You would think scoring 139 regular season and playoff goals over two American League seasons would be enough to land you an NHL ride.
That’s just what Alexandre Giroux of the Oklahoma City Barons did from 2008 to 2010, but the veteran AHL sniper finds himself back in the minors again.
Giroux, a massive force in Hershey’s back-to-back Calder Cup championships during those two seasons, left the Bears’ winning environment this past summer and shopped for jobs on the world’s hockey market. Having logged only 30 games with the parent Washington Capitals over four seasons, Giroux hoped a new home might offer him his long-desired NHL job.
With a 2008-09 MVP award and back-to-back spots as an AHL first-team all-star, Giroux’s resume sparkled. Lucrative European offers came his way, as did a chance to earn an NHL contract. Giroux chose the Edmonton Oilers – and their one-way contract – as the depot for a fresh start after stalling in the Washington organization.
Giroux, 29, wasn’t mentally ready to make the break from his NHL ambitions and head to Europe. And the Oilers, Giroux reasoned, would be undertaking a massive rebuild – meaning a spot on their NHL roster might be available.
“I thought it was a good chance to make the team,” Giroux said recently, after an overtime goal earned the Barons a win at Hamilton.
So why is Giroux back in the AHL – especially with Edmonton once again stationed near the bottom of the NHL standings?
Overall, Giroux’s skating and lack of offensive production during his brief NHL time has kept him in the AHL, despite his gaudy scoring numbers in that league. In short, Giroux must be a top-six forward at the NHL level to be effective, but his skill set isn’t sufficient to merit that top-six spot. It’s a dilemma that’s marooned many an AHL sniper over the decades.
More recently, it was a pre-season lacking in offensive production – just one goal in four games, despite quality ice time – and the likes of Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall and Magnus Paajarvi nailing down spots on the Edmonton roster that conspired to doom Giroux’s chances to start the season with the Oilers.
Was Giroux, who opened some eyes and said he came to camp in his best shape ever, surprised?
“After my camp, to be quite honest, yes,” he said.
However, Giroux was also able to put himself in management’s shoes and understands the reasoning.
“Obviously, they want to keep their three young guys,” he said. “That was something we didn’t look over this summer. We weren’t sure if the three guys were going to be ready and they had a good camp, too.
“So, you can’t blame (management). Those are three good players. That’s the way they have to do it if they want to rebuild. So, you can’t really argue with that.”
After a slow start, Giroux torched AHL defenses for six goals in a six-game span. However, Giroux’s scoring touch cooled over the past two weeks and he owns a six-game goal slump heading into this weekend’s play.
Giroux is not planning to spend his winter lamenting any lost opportunities.
“I’m going to try to prove again that I can play,” he said. “That’s one thing I’ve learned – not to regret anything. I think I made a great decision. This is a great organization.”
And certainly the Oilers’ ongoing woes may yet open opportunities for members of an Oklahoma City club that’s near the top of the AHL’s Western Conference.
“(Edmonton management has) to try things up there and if things don’t work out, they (will) have to rely on guys here,” Giroux said.
THIS AND THAT
• The AHL saw its first coaching change this season on Monday when the Adirondack Phantoms, mired in a nine-game losing streak, lost the services of Greg Gilbert. The parent Philadelphia Flyers fired Gilbert and replaced him with AHL Hall of Fame coach John Paddock.
• Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s bid to break the AHL record of 11 wins to start a season fell short last weekend when Syracuse took a 4-3 decision from the Penguins. The loss ended the Penguins’ run at nine games.
• A six-goal week, including a five-goal outing this past Sunday, earned Oklahoma City’s Linus Omark AHL Player of the Week honors.
• Long-time AHL sniper Denis Hamel, who couldn’t land a contract this past summer, signed with Adirondack last week and debuted with three goals in his opening two games.
• Four AHLers – Omark, Mats Zuccarello, Bobby Butler and Jordan Knackstedt – recorded hat tricks on Sunday. Through this past Sunday’s games, AHL scoring was up seven percent from the same time period last season.
From THN.com American League correspondent Patrick Williams, Around The AHL keeps tabs on the world’s second best circuit, details all the news and notes and profiles prospects destined for the next level. It appears every Thursday only on TheHockeyNews.com.