Claude Giroux isn’t scoring at a point-per-game pace so far this season.
This is an indisputable fact. However, this is not at all to say that the Captain has performed poorly. With nine goals and eleven assists (twenty points total) through twenty-nine games, Giroux still finds himself among the Flyers’ leaders in points with the fifth most on the club and, more importantly, the Flyers overall find themselves third in the Metropolitan Division.
If Giroux sustains his current pace, he is projected to score around 56.55 points, a far cry from the past two years where he scored at above a point-per-game ratio. In fact, at this rate he would massively undershoot my pre-season expectations, which was for him to “produce at a solid first line level, just below a point-per-game at best, and middle 60’s (high second line, low first line) at worst,” though in the end I expected around 70-75 points given he’s Claude Giroux.
This could be attributed to any number of factors, the most damning to his point output being his placement at center, where he has not played regularly in over two seasons. Giroux has also been placed at various spots in the lineup with different line mates, seemingly at a game to game basis to foster chemistry in this first quarter of the season.
However, ever since the November 19th contest against the Florida Panthers, Giroux has played on the left wing (albeit still taking the majority of faceoffs) with Travis Konecny on the right and with Morgan Frost at center, and this line has taken off. It has essentially at this point become the 1A and 1B with Sean Couturier’s line being the more defensively potent counterpart to Giroux’s young, more offensively minded line. Yet, despite what one might think, both lines have maintained puck possession very effectively, negating worries of defensive issues having Frost center a top-six line.
From Morgan Frost’s first NHL game to Saturday’s game against the Ottawa Senators (ten games in total), the Giroux-Frost-Konecny line has been fairly consistently Corsi-positive, and in fact, has actually been driven by Frost and Konecny rather than solely by Giroux. Through those ten games, Konecny leads the line in Corsi at 5-on-5 with 56.92 CF%. Frost comes in at a close second with 55.97 CF%, and Giroux, though not far behind, comes in third with 55.09 CF%.
I was certainly surprised to see Konecny leading the line’s Corsi-For, as before this season, he had never done so. Konecny could simply be a benefactor of having Giroux on his line, therefore inflating his possession numbers, but even from an eye test perspective that explanation doesn’t make sense. Though Konecny still continues to be one of the team’s offensive spark-plugs, he hasn’t looked like or shown any signs of being a liability to the line’s defense. To that, I attribute Alain Vigneault’s systems, as really in truth none of the forward lines have optically looked overly bad in their own end (with some exceptions being when Chris Stewart and Carsen Twarynski were in the lineup at the very beginning of the season).
As for Frost, as I said in my analysis of his first game, he’s absolutely looked like a top six center in this league, not that I ever had any doubts. Though his point totals may have slowed recently (he hasn’t scored a point since his second game), Frost still holds up by possession metrics at 5-on-5 and optically is doing all the little things right. Production tends to come in waves for some players (just look at Kevin Hayes!) and I think sooner or later the numbers will come back for Frost.
This all is to say that Claude Giroux’s dip in points is in reality indicative of positive motion for the Flyers. If Claude Giroux were at a 60.00 CF% with 40 points, but Frost and Konecny were in the bin from both a points and possession perspective, that would leave me more worried. The future and long-term success of this organization rests on young players taking the reigns, not necessarily replacing veteran players, but by complimenting them so that one day they will be able to step in and become the core veterans themselves. The way that the Giroux-Frost-Konecny line is going so far leads me to believe that steps in that direction are already far underway. That, along with this team’s position in the standings, has me very excited.
Unfortunately though, we’ll have to wait and see what news comes out now about Travis Konecny, who was hit up high in Saturday’s game and left with an injury. Hopefully, it isn’t too serious and we see Konecny reunited with Giroux and Frost when he returns. However, despite the macabre news, I’m confident that he’ll be put back with the pair when he is cleared to play again.