Philadelphia is one of the most loyal sports cities in America. In this town, if you play hard and play well, the fans will love you forever. No one knows this more than Flyers captain Claude Giroux. The man they call “G” joined the team in 2008 and has been working his way into the hearts of Flyers fans ever since. Giroux is talented, he’s gutsy, and he’s a leader. But one thing he is not is under appreciated.
If you’re part of Flyers twitter then you have seen time and time again the countless number of fans that take to the social media site to defend their captain. Tweets calling him the most under appreciated athlete in Philadelphia leave me puzzled. How can a player that people are so quick to defend be under appreciated?
Claude Giroux is absolutely appreciated for the work he’s done during his time with the Flyers. Sure, athletes like Embiid, Wentz, Simmons, and Nola get much more praise from fans, but that’s due in large part to the Flyers being fourth on the relevance list in the city. Yes, there are some uninformed fans who call for stripping the C off of G or trading the 30 year old winger, but those fans don’t speak for the majority of Philadelphia. The next time you’re down at the Wells Fargo Center take note of all the Giroux jerseys you see. I would be shocked if there were more of any other Flyer who’s played during Giroux’s tenure with the team.
The love between the Giroux and this city blossomed during the Flyers 2010 run to the Stanley Cup Final, when he tallied 10 goals and 11 assists in 23 playoff games. It was then that Giroux proved himself to be a star player in the NHL. Players are judged by big time playoff performances, and as good as he was in the 2010 playoffs the best of Giroux was yet to come.
The date was April 22, 2012. The Flyers entered game 6 of their Eastern Conference Quarter Finals series against the rival Pittsburgh Penguins. On this night Giroux forever cemented his name in Philadelphia sports lure with “the shift”. Just five seconds into the game, Giroux leveled Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, knocked him off his feet and in turn ignited the sold-out crowd. Less than thirty seconds after the hit Giroux ripped a laser shot from the top of the left circle, beating Marc-Andre Fleury for the game’s first goal. The Flyers went on to win the game 5-2 thus ending the series, and the Penguins’ season. After the game, teammate Danny Briere said that Giroux was possessed, and coach Peter Laviolette called him the best player in the world.
A season later Giroux was named captain of the Flyers, a title he has worn proudly ever since. There used to be comparisons of Mike Richards to Bobby Clarke because of their similar styles of play and leadership. We now know that it is Giroux who is most like Clarke. His tenacious style of play and undaunted leadership are exactly what Clarke brought to the table during his playing career. Giroux currently sits fourth in Flyers history in points and second in assists, two rankings that he will surely improve on.
The unappreciation doesn’t come from Philadelphia, it is those nationally that don’t give Giroux his proper due. A 102 point season at age 29 wasn’t enough for the captain to be awarded his first Hart Trophy as league MVP. In 2014 Giroux was snubbed by team Canada for a spot in what would be the final Olympic Games NHL players would perform in. Since the 2010 season began, Giroux is first in the NHL in assists and second in points behind only Sidney Crosby. Claude Giroux is as elite as they come, but he doesn’t have the hardware. Unfortunately, and at times unjustly, the national media in all sports focuses too heavily on championships when talking about how good a player is. During Giroux’s prime players like Crosby, Ovechkin, and Toews have all won Stanley Cups while Giroux has not. Without the ultimate prize and personal league awards it will probably be difficult for Giroux to make the Hockey Hall of Fame. The names I just mentioned along with some other notable names with championships will all be eligible for the hall around the same time as Giroux. In reality, the numbers a player puts up along with his impact on the game should be weighed in first and foremost, but sadly this is often not the case.
Giroux is currently on pace for a 98 point season, and with his tendency to pick up his play closer to playoff time there’s no reason to think another 100 point season isn’t in the cards. Imagine that, a player two years ago who people thought had lost his game tallying back to back 100 point seasons. One thing we all know about Giroux is to never count him out. When the chips are down and backs are against the wall it is Giroux who shoulders the team and carries them to the finish. That’s the mark of an elite player. It’s the person the team looks to for an answer when all options seemed to have been exhausted. He’s the glimmer of hope late in a game when bodies are tired and it’s an uphill battle.
I urge Flyers fans not to focus on the outside noise. Stop looking elsewhere for validation from experts and praise from a league that has never taken kindly to our city. Yes, we threw snowballs at Santa. Yes, some idiots threw batteries at JD Drew. Yes, we cheered as Michael Irvin writhed in pain on the carpet of the Vet. We are not perfect and have never claimed to me. Philadelphia is the outcast east coast city living in the shadow of sports powerhouses like Boston and New York. However, that is what makes us stronger and more tight knit as a fan base.
We love our players because they are an extension of us when playing in the games. Claude Giroux is as Philadelphia as any athlete that has ever played here. Don’t feel the need to get on your soap box on twitter to defend his honor. The next time he is snubbed from a top list or national team just take it in stride. Too much energy is being wasted trying to be accepted by a sports world that has never liked us or our players. Claude Giroux may not be appreciated around the league, but so what? What matters is we are all witnessing the career of a player who will go down as a top five Flyer, all time. Claude Giroux is appreciated in the city he plays in, and I’m sure for him that’s good enough.
FEATURE PHOTO: HEATHER BARRY PHOTOGRAPHY