By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor
The NHL All-Star Game in on Saturday night and once again, Claude Giroux is the representative for the Flyers, making his sixth appearance. For over a decade, Giroux has been a fixture on the Flyers, from rising star to team captain to now achieving some all-time ranks in franchise history.
Once again this season, in a trying year for the franchise where production seems to be down across the board, Giroux still has the numbers and is still playing at a level that puts him among the NHL’s best.
In a year where there has been so much that has gone wrong, Giroux deserves to be appreciated.
Giroux’s resume continues to grow by the game it seems. The All-Star appearance this weekend, the sixth of his career, makes him the first Flyer to reach six All-Star Games since Eric Lindros.
In just five more games, he will rank third all-time in Flyers history in games played. He just became the second Flyer to reach 500 assists. Earlier this season, he moved into fourth all-time in Flyers history in points. With no end in sight, he’s got his sights set on reaching second all-time in points and in games played before all is said and done with his career — it will be hard to catch Bobby Clarke in those categories.
But process that for a moment. When Claude Giroux’s career is over, his numbers will be second to Bobby Clarke in games played, assists and possibly points. It’s astonishing to think about, especially when you think about how Giroux wasn’t initially a star player and had another season cut short due to a partial lockout.
What has been impressive is that from a production standpoint, there is nothing to indicate that last season was a fluke. After Giroux was criticized for struggling offensively and many wondered if his days as an elite scorer were over, he responded with a 102-point season and scored a career-high 34 goals last season.
This season, through 48 games, Giroux has 14 goals and 38 assists for 52 points. That’s easily on pace to surpass the production he had in the 2016-17 season (58 points), 2015-16 season (67 points) and 2014-15 season (73 points). It may only rank tied for 26th in the NHL this season, unlike a season ago when he finished second to Connor McDavid in points, but it is still a point-per-game pace that he maintained for the duration of the 2017-18 season.
The one area where Giroux has not succeeded is with playoff success. By the numbers, Giroux may end up as the second-best Flyers position player in history behind Clarke, but Clarke captained two teams to the finish line with Stanley Cup championships. Since Giroux joined the Flyers full-time in the 2008-09 season, the Flyers have won just five playoff series, three coming in the 2010 Stanley Cup Final run.
Since becoming Flyers captain for the lockout-shortened 2013 season, the Flyers have not made it out of the first round of the playoffs. Should the Flyers miss the playoffs in 2018-19, which is looking likely at this point, the Flyers would have missed the playoffs in four of the seven seasons with Giroux at captain.
While the lack of playoff success is certainly noticeable during Giroux’s captaincy, it does not fall solely on him. The Flyers have been in rebuild mode for the better part of the last five seasons, despite making two playoff appearances in that time. The roster has not been what it needs to be for the Flyers to be a contender, whether due to growing pains with younger players or lack of goaltending or lack of forward depth.
With each passing year, it seems the Flyers are wasting Giroux’s prime years and his career will be marred by what he wasn’t able to do — snap a Stanley Cup drought as captain of the Orange and Black.
But that doesn’t take away from what he has done in his career, one that is progressing more and more into that of a Flyers legend.