It is a very common experience to not appreciate what you have until it is gone.
It seems that it is all but inevitable that Claude Giroux will soon be traded, marking the end of an era. I’m sure we all appreciate what Giroux has meant to this team, this city, this fanbase, but as time goes on and when we think of our favorite Giroux memories we will find ourselves missing things about him that almost feel intimate.
Sure, we’ll instantly recall the many Giroux highlights, but just like someone who was once in your life who isn’t anymore, it’s the little things that we will miss the most.
Claude Giroux is everything that the Flyers so desperately try to replicate in terms of identity in their players. He is the quintessential Flyer because everything about him speaks to the franchise’s mythology. On paper, Giroux is not big at 5’11” 185lbs. He’s not slow but one wouldn’t call him fast either. He’s definitely skilled but his name isn’t usually associated with the word “gifted.” In a lot of ways, Giroux is an unexpected superstar. An underdog who spent his entire career fighting to justify his place amongst the other “elite” players of the league. We love him because he is our underdog who willed his way into being the Flyers’ great that he is through sheer determination, guile, valor, and intelligence.
For me, I’m going to miss Giroux’s intelligence and the way that he processes the game the most. Much like when you hear a song or come across something innocuous that reminds you of someone from your past, I’m going to miss the way Giroux thought the game. We all have watched for so long and become so accustomed to him routinely pulling off plays with such routine that there are those that have criticized him for not always being able to deliver on the spectacular.
But whether Giroux leaves this team later this week or further in the future, whenever that day comes, we will miss the art and the genius of his play. Just as Cameron discovers pointillism in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, I stand at awe at the artful way Giroux plays hockey.
Plays like this:
While most of us would never begin to imagine a one-timer kick pass, one thing I will miss about Giroux is his ability to read plays and get himself open. Wayne Gretzky is famous for having “two second vision” in that he could see plays develop two seconds before they happen, which is light years beyond any normal NHLer let alone any normal human being. I’m not suggesting that Giroux has this same ability but the guy definitely thinks the game at a superstar level which is why he just happens to always be in the right position:
Creating offense is probably the hardest thing to do in hockey. It is much easier to coach defense than it is to teach players to be creative. This is why the majority of hockey games are a neutral series of trading relatively benign chances back and forth. That is why you have to appreciate players like Giroux who are able to create something out of nothing.
We of course cannot talk about Giroux’s vision, anticipation, and intelligence without talking about the power play. From the literal second the puck drops on the power play, Giroux is in control.
Finally, the most underrated part of the Claude Giroux’s hockey intelligence is his emotional intelligence. Hockey at any level is very difficult. The physical demands of every season are daunting, but not nearly as daunting as the mental burden required to be a professional athlete in Philadelphia. Giroux has had to absorb every single good, bad, celebratory, and vile thing that this city and the hockey world has had to say about him for 16 years.
People with less emotional strength and fortitude cannot handle being a high profile athlete in this market. This is why Giroux’s leadership is so impressive. Generally, he lets his play do the talking, but every now and then, we get a glimpse of what it’s like to be in the room.
That is why my favorite Claude Giroux memory is this very brief exchange between him and Carter Hart. For context, Hart is just about to enter his first season as the undisputed starter and just got shelled by a Swiss pro team in an exhibition game. Hart is pulled in-between periods and it would be very easy to say nothing, but Giroux cares about his guys because that’s what leaders do!
Admittedly, writing this post was very difficult because there are so many aspects to Giroux’s game that I could literally spend hours talking about. As hard as it was, it will be even harder to watch this team without him.
As the dawn goes down on Claude Giroux’s last day as a Flyer, we will gain further appreciation for the hockey player he is when he leaves.