Claude Giroux is about to begin his ninth-straight season as the Philadelphia Flyers captain when the 2020-21 season begins next month.
He will remarkably match Hall of Famer and franchise icon Bobby Clarke for the most years wearing the ‘C’ on his jersey. The feat is even more impressive when you consider Clarke served for only seven-straight seasons from the 1972-73 season through 1977-78, and then again in 1982-83 and 1983-84.
Giroux is signed through the 2021-22 season. It means that barring a trade or getting stripped of the captaincy this season or next — an extremely unlikely scenario — the Hearst, Ontario, native will become the longest tenured captain in team history.
However, what happens if the Flyers opt not to re-sign Giroux when his contract expires? Who will take over as the team’s captain?
There are a handful of top candidates currently on the roster. Let’s take a look at who might be the best option in two years if the Flyers let Giroux walk in free agency.
The first-line center is likely the No. 1 choice. Couturier won his first Frank J. Selke Trophy last season as the NHL’s best defensive forward. He had placed in the top three for voting over the previous two years.
Couturier finished second on the team in scoring and appeared headed toward his third-straight 70-point season before the league shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic.
At 28 years old, Couturier is clearly in the prime of his career and should remain at or near that level for the next three-to-four seasons. In two years, he will be just 29 and in a position to serve as captain for an extended period.
The Phoenix native is well-respected in the locker room, comfortable dealing with the media and spent last season as an alternate captain. Like Giroux, he is not the rah-rah type and mostly lets his play speak for itself and leads by example.
The trend has been shifting to this type of persona for captain in the league. The days of Chris Pronger getting in player’s faces or calling them out in front of the entire team is becoming an extinct practice. Couturier has the right disposition to become the leader on and off the ice.
He is and has always been a team-first guy and is not afraid to drop the gloves or come to the defense of a teammate. The 2011 first-round draft pick plays through injuries, including when he scored a hat trick in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs despite dealing with a torn ligament in his knee. You’ll find him making the nifty pass on one shift and then on his next doing the dirty work of digging the puck out of a scrum in the corner.
The defenseman catapulted himself into the discussion as potential future captain two years ago.
Provorov earned the ultimate respect from his teammates when he played Game 6 of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs Eastern Quarterfinal against the Pittsburgh Penguins with a Grade 3 AC shoulder separation. In layman’s terms, he separated his collarbone from the shoulder blade.
The training staff injected him before the game with medication to numb the pain. Following the game, a series-clinching 8-5 loss, Provorov fought back tears after his miscue in the third period led to a goal.
He won the Barry Ashbee Trophy last season as the team’s best defenseman for the second time in his career. It came after a down year in 2018-19 season.
The 6-foot-1, 200-pound defenseman plays the most minutes each night, excels at both ends of the ice, is the quarterback of the top power-play unit, and is developing into one of the top players in the league. If he continues his progress, Provorov has the potential to enter Norris Trophy consideration.
He will turn 24 on Jan. 13, the start of the 2020-21 season, and is signed through the 2024-25 season.
When the Flyers signed him as a free agent before the 2019-20 season, it was met with a steady dose of resistance from the fan base. The Orange and Black faithful were not convinced the team should have given the second-line center 7-year, $50 million contract.
However, those sentiments were quickly forgotten after an impressive debut in Philly, where he posted 23 goals — and would have eclipsed his career high of 25 if the season was not paused — and 18 assists and won over his teammates and the city with his cheerful and at times hilarious personality.
His goofiness was just what a sometimes tense locker room has lacked in the past. Hayes loosened his teammates up with humor during practice and even games.
Yet, his silly approach should not overshadow the intensity and intangibles Hayes also brought to the Flyers. He is arguably their best penalty killer, especially with his long reach and is an effective two-way player. The Dorchester, Massachusetts, native has solidified the second line and was voted as an alternate captain.
Hayes is just 28, is obviously going to stick around for the next six seasons, and has an outside choice to become the next captain.
After he signed a contract extension in the summer of 2019, Konecny enjoyed a breakout season. He led the team in goals (24) and points (61) in 66 games. However, the former first-round draft pick disappeared in the playoffs. The fourth-year player failed to score a goal in the 16 playoff games.
He has plenty of room to grow and it will be interesting to see where he game, and leadership skills, are in two years.
The rookie played in just 52 regular season games and added 12 playoff games to his resume. He showed flashes of stardom combined with his share of rookie mistakes. Farabee, who was drafted in the first round of the 2018 Draft, finished with eight goals and 13 assists.
While he only turns 21 in February, keep an eye on the kid’s progress the next two seasons. He has the potential to develop into one of the team’s top players and might be a contender for the C.
This may all turn out to be a moot point if the Flyers extend Giroux or re-sign him. However, if the parties part ways, the Flyers have a bunch of strong candidates to assume the mantle.