Center Claude Giroux thinks that last season was an anomaly and that he is not a fading star, though his point totals have declined in each of the last three years.
"I knew all those questions were coming," the Flyers' captain said after a skating session Thursday at the team's training facility in Voorhees, "but for me, I'm putting it in the past. For me, I think I've put myself in a good spot to have a good season."
Before last season, Giroux was the NHL's top point producer over the previous six years.
But the Ontario native had hip and abdominal surgery 16 months ago and it hindered his play in 2016-17, when he managed just 14 goals, a career low for a full season, and 58 points. His point totals the last four years have gone from 86 to 73 to 67 to 58.
"We can keep talking about the last two years," said Giroux, who in the past has put an inordinate amount of pressure on himself when he went through tough times, "but it's not going to make me a better player. For sure it bothers me. It's not the player I want to be. But like I've said, I've put that behind me."
Giroux, 29, is among many veterans who have arrived early at the Flyers' training facility — camp opens Sept. 15 — and after a summer of working out, he is in much better shape than last season, when his training regimen was limited because of his recovery from surgery.
Asked if he still believed he could be among the NHL's best, Giroux paused.
"Well, what's an elite center?" he asked.
Someone who puts up, say, around 80 points a season, he was told.
"Yeah, I do," he said. "I do think I am. Obviously I have to prove it, and that's why I'm excited about this year."
"You just want to be the best player you can be," he added. "I've got a lot of room for improvement. I worked hard this summer to put myself in a situation to succeed, so there's a different feel to this year coming into camp. Everybody looks pretty determined."
Back in his hometown, Giroux worked this summer with a coach to increase his quickness. He looks more fit than last year, and his weight has increased from 178 pounds to 184.
"'G' works really hard. There's no issue with his commitment or his work ethic," general manager Ron Hextall said. "There's a few things in his training that he changed this summer."
With the Flyers' training staff advising him, Giroux went through more power-based workouts in the offseason, concentrating on short bursts of speed.
"Last year, it was more rehab, so I didn't do much working out, but this year I've really focused on getting faster, stronger and quicker and I feel it's going to pay off," Giroux said.
Right winger Jake Voracek said Giroux "looks like he's skating way better than last year."
"Today's NHL is all about skating. If you can't skate, you're not going to do much," Voracek said, mindful that Giroux was limited in what he could do last September. "I remember when I got hurt and came back, I didn't have my step. It's not you. So obviously it's something that bothered 'G' last year with those hips; it's an uncomfortable feeling, and if you know you can't push to your level, it's hard.
"I think during the season, you take everything from the summer," Voracek said. "If you have a good summer, you have that base and then you can just keep it up during the season and you don't have to work as hard in the gym as you would if you had a bad summer. And it's really hard in the season to get in condition in the gym because you play so many games that you don't have the time for it."