In the early season, as with many seasons before, there has been conversation floating around regarding veteran players and their contributions to the Flyers success.
This has come from the media, fans, and even internally. As this Dave Isaac article outlined, Alain Vigneault has been unafraid of calling out both veterans and new players, a welcome change from the confusing, unequal treatment we’ve seen in the past from a certain someone whose name I won’t mention. Specifically, Vigneault called on Jake Voracek and Claude Giroux to step up and play better.
Since younger forwards like Oskar Lindblom and Travis Konecny are dominating, it’s natural to want more from established forwards. However, especially for Giroux, is Vigneault right to say there is more to expect from Giroux? In short, yes, but we should not act as if Giroux has been playing poorly.
Giroux currently sits on three goals and six assists in thirteen games. That’s below the point-per-game pace he has set in the past two seasons, yet this isn’t an astronomical deficit, and as we all know, points don’t tell the whole story. While he sits on nine points total, Giroux has only accumulated three points at five-on-five which is worrying. However, Giroux has played a significant portion of games so far at center instead of his now accustomed position on the left wing. As a center, Giroux has been less able to focus on the offensive side of the game, which has more likely than not taken a toll on his point production.
Additionally, Giroux in the middle of Voracek and James Van Riemsdyk was simply not clicking, and was a large sticking point for Vigneault at his aforementioned press conference. Regardless of whether Giroux was to blame for this, the line wasn’t able to drive play effectively. In 13:10 minutes of five-on-five ice time against the Devils on the first of November, they only managed a 42.11% Corsi-for.
However, Giroux’s individual Corsi-for has not been poor at 56.79% (five-on-five). He is also creating a ton of high danger chances, evidenced by his 52.54 High Danger CF%. This is backed up by the eye test as well. Giroux has been all around the net with his passes, especially when he is not being played at center. He’s used this positioning to create chances for himself as well, including the solo-effort goal on the power play he scored against Toronto.
Yet, the most effective line by far has been the Sean Couturier centered line with Konecny and Lindblom. As I mentioned before, their success has led to criticisms leveled at other players. On any given team, there will always be players who score more and others who score less, though in this case it doesn’t necessarily mean that the other players (i.e. Giroux) are playing poorly. However, it is certainly within reason to say Giroux has not played as well. Whether that’s the result of moving him away from the wing, moving him away from Couturier, or simply is due to the greater success of others is up for debate.
Overall, Giroux hasn’t necessarily been at his super-star best. However, he has been far from an issue and is still a net-positive player when he is on the ice. The narrative around Giroux has been that “he needs to produce more”, but when one defines “produce” to simply equal “points”, then the criticisms of Giroux are slightly less founded in my opinion. I had written before the season that it would be unfair to expect Giroux to suddenly be a consistent point-per-game player at his age, even after the move to wing invigorated his play. Now, especially that he has been playing more and more at center again, I think my original prediction for Giroux stands,
I had said that, “the most likely outcome is a middle 70’s point total, which I don’t think would be disappointing on any level considering the averages of similar players as they reached Giroux’s age and beyond.” However, even then, Giroux will still be a valuable and effective player. He is still among the best in the team at driving play, is still one of the best playmakers in the league, and he’s still the same old Claude Giroux.