If it wasn’t for Gritty, where would Flyers fans be right now?
It’s been a trying year in Philadelphia and hope for short-term success has pretty much gone out the window for the Flyers, an organization that has already fired and replaced its GM, with coach Dave Hakstol on the hottest of hot seats as new boss Chuck Fletcher begins to survey the wreckage.
On top of that, young D-men Ivan Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere have struggled during a time most experts would have predicted an uptick in play, while the goaltending has largely been porous and injury-prone.
Throughout it all, however, Philadelphia is still getting an MVP performance from captain Claude Giroux. A top-10 scorer in the NHL with 36 points in 28 games, Giroux has continued producing through the chaos. Go by even-strength points and Giroux’s 27 boosts him a little higher in the overall rankings.
“Some guys just have an ability to be in the right positions,” said linemate Travis Konecny. “He sees things that other guys don’t see and his playmaking ability puts guys in good scoring positions. I think it speaks for itself: watch a few of his highlights, some of the plays he makes are incredible.”
With Sean Couturier injured, Giroux has even slid back to center recently after more than a year on the wing. It has been an adjustment for the veteran – who said it’s “not like riding a bike,” but he found success in his first game with Konecny and James van Riemsdyk in a big win over Buffalo.
“When ‘Hak’ told me, I’m not gonna lie – I was a little nervous,” Giroux said. “It had been awhile, but it’s pretty easy to play with TK and Riemer and we had chemistry right off the bat.”
Giroux had a sizzling shorthanded goal plus three assists in the 6-2 victory over Buffalo, but unfortunately for the Flyers, the next day handed them a 7-1 stomping at the feet of the Winnipeg Jets. Given all that has happened already in this tumultuous year, the weekend seemed like par for the course, but Giroux isn’t going to hang his head.
“The best thing is to play some good hockey,” he said. “You can’t control everything. Obviously a lot of off-ice things have been happening but because we have a tight group in here we’re able to keep playing and do the things we’re doing. We’ve been winning-losing-winning-losing and we need to put a few wins together.”
Luckily for the Flyers, they’ve got a leader in Giroux who does not shirk his duties as the man wearing the ‘C’ on his chest.
“He’s always been there for our team,” Konecny said. “He’s the first guy to take responsibility for our faults, he puts a lot of weight on his shoulders and that’s what a captain should do. In our worst games, he takes the fault and in our best games he’s definitely right up there producing or doing the little things, like penalty-killing. He’s a good leader.”
And the Flyers need him more than ever right now. Philadelphia is mired at the bottom of the Eastern Conference alongside New Jersey with three more road games in Western Canada (Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver, all dangerous).
Perhaps this is one of those seasons where almost everything goes wrong and the Flyers are doomed. But there is hope for the future and on paper, Philadelphia has some pretty good weapons. Once the coaching, goaltending and team defense get sorted (geez, that is a lot), Philly at least knows that is has the right captain and cornerstone in Giroux.