Giroux won’t suffer the same snub. He shouldn’t. If he does, it will be because he didn’t live up to a profile that never should have been created.
Giroux would be seen differently if he’d been left a co-star rather than the face of the franchise. Peter Laviolette’s absurd claim in April 2012 — that Giroux was the “best player in the world” — set a bar far too high for Giroux to reach.
Laviolette’s hyperbole might have been dismissed as such if Giroux hadn’t been named Flyers captain in January 2013. He inherited the post from Chris Pronger, whose career was ending, but the task didn’t suit his personality. Giroux had played with two captains, but he couldn’t emulate either. He wasn’t a tough, two-way maniac like Mike Richards, and he certainly wasn’t a domineering superstar like Pronger.
Richards’ captaincy should instead have fallen to Kimmo Timonen, the Finnish defenseman who effectively filled the role anyway. By the time Timonen was finished, Wayne Simmonds was ready. When Simmer got traded last season, Giroux could have finally traded his “A” for the “C” in that scenario.
Nonetheless, Giroux has grown into the role. Five years ago, he spent a night in an Ottawa jail after repeatedly grabbing a male police officer’s behind in a bar on Canada Day. This year, as a new father, he’ll spend his nights grabbing bottles of baby formula and fresh diapers.
Lately, he has seen the value in being more critical of his team, his teammates, and even the sensitive, demanding, sometimes boorish Flyers fans. He’s shown his grit: He played the 2016-17 season hindered by the lingering effects of a sports hernia and hip injuries.
He suffered in silence as his career was hindered by injuries to key teammates, such as Pronger and Simmonds. He didn’t utter a peep when he witnessed foolish expenditures of assets and cash to Vinny Lecavalier and R.J. Umberger, and, of course, to eccentric goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, the “final piece,” according to late owner Ed Snider. The Flyers will continue to pay the Final Piece $1.63 million annually until 2027.
Now, finally, Giroux appears to have a goalie: Carter Hart. He appears to have a centerman: Sean Couturier. He might have a stout defense, anchored by Ivan Provorov.
But now Giroux is glimpsing his twilight. He might see a seventh All-Star Game, or even an eighth. He might see another playoff series win; certainly, when he gets help, he can produce come springtime. He had 21 points in 23 games when the Flyers reached the Finals in 2010, Giroux’s first full season, and notched 29 points in 21 games in playoff runs the next two seasons.
It just feels like, when it’s over, for all his greatness, it won’t be enough.