"Obviously, this is a huge honor," said Claude Giroux in a statement released by the Flyers website. "There have been a lot of great captains here in the past. Along with this comes a lot of responsibility which I am prepared for. Being named captain is not really going to change the way I play on the ice and act off the ice. But I am very excited about this opportunity."
When the Flyers announced on Wednesday that Giroux would succeed the sidelined Chris Pronger as the 19th captain in franchise history, many were thrilled but few were truly surprised. After all, Giroux is the undisputed franchise player for these Broad Street Bullies, his 93-point performance last season solidifying that fact.
Giroux has also proved through his first four seasons in the NHL that he does not shrivel under pressure, averaging just over a point per game in the postseason. If there were any questions about the Hearst, ON native’s ability to lead his teammates in the big moments, they were dispelled in Game 6 of last season’s Eastern Conference quarterfinal against Pittsburgh during the memorable first shift.
While the man they call ‘G’ was the clear-cut choice to wear the ‘C,’ this is still Philadelphia, and the title of captain has been a turnstile over the last few years. In fact, the only thing that is more unstable than a starting job in the Flyers net has been the team’s captaincy.
After Keith Primeau wore the ‘C’ for four seasons—and went down in Philadelphia sports lore with his performance in the 2004 conference final against Tampa Bay—we have had five, and now six, captains in eight years.
In those eight years, Derian Hatcher (hobbled due to multiple knee injuries), Peter Forsberg (who still cannot figure out how to fit his foot in a skate), Jason Smith (whose real years of leadership were wasted in Edmonton), Mike Richards (whose desire to party far outweighed his desire to lead) and Chris Pronger (a career cut short to post-concussion issues) all wore the letter on their chest and saw their careers in Philadelphia come to an end soon after.
The Flyers hope this is not the case with Giroux, whose fire, spirit, and scoring touch in season and postseason sets him apart from even Richards, who undoubtedly performed the most admirably as captain while the title was his.
Giroux has emerged as one of the most elite players in the sport and his maturation has been facilitated by a large group of great leaders.
While Richards was drafted, thrown to the pack of wolves that is the Philadelphia fan market, and asked to lead a rebuilt and emerging group of young players, Giroux has risen through the Flyers system in time to play amongst a cast of captains.
Giroux has played and lived with Danny Briere who served as co-captain with Chris Drury in Buffalo; Kimmo Timonen, his "associate captain," who led the Nashville Predators; Richards, who has since moved on to Los Angeles; Pronger, who will likely never see ice again; and Jaromir Jagr, who served as a Penguins captain and who was monumental to Giroux tapping in to his true potential last season. If you throw in Scott Hartnell and Max Talbot, you can see that Giroux has learned from a cast of players who perform offensively, defensively and in the muck and grind of the game: in the corners, behind the net and the board battles that decide playoff games.
"It’s not going to change my game or the way I act on the ice or off the ice," Giroux said. "We have a lot of leaders in this locker room, and a lot of veterans."
The Flyers see this as what they hope is the right mix as they pursue their first Stanley Cup in 37 years. They hope that this captain is the end of the recent leadership black hole, and that they finally have the right player to lead them to the silver chalice.