Flyers captain Claude Giroux will be 33 when the season starts. That’s young for folks who work normal jobs, but it’s an age when hockey players usually start fading.
In other words, Giroux, who has spent parts of 13 seasons with the Flyers in his terrific career, is at the crossroads.
Does he still have enough gas in the tank to produce as he has in the past? Or was last season’s playoff performance — one goal in 16 games — a sign of things to come, a sign that age is catching up with the left winger?
“I’m not worried about my age right now,” Giroux, the city’s longest-tenured athlete, said in a perturbed tone while on a Webex call with reporters Wednesday. “You can keep asking me those questions, but I’m excited about the season.”
Giroux, known for his intense play and work ethic, spent the offseason training and skating with a skills coach in Ottawa. He was asked if he has to train harder at his age than he did when he first came into the league.
“I don’t think it’s because of the age,” he said. “As you get older, you kind of learn what works for you, what doesn’t work for you. You try to adjust and put yourself in a position to succeed. With that, you can modify your workouts through the summer.”
In franchise history, Giroux is fourth in career points with 815, behind Bobby Clarke (1,210), Bill Barber (883), and Brian Propp (849). He is ahead of Flyers legends like Rick MacLeish (697), Eric Lindros (659), Tim Kerr (650), John LeClair (643), Mark Recchi (627), and Rod Brind’Amour (601).
When those stars played seasons that started when they had already turned 33, they had mixed results.
Barber and Kerr had retired by that age. Clarke (23 goals, 85 points) had his best season in five years at 33. Brind’Amour had a subpar season at that age (12 goals, 38 points) but had much more left to give. At 35, he had 31 goals and won the Stanley Cup with Carolina, and he had many more good years before retiring in 2010 at 40.
Like Brind’Amour, Recchi defied age. He had a solid season at 33 (22 goals, 64 points) and had several more productive years before retiring at 43.
Propp, MacLeish, and Lindros had faded — injuries played a role — by the time they started a season at 33. At that age, LeClair managed 18 goals but was limited to 35 games because of a shoulder injury. He played three more seasons, but his scoring dropped considerably.
If the Flyers are going to contend for the title in the loaded East Division, they need Giroux to at least have similar production as last season. He was having a good year (21 goals, 53 points in 69 games) before the pandemic caused the end of the regular season. In a normal 82-game season, he was on pace for 25 goals and 63 points.
Still, that was a decline from recent seasons. He had a career-best 102 points in 2017-18, and 85 points in 2018-19.
“The way last season ended, I think it left a bad taste in my mouth,” said Giroux, referring to the seven-game loss to the Islanders in the conference semifinals. “A lot of players on our team feel we could have went a little further last year. But it was a learning experience for us in the playoffs, knowing what we did that worked and what we did that didn’t work. I think it’s important that we talked about those kind of things as a team and just learn from it.”
Giroux said the players have been having informal scrimmages in Voorhees — on-ice training sessions with coaches start Monday — and that everyone is rounding into shape.
“We’ve been scrimmaging every day here and practicing as long as we can and getting our legs going,” said Giroux, adding that because the Flyers had little turnover in the offseason, it shouldn’t be difficult to regain their chemistry. “Right now it going pretty well, but we have to keep the pace going.”
When you watch practices and games, no one works harder on the Flyers than Giroux, who turns 33 on Jan. 12, the day before the Flyers open the season against the Penguins.
“He brings it every day,” said Phil Myers, an emerging player who is expected to be one of the Flyers’ top defensemen this season. “Just to see a guy like that bring it every day motivates the boys to push yourself that much harder.”
» READ MORE: Flyers schedule opens with Pittsburgh on Jan. 13