Can we all leave Claude Giroux alone now?
ST. LOUIS — Talk to those closest to Claude Giroux and they'll tell you that the person in front of the camera, the person front-and-center for questions after a gut-wrenching loss, isn't always the same away from the microphones.
Like, that time last April, that a family member caught a ride home from Giroux after a Stanley Cup playoff loss the Rangers.
The entire 15-minute trip, from South Philadelphia to Center City, Giroux slammed his fists on the steering wheel and cursed up a blue streak — in French.
"We weren't good enough," Giroux kept saying, over and over. "I wasn't good enough."
Giroux, then 26, was bothered because he was being suffocated by the Rangers. He didn't register his first shot on goal until his 62nd shift of the series.
His passenger told him to relax. It was only Game 3. The Flyers trailed just 2-1 to New York.
That was the behind-the-scenes.
This is what he said in front of the cameras that night, about an hour before his rant in the car:
"We'll be ready for Game 4," Giroux said. "We're going to tie up this series and go back to New York. We just have to stay confident. It's the playoffs. It's exciting."
That one, small glimpse was said to say: the public persona and the private person are two different animals.
On Wednesday, Giroux was hammered in a scathing NJ.com article, linking his performance as the Flyers' captain to his words in front of the recorders.
"That's bull(bleep)," Wayne Simmonds said. "It has nothing to do with team leadership or how good of a captain he is. He goes out there every single shift and plays his heart out. For (that writer) to even speculate that 'G' is not a good leader is a joke. It's embarrassing."
No, what is said publicly, truly has zero correlation to the Flyers' leadership group or wins and losses, for that matter. Yes, some reporters are around the team every day and in the locker room, but even the best in the business don't have a clue about exactly what goes on behind closed doors. To pretend otherwise is a flat out joke.
Giroux won't give media the "good sound" every media member craves, but so what? There are plenty of other players to provide color. Media should never be a part of the equation.
In fact, Giroux admitted after the Flyers' optional morning skate on Thursday in St. Louis that he usually needs to cool down following a game to collect his thoughts. His words are controlled - and contrived - on purpose.
"I think it's important you take a second to breathe and know what really happened, to know to not say stuff that you don't want to say," Giroux said. "I think everybody is like that. It's important to take a second a look at the bigger picture than the smaller picture."
Giroux takes pride in being the Flyers' captain, even though in this town for whatever reason, it means dealing with more criticism.
"This team is one of the most important things in my life," Giroux said. "I take it to heart. It means a lot to me how this team plays, how this team goes. I care a lot for these players. We always try to do our best for the team. I come to the rink every day and I'm happy to be around this team. I get up in the morning and I'm pretty excited to come to the rink."
In truth, the idea of the captaincy in hockey is a vastly overrated concept. Too much focus is directed on one player. The entire subject came up on Wednesday when GM Ron Hextall was asked by another reporter if the leadership group needed examining given the team's inconsistencies.
Hextall said yes, but made a point to say that does not include Giroux.
"Leadership doesn't come down to one guy anymore," Hextall said. "Those days are over. It's typically 5, 6, 7 guys who can add to it on a team that you depend on for the bulk of your leadership. It's not one guy, or even three guys for that matter."
Other than the coaching position, the captain usually follows as the next logical scapegoat on a hockey team that fails to meet expectations.
Few take into account that the more likely reason for missing the Stanley Cup playoffs is roster construction and the fact that certain players failed to meet standards set in previous seasons. The Flyers have quite a few of those passengers this season.
It didn't help, either, that the Flyers traded away both of their alternate captains from last season - Scott Hartnell and Kimmo Timonen. Berube admitted the Flyers missed Timonen's "calming influence" in the locker room.
Even so, Giroux said he would not change anything the way this season has been handled from a captain's perspective.
"We're obviously not in the situation that we want to be in right now," Giroux said. "We made a lot of mistakes that cost us that. It's not one, two or three players - it's everybody that comes together.
"I think we had times during the year that we played very good hockey, we played as a team, and our chemistry was really good. I don't know how to explain (our troubles). When we have big games, we find a way to play at our best. I don't know if we're not ready or our motivation isn't as good when we play against teams that are not as good. It's obviously something we've got to look at."
Against contender or bottom feeder this season, it is impossible to point to Giroux and say he did not give it his all. He's been remarkably consistent this season. Facing top competition with a thin roster behind him, he's still managed 61 points in 67 games, good for 16th in the NHL.
Since the start of the 2011-12 season, Giroux has 10 more points than the next closest player, Evgeni Malkin. Think about that for a second. That list includes Alex Ovechkin, John Tavares, Sidney Crosby, Patrick Kane, Steven Stamkos, Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin.
"I think 'G' and the leaders have done a good job, to be honest with you," Berube said. "They prepare themselves night in and night out to compete hard, to work hard and perform at the same time. It's still a learning process for these guys. Giroux is still a young captain. They all learning still."
Quite a few players laughed when told about the premise that Giroux is a bad captain because he doesn't give good quotes. Luke Schenn pointed out that only a very few young captains have everything figured out right from the time they get the 'C,' and Giroux is right there with them.
"It's kind of funny that stories come out like that," Schenn said, whose dealt with some media in Toronto. "It's all about what the guys in the dressing room think and the respect they have for him, which is all of our respect.
"Sometimes, actions speak louder than words. There's only so much you can say. I've had guys in the past who are rah-rah guys every day and that gets a little old after a while, too. He's not the most talkative guy, but when he steps up and says something, he has the respect of the room and every guy listens. I don't think there's any question in our dressing room or organization that he's our captain and will be for the future."
Giroux is a realist. He understands this scrutiny comes with the territory, and even laughed off the premise. He is as frustrated as the fans buying tickets.
No one was lobbing these claims last season when Giroux declared after a 1-7-0 start that the Flyers would make the playoffs.
"That's why I don't bother with you guys (the media)," Giroux said, laughing. "You know what, being in this position we're in now, it's something that we want to change, but we understand it's a process. We're learning the hard way right now."
On Twitter: @frank_seravalli