We conclude our grades of individual Philadelphia Flyers players for the 2019-20 NHL regular season with a look at captain Claude Giroux.
I’ll tell you right up front that I love Claude Giroux. I picked him as “my guy” over a decade ago, and he’s delivered a borderline fantastic NHL career that goes beyond what any Philadelphia Flyers fan expected. If you’re under 40 years old, no Flyers player has scored more points in your lifetime. The individual accomplishments aren’t lacking (although Giroux doesn’t have any hardware to show for it), but all of the focus on the Flyers captain seems to be based solely on the fact that he has been unable to get the team deep in the playoffs.
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Giroux was part of the 2010 Cup Final club, but that came back in his second season when he was still an up-and-comer and was a complimentary part of the offense instead of its focal point. He established himself as the team’s best player the following season, a role that he’s largely held for a decade until Sean Couturier seems to have taken that title from him as of late, although there’s no shame in that.
Because of this, no Flyer faces more scrutiny year in and year out. Sometimes he has delivered, like in 2017-18 when he posted 102 points and should have been a Hart Trophy finalist. But then there are times like the two year stretch that immediately preceded that season, where he put up just 67 and 58 points and was really struggling.
In 2019-20, there were two ways to look at Giroux. First, his actual scoring was down. There’s no doubt about that. Based purely on the unimpressive total (especially his assists), one might even jump to the conclusion that he just wasn’t very good and is now in decline.
But look deeper.
Giroux continued to be fantastic on faceoffs, second in the league only to teammate Couturier. And he really helped the Flyers out by bouncing from center to wing in part because of the Nolan Patrick situation, which was a necessary deviation from the plan to have him as a full-time wing at this juncture of his career. He also had his lowest ice time numbers in a decade, which will tend to suppress bulk totals but also helped Giroux to be a more effective player overall.
His Corsi and Fenwick numbers especially jump off the page, as they indicate that the Flyers controlled play (in terms of shot attempts) while Giroux was on the ice this season more than at any other point of his career. These numbers seem to be telling us that G’s point total this season was largely because of simple luck, and not in a good way. He was, by most measures, a better and more complete player in 2019-20 than he was in 2018-19, even though he scored at over a point per game that year and was well below that mark this year.
Sadly, we might never know if this was the year that captain Giroux finally got the Flyers deep into the playoffs under his command. It certainly looked like his best shot, which is a frustrating thought for fans and for a player who is 32 years old and has a ton of mileage on him.
Giroux’s grade gets tamped down a bit because he really did need to put up more points this year, luck or not. Last time I checked, goals are the only way to win games. But his overall play was at a level (with some good support, finally) to drive the Flyers to heights that they hadn’t reached in several seasons.