The National Hockey League all-star break is a good time for us all to catch our breaths and recalibrate on what has been a bummer of a first 45 games of the 2021-22 hockey season here in Philadelphia.
With expectations of playoffs all but melted away, it may also be time to remind ourselves to enjoy whatever time we have left of watching Claude Giroux.
Believe me, you’ll miss him when he’s gone.
Giroux has often been the scapegoat for a lack of team success since he’s worn the C-shaped bull’s-eye above his heart on his hockey sweater. Often blamed for supposed shortcomings in leadership, Giroux has calmly gone about his business scoring the second-most points in franchise history behind the only captain to ever win a hockey championship in Philadelphia in Bobby Clarke.
Even if he doesn’t meet a percentage of the fanbase’s expectations as a leader, Giroux has been a heck of a hockey player. He’s a seven-time all-star, which is just one fewer than Clarke made during his career. And Giroux would likely have been tapped in 2013 and 2014, which were canceled due to a lockout-shortened season and the Sochi Olympics, respectively. Since the 2011-12 season, only Patrick Kane, Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin have scored more points than Giroux.
His skill level isn’t something that grows on glove racks at your local hockey arena, and Giroux is still producing at a pretty decent rate at age 34.
In the midst of a dismal season for the franchise, all signs point to Giroux, a pending unrestricted free agent, likely waiving his full no-movement clause at the trade deadline to pursue a championship that was never in the cards here. He’d be doing both himself and the Flyers a favor, as general manager Chuck Fletcher should be able to pull draft picks and possibly a prospect from a team that is looking for a forward who can play top-six minutes.
Giroux’s stock certainly went up this weekend as he earned MVP honors of the NHL All-Star Game in Las Vegas while captaining the Metropolitan Division to victory. Surely contenders took note of how well Giroux played with elite talent alongside him.
He was fun to watch. Remember that. The same way it was fun to watch Eric Lindros, John LeClair, Peter Forsberg and Simon Gagne.
When each player left Philadelphia, there was an emptiness in watching Flyers games. Giroux, at least for a while, made us forget about that, as he was the new guy who deked and dished his way into stardom. He had that ability to wow an audience that only top players in the league could do. He was special.
And he loved Philadelphia.
Giroux lives in the city and started the Claude Giroux Foundation in 2014, raising money for the Silver Springs Martin Luther School, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and Ed Snider Youth Hockey.
“Nobody cares more about the Flyers than he does,” Fletcher said during a news conference last week. “I think we have to recognize what we’re dealing with here, he’s a franchise icon, his jersey’s going to be in the rafters. To me, he’s a Hall of Fame player.”
If Giroux can stay healthy and stay in the lineup (and barring any cancellations), he’ll hit his 1,000th career game on March 17 at home against the Nashville Predators. Game 1,001 would be the following night in Ottawa near where Giroux grew up. No. 1,002 back home against the Islanders would be the last game before the NHL trade deadline.
If all goes as planned, Giroux will join Clarke as the only two players to play a thousand games as a Flyer. It seems all too perfect of a scenario for Giroux to take a bow and exit stage left.
Maybe it won’t kick in right away, as it will be strange seeing Giroux play in a different uniform. But eventually, we’re going to miss that guy.
He was pretty darn good. ••