Captain Not-So-Obvious: Thoughts After Flyers 3, Canadiens 2 (OT)

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The Flyers might actually be a good team.

Check back with me after a gauntlet weekend road trip to Toronto and Boston on back-to-back nights and I might change that statement.

But for now, at 8-5-2, their best record through 15 games in eight years, the Flyers are pretty solid.

What they did to the Montreal Canadiens, who are a similar team to the Flyers in the sense that they are trying to get on a path back to being a contender after being mired in mediocrity, was impressive.

For the majority of the first two periods, the Flyers dominated. Were it not for Montreal goalie Carey Price playing like the perennial all-star that he is, the Flyers would have won this game going away.

At one point, they were outshooting Montreal in the second period 15-1. When the Canadiens finally got on the scoreboard in the second period, the shots were 33-16 in favor of the Flyers.

And yet, somehow, because of Price, the game actually went to overtime.

Then, Price, who had to be damn near perfect to keep his team in the game, made his lone mistake and flubbed a save on a Sean Couturier wrister as the puck trickled past the Habs goalie for a 3-2 Flyers win.

The Flyers are now 6-1-1 on home ice this season. They are 3-0-1 in their last four. Carter Hart seems to have fixed whatever was wrong mechanically. The top pair on defense, Ivan Provorov and Matt Niskanen, are playing some really good hockey.

Couturier had the game winner:

His line with Travis Konecny and Oscar Lindblom continues to be the best line on the Flyers.

Phil Myers had a seeing-eye goal in the first period. He’s looked decent so far since his recall. Russ has a separate story coming on him.

James van Riemsdyk scored the other goal, a few seconds after a power play ended, so it was considered even strength, but the top power play unit was still on the ice and both Jake Voracek and Claude Giroux picked up assists on the goal.

For Giroux, it was his 700th point this decade.

And that’s where I want to concentrate this post.

Yeah, I can sit here and break down aspects of the win. I can tell you that as well as the team is playing that the Flyers are not necessarily happy with the play of the third line at 5-on-5 (It was Carsen Twarynski-Kevin Hayes-Voracek against Montreal). I can tell you that the power play, as good as it’s been to start the season, has been in flux at the point and they were technically 0-for-6 against a weak Canadiens’ penalty kill (Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere kept switching quarterbacking responsibilities last night from PP1 to PP2 and both units seemed to get equal time, which is rare).

I can also tell you that Sam Morin tore his ACL for a second time during a conditioning game with the Phantoms and is done for the season, and very likely, done for his Flyers career now.

I can tell you all that.

But I’d rather talk about Giroux. After all, it’s not every day that I have a tweet that gets more than 1,500 likes (and counting) –

For whatever reason, Giroux is a lightning rod for fans in this town. You either love him or you hate him, although I don’t get the hate. Not even a little bit.

It’s the same thing with Eagles fans and Carson Wentz.

I’m starting to think that fans today, with even more information at their fingertips than ever before, have somehow become over-informed and let their opinions be shaped by either things that don’t really matter or by conclusions that are far-fetched.

And the overwhelming fan reaction on social media, specifically on Twitter, has turned sports writers and broadcasters, especially here in Philadelphia, into fan fiction-driven authors of some seriously misguided takes and narratives.

Consider what my tweet said.

Claude Giroux is only the fourth player in the NHL this decade to amass 700 points. The others are Sidney Crosby (surefire Hall of Famer), Alexander Ovechkin (surefire Hall of Famer) and Patrick Kane (surefire Hall of Famer).

You know who else is a surefire Hall of Famer? Claude Giroux.

I had a one-on-one conversation with a Flyers player after the shootout loss to Toronto on Saturday. It was one of those conversations that wasn’t really off the record but wasn’t really on the record either.

As such, I’ll keep him anonymous.

But, we did talk about a variety of things, most notably the negative narrative that Giroux and Voracek are not winning players and they are the reason why the Flyers are still mediocre.

“It’s bullshit,” the player said. “Absolute bullshit.”

A strong reaction for sure. Then this:

“G is one of the fiercest competitors in the NHL. No one wants to win more than him. No one. He plays at another level. He is a cold-blooded killer on the ice. Everyone in this locker room and in all our previous locker rooms know it. Guys around the league know it. He’s one of the best players in this sport and people in this sport know it.

“But some of you guys want to tell a story about [him] that just isn’t true. .Whatever story some people want to tell is all part of their imagination.”

Amen brother. Amen.

Oh sure, the anti-Giroux folks are still out there, brazenly making claims behind the safe veil of Twitter anonymity:

This was just one of many responses to me indicating that Giroux has not won a Stanley Cup, as if that doesn’t make him a great player.

Dan Marino never won a Super Bowl. Charles Barkley never won a NBA championship. Ernie Banks and Harmon Killebrew are considered all-time greats who played their entire careers with one team and yet they never won a World Series.

And yes, this is hockey. this is a sport dictated more by the”team” concept than any other.

In the NBA you need at least two superstars to win. In the NFL, a quarterback can’t do it alone, but he is certainly the most important piece. Baseball is closest to hockey, as it takes multiple elements to win a championship, but a superstar in the middle of the lineup or the top of your rotation certainly helps.

But, in hockey, you need 20 guys all working in concert with one another to ultimately win a championship.

Great players help, for sure, but they can’t win alone.

Steve Yzerman was one of the greatest players of his generation, but his Red Wings couldn’t get over the hump until he had some serious talent around him.

