The time has come to take a look back at the former captain’s season. If I’m being honest, it’s hard to write a review of Claude Giroux’s 2021-22 season without turning it into a minor retrospective on his entire career. After all, an entire era of Flyers hockey came to an end this past March. After spending over a decade in Philadelphia, it makes seeing Giroux in jerseys that aren’t blinding traffic cone orange feel disorienting, and I’m sure I’m not alone in still feeling this way months after the trade.
I never expected to see Giroux play for a team other than Philadelphia. Even when all eyes were on him on a national stage for the 2022 All-Star Game and the commentary kept swirling with speculation of whether he’d still be a Flyer after the trade deadline, I was still heavily in denial about the possibility.
However, my denial was proven wrong. After playing exactly 1,000 games with the Flyers – a game that was marked with ceremony and fanfare and an outpouring of love – Giroux sat out the next few matches before a trade was officially finalized to the Florida Panthers.
So here we are, for one last time, recapping the things Giroux has done for the Flyers.
In 57 games played for the Flyers, Giroux put up 18 goals and 24 assists for a total of 42 points. Over his entire career, his point per game average is at .90, so his point per game average during this portion of the ‘21-22 season being at .74 points was below par for him, but it hovers around what it has been for the past couple of seasons. This means this wasn’t a drop-off from what should be expected from him at what is clearly a point of his career where the aging curve will show greater effects.
According to Natural Stat Trick, Giroux’s Corsi-For percentage (CF%) was 53.34% and his Expected Goals percentage (xG%) was 51.33%. Both of these stats help show how much he was able to help drive play as well as the positive impact he had when he was on the ice. He was able to outshoot the opponent as well as produce higher quality shots. These are also, of course, his stats with just the Flyers. There are separate numbers for his time with Florida, and yes, both of these numbers looked better when he was with the Panthers. A better quality of teammates might have something to say about that.
Did he live up to expectations?
As it has been almost every single season, Giroux remained one of the few highlights of this team. Despite not finishing the season with the Flyers, final totals show he was in third place in goals, assists, and points. The only players who topped him in any category were James van Riemsdyk (goals), Travis Konecny (assists and points), and Cam Atkinson (all three).
The expectation for so many years has been that Giroux would be the one to carry this team on his back and push as hard as he could to ensure either victory or that losses were hard-fought – even in games where maybe the team as a whole didn’t deserve it. For 57 games this season, he did just that. For the remaining 18 games Giroux played this season, though, the Flyers had to learn the hard way what happens when their captain isn’t there to carry them anymore.
Now, it’s not like the Flyers’ season even with Giroux was worth watching. It was bad! Without him, however, it was clear that there was a piece missing. The games seemed to drag so much more slowly. The play became more and more uninspired. Even the Battle of Pennsylvania lost its luster, and those games usually brought the energy no matter how badly the Flyers were doing that season. Sometimes you don’t truly understand how much value people bring until they’re gone, and watching the Flyers without Giroux showed how much he helped keep this team afloat through some dark times.
It goes without saying that hockey is a team sport. There was only so much Giroux could do, especially in a season like the one the Flyers just had. Plus, Giroux isn’t exactly in his prime anymore. However, he still possessed enough skill to not just have been named an All-Star, but to come home from Las Vegas with the game’s MVP award in tow. Surrounded by other All-Star caliber players, Giroux put up a fantastic showing, and it truly begged the question of what he could be doing if surrounded by talent far better than the rosters the Flyers had saddled him with for so many years.
Now, though, Giroux is at a point in his career where he can control his destiny. He let his no-movement clause be waived so he could try to win the Stanley Cup with the Florida Panthers, and when that failed, walked in free agency to join the Ottawa Senators and play hockey in the city he and his family actually call home. In some ways, leaving the Flyers was a failed expectation. Wasn’t he supposed to retire with Philadelphia? But it’s an expectation he deserved to fail after how long this team failed him first.