Ever wonder why goalies are never captains of NHL teams? It’s all Bill Durnan’s fault.
Durnan was a dominant goalie for the Canadiens in the 1940s, won two Cups, eventually went to the Hall of Fame, and was so revered that, in 1948, the Canadiens made him the team’s captain.
Only the captain (or one his alternates) is allowed to talk to referees to get clarification of the rules, so the title has its benefits. Captains are not supposed to gripe about penalty calls, but most refs give some latitude there.
Anyhow, opponents felt Durnan was abusing his privilege of captain by going to all ends of the ice and excessively chatting up referees. This gave himself and his team a virtual timeout to regroup when play wasn’t going well.
So the NHL changed its rules.
Goalies are allowed to be team captains, but not on nights when they are playing — which defeats the purpose. The last goaltender to be a captain was Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo, who served a two-year stint starting in 2008. Alain Vigneault was the Canucks’ coach.
Brian Elliott, for one, is just fine with the way things are.
“We like to be left alone back there so [we can] concentrate on stopping that little black thing,” he said.
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Giroux: Flyers need to figure things out quickly
Claude Giroux understands the criticism. He’s about to become the Flyers’ all-time leader in games played by a team captain. He says it’s a great honor to pass Bobby Clarke, but knows it’s a hollow accomplishment since the Flyers haven’t done much in the postseason during his tenure.
“It’s very special. Clarkie is probably the best player ever to play in this organization,” Giroux said. “He’s been great for me. Early in my career, he helped me a lot. It feels great.”
As much as being 1-3 in playoff series frustrates fans, it bothers Giroux even more. I go back to something Alain Vigneault told me in Ottawa last season about the first time he met Giroux after becoming the team’s head coach.
“He didn’t like his legacy with the Flyers,” Vigneault said. “He wants to make sure he leaves a legacy where the team had won.”
They did win a playoff series last year, their first since Giroux became captain before the start of the 2012-13 season. But really the headline from last year’s playoff push — besides all of the games being played in Toronto — was that 4-0 drubbing to the Islanders in Game 7 of the second round. Giroux had one goal in the series.
Giroux on Tuesday will play in his 611th game as Flyers captain. No forward in the NHL has played more regular-season minutes since 2012-13. Talking nine years here, so that’s impressive. He’s on a run of 321 consecutive games played, but just turned 33 and knows that the Flyers’ sluggish start (3-2-1) could mean another disappointment.
“We know we can play better. When you lose 6-1, you obviously know you’re not doing something right,” Giroux said, referring to the score of the Flyers’ two regulation losses. “We know we have a good team. We know we can win some hockey games.”
It’s getting late early, as Yogi Berra used to say. As it stands today, the Flyers would not be in the playoffs.
“We’ve had a couple games this year that we weren’t at out best. We weren’t playing the way we want to,” Giroux said. “We only have 56 games this year. We need to figure it out pretty quick here.”
Facts & figures
Giroux will break Clarke’s 37-year-old team record for games played by a Flyers captain. Here are some quick numbers.
Most regular-season games as Flyers captain
t-1. Claude Giroux, 2013-21 (active), 610
t-1. Bobby Clarke, 1973-84 (two stints), 610
3. Dave Poulin, 1984-90, 392
4. Eric Lindros, 1994-00, 360
5. Ed Van Impe, 1968-73, 311
Playoff games as Flyers captain
Among the top 5 above
1. Bobby Clarke, 97
2. Dave Poulin, 57
3. Eric Lindros, 48
4. Claude Giroux, 35
5. Ed Van Impe, 8
Where Giroux ranks
Since Claude Giroux became captain of the Flyers before the 2012-13 season, no forward has logged more minutes. Here is a look at Giroux’s NHL rankings since he became the team’s leader (through Sunday):
Games played: 5th (610). Leader: Phil Kessel, 616
Time on ice/forwards: 1st (12,374 minutes)
Goals: 29th (179). Leader: Alex Ovechkin, 368
Assists: 3rd (397). Leader: Nicklas Backstrom, 421
Points: 5th (576). Leader: Sidney Crosby, 661
Points per game: t-9th (0.94). Leader: Sidney Crosby, 1.19
Did you know?
There have been 18 players to captain the Flyers. In reverse chronological order, the last five are Giroux, Chris Pronger, Mike Richards, Jason Smith and Peter Forsberg.
Lou Angotti was the team’s first captain in 1967-68. He was succeeded by Van Impe and then Clarke in 1972-73.
Flyers captains by nationality — Canadian (16): Angotti, Van Impe, Clarke, Mel Bridgman, Bill Barber, Dave Poulin, Ron Sutter, Rick Tocchet, Kevin Dineen, Eric Lindros, Eric Desjardins, Keith Primeau, Smith, Richards, Pronger, Giroux. American (1): Derian Hatcher. Swedish (1): Peter Forsberg.
Only four active players have been captain of their teams longer than Giroux, who has been wearing the “C” for nine seasons: Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby (14 seasons), Chicago’s Jonathan Toews (13), Washington’s Alex Ovechkin (12), Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf (11).
Source: Inquirer research, Hockey-Reference.com.
He said it
The captain “sets the tone and sets the proper example when the coach or coaches are not around. He, with his assistants, makes sure that they are an extension of the coaching staff. [They instill] the right culture and the right work ethic and attitude, whether you’re in the gym. whether you’re in the dressing room, or whether you’re out in town.” — Vigneault
Things to know
Shayne Gostisbehere has recovered from COVID. “For us to do our part and put a mask on isn’t too hard.”
Tuesday: Flyers at New Jersey, 7 p.m. (NBCSP)
Thursday: Flyers at New Jersey, 7 p.m. (NBCSP)
Saturday: N.Y. Islanders at Flyers, 7 p.m. (NBCSP)
Sunday: N.Y. Islanders at Flyers, 7 p.m. (NBCSP)
Wednesday, Feb. 3: Boston at Flyers, 8 p.m. (NBCSN)
From the mailbag
The Flyers seem to be small and play small. Against a physical team, they don’t stand much of a chance and playing each team eight times means the games are going to be physical. No one seems willing to park in front of the net and battle for rebounds and tip-ins. As bad as the offense is, the defense is worse. They can’t keep the crease clear and lose most puck battles. It’s hard to believe they are going to make the playoffs. — Inquirer.com user donaab707