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Could the Flyers have hoped for anything better out of Claude Giroux last year? I doubt it. The 21 year-old was about as impressive a rookie the Flyers have had since both Brian Boucher (20 wins, 1.91 gaa) and Simon Gagne (20 goals, 48 points) entered the league in 1999-2000. Without playing a full season, Giroux still put up impressive numbers. His turnover ratio was a +11, tied with Mike Knuble for the team lead. His special teams +/- was a +7, sixth best on the team. He led the team in both GAON/60 (1.98) and in CORSI rating with 2.5. He was also fourth in PTS/60 at 2.34, second in ASST1/60 at .93, a. Yes, he only played 42 games, but that is quite an impressive rookie season. As Puck Prospectus states, Giroux had a +5.5 GVT last year and over a full season "would have been worth +11 GVT. Look for an impact of at least that level in 2009-10."
As much as I like to look at stats, there is so much more to Giroux than just numbers. Anyone who watched him this year knows he could be special. Even our friends over at Pensburgh were impressed. He was the Flyers best player in the playoffs (leading the team in points) and had some of the most impressive plays throughout the season, all while playing with constantly rotating linemates.
The two biggest things for Giroux this year appear to be weathering expectations and finding a role. Sophomores in all sports are notorious for taking a step back, but Flyers fans need only look to Brian Boucher, Joni Pitkanen, and Andy Delmore to know that's true. Giroux doesn't appear headed there, but something the team needs to avoid is burdening him with lofty expectations and/or allowing him to burden himself. John Stevens already disclosed plans to use Giroux as the third line center, which would go a long way to avoiding any excess pressure. But with that comes the second point: finding a defined role for Giroux with some stability on his wing. As the 3rd line center, Giroux presumably will not be playing with Danny Briere or Simon Gagne. Last year, he succeeded on the 3rd line, but he had Briere or Upshall with him over one-third of the time. Powe appears to be penciled in as the 4th line center, but he could easily play with Giroux. The question becomes: Does Stevens put a finisher on the wing to take Giroux's passes, or does he hope someone (including Giroux) steps up and scores 20-30 goals? We can - and have - debated line combinations, but more than any other, Giroux's line is becoming the most intriguing.
Highlights after the jump.
Nice play by Powe there...
Nice play by Asham, Danny, and of course Claude
And of course...