Every year the NHL awards the Hart Trophy to the most valuable player in the league. Apparently 93 points and being the leader of a completely revamped roster (a team that finished with the third most points in the East and sixth in the entire NHL) isn’t enough to get you in the top three consideration.
Claude Giroux had an amazing season; he exceeded any expectations the Philadelphia Flyers’ front office could have had when they traded Jeff Carter and Mike Richards last summer and unofficially made Giroux the offensive leader of this team.
Giroux carried over his regular season performance into the first round of the playoffs when he dominated the former Stanley Cup favorite Pittsburgh Penguins by picking up 14 points in the six-game series (audio highlights of Giroux’s first round can be found here courtesy of 94.1 WIP). What makes those numbers even more impressive is the fact that Giroux did not register a single point in game one.
Evgeni Malkin absolutely deserves to win the trophy and Henrik Lundqvist is another worthy finalist because of the great year he put together between the pipes. It’s the Steven Stamkos nomination that I do not agree with.
Stamkos had another one of those high scoring seasons that we have become used to, but even though he scored 60 goals and tacked on another 37 assists, his team went from being an Eastern Conference finalist a year ago to finishing tenth in the Eastern Conference and missing the playoffs altogether. You could justify voting for Stamkos if the Lightning had barely missed the playoffs, but they finished eight points behind the eighth seeded Ottawa Senators even though they get to play in the weak Southeast Division.
For those of you who forget, the Flyers’ lineup on opening night included nine names who were not on the team a year ago. Fast forward to game six of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals and that number jumped to 12, which did not include two newcomers who have become regulars and missed the game due to injury in Nicklas Grossmann and Marc-Andre Bourdon.
Many experts saw this as a sort of rebuilding year for the Flyers, but that didn’t stop them from finishing the season with over 100 points for the second year in a row and making themselves one of the favorites to hoist the Stanley Cup.
When Chris Pronger went down with a concussion back to November, the Flyers refused to anoint a new captain. Instead, they decided to add a third alternate captain alongside Kimmo Timonen and Danny Briere and that their 23-year-old budding superstar deserved to be recognized as a leader of this team. Since then, Giroux’s performance has stepped up to another level.
Prior to game six, Giroux approached head coach Peter Laviolette and said he wanted to be on the ice to start the game. About 30 seconds before Giroux took the opening faceoff, he went over to Briere and Max Talbot and said, “watch this shift.”
Giroux went out there, drilled Sidney Crosby with a clean hit and buried the first goal of the game about 20 seconds later. Since that game, it has pretty much become foregone conclusion that if Pronger is unable to resume his playing career, Giroux’s No. 28 jersey will have a new letter on the front, a “C”.
It seems like not selecting the Flyers has become a pretty common trend in award voting this year as Matt Read, the league’s league leader in goals by a rookie, Jaromir Jagr, the future hall-of-famer who was probably one of the most valuable players in the locker room, and general manager Paul Holmgren, who tore apart a team that finished last year with 106 points and pieced together a completely new team that finished with only three points less, were not named finalists for the Calder Trophy, Masterton Trophy and General Manager of the Year Award respectively.
When asked about not being named a finalist, Giroux shrugged if off and made it clear that he has bigger intentions down the road when he said, “at the end of the day that’s not the trophy I want.”