Philadelphia sports fans hold perhaps the highest expectations for their teams in all of sports. If those expectations aren’t met, then there can be calls for underperforming athletes to be shipped out of town. For Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux, that was all but reality two years ago. The center-turned-winger had put up just 58 points (14 goals, 44 assists) with a minus-15 plus/minus rating in the 2016-17 season.
Then, a renaissance occurred – Giroux silenced his critics by posting a whopping 102 points to go with a plus/minus of plus-25. His point total was the second-best in the NHL, behind only Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers. After a bounce-back season for the Flyers captain, expectations are even higher now, and it begs the question of whether or not Giroux can repeat such a stellar season.
Power Play Muscle
This offseason saw Philadelphia acquire one of the top free agents on the market in winger James van Riemsdyk. Returning to the Flyers after six seasons with the Maple Leafs, the former No. 2 overall pick brings new life to the team’s core forwards, but, more importantly, ‘JVR’ brings life to the power play. What does this have to do with Giroux? Well, with van Riemsdyk turning into one of the league’s best net-front presences, his likely spot on Philadelphia’s top power-play unit could very well add to Giroux’s scoring ability, thus benefiting both players on the scoresheet throughout the year.
Riding the Wayne Train
Another weapon to supplement Philadelphia’s captain is forward Wayne Simmonds. One of the other top net-front presences in the league, Simmonds also brings the potential to boost production for Giroux on the power play. The 30-year-old winger had a down year last season after it was made known that he played most of the year with multiple injuries.
However, the previous year showed just how big of a threat Simmonds is on the man advantage. In 2016-17, he posted a career-high in power-play points (16) and was in the top-five in the NHL in the category. Entering his eighth season as a Flyer, Simmonds not only looks to rejuvenate his own game but also possibly boost his teammates’ play as well.
Top Tier Threats
The Flyers’ top line combination will also play a crucial role in Giroux’s attempt to stay hot. Prior to last season, head coach Dave Hakstol made the bold decision to move the captain to winger instead of his usual center spot. Obviously, the move paid enormous dividends. Accompanied by Sean Couturier and Travis Konecny, Giroux had no trouble finding his linemates when it came to scoring.
Together, the trio wreaked havoc in the scoring column putting up a monstrous 225 points with Couturier and Konency both having career years. If the top triple threat can find their magic again, then Giroux will have no problem racking up points once again.
He’s Bud and Voracek
A long-time teammate in Jakub Voracek can also keep the captain smooth sailing. Even though the two star forwards weren’t on the same line even strength, they still found each other many times on the power play courtesy of Voracek’s excellent passing abilities. As pillars of Philadelphia’s top power-play unit, the two combined for 71 points last season. The duo will be entering their ninth season as members of the Flyers and it doesn’t look like the chemistry will fade anytime soon.
A Move for the Record Books?
Perhaps the biggest catalyst in Giroux’s comeback was the decision to move him to the wing. As mentioned before, Hakstol rolled the dice in training camp prior to the last campaign. The move would take pressure off of the captain to win face-offs and dangerously weave through center ice against opponents. As a wing, the ice opened up for Giroux and everyone knows how it all worked out from there. As a new season is just days away, it’s almost time to see if the re-positioning will once again prove to be beneficial to Philadelphia’s leader.
Bloomsburg University graduate striving for work in hockey media through different outlets and experiences