BY BRANDON MURPHY
Claude Giroux has been on a steady decline since the 2013-2014 season, mainly due to off-season surgeries and lack of a supporting cast. Does the captain still have what it takes to lead this team to a Stanley Cup?
Back in 2012, Claude Giroux outplayed Sidney Crosby in the first round of the playoffs, putting up a staggering 14 points in 6 games. Since then, he’s had his ups and downs. In 2013-2014, he had an 86 point season after failing to score in his first 15 games and still managed to lead the Flyers to the post-season.
However, since that 13-14 season, Giroux’s point totals have dropped to 73 in 14-15, 67 in 15-16 and now 58 in 16-17, representing a decline not only in points, but in goals. For the first time since the shortened season, Giroux failed to hit the 20-goal mark.
Since 2011-2012, Giroux ranks first in power play points with 191. Philadelphia’s power play unit revolves around Giroux, he’s the go-to guy and many teams are starting to figure it out. While he still puts up good numbers on the man-advantage, the Flyers have been struggling to score goals at even-strength, which is also an area that Giroux needs to improve in. Nearly half his points are on the power play and it isn’t a recipe for success for the Flyers, who were 27th in the league in even strength goals-for.
Giroux played his lowest amount of time on ice per game (19:07) since the 2009-2010 campaign that saw him play only 16:36 a night. The 29-year-old is showing signs of slowing down, a lot of it brought on by injuries. Giroux had hip surgery last summer and it seemed to be bothering him during the season.
That being said, Giroux’s offensive woes aren’t simply injury-related – he does not have enough talent surrounding him. Coach Dave Hakstol constantly changed the lines and Giroux never had a good, quick sniper on his left side.Wayne Simmonds is a great goal-scorer, but isn’t necessarily a good play-driving forward like Giroux and Voracek. He found a bit of chemistry later in the season with Jordan Weal on his wing, but it was only for a small period of time – a full season would give fans a better idea. Travis Konecny would be another alternative; he’s fast, he’s shifty, has a quick release and is very creative. This was a duo many wanted all season, but Konecny-Giroux only played a total of 64 minutes together. Perhaps a talented two-way forward like Oskar Lindblom could play alongside Giroux next season? He is excellent all-around and would be a neat addition to the squad.
The Flyers need to find talent between the pipes and on the wings, their forward core isn’t getting any younger and their Cup window is closing slowly.