Raymond Bourque is one of the greatest defensemen of all-time. And yet, he never won in all his years in Boston. He was doomed to retire without hoisting Lord Stanley’s trophy but got a chance when he was traded to Colorado and did it in his final season.

Giroux just has not had the talent around him that Crosby, Ovechkin, and Kane have.

Giroux never had a No. 1 goalie, not even when the team reached the Finals in 2010. Giroux has never had an outright sniper to play with on his line. And although Kimmo Timonen was a very good defenseman, he was starting to decline from his status as a No. 1 guy after the Flyers last won a playoff series.

It’s hard for Giroux to do any more than he has considering his supporting casts have been less than stellar:

Ahh. Here’s another misnomer that a bunch of people were spewing on Twitter last night. Giroux is a great regular season player but comes up small in the playoffs, right?

Let’s see:

  • In 835 regular season games, Claude Giroux has 774 points, or 0.93 points per game.
  • In 69 career playoffs games, Claude Giroux has 65 points, or 0.94 points per game.

Translation: he scores slightly more in the playoffs than he does in the regular season.

You see why the anonymous player was right about narratives? –

Here’s another one of my favorites. The captain argument. He’s not a good captain, the masses of misinformed shout!

Let me say this; Giroux is not a Hall of Fame captain. It doesn’t make him a bad captain, but he’s not outspoken and a media darling like some old-timey captains were.

But really, look around the league; who today is?

The sport is so sanitized these days. Guys don’t say anything publicly like they used to.

Not to mention, the whole captain thing is the biggest bunch of horse manure when it comes to judging a player that I’ve ever seen.

Seriously. It’s something for fans to latch on to. It’s often designed to be a player that fans can either relate to (hard-working, lunch pail type), who has a leadership personality that translates in media interviews, or is the team’s best player. Sometimes, it’s a combination of those.

For Giroux, it’s simply the third. Fans may want it to be the other two as well, but he’s not that kind of person or player.

He’s just one of the best players in the sport. Period. That’s why he’s the captain.

And for the record, just like one player doesn’t win a Stanley Cup, one player doesn’t win a playoff series:

Ahhh, the old, “He’s never made anyone better around him,” trope.

God, these are such tired and lame arguments.

Sean Couturier was an elite defensive forward before being paired with Claude Giroux a few seasons ago. His career high in goals prior to playing with Giroux was 14. His career high in points was 39. This was over his first six seasons.

Then, all of the sudden he plays with Giroux and here’s what he’s done since:

  • 2017-18: 31 goals, 45 assists, 76 points
  • 2018-19: 33, 43 assists, 76 points

He practically doubled his offensive output playing with Giroux.

Wayne Simmonds was a third line winger in Los Angeles. In fact, his first year with the Flyers, he played the same role. In his first three full NHL seasons he had three power play goals.

Then, he was given a chance to play with Giroux, some at 5-on-5, but predominantly on the power play.

Over the next seven seasons, Simmonds scored 187 goals. A whopping 57 of them came on the power play. He became arguably the most prolific power play goal scorer in the NHL simply by playing with Giroux.

He repeatedly talked about how much playing with Giroux meant to him as a player.

Now, the Flyers have a new coach who has done a nice job 15 games into his tenure with the Flyers. He has two assistants with NHL coaching experience. And these three guys, Alain Vigneault, Michel Therrien and Mike Yeo, put their heads together recently and decided that 19-year-old wunderkind Joel Farabee should play with Giroux on his line and on the same power play unit.

It’s no secret that they want him playing with Giroux. Farabee told us on Snow the Goalie radio just how in awe he was of practicing with Giroux. That Giroux practices as hard as he plays. That he’s an inspirational player to watch and be around.

We’ve heard it from 30-something vets like Simmonds.

We’ve seen it from 20-something stars like Couturier.

We’ve heard it from impressionable teens like Farabee.

Claude Giroux is everything the Flyers want him and need him to be.

And yet, he’s the most underappreciated star athlete Philadelphia has seen in quite some time.

Wentz has a chance to match that with the way some clowns talk about him in town, but he doesn’t have Giroux’s longevity yet, and there’s still hope for fans to become more reasonable with him because of the position he plays.

As for Giroux. Let’s just put it this way, most of you won’t realize just how great a player he was until he’s gone. And then it’ll be too late for you to really enjoy him.


For more Flyers coverage, check out Snow The Goalie Radio Mondays from 5-6PM on 610 ESPN Philadelphia and subscribe to Snow The Goalie: A Flyers Podcast, available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, GooglePlay, Stitcher, iHeartRadio, and wherever else you get your podcasts. Also be sure to tune into The Press Row Show as Anthony and Russ live stream during pregame and the first and second intermission breaks of every Flyers home game live from press row of the Wells Fargo Center via the Crossing Broad Facebook page and Twitter.

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8 Responses

  1. If this site is going to start promoting content like this – relaying on concise, accurate, fact-backed statements – I am going to have to go somewhere else for my information.

  2. Ant – I agree, Giroux has incredible skills and awesome numbers. It’s just the whole captain thing. It’s hard to put him in the same category as Pronger, Primeau, Poulin, and even Clarke.

  3. Anthony, great article. Agree 100% with you on the Giroux debate. I won’t believe in the overall team being any good until they are well over .500. As it stands now, they are still a mediocre team stuck around .500. If they are in 2nd or 3rd place in the Metro by Christmas, then I’ll start to get excited.

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