With the Flyers getting bounced out of the playoffs in the first round for the third time in a row, there was bound to be a number of excruciatingly idiotic takes about who and what was to blame. We all knew this would happen, and honestly, I’m kind of surprised it took this long.
Enter Marcus Hayes. That’s right, the philly.com reporter with a penchant for writing precisely three columns about the Flyers every year, always coming at the end of an inevitably disappointing season. There was last year’s infamous “should have traded Giroux when we had the chance take,” which really aged like a fine wine, what with Giroux having an MVP caliber season in 2017-2018. Hayes really has a way of poorly diagnosing exactly what went wrong with the Flyers that led to their inability to make or get far in the playoffs.
So this year, what was the problem? Was it the Flyers lack of depth? Poor coaching decisions? Inability to have consistent goaltending?
Nope. If you’re an avid Hayes fan, you’ll already know the answer — the problem was boos from the crowd. But that’s not just Hayes’ opinion, it’s also Claude Giroux’s. At least that’s what Marcus is peddling in his latest scorcher, appropriately titled “Claude Giroux admits booing Philly fans hurt Flyers in NHL playoffs.”
Now, if you’re at all the least familiar with Hayes’ work, you’ve probably already guessed that this headline is insanely dishonest, and you’d be right. I’m not going to link to the piece here for obvious reasons, but stick with me, there’s a lot to unpack.
Let’s start with this gem from the piece (emphasis added):
“The Flyers didn’t win any of their three home playoff games against the Penguins. They lost the series, four games to two. The Flyers were often booed. The Flyers are booed too often for Giroux’s liking. He believes that negative energy made the Flyers try too hard too often.”
Take a look at that portion I highlighted above. That’s a fairly bold claim for anyone, especially a professional reporter, to make, and one that you would in any other case expect to be backed up by evidence. But this is Marcus Hayes, and using evidence to back up his assertions is the kryptonite to his superman.
Hayes, of course, thinks he’s making a great point here, and posts a transcript of Giroux’s response to a Sam Carchidi question as proof. I’m not going to paraphrase, so you don’t have to take my word for it (again, emphasis added):
The question: “Was this crowd tough on you? Not just you, but the whole team. You guys are trying too hard to please them? Is that part of the equation?”
The answer (again, emphasis added):
“Yeah. I think. … I do think so. I think when it’s not going very well, fans, they can get a little … start booing us and stuff. That’s when we try to do too much. On the road, we don’t really get that. We have our game plan at the start of the game, and we carry on for 60 minutes.””
Giroux continued his answer with a bunch of words that aren’t really relevant here, but to me the real crux of Giroux’s response is that highlighted portion. See, Hayes’ reading of the situation is that Giroux is blaming the crowd for the Flyers lack of success at home. That’s just flat out wrong.
As a general rule, I really don’t like reading too much into what athletes say during interviews or press conferences. That’s because 99 percent of the time, nothing really noteworthy is said. But in this case, I think it’s helpful to really parse what Giroux is saying, if only to dunk on Hayes.
“That’s when we try to do too much.” Does that sound like someone placing the blame on outside circumstances, or rather someone who is taking full responsibility? Sure, the catalyst for poor play may be the booing (by Giroux’s own admission), but Giroux is making it absolutely clear that the onus is on himself and the team to power through and stick to their gameplan. I honestly don’t see how this can be read any other way, much less reading that this is some type of indictment on Flyers fans coming from the captain. That is, of course, if you’re assuming that the person interpreting the quote is an honest broker (hint: Hayes is not).
The inaccuracy of Hayes’ reading on a rather innocuous response by Giroux isn’t really the primary thing I’m concerned with, here. The bigger question we have to ask is: why is Marcus Hayes writing this?
Well, the good news is he makes this absolutely clear. Hayes, who is not extremely well-versed in hockey (again, he writes about it very sparingly), is not in the business of writing well reasoned analysis about on-ice play or anything. Instead, he plays the perennial role of media shit-stirrer, trying to drum up controversy where none exists.
This fact is evident right off the bat in his post. The headline is already sensational enough, but the lead really gets at what Hayes is trying to do here:
“This isn’t going to help the captain’s popularity.”
No, Marcus, it isn’t. Because your lazy and inaccurate read is purposefully painting Giroux in a negative light. If it wasn’t clear enough that Hayes’ intention here is to garner a bunch of clicks and online chatter, he makes that very evident by literally embedding tweets from Twitter randos getting mad at Claude Giroux for Hayes’ bullshit reading of his answer. It’s just so obvious that it’s almost like he didn’t even try to cover up his motives here.
Look, I’m not trying to absolve Giroux of blame for the Flyers lack of success in the playoffs this year. The fact of the matter is he hasn’t produced much in limited post-season play lately, and he simply has to be better there.
But resorting to willfully misinterpreting throw away answers at press conferences to paint Giroux in a negative light is not only unnecessary, but also insanely stupid. But I guess insanely stupid is what we’ve come to expect from Marcus.
Remember, he gets paid for this.